Healthier Air for New Yorkers?

Although over 3 million New Yorkers live in places where the air is so bad it can be detrimental to their health, the American Lung Association’s (ALA) report “State of the Art 2012,” has found that there has been an improvement in quality of the air that New Yorkers are breathing.  Indeed, only 6 out of the 34 New York counties that were tested failed the air quality test.  A year earlier, this number was 16. Nonetheless, the report did suggest that there are still too many people in the city breathing in unhealthy air. 

The way the test was conducted was via color-coding: an orange was given for unhealthy air for those who are particularly sensitive; a red for anyone and a purple for air that was deemed extremely unhealthy.  Counties were also tested on ozone layers, annual particle pollution as well as short-term particle pollution levels.  Both Putnam and Westchester counties were graded F for ozone, despite the fact that both counties did encounter a slight improvement in air quality since 2011.  However, viewing Westchester as compared to other counties, it was deemed the dirtiest in the region for ozone and the third-dirties in the state.

For sure it is to be commended that there has been such an improvement in quality air.  But, as president of the American Lung Association in the Northeast Jeff Seyler said, “air pollution in our communities continues to be a major threat that cuts lives short, routinely sends people to the hospital and makes it hard to breathe.”  The issue is, there are protections from the Clean Air Act (approved in 1970 and amended in 1990) that must be enforced and a tightening of standards has to be implemented. 

Viewing the report in its entirety – vis-à-vis the whole nation – it seems that since it was first composed back in 1999, air quality is today at its cleanest.  Indeed, as the president and CEO of the ALA, Charles D. Connor pointed out, the report “shows that we’re making real and steady progress in cutting dangerous pollution from the air we breathe.”

Ultimately it has been proven, that the cleaner the air, the less disease.  As ALA’s project director, Janice Nolen said, “cleaning up air pollution has measurable public health benefits.  During the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, morning traffic levels decreased by 23 percent; the region’s ozone levels by 28 percent and pediatric asthma energy room visits dropped by approximately 42 percent.”  As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, “these results suggest that efforts to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality also can help improve the respiratory health of a community.”

Hopefully therefore, although there is still much work to be done, for New Yorkers, their cleaner air will lead to reduced pollution and better health.