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Jefferson Ranked As Worst County in the North Country for Unhealthy Ozone Days

Despite continued improvement in air quality, local residents remain at risk from health

(April 20, 2016) -

ROCHESTER, NY– The American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” report found that while air quality improved across the state,  yet 10.8 million New Yorkers live in counties with failing grades for air pollution. In the North Country, Jefferson Country received an F for high ozone days.  In keeping with the trend seen across the nation, the North Country maintained its year-round particle pollution levels. Ozone levels varied throughout North Country, but no other county received a failing grade for high ozone days.

“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 North Country
Compared to the 2015 report (2011-2013), Jefferson County still remains the worst county in North Country for ozone. Essex County received a D for ozone pollution.  Hamilton County received a C for high ozone days.

“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 North Country
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.  Essex County received a passing grade for year-round particle pollution. Jefferson, Franklin and Hamilton counties did not have monitors to report grades for 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, Essex County received an A for short-term particle pollution.  Jefferson, Hamilton and Franklin counties did not have monitor to report short-term particle pollution days. 

“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 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 [email protected] or 860-838-4374. .

Significant findings from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2016 report for North Country include:
• Hamilton received a C for ozone   No particle pollution monitor.
• Franklin’s grade for ozone remained an A.  No particle pollution monitor.
• Jefferson received an F for ozone   No particle pollution monitor.
• Essex received a D for ozone. 
• Essex received an A for short-term particle pollution.

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