New York City's Air Cleaner Than It Has Ever Been Since Monitoring Began

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Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2018 8:41 pm

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- In recognition of Earth Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the release of DOHMH’s latest New York City Community Air Survey results, which found continued improvements in air quality. The report highlights significant progress toward the Mayor’s OneNYC goal of achieving the cleanest air of any large U.S. city by 2030. The report also found that New York City’s air was the cleanest it has ever been since monitoring began in 2008. NYCCAS is the largest ongoing urban air monitoring program of any U.S. city.

"Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, New Yorkers have not been able to breathe air this clean," said Mayor de Blasio. "We are making significant strides in reducing air pollution to help protect the health of everyone in our city. That said, there is still much more work to do to bring down pollution in some parts of the city, where it disproportionately affects already vulnerable communities."

"The latest New York City Community Air Survey shows that we are on the right track as air quality continues to improve, but there are still neighborhoods with poor air quality that can exacerbate respiratory disease," said Health Commissioner Mary Bassett. "Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC initiative is bringing us closer to our goal of ensuring that all New Yorkers are not susceptible to developing serious health problems caused by pollutants and that all residents are breathing the same clean air."

NYCCAS shows seasonal trends in air pollution levels from winter 2008-2009 through fall 2016. It highlights sources that contribute to high levels of pollutants in New York City neighborhoods and provides maps of neighborhood air pollution levels by year.

NYCCAS findings:

  • Annual average levels of fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide and black carbon have declined 28 percent, 27 percent, 35 percent and 24 percent, respectively.
  • The largest declines have been observed for sulfur dioxide due to city and state heating oil regulations, including the City’s efforts to phase out residual heating oil – wintertime average levels have declined by 95 percent.
  • Summertime average ozone levels have remained stable.
  • High levels of fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and nitric oxide continue to be observed in areas of high traffic density, building density, and industrial areas. These pollutants have been linked to adverse health outcomes, including an exacerbation of cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
  • Higher sulfur dioxide levels are observed in areas with remaining residual oil boilers.
  • Ozone levels are higher in the outer boroughs, specifically in areas that are downwind of high emissions density. Meanwhile, areas with fresh combustion emissions reduce the concentration of ozone.

The Health Department, in collaboration with Queens College of the City University of New York, samples air quality with monitoring units mounted on lampposts 10 to 12 feet off the ground. The monitors include an air pump and filters to collect fine particulate matter, while samplers mounted on the outside of unit absorb the gaseous pollutants nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone. Laboratory analysis determines the amount of pollutants collected and their concentration in the air.

In 2015, Mayor de Blasio signed into law the most sweeping update to the city’s Air Pollution Control Code in 40 years. The revisions to the Code deleted outdated provisions and focused new standards on pollution sources that have had little or no emissions control requirements, including commercial char broilers, fireplaces, food trucks and refrigeration vehicles. These sources, viewed as a whole, emit a significant amount of particulate matter.

SOURCE: New York City Department of Environmental Protection

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