Elmira Star Gazette: Twin Tiers gets passing grades in air quality

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Apr. 27, 2011  |  

The annual rating of air quality by the American Lung Association is out and three Twin Tiers counties received a passing grade in ozone pollution while Steuben County improved its marks in particle pollution.

The State of the Air report gave Chemung and Steuben counties and Tioga County, Pa., a "C" grade for ozone pollution days, meaning the air was unhealthy for people with existing respiratory problems or other sensitivities to ozone.

Each county had the same reported ozone days as in the last report in 2010, four for Tioga and Steuben counties and three for Chemung County.

Schuyler County and Tioga County, N.Y., were not included in the study.

Ozone (the major component of "smog") is formed by chemical reaction of combustion products.

Mostly, it's born from car and truck exhaust, though emissions from both local and distant coal-burning plants also contribute.

In higher concentrations, ozone can cause shortness of breath. It also can trigger respiratory problems or make them worse, and it contributes to premature death among susceptible populations.

The worst New York county for bad-ozone days was Suffolk on Long Island which has averaged more than 12 such ozone days each year.

Officials from the lung association said the study shows 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.

"It's unacceptable that we are not taking the steps needed and there's no good reason not to."

Gannett Albany reporter Jacob Fischler contributed to this report.