State of the Air Report Details Air Quality in New York State

News Standards Provide New Insight into New York's Toxic Air

Albany, New York (April 29, 2009)

The American Lung Association's tenth annual State of the Air report, released today, finds that over 12.5 million New Yorkers - a stunning 65 percent of the state's residents - live in counties where air pollution levels endanger lives. According to the report, which applies new and stricter federal air quality standards, 22 out of the 33 counties with air quality monitors received failing grades.

"Cleaner air equals longer life, and the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2009 report provides troubling proof of the unhealthy air that residents across New York State are breathing," said Deborah Carioto, President of the American Lung Association in New York. "Now more than ever it is apparent that New Yorkers are breathing in dangerously high levels of both particulate matter and ozone."

The State of the Air 2009 acknowledges substantial progress in the fight against air pollution in many areas of the country, but finds that nearly every major city is still burdened by air pollution. The report includes a national air quality report card that assigns A-F grades to communities across the country. The report also ranks cities and counties most affected by the three most widespread types of pollution (ozone—or smog, annual particle pollution, and 24-hour particle pollution levels) and details trends for 900 counties over the past decade.

To determine the grades, the American Lung Association identified the number of days that each county with at least one air quality monitor experienced air quality designated as orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups), red (unhealthy), or purple (very unhealthy), according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index.

Ozone, a gas formed most often when sunlight reacts with vapors emitted when motor vehicles, factories, power plants and other sources burn fuel, 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 within the lungs, triggering serious problems such as asthma and heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and even early death.

For more information, visit the State of the Air.


Significant findings from the report for New York State, by region include:

Long Island

  • Nassau County had 5 orange particle pollution days, a decrease from 6 orange days in last year's report.
  • Suffolk County tied with Chautauqua County as the dirtiest counties in New York for ozone pollution.
  • Suffolk had 34 orange days for ozone, an increase from 30 orange days in last year's report. Suffolk also had 9 red days and is one of only two counties in the state to have a purple day.

New York City

  • The New York City metropolitan area ranks 17th on the top 25 list of most polluted cities by ozone.
  • The New York City metropolitan area ranks 16th on the top 25 list of U.S. cities most polluted by short-term particle pollution.
  • The New York City metropolitan area ranks 22nd on the top 25 list of U.S. cities most polluted by year-round particle pollution.
  • Bronx, Queens and New York counties have the highest number of particle pollution days in the state - with the Bronx's 31 orange days doubling the next closest county.
  • Richmond County's 33 orange ozone pollution days are the third most in the state.
  • New York County, followed by Bronx County, are two dirtiest counties for annual PM pollution and the only counties to fail on the annual grade.

Hudson Valley

  • Westchester County has 29 orange and 7 red ozone pollution days. This is a drastic increase from 20 orange and 4 red in last year's report.
  • Putnam County is one of only two counties in the state to have a purple day for ozone pollution.
  • Orange County has 27 orange and 2 red ozone pollution days - an increase from 24 orange and 1 red day in last year's report.
  • Dutchess County's 15 orange days for ozone pollution are almost double as many as in last year's report.
  • Ulster County is the only Hudson Valley county to have a decrease in ozone pollution days, with 13 orange ozone pollution days for this year, down from 15 in last year's report.

Capital Region

  • Albany County received an F for ozone pollution and a D for short-term particle pollution.
  • Rensselaer County is the only county in the Capital Region to have a red day for ozone pollution.
  • Schenectady County, which received a D for ozone pollution in last year's report, received a C this year with 6 orange days for ozone pollution.
  • Saratoga County's 21 orange days for ozone pollution are the most in the Capital Region.

North Country

  • Essex County has 2 red days for ozone pollution and ranks 16th on the list of the top 25 cleanest counties for long-term particle pollution in the nation.
  • Franklin County, which received an F for ozone pollution in last year's report, received an F again this year with 13 orange days for ozone pollution.
  • St. Lawrence County is among the cleanest in the nation for short term PM, with zero days of any elevated levels.
  • Hamilton County has 4 orange days for ozone pollution, the same number as it had in last year's report.
  • Jefferson County has 17 orange and 1 red day for ozone pollution, a significant increase from 12 orange and 1 red days in last year's report.

Central New York

  • Onondaga County has the second highest number of ozone pollution days in Central New York, with 14 orange days.
  • Herkimer County had 3 times the number of orange pollution days in this year's report and saw its grade drop from a B to a C.
  • Oneida County has 3 orange days for ozone pollution, a decrease from 4 orange days in last year's report.
  • Madison County, which received an B in last year's report, received a D this year due to almost 3 times as many orange ozone pollution days.
  • Oswego County has the highest number of ozone pollution days in Central New York, with 15 orange days.

Western New York

  • Erie County joins Bronx and Queens as the only counties in the state to fail for both ozone and particle pollution.
  • Monroe County, which received an F in last year's report, receives an F again this year with 19 orange ozone pollution days. This is almost double the number of orange ozone pollution days as last year.
  • Niagara County has the second highest number of ozone pollution days in Western New York, with 32 orange and 1 red ozone pollution days.
  • Chautauqua County is tied with Suffolk County as the dirtiest counties in New York for ozone pollution. There were 48 orange ozone days, the highest number in the state. Chautauqua County also had the most days charted in orange /purple.
  • Wayne County's 9 orange days for ozone pollution are a stark increase from 2 ozone pollution days in last year's report.
  • Steuben County's 3 orange days for 24-hour particle pollution are half as many as in last year's report.
  • Chemung County had the cleanest ozone pollution of any county in the state with only 2 orange days and nothing else.