State of the Air 2013 – Much Progress but Challenges Remain

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(April 24, 2013)

The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2013 report finds that air quality nationwide continues the longstanding trend towards much healthier air. The strongest progress came in lower levels of year-round particle pollution across much of the nation. Still, many cities that ranked among the most polluted had more unhealthy days of high ozone and short-term particle pollution than in the 2012 report.SOTA 2013

State of the Air 2013 is the Lung Association’s 14th annual, national air quality “report card.” It uses the most recent air pollution data, compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the two most widespread types of pollution - ozone (smog) and particle pollution (PM 2.5, also known as soot).  The report grades counties and ranks cities and counties based on their scores for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels. 

What did State of the Air 2013 find for the Northeast?

  • More than 8.6 million people live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution; 
  • 12 cities ranked among the most polluted for ozone pollution, while 4 cities and 7 counties made the list of cleanest for ozone, recording no unhealthy days during the reported period; 
  • No counties were on the list of most polluted for ozone;
  • 11 cities ranked among the most polluted for short-term particle pollution, while 3 cities and 21 counties made the list of cleanest for short-term particle pollution, recording no unhealthy days during the reported period;
  • 10 cities made the list for most polluted for annual particle pollution, while 2 cities and 4 counties ranked among the top 25 cleanest for annual particle pollution;
  • No counties were among the most polluted for short-term or annual particle pollution.

State of the Air 2013 highlights several areas in the Northeast region:

  • The New York-Newark-Bridgeport metro area ranked tied for 17th most polluted metro area for ozone in the nation, improving from last year’s ranking as 15th;
  • Fairfield County, CT dropped off the list of 25 most polluted counties in the nation for ozone, ranking 24th in last year’s report and 29th in this year’s report. Fairfield still remains the dirtiest county in the region;
  • Bangor, ME made the list of cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution and was ranked tied for 22nd with Burlington-South Burlington, VT among the top 25 cleanest cities for annual particle pollution;
  • Hancock County, ME made the list of cleanest counties for short-term particle pollution and tied for 10th on the top 25 cleanest counties for annual particle pollution;
  • 1 CT county, 1 ME county, 4 MA counties, 5 NH counties, 16 NY counties, 1 RI and 1 VT county improved one letter grade for ozone pollution;
  • Queens County, NY dropped from a D to an F for ozone pollution;
  • 2 CT and 8 NY counties improved one letter grade for short-term particle pollution;
  • Providence County, RI dropped from a B to a C for short-term particle pollution.

“These improvements in air quality are to be applauded because cleaner air saves lives,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in the Northeast. “But make no mistake, air pollution in our communities continues to be a major threat that cuts lives short, routinely sends people to the hospital and makes it hard to breathe.   We not only need to defend the protections in the Clean Air Act that are responsible for the  progress we’ve made, we need to fight for tighter standards that will ensure further progress and will lead to improved lung health and more lives saved.”

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,
  • 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. 

You Can Help

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

  • Urgent! Tell EPA that we need cleaner gasoline and vehicles to cut pollution all across the nation.  For about a penny a gallon, we can all breathe a lot easier.
  • Take time there to share your story about why healthy air matters to you and your family.
  • 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.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for much more information about lung health.
  • Make a financial contribution to the American Lung Association to support our fight for clean and healthy air.