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More than 50% of New Yorker Live in Areas With Failing Air Quality, Finds 2019 ‘State of the Air’ Report

American Lung Association’s 20th annual air quality report finds failing air quality for ozone; New York City Remains in the Top Ten Most Polluted Metro Areas

Editor’s Note: Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades will be available at Lung.org/sota on Wednesday April 24, 2019 at 12:01 EST

(April 24, 2019) - NEW YORK

For more information please contact:

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

The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report found New York City ranked as the 10th most polluted city in the nation for ozone, while four New York State counties received reduced grades 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.

“New York residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, driven by emissions and extreme heat as a result of climate change, and it is placing our health and lives at risk. When 50% of New Yorkers are being exposed to unhealthy air, we must do more on the local, state and federal levels to improve our air quality,” said Elizabeth Hamlin-Berninger, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in New York. “In addition to challenges here in New York State, the 20th-anniversary ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that more than 4 in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we’re heading in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting 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.

Dr. Payel Gupta, an Asthma and Allergy specialist treating adults and children in New York City at ENT and Allergy Associates said, "Ozone pollution acts like a sunburn of the lung. Even for the healthiest, most active person, it can cause pain, discomfort, and make breathing difficult.  My patients who are already struggling with lung diseases, like asthma, have to be especially careful during the summers here in New York - because those red or orange days can be the difference between heading to work or heading to the ER."

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.

While several counties maintained their grades from the 2018 report, many New York State residents suffered from worsened air quality due to increased ozone pollution, and only one county improved.  On particle pollution, the State followed the national trend of reduced year-round levels of particle pollution
The NYC Metro Region remains the 10th most polluted metro area in the country for ozone pollution.  While over the 20 years of putting out this report, we have seen significant reductions in ozone, this year’s report showed a small uptick in the number of high ozone days in the report’s period and reinforces that far too many New Yorkers continue to be exposed to high levels of ozone pollution.  The report also shows that 10 of New York’s counties received a grade F for ozone pollution. Two Counties, Putnam and Rockland, fell from a Grade D to a Grade F and saw an increase in highly polluted days. Essex County, the only County to improve its Ozone grade, went from a Grade C to a Grade B.

When it comes to particle pollution, New York City continues to progress on a trend of decreasing pollution levels.  In fact, New York fell from 26th worst metro area for particle pollution to 30th.  In Western New York, Elmira-Corning, and Syracuse-Auburn rank among the top 10 cleanest cities for lowest year-round and short-term particle pollution days. The Albany – Schenectady, NY region ranks among the cleanest for short-term particle pollution.

County Grade Changes from 2018:

  • Monroe County: Received a B grade in 2018 with 2 bad ozone days, and received a C in 2019 with 5 bad ozone days
  • Putnam County: Received a D in 2018 for 6 bad ozone days, and a F in 2019 for 9 days ozone days.  This marks the second grade reduction in a row for Putnam County, which recorded a C in the 2017 report.
  • Rockland County: Received a D in 2018 for 9 bad ozone days and a F in 2019 for 10 bad ozone days.
  • Suffolk County: Previously recorded an F grade, but this year took a new title as having the worst ozone pollution in New York State.  23 unhealthy days were recorded in the 2018 report, and 29 unhealthy days were recorded in the 2019 report. (Staten Island was the worst NYS county for ozone in the 2018 report.)
  • The only county in New York State to record an improved grade is Essex County, which went from a C (3 unhealthy days) to a B in this year’s report with 2 unhealthy days.
  • Year-round particle pollution was highest in the Bronx, Kings County (Brooklyn) and New York (Manhattan), but still met the national standard. Throughout the state, previously low levels of short term particle pollution were maintained.

Michael Seilback, a National Assistant Vice President for State Public Policy for the American Lung Association and Commack resident said, “Suffolk County has once again earned the dubious distinction of having the worst ozone pollution in New York State.  As an advocate for healthy air – but also as a resident and parent in Suffolk – it is vital that we continue to strengthen efforts on the local, state and federal level to combat this deadly problem.”

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 air quality across New York State and the 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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