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Air Quality In Fairfield And Suffolk Improving, But Still Among Worst In Nation

Courtesy of Pixabay

According to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2016 report, Suffolk County, Long Island, and Fairfield County, Connecticut, have the highest levels of ozone pollution in their respective states.

The report gave grades to counties across the country on their ozone pollution – and Suffolk and Fairfield Counties both got ‘Fs’.

Ozone, or smog as it's often called, is the combination of nitrogen and organic compounds that get cooked up in the air during the hot summer months.  

Michael Seilback, with the American Lung Association, said the smog is in large part due to the amount of cars and trucks on roads like I-95 and the Long Island Expressway.

“Far too many residents are being exposed to unhealthy air every single day. Exposure to high levels of ozone can actually make them sick and land them in the emergency room.”    

Seilback said the region is also downwind from industrial pollutants from the Midwest. He said breathing in that smog is like getting a sunburn on your lungs.  

The report says that more than half of Americans live in unhealthy levels of air pollution. Yet Seilback says that the air quality today is overall cleaner than decades ago – even with failing grades.  

"If you come home with a grade of 60 on your final, your parents aren’t going to applaud you for getting close to passing. Is it better than getting only 20 percent of your answer right? Absolutely.”

Adrienne Esposito, with the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, said, "Look, a failing grade on air quality is a failing grade. It means we need to do better. We are starting to take air quality for granted unfortunately, across Long Island. We have gotten so used to all the car pollution, and all the truck pollution and all of the other pollution – that we have actually just started to accept it as a part of life, and that is dangerous.”

Esposito says counties should focus more on testing their air quality, and that all levels of governments, industry and the public should be involved to work to reduce ozone pollution.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.