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 over 9 million New Yorkers, nearly half of the state's residents, live in counties where unhealthy air endangers their lives and health. This year, 16 of the 34 counties in New York state with air quality monitors received failing grades, including two in the North Country. While North County counties have some of the cleanest air in the nation when measured for particle pollution and two counties had among the cleanest air in the state when measured for ozone, the report still confirms that ozone pollution remains a major problem both in the region and statewide.
"While State of the Air 2011 is encouraging because counties like St. Lawrence and Essex continue have very clean air when measured for particle pollution, more progress need to be made in cleaning up ozone pollution," 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 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 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 for the North Country include:
Essex County was again one of the top 25 cleanest counties nationwide for annual particle pollution, ranking eighth nationwide. The county improved its grade for short-term particle pollution form a B to an A, earning it a spot on the list of the top 25 cleanest counties nationwide for short-term particle pollution. However, Essex again earned an F for ozone pollution with 18 orange days and two red days, the same as in 2010. Essex is the only North County to experience a red day, and only one of five counties in state with ozone monitors to have a red day.
Franklin County, which received a C for ozone pollution had three orange days, two fewer than in 2010. Franklin and Hamilton are among the least polluted counties in the state for ozone along with Ulster, Chemung and Oneida.
St. Lawrence County is again among the cleanest counties in the nation for short-term particle pollution, with zero days of any elevated levels. The county is also one of the top 25 cleanest counties nationwide for annual particle pollution.
Hamilton County has three orange ozone days, the same as in 2010, and earned a C.
Jefferson County again earned an F for ozone with 11 orange ozone days, the same as 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.