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EAST HARTFORD, CT — Fairfield County suffers from the highest level of ozone in the New York City metro-area, according to the American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report released Wednesday.

Overall the New York City area was ranked number 10 on the list and the Hartford-East Hartford metro area was ranked 23rd in the nation in terms of ozone pollution, according to the report.

The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle air pollution from soot produced by coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, and wood fires.

“Connecticut residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, driven by emissions from power plants and extreme heat as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk,” said Ruth Canovi, director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Connecticut. “In addition to challenges here in Connecticut, the 20th-anniversary ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that more than 4 in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we must do more to protect public health.”

Fairfield, New Haven, New London, and Windham experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report than during the prior year with Fairfield alone reporting a total of 69 “orange” and “red” bad air days.

Windham’s increased bad air days went (from 7 in the 2018 report to 10 in the 2019 report) and caused its grade to drop from a D to an F.  While other counties, including Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, and Tolland, experienced fewer bad ozone days than reported in 2018, but the reduction was not enough to improve their failing grades.

“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases — and Connecticut has over 95,000 kids with pediatric asthma, over 305,000 adults with asthma, and over 164,000 adults with COPD,” said Dr. David Hill, a Waterbury-based pulmonologist and chair of the Northeast Board of the American Lung Association.

Lisa Pellerin, a Manchester, Connecticut resident with chronic lung disease, said, “A bad air day can impact my life in a big way. On heavy ozone days, I can feel my breathing become more labored, I’m uncomfortable, and I because of my condition, I am more prone to infection.

Pellerin added: “It’s also more likely to force me to stay indoors, and potentially miss work with my Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who count on me.”

This year’s report covers the most recent quality-assured data available collected by states, cities, counties, tribes, and federal agencies in 2015-17. Those three years were the hottest recorded in global history.

The report documents how warmer temperatures brought by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up. This year’s report showed that ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part because of the record-breaking global heat experienced in the three years tracked in the report.

Connecticut has joined other states in suing the federal government to get the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act to help protect them stop pollution coming from Midwestern states.

“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires, and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes, and can even be lethal,” Canovi said.

“State of the Air” 2019 also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that three Connecticut counties improved their grades for short-term particle pollution, rounding out the report with four A’s and only one B.