YNN Central New York: Report grades counties on air quality

OSWEGO COUNTY, N.Y. -- When it's nice out, the best place to be is outdoors. But in Central New York, that could also be an unhealthy place to be.

"While the air is getting cleaner, far too many New Yorkers are still breathing unhealthy air everyday," said New York State American Lung Association Public Policy Vice President Michael Seilback.

According to the American Lung Association, some of that unhealthy air is in Oswego County. In their annual air quality report, the organization gave the county an F for air pollution.

"Oswego having two local power plants is certainly a major contributor to the local portion of the air pollution. But it's not the only factor. It's also vehicle emissions, it's also truck emissions," said Seilback.
It's also the ozone. The report kept track of days when the ozone reached orange, which is considered an unhealthy level. Oswego County had ten orange days in this year's report. Experts we spoke with say high ozone days typically happen in the summer when it is very sunny out.

"You can't live without it and you can't live with it. You have to have it up in the ozone layer otherwise you get too much ultraviolet light coming through. But here at the surface we don't want it because it's hazardous to your health," said SUNY Oswego Meteorology Professor Dr. Alfred Stamm.

Oswego isn't alone. Neighboring Wayne County also received an F, as did Jefferson County. But even with the poor marks, Oswego has improved from the last report.

"Too many Oswego County residents are being forced to breathe unhealthy air. But it's trending in the right direction and we're hopeful that it will continue in the right direction," said Seilback.

Not every county was a part of the air quality report, and of the 33 counties that were, no county received higher than a C. So if the air quality report was a class, it certainly would be a tough one a lot of students would be retaking. All counties will get a chance to improve when the report comes out next year.

For more information, visit www.lung.org/associations/states/new-york/assets/2010-state-of-the-air-new.pdf .