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Nation’s Air Quality Improved, Yet Much of Connecticut Remains at Risk Due to Ozone 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) -

EAST HARTFORD, CT– The American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” report found that air quality in Connecticut and the country has improved. However, Fairfield County remains ranked as the most polluted county in Connecticut and is the most polluted county in the entire New York-Newark metro area for ozone pollution. The New York-Newark metro area is comprised of parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. All eight counties in Connecticut received an F for high ozone days. Fairfield received the same grade for short-term particle pollutions as it did in 2015.

“The 2016 ‘State of the Air’ report finds unhealthful levels of ozone in Connecticut, putting residents of the Nutmeg State at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular harm. Fairfield’s grade of an F for high ozone days is troubling and we must urge our state leaders to work to make improvements,” 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 Connecticut.

Ozone Pollution in Middlesex County
Compared to the 2015 report (2011-2013), Middlesex County saw a weighted average of 12.2 high ozone days compared to 10.8. This continues a trend for more unhealthy ozone days in Middlesex County on average since 2009-2011.   Middlesex also received an F for high ozone days.

“Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Ruth Canovi, Manager of Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Connecticut. “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 Hartford-West Hartford County
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. In fact, Hartford-West Hartford County reached its lowest level ever for 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, Hartford County received an A for short-term particle pollution. This is in keeping with a trend seen across the nation of short-term spikes in particle pollution.

“If we can do more to save lives—we should, and we can,” David Hill, a pulmonologist with Waterbury Pulmonary Associates and a member of the American Lung Association in Connecticut’s Leadership Board said. “The Lung Association calls on Connecticut’s leaders to continue working to improve the air we breathe. In this difficult budget climate, Connecticut must protect our clean energy programs. We also urge our leaders to adopt a strong Clean Power Plan to reduce harmful emissions from power plants that worsen climate change and immediately harm health.” 

Learn more about Connecticut’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 Connecticut include:

• Ozone grade remained an F, the worst in the entire region.
• Short-term particle pollution grade remained a B.
• Annual particle pollution remained the same.
• The New York-Newark-Bridgeport (NY-NJ-CT-PA) metro area ranked tied 14th for ozone levels, improved from 11th in 2015. The New York-Newark-Bridgeport (NY-NJ-CT-PA) metro area ranked for 24th  for short-term particle pollution.
• The New York-Newark-Bridgeport (NY-NJ-CT-PA) metro area ranked tied for 36th most polluted for annual particle pollution.  This is the metro area’s best ever ranking, now meeting the national standard for annual PM 2.5.
• Ozone grade remained an F.
• Short-term particle pollution received a grade of an A.
• Annual level of particle pollution slightly improved.
• Hartford-West Hartford had worse ozone pollution and ranked 38th most polluted for ozone (worse ozone).
• Hartford-West Hartford ranked tied for 63rd most polluted for short-term particle pollution (tied for 57th in 2015, particle pollution improved).
Hartford-West Hartford continues to improve its year-round particle levels of particle pollution and ranked 128th, this is the counties’ lowest ever and is well under the national standard.

• Ozone grade earned an F. 
• Annual level of particle pollution slightly improved.
• Ozone grade remained an F. No particle pollution monitor
• Middlesex’s weighted average for high ozone days was 12.2 compared to 10.8 in 2015. This continues a trend for Middlesex for more unhealthy ozone days on average since 2009-2011.
 New Haven:
• Ozone grade remained an F.
• Annual particle pollution improved.
New London:
• Ozone grade remained an F.
• Short-term particle pollution grade earned an A.
• There was incomplete data to find annual particle pollution.
• Ozone grade remained an F.
• No particle pollution monitor.
• Ozone grade earned an F.
• No particle pollution monitor.

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