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Suffolk again has worst smog of any county in state, says report

Suffolk again had more smog days than any other New York county, though the levels of soot seen during the year declined, a new report to be released Wednesday said.

And for the third report in a row, Suffolk won an "A" on a second measure of particle pollution.

There were no 24-hour periods marred by high levels of very fine bits of acids, metals, chemicals, soil and dust produced by car exhaust, coal-powered plants, wood-burning and the like, according to the American Lung Association's 16th annual report on 2011-13 data.

Ozone is the main component of smog, and Suffolk has gotten an "F" on this measure in all of the nonprofit's reports. It advocates for building on the gains in reducing air pollution achieved in the past few decades by burning less carbon and reducing pollution that blows between states.

On the plus side, Suffolk only had 27 high ozone days, down seven from last year's report, covering 2010-12, suggesting that cleaner fuel has helped, the report said. The county's high ozone score also reflects the disadvantages of its location, downwind of much of the continental United States.

"Suffolk County is almost like the tailpipe of our country's air pollution," said Michael Seilback, vice president of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.

"A lot of the Northeast has that problem. Fairfield, Connecticut, right over the Sound, has the worst ozone pollution in the entire Northeast," he said.

Nassau has no ozone monitor, and there were not enough particulate data for an assessment, the report said.

"We don't want to guess what the [Nassau] grade will be, but it's fair to say there's going to be an issue," Seilback said, noting Queens got an "F" on ozone. So did the Bronx and Staten Island. Manhattan got a "D," but data were not collected for Brooklyn.

Nevertheless all five New York City counties got passing grades for the number of days marred by particle pollution, which affects the lungs like sandpaper.

Ozone gives the lungs the equivalent of a bad sunburn. It is an invisible gas created when the summer sun reacts with nitrogen oxides and volatile compounds, from fuel, for example.

"Climate change is making our effort at cleaning up air pollution even harder," as there are more warm days that can produce ozone, said Janice Nolen, the report's lead author.

Almost 138.5 million people in the nation live where air pollution can be hazardous, the report said. Ozone and particulates can cause wheezing, shortness of breath, an increase in the risk of developing respiratory diseases, diminished lung capacity and death.

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