American Lung Association Report: Rochester and Buffalo Show Improving Air Pollution in Western New York

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in New York State and across the nation
The Rochester, New York metro area has been named among the cleanest cities for ozone and short term and year round particle pollution in the United States, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released today. Just a few hours away, the Buffalo metro area also scored improved ranks, signaling better air quality throughout the region. 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.

“Here in New York and across the nation, we are seeing ozone pollution improving, thanks in big part to the success of the Clean Air Act and nation-leading climate legislation in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. But there is more work to do,” said Trevor Summerfield Director of Advocacy in New York for the Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, individuals who are pregnant and those living with chronic disease.”

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 the Rochester metro area
Compared to the 2022 report, Rochester experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report.  In fact, this year’s “State of the Air” found that Rochester experienced zero unhealthy days for ozone, marking its best ever results, and scoring it the title of one of the cleanest cities for ozone in the U.S. The metro area includes both Monroe and Wayne counties which both improved from C grades in last year’s report to A grades this year.

Particle Pollution in the Rochester metro area
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Rochester ranked for the ninth consecutive year as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution. 

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Rochester were unchanged from last year’s report. The area was ranked 22nd best for year-round particle pollution, a slightly better ranking than the ranking of 25th best last year. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in the Buffalo metro area
Compared to the 2022 report, Buffalo also experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report.  The metro area did achieve its best-ever ranking for ozone at 111th most polluted but failed to make the cleanest city list.  

Particle Pollution in the Buffalo metro area
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Buffalo’s short-term particle pollution was unchanged, but its grade improved slightly due to nationwide trends. It earned the rank of 114th most polluted, improved from 96th place last year. 

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Buffalo were unchanged from last year’s report, matching its best-ever results. The area was ranked 161st  most polluted for year-round particle pollution, a slightly better ranking than the ranking of 154 last year. 

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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