Fairfield County named most polluted county in Northeast

The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2015” report shows that while grades among counties in Connecticut with ozone monitors remained unchanged from 2014, ozone levels actually got worse in three counties and the state as a whole experienced eight more orange days where the air was unhealthy. Fairfield again is the state’s most polluted county for ozone in Connecticut and in the New York-Newark metro area, which comprises parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

At the same time, most Connecticut counties saw improvement in particle pollution and there were three less days of unhealthy short-term particle pollution statewide. Fairfield actually improved a letter grade for short-term particle pollution and all counties in the state had slight improvements in year-round particle pollution (soot) levels. This is in keeping with a trend seen across the nation of lower particle pollution levels.

Nationwide, more than 4 in 10 Americans — nearly 138.5 million people — live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels make the air unhealthy to breathe, according to “State of the Air 2015.” In Connecticut, the report found that more than 3.2 million people live in a county with failing air quality. The 16th annual national report card, which looks at air pollution data collected from 2011-2013, shows that improvement in the nation’s air quality was mixed, with many cities experiencing strong improvements, while others suffered increased episodes of unhealthy air, and a few even marked their worst number of unhealthy days.

“Connecticut can certainly be proud of the progress we’ve made in cleaning up our air since the first ‘State of the Air’ report 16 years ago. However, there’s still a lot of work to be done to make our air healthy for all of us to breathe,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.

“The State of the Air report results should be of concern for all Connecticut residents. Ozone pollution levels are not improving and particle pollution shows minimal improvement. This is not the progress we need to protect and improve the health of Connecticut’s residents.” said Dr. David Hill, a pulmonologist with Waterbury Pulmonary Associates and a member of the American Lung Association in Connecticut’s Leadership Board. “Poor air quality causes lung disease, worsens lung disease in those who already suffer from asthma and COPD, and increases the risk for heart attack and stroke.”

Six out of eight counties with ozone monitors received failing grades for ozone; they are Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, New London and Tolland. Litchfield and Windham received C’s. The New York-Newark-Bridgeport (NY-NJ-CT-PA) metro area had worse ozone and ranked 11th most polluted in the nation. Fairfield County, the most polluted county in the metro area, had 52 orange unhealthy ozone days and three red days, one more orange day than in the 2014 report. Hartford-West Hartford was ranked tied for 39th most polluted for ozone indicating worsening ozone.

Ozone (smog) is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs, almost like a bad sunburn. It can cause immediate health problems that continue days later. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.

All counties in Connecticut received passing grades for both short-term and annual particle pollution and Fairfield improved its grade for short-term particle pollution from a C to a B. New London and Litchfield again earned A’s for short-term particle pollution.

The New York-Newark-Bridgeport (NY-NJ-CT-PA) metro area ranked tied for 15th most polluted for short-term particle pollution and ranked tied for 14th most polluted for annual particle pollution. This is the metro areas best ever annual level. Hartford-West Hartford had its lowest ever levels of annual particle pollution and tied for 124th most polluted. Hartford-West Hartford ranked tied for tied for 57th most polluted for short-term particle pollution

Particle pollution, called fine particulate matter or PM 2.5, is a deadly cocktail of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols that can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end. The body’s natural defenses, coughing and sneezing, fail to keep these microscopic particles from burrowing deep within the lungs, triggering serious problems such as asthma and heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and even early death. Much like ozone pollution is likened to a sunburn on the lungs, exposure to particle pollution has been compared to rubbing sandpaper on the lungs.

More Safeguards Needed to Protect Health

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

Strengthen the outdated ozone standards. The EPA must adopt an up-to-date ozone limit that follows the current health science and the law to protect human health. Strong standards will drive much needed cleanup of ozone pollution across the nation.

Adopt a strong final Clean Power Plan. The EPA needs to issue tough final requirements to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

Protect the Clean Air Act. Congress needs to ensure that the protections under the Clean Air Act remain effective and enforced. States should not be allowed to “opt out” of Clean Air Act protections.

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.

The American Lung Association of the Northeast urges the public to join the fight for clean air and to learn how to protect themselves and their families from air pollution by visiting www.stateoftheair.org. For more information on air quality in Connecticut, visit us online at www.lungne.org and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LungNE and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LungNE.

Background

The American Lung Association “State of the Air 2015” report uses the most recent quality-assured air pollution data, collected by federal, state and local governments and tribes in 2011, 2012, and 2013. These data come from official monitors for the two most widespread types of pollution, ozone and particle pollution. The report grades counties, ranking cities and counties based on scores calculated by average number of unhealthy days (for ozone and for short-term particle pollution) and by annual averages (for year-round particle pollution).

Significant findings from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2015 report for Connecticut include:

Fairfield:

Ozone grade remained an F; 52 orange unhealthy air days, 3 red unhealthy air days ( one more orange day than in 2014).

Short-term particle pollution grade improved from a C to a B; zero orange days and 1 red day (two less orange days than in 2014)

Annual particle pollution improved slightly.

Fairfield still has worst ozone in CT. Fairfield ranked as the 19th most polluted county in the nation for ozone, the same ranking as in the 2014 report.

The New York-Newark-Bridgeport (NY-NJ-CT-PA) metro area had higher ozone levels and ranked tied for 11th most polluted in the nation, down from 12th in 2014. The New York-Newark-Bridgeport (NY-NJ-CT-PA) metro area ranked tied for 15th most polluted city for short-term particle pollution, up from 16th last year.

The New York-Newark-Bridgeport (NY-NJ-CT-PA) metro area ranked tied for 14th most polluted for annual particle pollution.

Hartford:

Ozone grade remained an F, 13 unhealthy orange days ( same as in2014)

Short-term particle pollution remained a B ( 2 orange unhealthy days, same as in 2014)

Annual level of particle pollution slightly improved

Hartford-West Hartford had worse ozone pollution and ranked 39th most polluted for ozone

Hartford-West Hartford ranked tied for 7th most polluted for short-term particle pollution

Hartford-West Hartford has its lowest ever year-round levels of particle pollution and ranked 124th

Litchfield:

Ozone grade remained a C; 6 orange days (same as in 2014)Short-term particle pollution remained an A, no unhealthy days

Annual level of particle pollution slightly improved

Ranked 19th on the list of the top 25 cleanest counties for annual particle pollution

Earned a place on the list of cleanest counties for short-term particle pollution with no days with unhealthy levels of particle pollution

Middlesex:

Ozone grade remained an F; 22 orange days and 2 red days, one more orange day and one more red day than in 2014. No particle pollution monitor

New Haven:

Ozone grade remained an F; 27 orange days and 6 red days (the same as in 2014) short-term particle pollution grade remained a C; 3 orange days (1 less than in 2014).

Annual particle pollution improved slightly

New London:

Ozone grade remained an F; 22 orange days and one red day (3 more orange days than 2014)

Short-term particle pollution grade remained an A.

Annual particle pollution improved slightly.

Tolland:

Ozone grade remained an F ; 13 orange days and 1 red day (1 more orange day and one less red day than in 2014)

No particle pollution monitor

Windham:

Ozone grade is a C with 4 orange days. Last year data was insufficient to give a grade. State of the Air requires 3 consecutive years of quality assured data to give a grade and this is a newer monitor.

No particle pollution monitor

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