Letter: Fairfield County air is the worst in the Northeast

To the Editors:

If a student brought home a report card with an F in math, most parents would not casually accept a letter grade that stands for Failure. Why, then, does it seem the public accepts the grade of F when it comes to local air quality that is damaging to our families, our health and our future?

In Fairfield County nearly one million people are at risk for poor air quality, including over 220,000 children and 135,000 senior citizens. According to the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air Report for 2016, Fairfield is the most polluted county not only in Connecticut, but also in the entire Northeast, and received the grade of F for high ozone days. Ozone, also known as smog, is one of the worst asthma triggers and the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other gases.

Ozone pollution levels typically rise between May and October, and are especially high during the summer months. When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs, almost like a bad sunburn. It can cause immediate health problems that continue days later like wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and even premature death.

If public health is not motivation enough, consider the budgetary costs. Asthma attacks result in missed school and work days. Those with chronic lung diseases often require extra care and treatment due to poor air quality. A public health problem as vast as this can and does cost the state millions of dollars in lost wages and emergency care.

As our state has already experienced five days of unhealthy air quality, all before the first day of summer, it is imperative that we act as a community to improve our air quality. You can help by contacting your state and local representatives and telling them to make air quality a priority. Elected officials can start by adopting policies that encourage cleaner, greener technologies — less reliance on old, dirty pollution sources. Our Congressional delegation must protect the Clean Air Act and ensure that the EPA has the tools to continue cleaning up pollution.

Let’s treat the air quality report card as if it were sent home from your child’s school. If we commit to addressing it together, we can find solutions that will allow us to breathe easier.
Jon Rosen
Chair of the American Lung Association of the Northeast
Fairfield County, June 21