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Fairfield and Suffolk counties have among the nation’s most polluted air, report finds

Chris LeBoutillier

Residents living in New York City suburbs experience some of the poorest air quality in the nation, according to a report from the American Lung Association. The worst: Fairfield County, Connecticut, and Suffolk County, New York.

Mike Seilback, the association’s national assistant vice president of state public policy, said that while poor air quality is due to local transportation emissions, smog also blows into Connecticut from other states.

He called the Northeast region the “tailpipe” of the nation.

“That means air pollution isn't just being created locally,” Seilback said. “We also get air pollution from coal fired power plants in the Midwest that travel cross country and then settle over our region, due to topography and meteorology.”

Despite Suffolk County’s poor rating, Seilback said New York is trending in the right direction.

“The New York metro improved to its best level ever for year round particle pollution,” Seilback said. Year round particle pollution, also called soot, can cause lung cancer.

The American Lung Association is calling on the Biden administration to strengthen limits on air pollution. If tighter laws are passed, Seilback said air quality would immediately improve.

“We would see drastic improvement very quickly,” Seilback said. “We know that if the Biden administration follows the science and stands up for public health as the clean air act directed to, we’re going to see clean up of polluted sources in communities across the country.”

If something is not done, Seilback warned, the high levels of ozone will continue to have detrimental effects on the health of residents.

“When ozone is breathed into the lungs, it's almost like getting a sunburn on your lung tissue," he said. "It could lead to asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and even premature death.”

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.