More than half of New Jersey's counties received a failing grade for ozone pollution in the latest air quality report card from the American Lung Association.

The New York-North Jersey metropolitan area ranked as the 10th-most ozone-polluted city from 2014-2016, based on data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies. The Philadelphia-South Jersey region ranked 24th.

Approximately 5.4 million people live in the 11 Garden State counties that earned an F grade for ozone, the main ingredient in smog — and since not every county has a monitor in place for air quality, the health risks may be even more prevalent.

The report likened inhaling ozone pollution to getting a sunburn on the lung.

"Ozone can trigger things like asthma attacks," report author Janice Nolen told New Jersey 101.5. "We've learned recently that ozone can actually shorten life."

Nolen said near-record temperatures in 2016 likely accounted for an increase in ozone in New Jersey and nationwide. The Northeast, she added, has been nicknamed "the tailpipe of the nation" because plenty of pollution created in other parts of the country finds its way to the Mid-Atlantic region.

HIGH OZONE DAYS, 2014-2016 (not all counties record data)

  • Atlantic: 3
  • Bergen: 23
  • Camden: 25
  • Cumberland: 4
  • Essex: 11
  • Gloucester: 15
  • Hudson: 23
  • Hunterdon: 13
  • Mercer: 29
  • Middlesex: 25
  • Monmouth: 10
  • Morris: 7
  • Ocean: 19
  • Passaic: 12
  • Warren: 4

The "State of the Air" report analyzed the presence of the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants — ozone pollution and particle pollution.

During 2014-2016, New Jersey performed quite well for the presence of tiny particles that emanate from wildfires, power plants and diesel engines. A passing grade was received by each county with complete data for year-round levels of particle pollution. Of the counties with complete data, most received an A grade for short-term particle pollution.

The report attributed a drop in these levels to efforts targeting reduced emissions.

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