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A 10-foot tombstone dedicated to Americans whose deaths are linked to air pollution made an appearance Monday in front of Rep. Jack Quinn's Buffalo office, as part of a national tour backing tougher new federal air standards.

The demonstration staged by the New York Public Interest Research Group tried to get Quinn to back the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed air-quality standards. Quinn was in Washington, however, because of federal budget negotiations.

The tombstone bore the number 15,000, the EPA's estimate of lives that could be saved annually by tougher smog and soot guidelines.

NYPIRG said reducing pollutants will save lives, decrease hospital admissions and reduce the severity of respiratory illnesses in the Buffalo area.

Buffalo has not had a standard-exceeding smog day in the past few years, however, and is not among the cities cited by other environmental groups as unlikely to be able to meet the new standards.

NYPIRG also released a report listing 17 counties statewide as having unhealthy air, but Niagara County was the only Western New York entry on the list. Two-dozen coal-burning power plants with older, "grandfathered" boilers also were listed, including two in Chautauqua and one in Erie Counties.

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