American Lung Association Report: Fairfield County Has the Highest Ozone Readings in the Eastern U.S. and Hartford Metro Area Returns to Most Polluted Cities List

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in Connecticut and across the nation
Fairfield County air quality continues to score dismally for air quality, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released today. In fact, the county is not only the most polluted in the entire New York-Newark metro area, it has the highest ozone readings anywhere in the eastern U.S. Just an hour away, Hartford metro area didn’t fare much better, earning itself a spot back on the most polluted cities list for ozone. Nationally, the report found that nearly 120 million people, or more than one in three, in the U.S. live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

The Lung Association’s 24th annual “State of the Air” report grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution and short-term spikes in particle pollution over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2019-2021.

“Across the nation, we are seeing ozone pollution improving, thanks in big part to the success of the Clean Air Act, however, here in Connecticut we have not seen the same improvements.  There is clearly more work to do,” said Ruth Canovi, Director of Advocacy for the Lung Association in Connecticut. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease. That’s why we are calling on Governor Lamont and the state legislature to continue moving forward on policies to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe. Specifically, we call on Connecticut to adopt policies to help Connecticut meet our greenhouse gas emissions goals and strengthen our environmental justice laws to help everyone breathe healthier air.”

Nationally, the report found that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act. However, more work remains to fully clean up harmful pollution, and short-term particle pollution continues to get worse. In addition, some communities bear a greater burden of air pollution. Out of the nearly 120 million people who live in areas with unhealthy air quality, a disproportionate number – more than 64 million (54%) – are people of color. In fact, people of color were 64% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one measure, and 3.7 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three measures. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Fairfield County
Compared to the 2022 report, Fairfield County experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report, but still remained the most polluted county in the New York-Newark metro area. “State of the Air” also notes that the county’s consistent F grade is largely because of ozone and ozone precursors that blow in from elsewhere and remain concentrated near ground level by local atmospheric conditions. This year's weighted average for ozone does set a new best mark for the county, demonstrating four years of consecutive improvements. 

Particle Pollution in Fairfield County
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Fairfield reported the metro area’s most unhealthy air days on average this year’s report, worse than last years.  It continued to receive a “C” grade for short-term particle pollution.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Fairfield were slightly lower than in last year’s report and continued to meet the national standard. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Hartford metro area
Compared to the 2022 report, Hartford metro area experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report, earning itself a spot back on the most polluted cities for ozone list. “State of the Air” ranked the city number 25th most polluted for ozone – worse than least years ranking of 36th. 

Particle Pollution in Hartford metro area
Hartford metro area also reported more unhealthy days for short term particle pollution in this year’s report.  Both Hartford and New London Counties saw their grades decrease from As last year, to Bs this year. 

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Hartford were slightly lower than in last year’s report and continued to meet the national standard. 

The American Lung Association is calling on President Biden to urgently move forward on several measures to clean up air pollution nationwide, including new pollution limits on ozone and particle pollution and new measures to clean up power plants and vehicles. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA.
 
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