Report Finds Air in Western New York Remains Unhealthy

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ROCHESTER, NY (04/27/2011)(readMedia)-- Editors' Note: Multimedia toolkit including broadcast quality b-roll and photographs are available at Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are available at 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 air quality in Western New York needs improving. 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, including four in Western New York. Nevertheless, the report also shows that efforts underway to clean up air pollution in the state are making a difference.

"While State of the Air 2011 is encouraging in that many counties had fewer unhealthy air days, we need to see more progress cleaning the region's air so people can breathe easier and enjoy improved lung health. This report shows that air pollution isn't just a downstate problem. It's a problem throughout the region and state that affects you whether you live in Brighton or in Buffalo." said Sandra Kessler, Interim President and CEO, American Lung Association in New York. "These results show that the Clean Air Act and other clean air laws 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, 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."

'My daughter has asthma and I've learned to pay close attention to air quality alerts," said Connie Moore of Pittsford. "There have been days, late in the school year, when an ozone/air quality warning has been issued for our area and I have actually kept my daughter home from school because of it. I know that on these days the schools still send kids out for recess and that this would mean she would have a hard time breathing. It's incredibly unfair for children to miss school or miss out on the joys of being a kid because of poor air quality."

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 driving less, reducing electricity use, and refraining from burning wood. 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 by participating in the American Lung Association's Fight for Air Walk in Rochester being held on May 15.

"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. "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 Western New York include:

Buffalo-Niagara-Cattaraugus, NY was ranked among the list of most polluted cities for ozone and was tied for 76th out of 228 total metro areas nationwide. The region also was ranked among the list of most polluted cities for short-term particle pollution and tied for 60th out of 230 total metro areas. Finally, the region was ranked 89th cleanest on the list of cities ranked for annual particle pollution out of 218 total metro areas.

Rochester-Batavia-Seneca Falls, NY tied for 37th on the list of cleanest cities for annual particle pollution out of 218 total metro areas, and tied for 103rd on the list of most polluted cities for ozone out of 228 metro areas.

*Erie County again received a D for short-term particle pollution in this year's report. While the county still received an F for ozone pollution, it experienced 18 orange days, 6 fewer orange days than reported in 2010.

*Monroe County, again received an F for ozone, with 13 orange days, four fewer than 2010. The county again had one orange short-term particle day this year and earned a B.

*Niagara County reduced its number of orange ozone days from 19 in 2010 to 17 in 2011 but still received a failing grade. For short-term particle pollution, the county received a B with two orange short-term particle days, the same number as in 2010.

*Chautauqua County earned an F with 24 orange ozone days, down from 35 in 2010. Chautauqua earned a B for short term particle pollution this year, with just one orange day.

*Wayne County earned a D for ozone this year, up from an F last year. This year the county had 9 orange days for ozone pollution, two fewer than last year but the same number as the county experienced in 2009.

*Steuben County received a C for ozone pollution this year with four orange ozone days, the same as in 2010.With just one orange day for short-term particle pollution, the county improved its grade from a C to a B.

* Chemung County again received a C for ozone with three orange days, the same as in 2010. Elmira is tied for 46th cleanest on the list of cities ranked for ozone pollution out of 228 metro areas.

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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