Erie County's air quality receives mixed grades

Apr 20, 2016

Western New York is receiving mixed grades in a new report on air pollution.

The American Lung Association’s study measures ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread outdoor pollutants. Erie County received an A grade for particle pollution, which is caused by coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions and wood-burning devices.

But Erie County received a failing grade for ozone pollution, according to Paul Billings, the association's senior vice president for advocacy.

“Erie County received an F for ozone and the Buffalo metro region is 70th on our most polluted list for ozone," Billings told WBFO. "It’s improved since last year, but has a worse ranking. Last year it was ranked 95th."

Billings said ozone pollution causes numerous health hazards.

“Ozone is a powerful respiratory irritant. It can cause coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath in healthy adults. But for children whose lungs are still developing and spend a lot of time outdoors, seniors and people with chronic lung disease, ozone can be a serious health threat.”

Relatively small actions by individuals can help reduce air pollution, including more frequent use of  public transportation  and conserving electricity at home. Billings said the initiation of new policies and government regulations will also have an impact.

“There’s good news. EPA has new standards for cleaner vehicles and gasoline going into effect next year. They’re going to dramatically reduce the air pollution, not only from new vehicles, but every car on the road will be cleaner because their pollution controls will work better.”

Other counties in Western New York received grades similar to Erie County. Chautauqua County received an A for short-term particle pollution and an F for ozone. Niagara County received an F for ozone. There was insufficient data to measure its short-term particle pollution numbers.