New York State Air Shows Mixed Progress, Lung Association Reports

All metro areas worsen for year-round particles, all counties maintain or improve ozone grades

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that New York State reported mixed progress on air pollution throughout its counties and metro areas.  All major metro areas in the state, including New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany all recorded worsened year-round particle pollution, while recording fewer unhealthy days for ozone pollution.  The Elmira-Corning metro area is one of only two cities nationwide listed as a cleanest city for all three pollutants: ozone, short-term and year-round particle pollution. Particle pollution and ozone are two of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution. See the full report at

“New York State has been plagued by harmful air pollutants for decades.  The American Lung Association’s 2021 “State of the Air” report shows that while long-term trends show great progress, there is still significant work to be done,” said American Lung Association Director for Advocacy in New York Trevor Summerfield. “Not only did this year’s report show worsened year-round particle pollution for several metro areas, but it reinforced what we already know: that people of color are significantly more likely to breathe polluted air. Our elected officials must take bold action now recognizing climate change, and its impact on worsened air pollution, as a serious public health concern.”

The Lung Association has and will continue to support New York State’s consideration of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) Program. By joining the TCI Program, New York State would take a big, bold and necessary step forward for public health. The program is an important tool to reduce transportation pollution, improve air quality, reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change, improve health and invest in cleaner, faster and more reliable public transportation.  It stands to make a significant impact throughout the state, but especially for Buffalo, Rochester and other heavily trafficked metro areas. 

Overall, the report reinforced the fact that emissions from factories, power plants, diesel- and gasoline-powered motor vehicles (cars and trucks) and equipment play a role in forming ozone and generating dangerous fine particle pollution.  Together, with the rising temperatures due to climate change air quality in the United States is in danger of being degraded, and residents across the country are at an increased risk of air pollution harming health. In addition, Studies show that air pollution exposure is linked to greater risk of respiratory infections, including some evidence that suggests that exposure to air pollution may make people more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. 

Notable County Grades on ozone:

  • Throughout the State, no single county received a worsened grade for ozone.
  • The following counties showed improved grades for ozone from the 2020 report to this year’s report: Albany (C to B), Saratoga (C to B), Erie (D to C), Niagara (C to B), Steuben (B to A), Tompkins (C to B), Dutchess (D to C), Putnam (F to D), Rockland (F to D), Wayne (D to C), Onondaga (C to B), Herkimer (C to A), Essex (B to C), and Hamilton (B to A).
  • Only the Bronx, New York County, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester maintained failing grades, despite a slightly improved number of unhealthy days. 
  • Suffolk County remained the worst county for ozone in the state with 26 unhealthy days
  • Counties maintaining higher than failing grades form last year include Monroe (D), Oswego (B), and Chautauqua (D)
  • All other counties did not collect this data

Notable county grades on particle pollution: 

  • Throughout the State, all counties maintained A or B grades for short-term particle pollution
  • All counties continued to meet the national standard for year-round particle pollution
  • Counties that measured worsened year-round particle pollution include Rensselaer, Steuben, Rockland, Westchester, Jefferson, Otsego, Allegany
  • Counties that measured improved year-round particle pollution include Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Warren, Broome, Cattaraugus, Erie, Tomkins, Richmond, Ontario, and Madison
  • Only Chemung County measured the same year-round particle pollution as it did in the 2020 report.
  • All other counties did not collect this data

Summerfield continued, “We know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the country are facing multiple threats to their lung health at once, including from unhealthy air pollution. It’s critical to keep looking at the state of our air quality and the things that impact it – like climate change and emissions.  We simply must do more to protect and preserve everyone’s right to breathe clean, healthy air and protect themselves from harmful air pollution.”

The year’s report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In New York State, 3.8 million residents living with lung diseases like asthma, COPD and lung cancer are already at risk making them more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. The report shows that nationally people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. The report also finds that climate change made air quality worse and harder to clean up.

The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution (also known as soot) and ozone (smog) over a three-year period – this year’s report covers 2017-2019. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: average annual levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and are linked to developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.

Learn more about “State of the Air” at and sign the petition for the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice. Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Jennifer Solomon at [email protected] or 516-680-8927. 

For more information, contact:

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

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