New study says Fairfield County has worst air in state

July 6, 2016

Fairfield County has the worst air quality in the state, according to a new American Lung Association report, and the next few days will be even worse than usual.

Although all eight Connecticut counties received an F grade for ozone levels on the report, “The State of the Air,’’ Fairfield had the highest weighted average, 24.3, compared to 16.3 for New Haven.

All of Connecticut fared much better in the category of particle pollution, with New Haven County earning a C and Fairfield County a B.

In a separate but related development, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is warning that today, Thursday and possibly Friday will see unhealthy air quality throughout the region.

High temperatures and wind carrying pollutants into Connecticut during the next few days will increase the ground-level pollution, DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said.

DEEP advises residents — especially children, the elderly and those with respiratory diseases — to avoid strenuous activity outdoors and to exercise before noon or after 8 p.m.

The Department of Public Health advises those with respiratory conditions to stay indoors, with air-conditioning to dry, cool and filter the air.

But it is usually ozone, and not particulates, that causes the region’s “bad air,’’ officials say. The American Lung Association ranks the severity of the unhealthy air by color, with purple being “very unhealthy,’’ red for unhealthy and orange representing air that is unhealthy for those with breathing difficulties including asthma.

There were no purple days in Fairfield County, but the region led the state in both red days, with 18, and orange days with 46 over the past three years included in the study. New Haven had 10 red days during the period and the other six counties were all in single digits.

The “State of the Air 2016” found continued improvement in air quality in 2012 to 2014, showing lower levels of year-round particle pollution and ozone. Still, more than half of all Americans—166 million people—live in counties where they are exposed to unhealthful levels of these pollutants, according to the American Lung Association.

Although the DEEP and the Lung Association agree that Connecticut’s air quality has improved over the past several years, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to reduce the national air quality standard for ground level ozone from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion will likely mean more unhealthy air quality days in Connecticut this summer.