NYC's Air Showing Signs of Improvement But Remains Among the Dirtiest in Country According to Lung Association

New Report Shows Mixed Results for the City of New York

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NEW YORK, NY (04/28/2010)(readMedia)-- The American Lung Association's State of the Air 2010 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 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 residents of New York City are still breathing air that puts their health at risk," said Scott T. Santarella, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. "While most boroughs in the city showed reduced particle pollution, these levels are still unacceptably high. This report reinforces what we already know: the time is now for Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council to fully implement the air quality initiatives of PlaNYC 2030."

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 New York City include:

  • The New York City metropolitan area ranks tied for 16th on the top 25 list of U.S. cities most polluted by ozone. In 2009, the metro area was tied for 17th place.
  • The New York City metropolitan area dropped off the 25 most polluted cities list for year round particle pollution.
  • New York ranked tied for 18th worst city for short-term particle pollution. New York ranked in 16th most polluted in 2009.


  • Bronx County is the dirtiest county for both short-term and annual particle pollution. The county received the highest levels of year-round particle pollution in the metro area, but showed an improvement from last year and received a passing grade. (In 2009, both Bronx County and New York County were the only 2 counties in the state to fail for annual particle pollution).
  • Bronx County, which again earned an F for short-term particle pollution, experienced 21 orange days for this year, compared with 31 in 2009. Despite this improvement, the county still had the highest weighted average of seven days in the state.
  • Bronx County again received an F for ozone pollution through ozone pollution was slightly worse in this year's report as illustrated by a higher weighted average of unhealthy days. In 2010, Bronx County had 16 orange ozone pollution days, up from 12 days in 2009. The county had one red ozone pollution day, a decrease from two days in 2009.


  • Kings County had six short-term particle pollution days, two fewer than in 2009, and improved its grade from a D to a C. The county again passed for long-term particle pollution and its annual level for this pollutant improved slightly.


  • New York County earned an F for short-term particle pollution with 12 orange, down from 15 in 2009. Still, New York is tied with Queens for the second dirtiest county for short-term particle pollution. In this report, the county has inconclusive data for long-term particle pollution and could not be graded. Last year, the county failed and had been the most polluted county for long-term particle pollution.


  • Queens County earned an F for ozone with 14 orange ozone days down from 19 in 2009. The county had 12 orange short-term high particle days, down from 16 in 2009.Queens is tied with New York County for the second dirtiest county for short-term particle pollution.


  • Richmond County received an F for ozone pollution. Its 17 orange ozone days represent a near 50 percent reduction from the 33 days it experienced in 2009.T he country also reduced its number of red ozone days to four, down from seven in 2009. .Richmond received a C for short term particle pollution though the county experienced five orange days, down from six in 2009.

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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