“State of the Air” – Millions in the Northeast Live with Unhealthy Air

(April 30, 2014)

The American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report finds half of Americans still live in counties where ozone or particle pollutions levels make the air unhealthy to breathe. Here in the Northeast, more than 8.8 million of us live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution.

 The 15th annual national report card shows that while the nation overall continued to reduce particle pollution, a pollutant recently found to cause lung cancer, poor air quality remains a significant public health concern and a changing climate threatens to make it harder to protect human health. Especially alarming is that levels of ozone (smog), a powerful respiratory irritant and the most widespread air pollutant, were much worse than in the previous year’s report.

What did State of the Air 2014 find for the Northeast?

  • More than 8.8 million people live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution; 

  • Hotter summers led to worse ozone, a challenging situation with changing climate.

  • Cleaner diesel, power plants led to less year-round particle pollution.

  • Bangor, Maine was one of the four cleanest cities in the country.

  • The NYC metro area ranking worsened significantly in all three categories—although year-round PM actually improved. For PM, the metro area expanded to include Northampton County, PA, which has a worse PM problem.

  • The Boston metro area had its lowest ever year-round particle levels.

  • The Hartford metro area had its lowest ever year-round particle levels.

 State of the Air 2014 highlights several areas in the Northeast region:

  • The New York-Newark-Bridgeport metro area ranked tied for 12th most polluted metro area for ozone in the nation, worse than last year’s ranking of 17th

  • Fairfield County, CT remains the dirtiest county in the region for ozone;1 CT county, 1 ME county, 4 MA counties, 5 NH counties, 16 NY counties, 1 RI and 1 VT county received worse one letter grade for ozone pollution;

  • Elmira-Corning, NY was 1 of only 11 cities for having the cleanest air for both year-round and short-term particle pollution.  Burlington-South Burlington, VT was 1 of only 3 cities for having the cleanest air for both ozone and year-round particle pollution. 

While we can celebrate the continued reduction of year-round particle pollution here in the Northeast and across the nation thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants, it’s clear that we’re going to need to do even more to reduce ozone pollution which is a tremendous health threat to all of us but especially to people with lung disease,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association. “Warmer temperatures create a breeding ground for ozone pollution and climate change will make it even more challenging to protect human health. We call on Congress to not only uphold the Clean Air Act, but to ensure that the EPA and states have adequate funding to monitor and protect the public from air pollution. We simply can’t ignore the new threats that rising temperatures present.”

 Is your city on America’s most polluted list? Or are you in one of our cleanest cities? Find out here.

Someone you love is likely at higher risk

Air pollution remains a pervasive health threat. You probably know someone on the list below who faces a higher risk from air pollution (maybe including you!):

  • infants, children, teenagers and older adults

  • anyone with lung diseases like asthma or COPD,

  • people with heart disease or diabetes,

  • people with low incomes, and anyone who works or exercises outdoors.


Dangerous levels of ozone or particle pollution can cause wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death.  Learn more about the health risks of air pollution.

Want to learn more?

Visit www.stateoftheair.org to see how your community ranks and to learn how to protect yourself and your family from air pollution.

You Can Help
Want to help protect the air we all share? Here’s what you can do:

  • Tell the EPA to set standards for coal pollution from new and existing power plants. The EPA also needs to set tighter standards for ozone.

  • Send a message to Congress. Urge them to support, cleaner, healthier air and oppose measure to block or delay the cleanup of air pollution. They should support and protect the Clean Air Act.

  • Take time there to share your story about why healthy air matters to you and your family.

  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for much more information about lung health.

  • Take steps to clean up the air in your community and to protect your family: drive less; walk, bike, carpool or take transit. Don’t burn wood or trash. Make sure your local school system uses clean school buses. Use less electricity. Don’t’ exercise on high pollution days and never exercise near busy freeways.

  • Make a financial contribution to the American Lung Association to support our fight for clean and healthy air.