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Suffolk County Fails American Lung Association's Air Quality Test

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A new report shows pollution is getting worse across the country, and Suffolk County is bearing the worst in New York.

As CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported, Suffolk received an "F" grade in the American Lung Association's 2014 air quality report.

"Suffolk County not only failed. It has the worst air pollution in all of New York state," said Michael Seilback, of the American Lung Association.

The Lung Association's grades are based on three years of monitoring data, which is compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"We need the state up in Albany -- they need to pass laws to clean up our air, and not make it dirty," Seilback said.

Long Island families who live near smokestacks and power plants are especially concerned.

"I live in Suffolk County. I work in Suffolk County. Air quality is important," said Northport resident Heather Johnson.

"It is ridiculous. Something needs to be done. We need to start moving toward more environmentally friendly energy," said Northport resident Paul Scancarelli.

"I'd like to know the sources and the cause. I drive a Prius, so I don't think I'm contributing to it," Stony Brook resident Richard Rocchio said.

The report said much of Suffolk's smog is not created locally, but rather emissions from coal-burning plants and other sources in the Midwest follow the Jet Stream and wind patterns push pollution into the New York metropolitan area.

National Grid, for one, said it has invested $100 million to improve plants in Northport and Port Jefferson, cutting nitrogen oxide emissions nearly in half.

On a national scale, the health risks of poor air quality are growing.

"Pollutants such as ozone and these very small particles can increase the overall risk of lung diseases, including asthma, and exacerbation of emphysema, but also increasing death rates from lung related problems," said Dr. Harly Greenberg, of North Shore LIJ Medical Group.

Just this week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the EPA's "good neighbor" policy. Power plants on the East Coast must now curb emissions blowing across state lines.

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