Gannett Newspapers: Report: Air pollution in New York improves, but some counties struggle

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April 27, 2011

ALBANY -- Spring may be in the air, but so are hefty doses of pollutants in some New York counties, a report released Wednesday from the American Lung Association showed.

According to the study, 16 of 34 counties with air quality monitors received failing grades -- an improvement from last year's report where 19 counties failed. That adds up to more than 9 million New Yorkers living in counties with unhealthy air, the report claims.

The study is the result of three years of monitoring from 2007 to 2009.

The monitors evaluated ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread types of pollution. The state decides which counties receive the monitors. No data was available for Tompkins County.

Ozone, also known as smog, is a gas that forms when sunlight reacts with gas emissions from cars, factories and other fuel-burning sources. As the weather gets hotter, ozone pollution typically gets worse. It is known to cause or worsen health problems such as asthma, coughing, wheezing, chest pain and in some cases causes death.

Particle pollution is caused by a hodge-podge of dangerous pollutants such as ash, soot, car exhaust and others. It can lead to lung cancer, strokes and other serious conditions.

Westchester County, the study determined, was the dirtiest county in the Hudson Valley with 28 days of elevated levels of ozone pollution over the three years. It was the second dirtiest in the state. The dirtiest overall was Suffolk County on Long Island, with 36 days of elevated levels of ozone pollution.

Dutchess and Rensselaer were the only counties that had more days with unhealthy levels of ozone than in last year's report.

Officials from the lung association said the results of the study show that air quality is improving, thanks to national legislation.

"These results show that the Clean Air Act and other clean air laws are working," said Sandra Kessler, interim president and CEO of the state lung association.

"To ensure all New Yorkers breathe healthy air, it is our job to make sure that Congress doesn't weaken the Clean Air Act and that state government doesn't roll back important clean air regulations."

Some environmental groups said the report shows that New York is not yet up to par in terms of clean air.

"It shows that we have a long way to go in our efforts to clean up our air," said Ross Gould, air and energy program director for Environmental Advocates of New York.

Gould suggested New Yorkers use their energy more efficiently -- by using less electricity, driving less often and replacing old outdoor boilers with new energy efficient ones to name a few ways -- to reduce air pollution levels.

The full report can be read at: