Hornell Evening Tribune: Steuben County air quality improves

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By Andrew Poole

The Evening Tribune

Posted May 01, 2011

Steuben County residents can breathe a little easier — and safer — this year.

According to a release from the American Lung Association (ALA), the air quality in Western New York remains questionable, but Steuben County received a “C” for ozone pollution and improved from a “C” to a “B” in short-term particle pollution.

Four counties in western New York, Chautauqua, Erie, Monroe, and Niagara, received failing ratings for ozone pollution. A total of 16 out of 34 counties with air quality monitors received failing grades.

“This report shows that air pollution isn’t just a downstate problem. It’s a problem throughout the region and state that affects you, whether you live in Brighton or in Buffalo,” said Sandra Kessler, interim president and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York.

Of the counties surrounding Steuben, only Chemung, which received a “C” rating for ozone pollution, has an air quality monitor. Chemung County doesn’t have a quality monitor for short-term particle pollution. Elmira was tied for 46th cleanest out of the 228 metro areas ranked for ozone pollution.

The ALA identified each of the 34 counties’ days with orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) air quality ratings, red (unhealthy) or purple (very unhealthy).

For ozone pollution, Steuben County had four orange days and zero red or purple days. For small short-term particle pollution, Steuben County had one orange day and zero red or purple days. The small short-term pollution rating represents almost a three-day drop in orange ratings for the county.

According to the Air Quality Index, orange ratings are more likely to impact people with heart or lung disease, older adults, or children. Ozone and particle pollution can cause chest pain, wheezing, or asthmatic attacks in people with lung diseases, or increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, according to the ALA website.

Red and purple ratings include danger to the same groups, but also to the rest of the public.

According to the release, the grades are issued based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors for ozone and particle pollution between 2007 and 2009.