While Nation’s Air Quality Improves, Suffolk Remains Worst in State for Ozone Levels
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) -
HAUPPAUGE, NY -The American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” report found that Suffolk County continues to have the worst air quality in the state, despite ozone levels improving. Across New York State improvements in year round particle pollution occurred, including Suffolk, which received an A for short-term particle pollution. Nassau County did not have sufficient data to be included in this year’s report.
“The 2016 ‘State of the Air’ report finds unhealthful levels of ozone in parts of 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. “While year-round particle pollution throughout New York received passing grades, there is always room for improvement. 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 either ozone or particle 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 Suffolk
Similar to the 2015 report (2011-2013) most of the state improved its ozone levels. The New York-Newark (NY-NJ-PA-CT) metro area saw fewer ozone days, reversing a trend seen since the 2014 report. The metro area ranked 14th for ozone, an improvement as it tied for 11th last year. Suffolk’s weighted average for ozone also improved from a 9.5 to an 8.7, but was still the worst ozone pollution in all of New York State.
“Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Michael Seilback, Director of Public Policy & Communications of 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 Suffolk
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. All counties in New York received passing grades for both short-term and annual particle pollution. Suffolk received an A for short-term particle pollution. As part of the New York-Newark metro area, year-round particle pollution fell to its lowest year-round level; the metro area now meets the national standard for annual PM 2.5.
“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 county in the state saw spikes for particle pollution. This is in keeping with the trend across the nation of reducing short-term spikes in particle pollution. The New York-Newark metro area improved its ranking to 24th.
“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@LugNE.org or 860-838-4374.
Significant findings from the State of the Air 2016 report for Long Island include:
• Suffolk County’s ozone grade was again an F.
• Suffolk’s grade for short-term particle pollution remained an A.
• Suffolk’s annual particle pollution level remained the same.
• Nassau County does not have an ozone or particle monitor.