The American Lung Association’s annual air quality report card shows mixed results for the Capital Region.
While the 2014 “State of the Air” report shows some local counties, such as Saratoga and Rensselaer, saw their smog grades go up full letters, Albany County’s letter grade stayed at an unimpressive C.
“Whether it’s on an air quality report card or your child’s report card, a C grade is not great,” said Michael Seilback, spokesman for the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “It shows that we have more work to do.”
Rensselaer County improved from C to B by having two “orange” days, when smog makes the air unhealthy for sensitive groups, down from four in the last report.
Saratoga County improved from B to A by having no orange days, down from one in the last report.
Saratoga was one of six counties across the state to receive an A. It and Rensselaer were two of only four counties with improved smog grades.
“We were really happy to see Saratoga’s grade improvement,” Seilback said. “Certainly having an A grade shows that the air that Saratogians are breathing is pretty healthy.”
Schenectady County had insufficient data for an ozone grade. Last year it received a B.
The 2014 report reflects data from 2010, 2011 and 2012 provided by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“My assumption is that in the latter part of this data, [the DEC] moved the monitor somewhere else, and that’s what prevented us from getting the three years of grades,” Seilback said.
As for annual particle pollution, or soot, the Albany-Schenectady metro area tied for 161st most polluted in the nation, its lowest ranking ever. The area ranked 96th for short-term soot pollution.
Across the state, most counties reduced or maintained year-round soot levels from the 2013 report, which follows a national trend.
The report also found that more than 8.8 million New Yorkers live in counties with failing air quality, which is twice as many as the 2013 report.
“The air in New York is certainly cleaner than when we started the ‘State of the Air’ report 15 years ago, but we must act to protect this progress and build upon it if we are going to save lives and improve lung health,” Seilback said in a news release. “Our leaders must prioritize investments in clean, green policies instead of on old, dirty polluting technologies which create unhealthy air for New Yorkers to breathe.”
A catalog of air quality trend charts, rankings and county grades is available at www.stateoftheair.org.