Report Gives 11 of 15 NJ Counties an F for High Ozone Days

By Lauren Wanko

The Washburnes love to walk along the boardwalk and take in the smell of the ocean and wind-swept sand.

When asked if air pollution is ever on her mind when she’s on the boardwalk, Judy Washburne said, “No, I’m always thinking of exercise.”

The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air Report found nationwide more than four in 10 people — nearly 44 percent — live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either particle or ozone pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency indicates ozone is a gas that occurs in the upper atmosphere and at ground level. The ground level or “bad” ozone is an air pollutant, also called smog. It’s formed when chemical pollutants released by cars, power plants, industrial boilers react in sunlight and become ground-level ozone. It’s harmful to breathe and can damage trees and other crops.

“The Lung Association is very concerned about the New Jersey area,” said American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic’s Kevin Stewart

In New Jersey, 11 of the 15 counties monitored got an F for High Ozone Days, but nine out of 13 received an A for the daily measure of particle pollution — a complex mixture of tiny particles and liquid droplets.

“The New Jersey area — both north and south — ranks among the worst 25 metro areas in the country for both measures of particle pollution, for both the daily measure and the year round measure,” Stewart said.

“The presence of air pollution, poor air quality actually has toxic effects to the air waves,” said Dr. Nader Nakhleh of K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Nakhleh says everyone’s at risk from air pollution, especially children, teens, those 65 and older and those with asthma, COPD, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“These effects can be significant. They can cause asthma attacks, shortness of breath chest pain, known to be associated with stroke,” Dr. Nakhleh said.

For patients who have asthma and other lung conditions, Dr. Nakhleh recommends they stay inside and in air conditioning during high ozone days, but if they have no symptoms and are stable he says go outside and get some exercise.

The report indicates year round particle pollution’s been reduced in the eastern half of the nation.

Stewart says ozone is a difficult pollutant to control.

“Because it depends on New Jersey doing what it needs to do but also taking care of pollution from upwind sources,” he said.

The American Lung Association agrees and insists cutting back on electricity and driving are just a couple things that will help us all breathe a little easier.