State of the Air Report Shows Mixed Results for Central New York

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ALBANY, NY (04/28/2010)(readMedia)-- The American Lung Association's State of the Air 2010 report finds that air quality in Central New York needs improvement. While some counties fared better in this year's report, two counties experienced more unhealthy ozone days than in 2009.

.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 some portions of this year's report are encouraging, far too many of the region's residents are breathing air that puts their health at risk," said Scott T. Santarella, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. "While we're seeing improvements in some counties because of reduced emissions from sources including power plants and diesel engines; there are still some significant air quality improvements left to make."

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 Central New York include:

  • Onondaga County showed marked improvement and gained a letter grade in both ozone and short term particle pollution. The county earned a D this year with nine orange ozone days. Last year the county received an F with 14 orange days. The county had no unhealthy short-term particle pollution days this year, earning it an A up from a B in 2009. Onondaga's Syracuse-Auburn was rated one of the cleanest U.S. cities for short-term particle pollution. And Onondaga County is one of the cleanest counties for short-term particle pollution.
  • Herkimer County had four orange ozone days in this year's report, one more than in 2009. The county's overall grade remained a C.
  • Oneida County again earned a C with three orange days for ozone pollution, the same as in 2009.
  • Madison County had eight orange ozone days, up from seven in 2009. The County again received a D in this year's report.
  • Oswego County received an F for ozone pollution with 10 orange days in this year's report, five fewer than in 2009. Oswego again had the highest number of ozone pollution days in Central New York.

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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