NJ Air Quality Gets Mixed Grades

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STATE — People in New Jersey are breathing dangerous levels of ozone air pollution (“smog”) and fine particle (“soot”) pollution, although levels of both pollutants have improved, according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2011 report, which gave New Jersey very different grades for the most widespread outdoor pollutants that threaten the lives and health of Americans.

The Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland Metropolitan Area, which includes five New Jersey counties, ranked as 20th most polluted city in the nation for short-term particle pollution. Camden County was the 3rd worst county in the metro area for this pollutant. The New York-Newark-Bridgeport Metropolitan Area, which includes thirteen New Jersey counties, ranked as 33rd worst city for short-term particle pollution. Hudson County was second only to Bronx County, New York, in that metro area for this pollutant.

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In contrast, for the fourth straight year, all twelve New Jersey counties receiving grades for long-term (annual average) particle pollution levels, earned passing grades – albeit for a standard the American Lung Association finds inadequate to protect public health.

For ground-level ozone “smog” pollution, the New York Metro Area ranked 17th worst in the country. Middlesex County was second worst only to Fairfield, Connecticut, in that metro area for this pollutant. The Philadelphia Metro Area, led by Camden County, was 20th worst in the nation for ozone pollution. This was despite significant improvement in absolute terms over the prior year’s report, and certainly since the first report in 2000, when data from the late 1990’s showed that Camden County, if evaluated by today’s tighter ozone standards, had 51 days of unhealthful air quality for that pollutant.

Finally, in an improvement from the 2010 report, Atlantic County earned passing grades in all three of its measures. Cape May County is not part of a metropolitan area, and no monitoring is done there, so no data exist with which to evaluate its air quality within the parameters of the State of the Air report.

This year’s report finds that the majority of American cities most-polluted by ozone or year-round particle pollution have improved, thanks to continued progress in the cleanup of deadly toxics required by the Clean Air Act.

The Lung Association’s annual air quality report reveals that just over half the nation—154.5 million people—live in areas with levels of ozone and/or particle pollution that are often dangerous to breathe. Even though so many people live in areas where bad air can make them sick, some members of Congress are proposing changes to the Clean Air Act that would weaken the enforcement needed to continue to reduce air pollution, threatening human health.

“Dangerous levels of smog and particle pollution continue to threaten New Jersey. When we look at results across the country, we see that the Clean Air Act works, and we must safeguard its protections,” says Deb Brown, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “We are committed to fighting for healthier air and cleaning up pollution results in healthier air. Now is not the time to stop progress.”

“We are all affected by air pollution –even the most active, healthy adults are hurt, but particularly children, older adults and people with lung disease, diabetes, heart disease and those living in poverty. A failing grade for the state of New Jersey is a failing grade for everyone.”

To learn more, visit http://www.stateoftheair.org/


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