Fairfield County named the most polluted county in four states

Fairfield County is the most polluted county for ozone in all of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to the American Lung Association’s (ALA) State of the Air 2015 report.

Fairfield County had 52 “orange” unhealthy ozone days and three red days, one more orange day than in the previous report.

"The State of the Air report results should be of concern for all Connecticut residents,” said Dr. David Hill, a pulmonologist with Waterbury Pulmonary Associates and a member of the Connecticut ALA Leadership Board.

“Ozone pollution levels are not improving and particle pollution shows minimal improvement,” Hill said. “This is not the progress we need to protect and improve the health of Connecticut’s residents.”

Hill said poor air quality causes lung disease, worsens lung disease in those who already suffer from asthma and COPD, and increases the risk for heart attack and stroke.

What is the impact of ozone?

The State of the Air report uses official monitors for the two most widespread types of pollution, ozone and particle pollution.

Ozone (smog) is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs, almost like a bad sunburn, according to the ALA.

It can cause immediate health problems that continue days later. Ozone can lead to wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.

What is particle pollution?

Particle pollution (soot) is a deadly cocktail of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols that can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end, according to the ALA.

The body's natural defenses, coughing and sneezing, fail to keep these microscopic particles from burrowing deep within the lungs, triggering serious problems such as asthma and heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and even early death.

Exposure to particle pollution has been compared to rubbing sandpaper on the lungs, the ALA said.

Fairfield County improved a letter grade for short-term particle pollution in the State of the Air 2015 report. This is in keeping with a trend seen across the nation of lower particle pollution levels.

Many areas rated unhealthy

Nationwide, more than four in 10 Americans — or about 138 million people — live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels make the air unhealthy to breathe, according to the ALA.

The 16th annual national report card looked at air pollution data collected from 2011 to 2013. For more information on air quality in Connecticut, visit us online at www.lungne.org.