Much of New York Saw Improvements for Ozone Days, But Albany County Saw More Air Pollution
Despite continued improvement in air quality, local residents remain at risk from health effects of unhealthy air, according to new report from the American Lung Association
(April 20, 2016) -
ALBANY, NY– The American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” report found that air quality improved across the country but most counties in New York saw higher ozone days than the 2015 report. The Capital Region improved its particle pollution grade for 2016. Albany-Schenectady was included on the list for the cleanest cities for both year-round and short-term particle pollution.
“The 2016 ‘State of the Air’ report finds unhealthful levels of ozone in New York, putting New Yorkers at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular harm,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Across the nation, the report found continued improvement in air quality, but more than half of the people in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of air pollution.”
Each year the “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can be lethal. But the trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected in 2012-2014, are strikingly different for these pollutants nationwide, and also in New York.
Ozone Pollution in the Capital Region
Compared to the 2015 report (2011-2013) Albany County received a D for high ozone days. The Albany-Schenectady metro area tied for 144th for most polluted ozone. Schenectady was not included in this year’s report. Rensselaer had insufficient data and was not able to provide a report this year.
“Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Michael Seilback, Vice President of Public Policy & Communications for the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room.”
Nationwide, ozone pollution has decreased because the nation has cleaned up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles. However, according to research, climate change causes warmer temperatures, which makes ozone harder to clean up.
Particle Pollution in the Capital Region
The 2016 report also found year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in 2012-2014 were similar to the 2015 report. Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution. Albany County received an A for short-term particle pollution. Rensselaer County did not have a monitor to report year-round particle pollution.
“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal,” said Seyler. “Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.”
The 2016 report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. According to the 2016 report, no counties in New York saw any spikes in short-term particle pollution days that reached unhealthy levels in 2012-2014. In fact, Albany-Schenectady was ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution. This is in keeping with the trend across the nation of reducing short-term spikes in particle pollution. Rensselaer did not have monitors to report short-term particle pollution.
“If we can do more to save lives—we should, and we can,” said Dr. E Neil Schachter, Professor of Medicine Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and member of the American Lung Association of the Northeast’s Board of Directors. “The Lung Association calls on New York’s leaders to adopt a strong Clean Power Plan and to continue working on policies to reduce harmful emissions that worsen climate change and harm human health.”
Learn more about New York’s rankings, as well as air quality across the state and the nation in the 2016 “State of the Air” report at stateoftheair.org. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and healthy air, contact Ebony Walmsley, Communications Associate for the American Lung Association of the Northeast at media@LungNE.org or 860-838-4374.
Significant findings from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2016 report for the Capitol Region include:
• Albany received a D for ozone.
• Albany received an A for short-term particle pollution.
• Saratoga received a B for ozone. No particle pollution monitor.
• Rensselaer had insufficient data to obtain a grade for ozone pollution.
• Albany-Schenectady ranked tied for 144th most polluted for ozone.
• Albany-Schenectady ranked as one of the cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution.
• Albany-Schenectady ranked as one of the cleanest cities for annual particle pollution.