Hudson Valley Receives Mixed Grades in Lung Association's Annual Air Quality Report

While Region's Air Quality Improves Across the Board, Only Ulster County Receives a Passing Grade

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WHITE PLAINS, NY (04/28/2010)(readMedia)-- The American Lung Association's State of the Air 2010 report finds that despite mostly failing grades, air quality is showing improvement in the Hudson Valley . According to the report, over 12 million New Yorkers – more than 62 percent of the state's residents -- live in counties where unhealthy air threatens their lives and health. This year, 19 of the 33 counties in New York state with air quality monitors received failing grades. Nevertheless, the report also shows that efforts underway to clean up air pollution in the state are making a difference.

"While many portions of this year's report are encouraging, far too many Hudson Valley residents are breathing air that puts their health at risk," said Scott T. Santarella, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. "Still these improvements show that reduced emissions from sources including power plants and diesel engines are helping make our air cleaner. Our optimism is tempered by the fact that only Ulster County's air improved enough to earn a passing grade."

The State of the Air report, found at, provides an annual national air quality "report card," based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's color-coded Air Quality Index. Using the most recent quality-assured data, the report assigns A-F grades to counties. The American Lung Association identified the number of days that each county with at least one air quality monitor experienced air quality designated as orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups), red (unhealthy), or purple (very unhealthy), to determine the grades.

"Air pollution affects everyone but it is even more of a threat to people with lung disease," said Dr. Irwin Berlin, Chief of the Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine Division at Elmhurst Hospital Center. "Ozone irritates the lungs when it is breathed in, and, particle pollution can be deadly. For my patients to have healthier lungs, we need to have cleaner air."

Significant findings from the report for the Hudson Valley include:

  • Westchester County gets an F for ozone with 28 orange and five red ozone pollution days. This is a slight decrease from 29 orange and seven red days in last year's report. The county again earned a C for short-term particle pollution though the county had four fewer orange days.
  • Putnam County gets an F for ozone with 19 orange ozone days. This is down from 23 orange days in 2009. What's more, the county experienced no red or purple days. In 2009, Putnam had three red days and was one of only two counties in the state to have a purple day.
  • Orange County gets an F for ozone with 16 orange and three red ozone days. This is a slight improvement over last year when the county had 27 orange and two red ozone pollution days. Short-term particle pollution remained the same in 2010 as in 2009, with the county having four orange short-term particle days.
  • Dutchess County earned an F for ozone pollution with 14 orange days for ozone pollution, one fewer than in 2009.
  • Ulster County is the only Hudson Valley county to receive a passing grade for ozone pollution. Ulster went from an F in last year's report to a C this year, reducing its number of orange ozone days from 13 to six. This is the second year in a row the County reduced its number of ozone days.

Ozone, or smog-is the most widespread air pollutant. It is a gas formed most often when sunlight reacts with vapors emitted when motor vehicles, factories, power plants and other sources burn fuel. Breathing in ozone irritates the respiratory tract and causes health problems like asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing, chest pain and even premature death.

Particle pollution, called fine particulate matter or PM 2.5, is a deadly cocktail of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols that can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end. The body's natural defenses, coughing and sneezing, fail to keep these microscopic particles from burrowing deep within the lungs, triggering serious problems such as asthma and heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and even early death.

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