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Air pollutants on the rise in Queens: Report

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Phil Corso

If you live in Queens, the air you breathe may put your health at risk, the American Lung Association said in its State of the Air report.

Queens was one of five counties throughout New York state to receive a big red F for ozone pollution in the group’s annual assessment. The borough was also the only county statewide to receive a lower grading than last year, the report said.

The American Lung Association has put out report cards on the country’s air quality with help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the past 14 years, and this year’s results shined a harsh spotlight on New York City’s air, identifying several boroughs as the worst in different categories. The group said that while ozone and particle pollution improved overall citywide since 2012’s report, there were still upticks in unhealthy air days this year.

“The air in New York is certainly cleaner than when we started the State of the Air report 14 years ago,” said Michael Seilback, vice president of public policy and communications at the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “While we still have too many counties with failing grades, the air quality is still better compared to a decade ago. But the work is not done, and we must set stronger health standards for pollutants and clean up sources of pollution to protect the health of our citizens.”

Ozone pollution has become the most widespread air pollutant and can irritate the lungs when inhaled, the American Lung Association said.

In the report, the Bronx received the worst rating for particle pollution throughout the state and Staten Island recorded the most drastic jump in unhealthy ozone days with 10 more than last year. None of the 16 counties to improve their ozone grades on the report card were in New York City, with Queens receiving an F in that category.

“Despite our progress in cleaning up our air, we know that national air quality standards are still not strong enough to protect public health,” said Jeff Seyler, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “We need strong policies in place on the federal, state and local levels to ensure healthier air to breathe. Tighter standards and stronger policies will help us reach our goal of seeing a report card which is giving straight A’s across the nation.”

Queens did, however, improve in one category, the report said, moving from a C to a B for short-term and annual particle pollution, which stems from ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols. It was one of the four city counties to improve in that category this year.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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