HAUPPAUGE, 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 Suffolk County is still the dirtiest county in New York for ozone pollution. Yet the county earned a place on the nationwide list of cleanest counties for short-term particle pollution this year after experiencing no unhealthy levels of the pollutant during the period measured. 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. 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 includes some encouraging news, ozone pollution remains a major problem on Long Island that prevents people from having the clean air they need and deserve," said Sandra Kessler, Interim President and CEO, American Lung Association in New York. "Nationwide, we know that the Clean Air Act and other clean air laws are working. To give Long Islanders clean air, we need to make sure that Congress doesn't weaken the Clean Air Act and 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 the American Lung Association's Fight for Air Walk on Long Island at Cantiague Park in Hicksville on June 4.
"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 Long Island include:
*Nassau County received a B for particle pollution, up from a C last year. The county had two orange particle pollution days, one fewer than last year. Since Nassau County has no ozone monitor, it did not receive a grade for ozone.
* Suffolk County again received an F for ozone pollution and had the dirtiest air in the state when measured for ozone. Last year, the county was the only county in the state with an ozone monitor to experience a purple day. This year the county had no purple days and reduced its number of red days from six to two. The county had 34 orange days, the same as in 2010.
*Suffolk improved a letter grade for short-term particle pollution; receiving an A this year up from last year's B. The county experienced no unhealthy particle days earning it a place on the list of cleanest counties for short-term particle pollution. Suffolk was one of four counties statewide to earn this distinction.
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.