Connecticut residents are at greater risk for getting cancer from air pollution than people in all but seven other states, a new study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group concludes.

“The bottom line is we need to do better,” said Kelly Benkert, field organizer for U.S. PIRG’s Connecticut chapter, the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group.

During a news conference Thursday at the Bridgeport bus terminal, Benkert said Connecticut residents, on average, face a one-in-1,736 risk of getting cancer from outdoor air pollutants. That’s worse than the one-in-2,100 national average and 576 times greater than the one-in-1 million standard set by the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Benkert said there is no way to directly correlate risk with actual cancer cases.

But Michael Lauzier, vice president of government relations for the American Lung Association of Connecticut, said at the news conference that it was no coincidence that Connecticut has one of the highest asthma rates in the nation, the Connecticut Post reported.

“The [Environmental Protection Agency] has stated that 97 percent of Connecticut residents breathe air that is considered unhealthy,” said Lauzier. “We must work diligently to alleviate these factors that cause harm to all of us, especially those suffering with lung disease and other respiratory illnesses.”

The study said one of the biggest polluters was diesel soot released by diesel-powered buses, trucks, and construction and farm equipment, contamination that accounts for 91 percent of the added cancer risk.

Although the report ranks Connecticut 38th highest in emissions of diesel soot nationwide, residents in every county in Connecticut were exposed to diesel emissions at levels that far exceeded the cancer benchmark concentrations, Benkert said.

The report, based on 1996 EPA data, said Fairfield and New Haven counties had the worst levels of diesel soot in the state.

–Associated Press