Bergen and Mercer Counties scored a failing grade in The American Lung Association’s new “State of the Air” report, both leading the state in the number of days of high smog levels over a three-year period. It’s the second year in a row Bergen received a failing score.
The ALA studied just 15 days between 2019 and 2021, when smog was particularly prevalent. Mercer County also earned an F for smog, one of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution.
Both ozone and particle pollution can impact the functioning of the immune system and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. Air pollution also increases the risk of chronic lung and cardiovascular diseases that put people at higher risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19.
The report found that out of the nearly 120 million people who live in areas with unhealthy air quality, a disproportionate number – more than 64 million (54%) – are people of color. The study says people of color were 64% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one measure, and 3.7 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three measures.
Morris County had zero days of high smog recorded during the testing time period, and was cited in the report for having some of the cleanest air in the nation.
“The good news is that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act,” said Harold Wimmer, the ALA’s national president and CEO. “In this year’s report, we found that 19.3 million fewer people are living in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone pollution.”
Still, the ALA says more work needs to be done.
The group is calling on President Biden to urgently move forward on several measures to clean up air pollution nationwide, including new limits on ozone and particle pollution and new measures to clean up power plants and vehicles.