ALBANY, NY (04/27/2011)(readMedia)-- Editors' Note: Multimedia toolkit including broadcast quality b-roll and photographs are available at www.stateoftheair.com. Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are available at www.stateoftheair.org A statewide press release, which includes grades for all New York counties with air quality monitors, is also available.
The American Lung Association's State of the Air 2011 report finds that in many instances New York City's air is getting cleaner but it is still among the dirtiest in the country. According to the report, over 9 million New Yorkers – nearly half of the state's residents -- live in counties where unhealthy air threatens their lives and health. This year, 16 of the 34 counties in New York state with air quality monitors received failing grades. In New York City, three counties failed for ozone and only the Bronx failed for particle pollution. Nevertheless, all counties in the New York City area with monitors experienced fewer unhealthy days than the year prior.
"While State of the Air 2011 is encouraging in that all counties in the New York City metro area had fewer unhealthy air days than last year, more progress needs to be made in cleaning our air. From Sound View to Staten Island far too many New York City residents continue to breathe air that just isn't healthy," said Sandra Kessler, Interim President and CEO, American Lung Association in New York. "The air's getting cleaner because the Clean Air Act, PlaNYC and other clean air initiatives are working. To ensure all New Yorkers breathe healthy air, it is our job to make sure that Congress doesn't weaken the Clean Air Act and that state government doesn't roll back important clean air regulations."
State of the Air 2011, found at www.stateoftheair.org, grades counties based, in part, on the color-coded Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help alert the public to daily unhealthy air conditions. The 12th annual release of the Lung Association's report uses the most recent EPA data collected from 2007 through 2009 from official monitors for ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread types of air pollution. Counties are graded for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels. The report also uses EPA's calculations for year-round particle levels. 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.
"As a physician, I work every day with patients suffering from asthma and other lung diseases and see firsthand the effects air pollution has on their health," said Irwin Berlin, MD board chair of the American Lung Association in New York and Chief of the Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine Division at Elmhurst Hospital Center. "If we want to achieve better lung health, we must have healthier air."
There are many ways New Yorkers can help clean the air and protect themselves. Check the news for daily air quality levels and air pollution forecasts for your area. On days with elevated ozone or particle pollution, avoid exercising outdoors. Help reduce pollution by walking or taking public transportation when possible, reducing electricity use, and avoiding vehicle idling. New Yorkers can also join our Lung Action Network to contact decisionmakers to voice their support for legislation that would make our air cleaner. They can also support efforts to improve air quality locally by participating in the American Lung Association's Fight for Air walk in Battery Park, New York City on May 21.
"With our right to breathe healthy air being challenged in the halls of Congress and in Albany, we need New Yorkers' help in safeguarding federal and state clean air laws," said Michael Seilback, Vice President of Public Policy and Communications. "We applaud Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council for its steadfast commitment to cleaning our air, including the recently announced phase out of highly polluting #4 and #6 heating oils. Nevertheless, just as we need strong state and local regulations to protect us from pollutants that originate within our borders, we need a strong Clean Air Act to protect us from the pollution that makes its way here from old, dirty coal-fired power plants in the Midwest."
Significant findings from the report for New York City include:
* The New York City metropolitan area ( which encompasses New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA) has lower ozone levels but still ranks 17th on the top 25 list of U.S. cities most polluted by ozone. In 2010, the metro area was tied for 16th place.
* The New York City metropolitan area ranked 25th on the list of 25 most polluted cities for year-round particle pollution. Despite having slightly lower year-round levels of the pollutant than last year, the metro area's rank lowered and it returned to the list because of improvements in particle pollution in other cities.
* New York tied for 33rd this year on the list of most polluted cities for short-term particle pollution, dropping off the top 25 list. Last year, New York was tied for 18th most polluted.
* Bronx County is still the dirtiest county in the metro area for both short-term and annual particle pollution. Bronx County, which again earned an F for short-term particle pollution, experienced 14 orange days for this year, compared with 21 in 2010. Despite this improvement, the county still had the highest weighted average recorded in the state and was the only county in the state to receive a failing grade in the category this year.
The county did, however, show an improvement over last year and received a passing grade for its annual level for the second year in a row.
* Bronx County received an F for ozone pollution experiencing 13 unhealthy days compared with 16 in 2010. While the county had one red day in 2010, this year it had none.
* Kings County had four short-term particle pollution days, two fewer than in 2010. The county again passed for long-term particle pollution and its annual level for this pollutant improved slightly.
NEW YORK (MANHATTAN)
*New York County, which was not graded for ozone last year due to inconclusive data, receives an F this year for the pollutant. The county experienced 12 orange days during the reporting period.
*New York County improved its grade from an F to a d for short-term particle pollution this year. After experiencing 12 orange days in 2010, the county experienced seven during the period measured in the 2011 report. Still, New York remains the second dirtiest county for short-term particle pollution. Last year, the county had inconclusive data for long-term particle pollution and could not be graded after failing in 2009. This year New York County receives a passing grade.
*Queens County improved its grade for both ozone and particle pollution. The county earned a D for ozone with eight orange ozone days this year, down from 14 in 2010. The county jumped from an F to a C for short-term particle pollution having cut the number of orange days it experienced in half.
RICHMOND (STATEN ISLAND)
* Richmond County received an F for ozone pollution. The county reduced the number of unhealthy orange days it had from 17 to 11 and the number of red days it had from four to one.
Richmond County received a B for short term particle pollution this year, up from the C it received last year. The county had two orange days, three fewer than in 2010.
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.