Spring may finally be in the air, but so is major pollution. At least according to the American Lung Association, which just released its 10th Annual "State of the Air" report. In it, Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties all received failing smog-level grades and all remained among the state's worst for air quality.
In fact, Erie County was one of only three (Bronx and Queens counties are the other two) to earn a failing grade of F (out of an A-F grading scale) for both smog and soot levels.
Ozone, or smog as it is commonly called, generally forms when sunlight and burning fuel (gas from vehicles, factories, power plants, etc.) react, and its health consequences can range from coughing and wheezing to asthma attacks and, in extreme cases, premature death. Particle pollution, or soot, is created by tiny bits of solid and liquid (exhaust, metals, aerosols, chemicals) particles in the air and, according to an assistant professor of chemistry at Niagara University, has also been linked to incidence of asthma, along with other health issues.
According to the American Lung Association, which based its 2009 report on data gathered from 2005-2007, smog and soot comprise the major types of air pollution in the United States. Interestingly, ozone levels are influenced, in part, by weather patterns, and both cooler and wetter weather in a given region result in fewer high level ozone days.
So, what can Western New Yorkers do to combat their failing pollution grade? The American Lung Association of New York suggests residents drive less, use less electricity, and try not to burn wood or trash. Other proposed solutions call for federal action to reduce emissions at coal-fired power plants, and for the use of technology wherever possible to reduce diesel emissions from counties' existing fleet and tightening up pollution standards.