WHITE PLAINS, 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 despite mostly failing grades, air quality is slowly improving in the Hudson Valley. 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. Of the six Hudson Valley counties with ozone monitors, only Ulster received a passing grade. And only Dutchess experienced more unhealthy ozone days than the year prior. Nevertheless, the report shows that efforts underway to clean up air pollution are making a difference. Westchester County improved its grade for short-term particle pollution from a C to a B.
"While State of the Air 2011 is encouraging in that most Hudson Valley counties had fewer unhealthy air days, there are still too many failing grades which mean that residents of these counties are breathing in unhealthy air," said Sandra Kessler, Interim President and CEO, American Lung Association in New York. "Too many residents from Peekskill to Poughkeepsie and from Warwick to White Plains are breathing air that just isn't healthy. We need to make sure that Congress doesn't weaken the Clean Act Act and state government doesn't roll back important clean air regulations. These laws are vital to continued improvement in our air quality."
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 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 one of the American Lung Association's Fight for Air walks or climbs being held across the state this spring and fall.
"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 the Hudson Valley include:
* Westchester County gets an F for ozone with 24 orange and four red ozone pollution days. This is a decrease from 28 orange and five red days in last year's report. Westchester still has the second worse ozone pollution in the state, second only to Suffolk County. The county, which experienced two fewer high particle days, earned a B for short-term particle pollution, up from a C in 2010.
* Putnam County gets an F for ozone with 18 orange ozone days, one fewer than last year.
* Orange County gets an F for ozone with 11 orange and three red ozone days. This is a slight improvement over last year when the county had 16 orange and three red ozone pollution days. The county received a C for short-term particle pollution, the same as in 2010, though the county experienced one fewer high particle day.
* Dutchess County earned an F for ozone pollution with 15 orange days for ozone pollution, one more day than in 2010. Dutchess was one of only two counties statewide whose number of high ozone days increased when compared with 2010.
* Ulster County is again the only Hudson Valley county to receive a passing grade for ozone pollution. Ulster earned a C this year, and reduced its number of orange ozone days from six to three.
*Rockland County now has ozone monitor however there is not enough data to give a grade.
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.