Indeed, New Jersey - particularly South Jersey - has been struggling to improve air quality since the federal government began pressuring the state to do so in the mid-1990s.
Curtis said South Jersey's ozone problems were compounded by winds that bring in smog from Philadelphia, Delaware, and the coal-fueled power plants of the Midwest.
But she said the most significant reason for the high ozone levels was that too many cars were not receiving proper emissions scrutiny.
The state has tried to improve air quality by using advanced equipment to test emissions. But critics said the state needed to make better use of the equipment.
"The American Lung Association report shows that the state of New Jersey has failed to improve air quality and protect the health concerns of the people of this state," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. "This isn't about statistics. This is about people's health."
The lung association concluded that 132.5 million Americans have elevated health risks because of air pollution, and it named the Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City region, including northern South Jersey, as one of the 13 most polluted metropolitan areas.
Sunlight combines with heat and pollutants from automobiles, factories and power plants to produce ozone, a pungent gas that inflames lungs and breathing passages.
Using EPA standards, the association counted the number of days during the three years that posed a health risk to some people, such as children or people with respiratory conditions. It also tracked days with unhealthy and very unhealthy ozone levels.
Camden County led the state and was No. 21 in the nation with 71 days with unhealthful ozone levels, including eight days that posed health risks to all people. Ocean County followed with 62 days.
Bob Lentine, assistant chief of the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services, said that he was concerned about the report but that the county could do little since air-quality standards are controlled at the state and federal levels.
He did say the state seems committed to improving air quality in Camden County. The county is conducting state-mandated studies to figure out how carcinogens that are related to hospital disinfection supplies, dry cleaning and pesticides are getting into the air.
Other counties cited in the report were Atlantic (53 days), Gloucester (51 days), Hunterdon (47 days), Morris (45 days), Mercer (44 days), Monmouth (43 days), Middlesex (40 days), Cumberland (37 days), Hudson (20 days) and Essex (14 days).
Aamer Madhani's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
* This article contains information from the Associated Press.