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While Air Quality in NYC Continues to Improve, Lots of Failing Grades Issued in the 2016 State of the Air Report

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) -

NEW YORK, NY  – The American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” report found that similar to the rest of the country, New York City’s air quality has improved. However, 10.8 million New Yorkers live in counties that received failing grades for air pollution. Queens received an F for ozone, as did the Bronx and Manhattan. Despite the failing grades, the New York-Newark metro area ranked 14th for ozone.  However, New York City continues to rank on two most polluted cities list. The metro area remains one of the few eastern cities on the most polluted list for ozone. No other Northeast city ranks on these lists.

“The 2016 ‘State of the Air’ report finds unhealthful levels of ozone in parts of New York, putting millions of 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 New York City

Similar to the 2015 report (2011-2013) most of the state has improved its ozone levels even though there were still many failing grades. The New York-Newark metro area had fewer high ozone days in 2012-2014; this reverses a trend seen since the 2014 report. Bronx County, Queens County and New York (Manhattan) County all received F’s for ozone. Kings County did not have a monitor to report ozone days.

“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 New York City
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 the New York metro area received a passing grade for year-round particle pollution.  The New York-Newark metro area ranked tied for 36th for year-round particle pollution. This is the metro’s area best ranking in any report. It 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 this year. Every county in New York City received an A for short-term particle pollution.

“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 State of the Air 2016 report for New York City include:
• The New York City metropolitan area (New York-Newark-Bridgeport,NY-NJ-CT-PA) ranked  for 14th most polluted in the nation by ozone and placed on the top 25 list of U.S. cities most polluted by ozone.
• The New York City metropolitan area (New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA) ranked for 24th most polluted city for short-term particle pollution. 
• The New York City metropolitan area (New York-Newark-Bridgeport,NY-NJ-CT-PA) ranked tied 36th most polluted for annual particle pollution.   
• Queens’ ozone grade remained an F; Queens’ grade remained an A for short-term particle pollution.
• The Bronx received an F for ozone. Bronx’s grade for short-term particle pollution remained an A. 
• Kings’ grade for short-term particle pollution remained an A with zero unhealthy days.
• Kings does not have an ozone monitor.

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