The American Lung Association has released its annual State of the Air report tracking air quality across the country. While there has been some improvement in areas of New York, the group says many residents’ health remains at risk from ozone and particle pollution.
The organization tracks levels of ozone and short-term and year-round particle pollution and grades metropolitan areas and counties for their State of the Air report. Despite improvements in air quality since the report was first compiled 17 years ago, American Lung Association of the Northeast President and CEO Jeff Seyler says there are still unhealthy levels of ozone and particle pollution across the country and in New York. “Despite continued improvement in air quality many New Yorkers remain at risk from the health effects of unhealthy air. New York City continues to rank nationally for ozone. They are ranked fourteenth and twenty-fourth for short-term particle pollution. The New York City metro area remains one of the few eastern cities on the most polluted for ozone list. However many Northeast cities show continued improvement in ozone and year-round particle pollution. Elmira-Corning is on the list for the cleanest cities in the country. Also on the cleanest cities list are Albany/Schenectady and Syracuse/Auburn for year-round and short-term particle pollution.”
Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Michael Seilback noted that although progress is being made in cleaning the state’s air, more than half of New Yorkers live in areas with failing grades. “Four counties: Franklin, Herkimer, Orange and Steuben received A’s for ozone. New York State has continued its year-round particle reduction with all counties with monitors earning passing grades in either reducing their levels of pollution or keeping it stable. We saw fourteen counties across the state receive A grades for short-term particle pollution. Improvements come from the cleaning up of diesel and gas in our vehicles as well as the implementation of New York’s cleaner home heating fuel.”
The report had no data on particle pollution for 47 of New York’s 64 counties because no monitors exist to collect data. They include Clinton, Columbia, Dutchess, Hamilton, Herkimer, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Schoharie, Saratoga, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties. Michael Seilback admits it’s unknown what the air quality is in those areas. “Unfortunately we can’t guess, we don’t want to extrapolate, what their air quality is. Two counties that are right next to each other, and that you might assume have similar grades, we’ve seen vast differences. Because it’s about topography, it’s about how the air pollution travel through our region. And we need more monitoring and we need more data.”
Lung Association Senior Vice President of Advocacy Paul Billings adds: “E.P.A.'s funding has been severely cut in the last few years. Monitors are sited based on E.P.A. guidelines. But we certainly would support more monitoring because as Mike mentioned the wind patterns, the location of large stationary sources, the topography, all these factors can influence the specific air pollution levels in one community. And certainly more information would be helpful.”