Rome Sentinel: Oneida County's air is average

Romesentinelogo
By STEVE JONES Staff writer

Oneida County's air is average, and is basically the same quality as last year, according to a report.

The county earned a C grade in the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2010 report issued Wednesday. The report, found at www.stateoftheair.org, is an annual air quality report card.

The study counted "orange," "red" and "purple" days from 2006 to 2008. Those codes indicated "unhealthy for sensitive groups," "unhealthy," and "very unhealthy," respectively. In Oneida County, there were three orange days, and no red or purple days. That meant a C grade. Last year's study, which covered 2005-2007, found three orange days and no red or purple days, so a C grade was issued that year as well.

Ozone — 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 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 into lungs, triggering serious problems such as asthma and heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and even early death.

Madison County earned a grade of D. It had eight orange days from 2006-2008, no red or purple. The county received a D in last year's study as well, for seven orange days and no red or purple days for 2005-2007.

Herkimer County had four orange ozone days in this year's report, one more than in 2009. The county's overall grade remained a C.

Herkimer County had four orange ozone days in this year's report, one more than in 2009. The county's overall grade remained a C.

The Syracuse-Auburn was rated one of the cleanest U.S. cities for short-term particle pollution.

One area the association is fighting for change is with wood-fired boilers. The devices are growing in popularity as people try to save on energy costs, especially in rural areas. The association is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on a proposed rule to phase them out completely due to their harmful effects on air quality. Michael Seilback, vice president of the association, said they are major contributors to particle pollution in New York State, especially in upstate, where there are so many rural areas.

The new rules, if passed, would require a two-foot chimney on the boilers, limit their proximity to neighboring buildings and phase them out completely after 10 years. "This is issue is one we receive more calls on than any other outdoor air quality issue," he said. There are no controls for neighbors now, and the DEC is unable to investigate individual cases because of staffing limitations, he added. "In rural communities....wood boilers are a major contributor to local air quality."