New Jersey environmentalist urging state to toughen air quality standards

People ride on the Sky Flyer at the State Fair Meadowlands carnival on July 5 in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

People ride on the Sky Flyer at the State Fair Meadowlands carnival on July 5 in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

An environmental group said public health in New Jersey is at risk from air pollution.

Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley said air quality in New Jersey’s metropolitan areas ranks in the top ten in the nation for most elevated levels of ozone and particulate matter.

O’Malley said New Jersey had an average of 91 days of degraded air quality in 2016, and summer heat waves make ozone problems worse.

“These unhealthy air days can trigger asthma attacks,” O’Malley said. “They can trigger visits to the hospital for the elderly. They can trigger cardiac events. We’ve seen a direct link on unhealthy air days and premature deaths. So literally what we breathe is killing us.”

O’Malley said as the Trump administration considers weakening federal air quality and emissions standards, the state needs to do whatever it can to reduce air pollution.

“And that includes a stronger emissions cap for our fossil fuel power plants,” O’Malley said. “That includes electrifying our transportation sector, both our cars and our buses. And it certainly means not building more dirty fossil fuel power plants around the state.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.