Report: Varied improvement seen in N.Y.’s air quality

Around New York State

FILE – In this Sept. 9, 2020, file photo, the San Francisco skyline in the distance behind Crissy Field is barely visible due to smoke from wildfires burning across California. Researchers say smoke from wildfires accounted for up to half of all small particle air pollution in parts of the western U.S. in recent years (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- There have been mixed improvements in New York’s air quality. County grades have either remained the same or improved for high ozone days but year-round particle pollution in all metropolitan areas has gotten worse, according to a report from the American Lung Association.

The 2021 State of the Air report was based on air quality data collected from 2017 to 2019.

Albany County received a grade of C for high ozone days and an A for high particle pollution days in the 2020 State of the Air Report. In the 2021 report, it received a B for high ozone days and retained an A for high particle pollution days.

Some counties and cities in the state were given special recognition in the report.

Erie and Chautauqua Counties were listed as two of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution nationwide.

Elmira-Corning was given the distinction of one of the cleanest places to live in the U.S. Hamilton, Herkimer, and Steuben were named as some of the nation’s cleanest counties for ozone air pollution.

Cleanest Counties for Short-Term Particle Pollution in N.Y.

  • Albany
  • Bronx
  • Chautauqua
  • Erie
  • Essex
  • Kings
  • Monroe
  • Onondaga
  • Orange
  • Queens
  • Richmond
  • Steuben
  • Suffolk

“Particle pollution and ozone are two of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution,” the report said. “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.”

Air pollution grades by county

CountyHigh ozone daysHigh particle pollution days
AlbanyBA
BronxFA
ChautauquaDA
DutchessCDNC
ErieCA
EssexBA
FranklinINCDNC
HamiltonADNC
HerkimerADNC
JeffersonCDNC
KingsDNCA
MonroeDA
New YorkFB
NiagaraBDNC
OnondagaBA
OrangeBA
OswegoBDNC
PutnamDDNC
QueensFA
RichmondFA
RocklandDDNC
SaratogaBDNC
SteubenAA
SuffolkFA
TompkinsBDNC
WayneCDNC
WestchesterFDNC
*DNC- Data not collected
**INC-Incomplete data

Overall, more than 135 million, or 40% of Americans are living in areas with harmful levels of ozone and/or particle pollution with racial inequity. Non-whites are more than three times as likely to be breathing in the most polluted air, according to the report.

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 a greater risk of respiratory infections, including some evidence that suggests that exposure to air pollution may make people more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

2021 State of the Air report

Climate change is also making air pollution more difficult to combat the American Lung Association said in its 2021 State of the Air report, as it did in its 2020 report. The report indicates data from the years assessed, 2017-2019, were three of the six hottest years on record globally.

The organization said extreme temperatures and an increase in wildfires complicates the efforts of federal and state government to fight air pollution.

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