New Report: Upstate New York Metro Areas See Worsened Air Quality

Buffalo and Albany metro areas fall from “cleanest cities” list for particle pollution

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that while air quality across the State showed some improvements, the some upstate metro area worsened for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. Albany and Buffalo both fell off the “cleanest cities” list for particle pollution, while Albany and Syracuse both worsened for ozone.  

The “State of the Air” report is the Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” that tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particle pollution (also known as soot), and short-term spikes in particle pollution, over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2018-2020. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“High levels of ozone and particle pollution can harm the health of all of our residents, but particularly at risk are children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer,” said Trevor Summerfield, director of advocacy for the Lung Association in New York. “Fortunately, we did see some improvement in the levels of ozone across the state.”

Ozone Pollution:

  • Erie, Monroe, Jefferson and Chautauqua counties saw improved grades for ozone. 
  • The Albany metro area posted slightly worse values for ozone, moving its ranking from 119th to 117th most polluted.  
  • Albany moved in rank with the Syracuse-Auburn metro area, and the three-way tie for 117th included the Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Olean metro area, which showed improved ozone (moving from 101st last year).  
  • The Rochester-Batavia-Seneca Falls metro area improved on ozone, ranking at 84th most polluted (from 70th last year).
  • Compared to the 2021 report, New York City experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report – recording its best ever level of ozone.  It remained ranked at 14 on on the list of “Cities Most Polluted by Ozone”. 
  • The Bronx, Manhattan and Queens counties maintained failing grades for ozone, with Richmond County improving from an F to a D and Kings County lacking relevant data. 
  • Suffolk County remained the worst county for ozone in the metro area (and in New York State) with 25 unhealthy days.

Particle Pollution:

  • Albany and Cattaraugus Counties saw declining grades for short term particle pollution, while Onondoga joined the Bronx for increasing levels on year-round particle pollution.  
  • Erie, Queens, Monroe, Chautauqua and Essex counties all saw improved year-round particle pollution levels. 
  • Buffalo, Albany and Syracuse metro areas saw their ranks worsen on short term particle pollution – with Buffalo falling off the cleanest cities list for the first time in 7 years, and Albany ending a 6-report streak of zero unhealthy days. 
  • Rochester metro area continued its best-ever levels of both short term and year-round particle pollution. 
  • Syracuse, Rochester and Elmira-Corning continued to rank among the cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution. 
  • Year-round particle pollution levels in the New York-Newark improved to its best ever level, enough to leave the list of 25 worst cities in the country for this measure. 
  • The report found that the New York-Newark metro area also had less days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels. All 5 boroughs maintained their grades from the 2021 report, with New York County earning a B, while the others earned As. 

(Our report defines metro areas using the Consolidated Statistical Areas as defined by the U. S. Office of Management and Budget.)

The report found that nationwide, nearly 9 million more people were impacted by deadly particle pollution than reported last year. It also shows more days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality than ever before in the two-decade history of this report. Overall, more than 137 million Americans live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air. The report found that people of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant, and 3.6 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three pollutants.

The addition of 2020 data to the 2022 “State of the Air” report gives a first look at air quality trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the shutdowns in early 2020, there was no obvious improvement. 

The American Lung Association is calling on the Biden administration to strengthen the national limits on both short-term and year-round particulate matter air pollution. Stronger standards will educate the public about air pollution levels that threaten their health and drive the cleanup of polluting sources in communities across the country. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA.

Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Jennifer Solomon at 516-680-8927 or [email protected]
 

For more information, contact:

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

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