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Connecticut Scores All Failing Grades For Ozone; Air Quality Among Worst in Eastern US, Finds 2019 ‘State of the Air’ Report

American Lung Association’s 20th annual air quality report finds more than 4 in 10 Americans live with unhealthy air quality; Fairfield County Suffers from Highest Level of Ozone in the New York Metro Area

Editor’s Note: Full Report, trend charts, rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are now available at Lung.org/sota

(April 24, 2019) - EAST HARTFORD, Conn.

For more information please contact:

Jennifer Solomon
[email protected]
(516) 680-8927

The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report found Fairfield county suffers from the highest level of ozone in the New York City metro-area, which was ranked  number 10 on the most ozone polluted list.  Additionally the Hartford-East Hartford metro area was ranked 23rd  most polluted city in the nation for ozone.  The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly.

“Connecticut residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, driven by emissions from power plants and extreme heat as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk,” said Ruth Canovi, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Connecticut. “In addition to challenges here in Connecticut, the 20th-anniversary ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that more than 4 in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we must do more to protect public health.”

This year’s report covers the most recent quality-assured data available collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2015-2017. Notably, those three years were the hottest recorded in global history.

Each year the “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, also known as smog, and particle pollution, also called soot. 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 increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.

Ozone Pollution
Compared to the 2018 report, Fairfield, New Haven, New London and Windham experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report, with Fairfield alone reporting a total of 69 “orange” and “red” bad air days. Windham’s increased bad air days (from 7 in the 2018 report to 10 in the 2019 report) caused its grade to drop from a D to an F.  While other counties, including Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, and Tolland experienced fewer bad ozone days than reported in 2018, the reduction was not enough to improve their failing grades.

Dr. David Hill, a Waterbury based pulmonologist and  Chair of the Northeast Board of the American Lung Association said, “Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases – and Connecticut has over 95,000 kids with pediatric asthma, over 305,000 adults with asthma, and over 164,000 adults with COPD.  One bad ozone day puts these populations at risk for asthma attacks or major health events, often driving them to the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room.” 

Lisa Pellerin, a Manchester, Connecticut resident with chronic lung disease said, “A bad air day can impact my life in a big way.  On heavy ozone days, I can feel my breathing become more labored, I’m uncomfortable, and I because of my condition, I am more prone to infection.  It’s also more likely to force me to stay indoors, and potentially miss work with my Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who count on me.”

This report documents how warmer temperatures brought by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up. This year’s report showed that ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part due to the record-breaking global heat experienced in the three years tracked in the report.

Particle Pollution
The 2019 report also found year-round particle pollution levels slightly lower in all reporting counties with the exception of Hartford, which reported an increase from 7.1 µg/m3  to 8.2 µg/m3. Despite this increase in the Hartford metro area’s year-round particle pollution, those measures are still below the national standards for that type of pollution.  Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of 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 Canovi. “Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.”

“State of the Air” 2019 also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that 3 Connecticut counties improved their grades for short-term particle pollution, rounding out the report with 4 A’s and only 1 B.

While the report examined data from 2015-2017, this 20th annual report online provides information on air pollution trends back to the first report. Learn more about Connecticut’s rankings, as well as air quality across the state and nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact Jennifer Solomon at [email protected] or 516-680-8927.

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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