The American Lung Association has upgraded Schenectady County in an annual air quality report card but says Saratoga, Rensselaer and Albany counties are all failing in the latest analyses.
According to Lung Association President Deborah Carioto, the latest numbers study air quality based on federal standards in the years 2005 through 2007.
The study looks at ozone pollution and short-term particle pollution and grades findings on a school-like scale of A through F.
Schenectady County, which received a D for ozone pollution in last year’s report, received a C this year.
Carioto said Albany, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties all received F’s due to several days with high levels of pollution.
The pollution originates from vehicles and local industry as well as particles blown into the area on upper atmosphere winds from Midwestern factories, according to Carioto.
Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties were among several in the state that were not monitored in the study, but air quality is likely similar to neighboring counties, she said.
To determine the grades, the American Lung Association identified the number of days that each county with at least one air quality monitor experienced air quality designated in various degrees of unhealthfulness, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index.
The index measures ozone and particle pollution.
Ozone is a gas formed most often when sunlight reacts with vapors emitted when motor vehicles, factories, power plants and other sources burn fuel. It can irritate the respiratory tract.
Particle pollution is airborne dirt produced by diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols that can spike dangerously for hours to weeks at a time.
People who have illnesses that affect the lungs are at particularly increased risk when exposed to air pollution.
Cody Betton of Guilderland is a high school senior with asthma who said his breathing is at times labored because of pollen or pollution.
“My family moved here from Wisconsin about two years ago, and I had a rough time adjusting to the changes in the air,” he said. “When the air is really bad, I take a lot of short breaths because I can’t get enough oxygen with a deep breath.”
He said he doesn’t closely monitor air quality, but he takes it easy outdoors when he feels that conditions have deteriorated.
Dr. Neil Schachter, medical director of the Respiratory Care Department of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, said many of his patients “hibernate in air conditioned rooms” during summer months to avoid pollutants outdoors.
“Breathing ozone is like getting a sunburn on their lungs or in the airways,” he said.
Lung Association officials said legislation aimed at further reducing industrial and vehicle emissions should be coupled with personal efforts to drive less.
More information on air quality in New York and an interactive map showing air quality findings by county are available online at www.alany.org/SOTA.