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American Lung Association releases State of the Air report for New York

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The 2022 report sees Albany fall off the "cleanest cities" list for the daily measure of particle pollution. And it worsened for the year round measure of particle pollution.

A new report from the American Lung Association finds that air quality has worsened in the Albany metro area.

The 23rd annual "State of the Air" report tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particle pollution (or soot), and short-term spikes in particle pollution, over a three-year period. The 2022 report sees Albany fall off the "cleanest cities" list for the daily measure of particle pollution.

Trevor Summerfield is ALA's Director of Advocacy in New York . "I would point to, especially in the Albany and Schenectady area, which did see, again, greater rates of particle pollution this year. But again, it was slightly more," Summerfield said. "But we still meet the national air quality standard, which I think is important to note. Even though the levels did worsen, we meet the air quality standard, and do have on par, you know, when you look across the country, pretty clean air comparatively to other states and metropolitan areas."

David Carpenter is director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany.

“The American Lung Association shows is that over the last period of three years from 2018, to 2020, in the city of Albany, there's an increase in ozone emissions, an increase in fine particulates," Carpenter said. "Whereas for Albany County, things have improved a little bit. Now, this is consistent with what we know that urban areas tend to have more air pollution than rural areas. In fact, the other thing that report makes clear is that the New York City region has much higher levels of these contaminants than then does Albany County, and certainly then, then does the city of Albany. Is this important? Yes, this is very important because air pollution causes cancer, causes lung disease, causes cardiovascular disease. And it's really one of the most preventable causes of disease.”

Carpenter says while many contaminants in the air originate from the use of fossil fuels, others come from he calls "point sources."

“These are factories or plants that you know, have a smokestack and are releasing things into the air. Now, two of those sources in Albany County that we know a lot about, are the Norlite and the Lafarge plants," said Carpenter. "Both of them are involved in burning lots of different things. A big concern about Norlite is not just the air pollution, but the fact that that silicone particles that are like little glass particles with very sharp points on them are being released and causing respiratory disease and other diseases. So these plants are significant sources of local air pollution.”

The addition of 2020 data to the 2022 "State of the Air" report gives a first look at air quality trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the shutdowns in early 2020, Summerfield says there was no obvious improvement.

"I will note that we didn't really see a change in any of the you know, patterns across the country and especially here in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont or Connecticut,” said Summerfield.

CLICK HERE to read the report.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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