The American Lung Association’s 2013 State of the Air report does not look good for New Jersey. According to the report, which measured air quality over a three-year period (2009-2011), no county in the state ranks a grade higher than a D for ozone levels (Essex County gets an F). Those grades helped put the New York-Newark-Bridgeport area at number 17 for metropolitan areas most polluted by ozone.
Though the levels have improved over the years–in fact, New Jersey scored better this year than it has since the report was first released 13 years ago–they still do not fall below the threshold of what is considered safe. Those rankings mean that more than 95 percent of the residents in New Jersey live in areas that received failing grades for ozone pollution. We are not alone, however–about 38 percent of the country lives in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone, according to the report. The worst areas, not surprisingly, are in California. Of the 13 most polluted cities, 10 are in that state.
And while both New Jersey and Essex County score high in pollution by ozone, we do much better with year-round particle pollution. In that category, Essex County scored an A, and no county in the state fell below a C grade. So we can breathe easy…sort of.