“State of the Air 2014” Mixed Report Card For NYS

May 1, 2014

The American Lung Association's 15th annual “State of the Air” report shows that poor air quality aggravated by climate change remains a significant public health concern.  New York figures are mixed.

"Just this past October the World Health organization classified outdoor air pollution as a human carcinogen. The longer we fail to take the steps necessary to reduce air pollution, the more of our friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers we will see suffering air pollution's harmful effects. Air pollution can hinder our ability to breathe, rob us of our ability to enjoy our best quality of life possible, and it can even cut our lives short."

That's Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast, opening a conference call to discuss the ALA's air quality findings.

  •   Check your area's air quality online HERE.

Nine New York counties received F’s for smog or ozone pollution:  Bronx, Chautauqua, Jefferson, New York, Queens, Rockland, Richmond, Suffolk and Westchester, compared with five in the 2013 report.

Michael Seilback  is Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for ALA of the Northeast.  "8.8 million New Yorkers live in counties with failing air quality. That's double the number of people who are living in counties with failing air back in 2013."

Albany County earned a "C" for its smog levels, same as a year ago.   "Four counties in the state improved their grades for ozone in this year's report. Franklin, Putnam, Rensselaer and Saratoga, with Franklin and Saratoga receiving A's this year... Utica-Rome made the list of cleanest cities for ozone pollution, which means they had no days during this period of unhealthy levels of ozone pollution."

Seilback called for several steps to improve the air New Yorkers breathe, including protecting the Clean Air Act and cleaning up coal-fired power plants and wood burning devices while pushing for adequate funding for states to monitor air pollution.   "We must make sure that in the continued tough budget climate, we're not using limited state resources to incentivize the use of dirty technology like biomass combustion. We need to seriously increase the amount of renewable energy sources being used. We need to retire the oldest, dirtiest power plants in the state, especially the coal-fired plants. We must decrease carbon pollution. We must decrease the use of outdoor wood-boilers and we must finally fully implement the state's diesel emissions reduction act, which has continued to see its implementation stifled.”

Seilback reiterated the ALA's stance that New York should not lift the de facto moratorium on hydrofracking until the state can ensure that air quality is not going to be compromised by industrialization.

The 2014 report uses data gathered from 2010-2012. Los Angeles is listed as having the nation's worst air pollution: Bangor, Maine has the cleanest air of all areas tested.

Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are available at www.stateoftheair.org.

The American Lung Association calls for several steps to improve the air everyone breathes:

    Clean up power plants.  The EPA needs to reduce carbon pollution.  Ozone and particle pollution that blows across state lines must be controlled. In the next year, the Administration has pledged to set standards for carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.
    Strengthen the outdated ozone standards. The EPA needs to set a strong, health-based standard to limit ozone pollution. Strong standards will drive the needed cleanup of ozone across the nation.
    Clean up new wood-burning devices. The EPA needs to issue strong standards to clean up new wood stoves, outdoor wood boilers and other residential wood-burning devices.
    Fund the work to provide healthy air. Congress needs to adequately fund the work of the EPA and the states to monitor and protect the nation from air pollution.
    Protect the Clean Air Act. Congress needs to ensure that the protections under the Clean Air Act remain strong and enforced.

Those at greatest risk from air pollution include infants, children, older adults, anyone with lung disease such as asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works or exercises outdoors.
The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2014” report is an annual, national air quality “report card.” The 2014 report—the 15th annual release—uses the most recent quality-assured air pollution data, compiled by the EPA in 2010, 2011, and 2012. These data come from the official monitors for the two most widespread types of pollution, ozone (smog) and particle pollution (PM2.5, also known as soot). The report grades counties and ranks cities and counties based on their scores for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels.   (Information via American Lung Association)

The American Lung Association of the Northeast is part of the American Lung Association, the oldest voluntary health organization in the U.S. Established in 1904 to combat tuberculosis; our mission today is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. The focus is on air quality, asthma, tobacco control, and all lung disease. The American Lung Association in the Northeast serves CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI and VT. www.LungNE.org.