As incoming board chair of the American Lung Association of the Northeast, I was distressed once again when the annual State of the Air Report came out showing Fairfield County - where I live - still has the worst air pollution in the entire Northeast.
Our ozone grade remained an F with 52 orange unhealthy air days and three red unhealthy air days. That’s one more orange day than was recorded in the 2014 report. Why should we care about the color of air quality days and why does our ranking matter? Having lost my father to emphysema, I have seen firsthand what it means for a person to struggle to breathe.
The experience is what prompted me to become involved with the American Lung Association 34 years ago and advocate for policies that protect people who, like my dad, have a hard enough time breathing on their own without obstacles like avoidable air pollution and secondhand tobacco smoke.
On orange days, ozone pollution can cause serious health problems for people with lung disease, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, as well as the elderly and very young. On red days, all of us may begin to feel symptoms of irritation and not breathe as well when we spend time outdoors.
Sadly, Fairfield’s ozone problem is likely even worse than the report indicates. That’s why the American Lung Association is urging the EPA to safeguard the air by strengthening the ozone standard to the most protective level under consideration.
Doing so could prevent as many as 7,900 premature deaths and 1.8 million asthma attacks nationwide. For the sake of Fairfield residents and Americans everywhere, I hope this standard is strengthened so we can all look forward to healthier air.
Jonathon Rosen, board chair elect, American Lung Association of the Northeast Wilton, Conn.
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