Air Quality Advisory Today; 7th Alert Issued This Month

An Ozone Air Quality Advisory has been issued today for the New York City metro-area and Long Island.

The advisory applies to the five boroughs, Westchester and Rockland counties, and Long Island, including Nassau and Suffolk counties. Ozone is a powerful oxidant that can cause muscles in the airways to constrict, and make breathing more difficult.

The alert has been issued by the New York State departments of Health and Environmental Conservation, and is in effect today until 11 p.m.

It is the seventh such advisory issued this month, and (according to our count) the 14th advisory since the beginning of May.

Ozone Is A Public Health Issue

Ozone is considered to be a “dangerous” ground-level air pollutant. The New York City-metro area, like many other U.S. urban areas, is currently in “non-attainment” of 2008 federal ozone standards.

[The pollutant ozone is distinct from the protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere. Ozone pollution is caused by auto exhaust and larger pollution sources, such as power plants burning fossil fuels. Ozone levels are also directly tied to higher temperatures.]

The New York City Department of Health (DOH) reports that ozone exposure causes “more than 400 premature deaths, 850 hospitalizations for asthma and 4,500 emergency department visits for asthma annually.”

Roughly 1 in 10 emergency room visits for asthma in the city are attributable to ozone pollution. “Ozone levels are one of the most serious air pollutants in New York City,” a spokesman for the DOH told this reporter in a 2014 interview.

Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx have all received “F’s” for their number of high ozone days between 2012 and 2014, according to the most recent analysis by the American Lung Association.

Data on ozone pollution in Brooklyn was not available.

Hard To Control

Unlike other air pollutants, ozone is not directly emitted by pollution sources — it is formed in the air during smog conditions.

High temperatures (over 80°F) and sunlight react with emissions from vehicles and smokestacks to form ozone. Hydrocarbons such as gasoline vapors and nitrogen dioxide – what the state calls “ozone precursors”- can help to trigger the gas.

According to the state, automobile exhaust and out-of-state emission sources (such as power plants) are the primary sources of ground‑level ozone.

New York City has made major progress in reducing levels of other air pollutants, such as fine particulate matter. Cutting ozone levels, especially because they are partially caused by out-of-state pollution sources, remains a huge challenge.

Take precautions- especially when ozone levels peak

Young children, those who exercise outdoors, those who work outside, and/or persons with respiratory disease (such as asthma) are being asked to consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity when ozone levels are the highest (generally afternoon to early evening).

When outdoor levels of ozone are elevated, going indoors will usually reduce your exposure. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing should consider consulting their doctor, say state officials.

Ozone levels generally decrease at night. They can be minimized during daylight hours by the reduction of pollution from cars and other vehicles, for instance.

New Yorkers can help reduce ozone levels by using mass transit and conserving energy

State regulators are urging New Yorkers to:

  • use mass transit or carpool instead of driving, as automobile emissions account for about 60 percent of pollution in our cities;
  • conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions by combining necessary motor vehicle trips;
  • turn off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas;
  • use fans to circulate air. If air conditioning is necessary, set thermostats at 78 degrees;
  • close the blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air;
  • limit use of household appliances. If necessary, run appliances at off-peak (after 7 p.m.) hours. This includes dishwashers, dryers, pool pumps and water heaters;
  • set refrigerators and freezers at more efficient temperatures;
  • purchase and install energy efficient lighting and appliances with the Energy Star label; and
  • reduce or eliminate outdoor burning and attempt to minimize indoor sources of PM 2.5 [fine particulate matter pollution] such as smoking.

More helpful info from state regulators

The State issues Air Quality Health Advisories when Department of Environmental Conservation meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter, which “are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100.”

The AQI was created as a way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern.

A toll‑free Air Quality Hotline (1-800-535-1345) has been established by the DEC to keep New Yorkers informed of the latest Air Quality situation.

Further information on ozone and PM 2.5 [fine particulate matter pollution] is available on DEC’s web site and on the state Department of Health website.

Warm Temps & Low Winds Cause High Pollution Levels in NYC Metro Area

Unseasonably warm air in upper levels of the atmosphere and an area of high pressure over the Northeast have trapped air pollution in the New York City metro area. 

The high pressure area is creating minimal winds. Both light winds and above average temperatures are projected through the week for our area.

“High population density in the NYC area results in high levels of emissions of pollutants,” the state Department of Environmental Conservation reported today, “and because atmospheric conditions are not conducive to mixing and diluting the pollutants, the pollution has been building up.”

Air Quality Health Advisory

Because of this pollution build-up, the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health have issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for the New York City metro area today, Monday, December 7th. The advisory is in effect until midnight.

Levels of Fine Particulate Matter -a leading air pollutant- are projected to exceed state air quality standards in New York City, and Westchester and Rockland counties.

Fine particulate matter consists of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter. Fine particulate matter [also called PM 2.5] often comes from processes that involve combustion (e.g. vehicle exhaust, power plants, and fires) and from chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

Indoor sources of PM 2.5 include tobacco, candle and incense smoke, and fumes from cooking.

People with heart or breathing problems, children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM 2.5. Exposure can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

What Are We Breathing? City To Provide Better Data to Public about NYC’s Air Quality

Despite major gains, New York City’s air quality remains one of its most pressing environmental and public health challenges. As we reported last year, the City found that an estimated 2,700 “premature” deaths every year can be tied to ozone and fine particulate matter, two leading air pollutants.

On Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio signed legislation requiring the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to conduct neighborhood air quality surveys with a focus on street level data, and to release the results to the public on an annual basis.

The Determine of Health must now also determine how concentrations of air pollutants vary across the city, and locate the source of such pollutants, with an eye to factors like local traffic and building emissions.

The bill’s chief sponsor is City Council member Corey Johnson of Manhattan, chair of the Council’s Health Committee.

Why good data on air pollution is important

Identifying the actual sources and health impacts of air pollution -by neighborhood- is a formidable challenge but has real potential to save lives.

Air pollution has an especially powerful impact on New York City’s low-income and communities of color. A 2014 study by the state Comptroller found that the Bronx has the highest age-adjusted asthma death rate “by far” among all counties in New York State: 43.5 deaths per million residents in the Bronx, as opposed to the state average of 13.1 deaths per million.

Progress is being made. The City reports that the estimated number of deaths attributable to fine particulate pollution has been dropping– by an impressive twenty-five percent between 2005-07 and 2009-11. Particulate pollution – in the form of small particles and droplets – is emitted by many local sources, including heating fuel, power plants, and motor vehicles.

heating_oil_03
Smoke rises from a building burning heavy oil. Credit: Environmental Defense Fund/Isabelle Silverman

In the last several years, the City has moved to ban heating fuels that create the most fine particulate pollution when burned. It is also establishing a marine barge and rail network in order to take garbage trucks off the roads. Efforts to address car and truck pollution have often turned contentious. Witness the battles over the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station or congestion pricing.

Tackling ozone pollution -which contributes to several hundred deaths annually- is even more challenging because it requires local as well as regional action. The pollutants that cause ozone in New York City are emitted locally and come from other states. Ozone is also exacerbated by rising temperatures.

New York City has made “extraordinary progress – air pollution is at the lowest point in the city’s modern history,” Mayor de Blasio stated at a press conference this week. “But…air pollution remains a leading environmental threat to our health – obviously, particularly related to asthma and other respiratory diseases…And we do not believe that we have gone as far as we can go.”

One of the key goals of Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC plan is that New York City will have the best air quality of any large U.S. city by 2030. Part of accomplishing that objective is obtaining better information about air quality at the neighborhood level, and then alerting the public about what they are actually breathing.

The need for more regular data

The Department of Health measures air quality throughout the year in every community district but the information it releases publicly is sometimes several years old. Data about fine particulate matter pollution on the City’s Environment & Health Data Portal appears to be from 2014, while data on ozone pollution is from 2009-10.

According to the legislation signed by the Mayor this week, Intro. 712-A, the Department of Health will be required to submit a report to the City Council every April with the results of an annual community air quality survey using the most recently available data. The report will also be posted on the Department’s website.

Establishing a reliable, and regularly updated, baseline of information is critical for good public policy and effective dialogue about air quality. Statistics about air pollution are cited repeatedly, for example, as communities battle over issues like where to locate new trash facilities, and which neighborhoods are already overburdened.

The need for more street level data

The legislation also requires the Department of Health to measure air pollution at the street level and to determine how factors like traffic and building emissions impact air quality.

This is a critical point. The Department of Health says that it currently takes air quality measurements at 150 locations throughout New York City each season of the year. When we spoke with the Department last year, they explained that air quality monitors are attached to structures like street lamps, but not necessarily at ground level.

street scene
Traffic in Manhattan. Credit: Chuck and Sarah Fishbein

Environmental justice advocates argue that pollution must be measured at the point where emissions are released -and people are breathing- to understand its true impact. In the case of car and truck traffic, the closer to the tailpipe the better.

More data is needed about the impact of car and truck traffic on New Yorkers. Think about the number of times you (perhaps accompanied by a child or someone in a wheelchair) have waited for a light to change as trucks and cars idle around you.

What exactly are we all breathing?

The City has asked the same question. In 2011, the Department of Health began to look at areas with high traffic intensity in order to understand whether cancer causing pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde were being emitted at higher rates there as compared to low traffic areas. The City found that street level concentrations of benzene and formaldehyde in high traffic areas were significantly higher, by 83% and 45% respectively.

Air Pollution: What exactly will the City be tracking?

The Department of Health will continue to track the following “pollutants” at the neighborhood level: particulate matter that is less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter; nitrogen dioxide; nitric oxide; sulfur dioxide and ground-level ozone.

“The findings will help guide our work to curb pollution and track our progress towards our ambitious [OneNYC] goal,” the Mayor concluded as he signed this week’s legislation.

Building on its existing community air quality surveys, the Department of Health is now required to:

  1. Measure pollutants at street-level monitoring sites across the city every season of the year. The goal is to ensure that the number of monitoring sites provides adequate information to assess the range of common emissions sources and neighborhood pollutant concentrations;
  2. Determine whether and how concentrations of pollutants vary across the city and the relationship, if any, of such concentrations to local traffic, building emissions and other factors;
  3. Identify the major local sources of pollutants that contribute to local variation in concentrations;
  4. Identify patterns of pollutants by geographic area, by source, and by season or time of year;
  5. Produce maps indicating the varying concentration levels of pollutants across neighborhoods and by pollutant;
  6. Produce an annual report for the public, which will include the findings of completed or ongoing health surveillance and research studies using air quality survey data to estimate population exposure to pollutants.

(The six points above are adapted directly from the legislation signed into law on Wednesday.)

The City Council has also pushed the City to bring its Air Pollution Control Code into compliance with more stringent air quality regulations promulgated by the federal government and the State.

The City’s air code had not been thoroughly overhauled in 35 years, said Council Member Donovan Richards, who sponsored legislation requiring the update earlier this year.

 

Ozone Air Quality Alert Monday & Tuesday for NYC Metro Area, LI & Lower Hudson Valley

An Ozone Air Quality Advisory is in effect today -Monday- for the New York City metro area and Long Island. Ozone is a dangerous ground-level air pollutant and should not be confused with the protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere.

A similar advisory is in effect tomorrow -Tuesday- for the metro area and the Lower Hudson Valley.

Air quality advisories were also issued both days this past weekend.

Ozone pollution is caused by auto exhaust and larger pollution sources, such as power plants which burn fossil fuels. Ozone levels are directly tied to higher temperatures.

Today’s advisory applies to New York City, Westchester and Rockland counties, and Long Island, including Nassau and Suffolk counties.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Marc Gerstman and State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker issued today’s advisory, which is in effect until 11 p.m.

What is Ozone?

Unlike other air pollutants, ozone is not directly emitted by pollution sources. Instead, this “powerful oxidant” is formed in the air itself during smog conditions.

High temperatures (over 80°F) and sunlight react with emissions from vehicles and smokestacks to form ozone. Hydrocarbons such as gasoline vapors and nitrogen dioxide – what the state calls “ozone precursors”- can help to trigger the gas.

According to the State, automobile exhaust and out-of-state emission sources (such as power plants) are the primary sources of ground‑level ozone.

Ozone is one of the most serious air pollution problems in the northeast. The New York City-metro area is currently in “non-attainment” of 2008 federal ozone standards.

A recent analysis by the City estimated that 2,700 “premature” deaths every year can be tied to ozone and fine particulate matter, two separate air pollutants. Roughly 1 in 10 emergency room visits for asthma in New York City are attributable to ozone pollution.

New York City has made major progress in reducing levels of particulate matter pollution. Reducing ozone levels, especially because they are partially caused by out-of-state pollution sources, remains a huge challenge.

Take precautions- especially when ozone levels peak

People, especially young children, those who exercise outdoors, those involved in vigorous outdoor work and those who have respiratory disease (such as asthma) are being asked to consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity when ozone levels are the highest (generally afternoon to early evening).

When outdoor levels of ozone are elevated, going indoors will usually reduce your exposure. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing should consider consulting their doctor, say state officials.

Ozone levels generally decrease at night. They can be minimized during daylight hours by the reduction of pollution from cars and other vehicles, for instance.

New Yorkers can help reduce ozone levels by using mass transit and conserving energy

State regulators are urging New Yorkers to:

  • use mass transit or carpool instead of driving, as automobile emissions account for about 60 percent of pollution in our cities;
  • conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions by combining necessary motor vehicle trips;
  • turn off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas;
  • use fans to circulate air. If air conditioning is necessary, set thermostats at 78 degrees;
  • close the blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air;
  • limit use of household appliances. If necessary, run the appliances at off-peak (after 7 p.m.) hours. These would include dishwashers, dryers, pool pumps and water heaters;
  • set refrigerators and freezers at more efficient temperatures;
  • purchase and install energy efficient lighting and appliances with the Energy Star label; and
  • reduce or eliminate outdoor burning and attempt to minimize indoor sources of PM 2.5 [fine particulate matter pollution] such as smoking.

More helpful info from state regulators

DEC and DOH issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter, are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern.

A toll‑free Air Quality Hotline (1-800-535-1345) has been established by DEC to keep New Yorkers informed of the latest Air Quality situation.

Further information on ozone and PM 2.5 [fine particulate matter pollution] is available on DEC’s web site and on the DOH website.

It’s Not Just the Heat: Ozone Levels Are Dangerously High in NYC & Long Island

As temperatures climb, Ozone Air Quality Advisories have been issued two days in a row this week for the New York City metro-area and Long Island. Similar ozone advisories were issued two days last week.

Ozone is a dangerous ground-level air pollutant that should not be confused with the protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere. Ozone pollution is caused by auto exhaust and larger emission sources, such as power plants which burn fossil fuels.

Ozone pollution is also exacerbated by rising temperatures due to climate change.

Tuesday and Wednesday’s advisories this week apply to New York City, Westchester and Rockland counties, and Long Island, including Nassau and Suffolk counties.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens and State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker issued the advisories, which are in effect each day until 11 p.m.

Higher Temperatures = More Ozone Pollution

Unlike other air pollutants, ozone is not directly emitted by pollution sources. Instead, this “powerful oxidant” is formed in the air itself during smog conditions.

High temperatures (over 80°F) and sunlight react with emissions from vehicles and smokestacks to form ozone. Hydrocarbons such as gasoline vapors and nitrogen dioxide – what the state calls “ozone precursors”- can help to trigger the gas.

According to the state, automobile exhaust and out-of-state emission sources (such as power plants) are the primary sources of ground‑level ozone.

As average temperatures rise across the U.S. (and the globe) due to climate change, ozone pollution is also expected to increase unless the emission of ozone precursors can be cut significantly.

Americans face the risk of a 70 percent increase in unhealthy summertime ozone levels by 2050, a 2014 National Science Foundation study found. According to the NSF:

“Even short periods of unhealthy ozone levels can cause local death rates to rise. Ozone pollution also damages crops and other plants….However, the research also showed that a sharp reduction in the emissions of certain pollutants would lead to dramatically decreased levels of ozone even as temperatures warm.”

A public health threat for New Yorkers

Ozone is one of the most serious air pollution problems in the northeast. The New York City-metro area is currently in “non-attainment” of 2008 federal ozone standards.

A recent analysis by the City of New York estimated that 2,700 “premature” deaths every year can be tied to ozone and fine particulate matter, two separate air pollutants. Roughly 1 in 10 emergency room visits for asthma in New York City are attributable to ozone pollution.

asthma patient 2
Young asthma patient. Photo credit: nyc.gov

New York State (and City) have made major progress in reducing levels of fine particulate matter pollution, which is released by combustion sources such as building heating systems, vehicle exhaust, power plant and industry emissions, and even wood burning.

Reducing ozone levels, because they are tied to rising temperatures and partially caused by out-of-state pollution sources, remains a huge challenge.

Failing grades for ozone pollution in the NYC metro area

According to the 2015 State of the Air report card released by the American Lung Association, Suffolk and Westchester counties, along with the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, all received failing grades for ozone pollution.

Both Manhattan and Rockland County received a “D”. Data for Brooklyn and Nassau County was unavailable.

The grades were calculated by totalling the number of days (in 2011, 2012 and 2013) in which ozone levels surpassed public safety guidelines over an 8-hour period. Suffolk County experienced 24 days when ozone levels were “orange”, or dangerous for sensitive populations. Staten Island experienced 17 such days, and Queens experienced 15.

Take precautions- especially when ozone levels peak

People, especially young children, those who exercise outdoors, those involved in vigorous outdoor work and those who have respiratory disease (such as asthma) are being asked to consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity when ozone levels are the highest (generally afternoon to early evening).

When outdoor levels of ozone are elevated, going indoors will usually reduce your exposure. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing should consider consulting their doctor, say state officials.

Ozone levels generally decrease at night. They can be minimized during daylight hours by the reduction of pollution from cars and other vehicles, for instance.

New Yorkers can help reduce ozone levels by using mass transit and conserving energy

State regulators are urging New Yorkers to:

  • use mass transit or carpool instead of driving, as automobile emissions account for about 60 percent of pollution in our cities;
  • conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions by combining necessary motor vehicle trips;
  • turn off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas;
  • use fans to circulate air. If air conditioning is necessary, set thermostats at 78 degrees;
  • close the blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air;
  • limit use of household appliances. If necessary, run the appliances at off-peak (after 7 p.m.) hours. These would include dishwashers, dryers, pool pumps and water heaters;
  • set refrigerators and freezers at more efficient temperatures;
  • purchase and install energy efficient lighting and appliances with the Energy Star label; and
  • reduce or eliminate outdoor burning and attempt to minimize indoor sources of PM 2.5 [fine particulate matter pollution] such as smoking.

More helpful info from state regulators

The state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter, are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern.

A toll‑free Air Quality Hotline (1-800-535-1345) has been established by DEC to keep New Yorkers informed of the latest Air Quality situation.

Further information on ozone and PM 2.5 [fine particulate matter pollution] is available on DEC’s web site and on the DOH website.

An Ozone Air Quality Advisory was in effect Monday. What exactly does that mean?

An Ozone Air Quality Advisory was in effect Monday for the New York City metro-area and Long Island. Ozone is a dangerous ground-level air pollutant and should not be confused with the protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere.

Ozone pollution is caused by auto exhaust and larger pollution sources, such as power plants which burn fossil fuels. Ozone levels are directly tied to higher temperatures.

Monday’s advisory applied to New York City, Westchester and Rockland counties, and Long Island, including Nassau and Suffolk counties. An advisory was also issued on Sunday for those areas and the Lower Hudson Valley.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens and State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker issued Monday’s advisory, which was in effect until 10 p.m.

What is Ozone?

Unlike other air pollutants, ozone is not directly emitted by pollution sources. Instead, this “powerful oxidant” is formed in the air itself during smog conditions.

High temperatures (over 80°F) and sunlight react with emissions from vehicles and smokestacks to form ozone. Hydrocarbons such as gasoline vapors and nitrogen dioxide – what the state calls “ozone precursors”- can help to trigger the gas.

According to the State, automobile exhaust and out-of-state emission sources (such as power plants) are the primary sources of ground‑level ozone.

Ozone is one of the most serious air pollution problems in the northeast. The New York City-metro area is currently in “non-attainment” of 2008 federal ozone standards.

A recent analysis by the City estimated that 2,700 “premature” deaths every year can be tied to ozone and fine particulate matter, two separate air pollutants. Roughly 1 in 10 emergency room visits for asthma in New York City are attributable to ozone pollution.

New York City has made major progress in reducing levels of particulate matter pollution. Reducing ozone levels, especially because they are partially caused by out-of-state pollution sources, remains a huge challenge.

Take precautions- especially when ozone levels peak

People, especially young children, those who exercise outdoors, those involved in vigorous outdoor work and those who have respiratory disease (such as asthma) are being asked to consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity when ozone levels are the highest (generally afternoon to early evening).

When outdoor levels of ozone are elevated, going indoors will usually reduce your exposure. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing should consider consulting their doctor, say state officials.

Ozone levels generally decrease at night. They can be minimized during daylight hours by the reduction of pollution from cars and other vehicles, for instance.

New Yorkers can help reduce ozone levels by using mass transit and conserving energy

State regulators are urging New Yorkers to:

  • use mass transit or carpool instead of driving, as automobile emissions account for about 60 percent of pollution in our cities;
  • conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions by combining necessary motor vehicle trips;
  • turn off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas;
  • use fans to circulate air. If air conditioning is necessary, set thermostats at 78 degrees;
  • close the blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air;
  • limit use of household appliances. If necessary, run the appliances at off-peak (after 7 p.m.) hours. These would include dishwashers, dryers, pool pumps and water heaters;
  • set refrigerators and freezers at more efficient temperatures;
  • purchase and install energy efficient lighting and appliances with the Energy Star label; and
  • reduce or eliminate outdoor burning and attempt to minimize indoor sources of PM 2.5 [fine particulate matter pollution] such as smoking.

More helpful info from state regulators

DEC and DOH issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter, are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern.

A toll‑free Air Quality Hotline (1-800-535-1345) has been established by DEC to keep New Yorkers informed of the latest Air Quality situation.

Further information on ozone and PM 2.5 [fine particulate matter pollution] is available on DEC’s web site and on the DOH website.

Ozone Air Quality Advisory for NYC metro-area & Long Island

An Ozone Air Quality Advisory will be in effect today for the New York City metro-area and Long Island.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens and State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker issued the advisory, which will be in effect from 10 a.m. through 10 p.m.

The advisory applies to New York City, Westchester and Rockland counties, and Long Island, including Nassau and Suffolk counties.

People, especially young children, those who exercise outdoors, those involved in vigorous outdoor work and those who have respiratory disease (such as asthma) are being asked to consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity when ozone levels are the highest (generally afternoon to early evening).

The state provided the following information:

DEC and DOH issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter, are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern.

A toll‑free Air Quality Hotline (1-800-535-1345) has been established by DEC to keep New Yorkers informed of the latest Air Quality situation.

Further information on ozone and PM 2.5 [particulate matter] is available on DEC’s web site and on the DOH website.

Ozone

Summer heat can lead to the formation of ground‑level ozone ‑‑ a major component of photochemical smog. Automobile exhaust and out-of-state emission sources are the primary sources of ground‑level ozone and are the most serious air pollution problems in the northeast. This surface pollutant should not be confused with the protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere.

When outdoor levels of ozone are elevated, going indoors will usually reduce your exposure. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing should consider consulting their doctor.

Ozone levels generally decrease at night and can be minimized during daylight hours by curtailment of automobile travel and the use of public transportation where available.

New Yorkers urged to take the following steps:

  • use mass transit or carpool instead of driving, as automobile emissions account for about 60 percent of pollution in our cities;
  • conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions by combining necessary motor vehicle trips;
  • turn off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas;
  • use fans to circulate air. If air conditioning is necessary, set thermostats at 78 degrees;
  • close the blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air;
  • limit use of household appliances. If necessary, run the appliances at off-peak (after 7 p.m.) hours. These would include dishwashers, dryers, pool pumps and water heaters;
  • set refrigerators and freezers at more efficient temperatures;
  • purchase and install energy efficient lighting and appliances with the Energy Star label; and
  • reduce or eliminate outdoor burning and attempt to minimize indoor sources of PM 2.5 such as smoking.

 

City Council Takes Step so NYC Can Breathe a Little Easier

Air pollution is a significant environmental threat in New York City, contributing to an estimated 6 percent of all deaths annually. While the city’s Air Pollution Control Code has been amended from time to time, it has not been comprehensively updated since 1975, says the New York City Council.

“It has been 35 years since New York City took a critical look at the quality of the air we breathe,” said Council Member Donovan Richards of the Rockaways, chair of the Council’s environmental protection committee.

“Air pollution has contributed to deaths, high rates of asthma and hospitalizations for respiratory related illnesses,” Richards continued. “Clearly something needed to be done to address this growing public health issue as our city continued to fail national Ambient Air Quality Standards set by the EPA.”

The New York City-metro area is currently in “non-attainment” of 2008 federal ozone standards, but has made major progress in reducing levels of particulate matter pollution.

A briefing document prepared for a February, 2014 City Council oversight hearing on air quality asserts that the city’s progress in reducing air pollution “while significant, does not mean that the air is healthy to breathe in New York City.”

Moving into compliance with tougher federal standards

Legislation sponsored by Richards, and passed by the Council earlier this month, will bring the city’s Air Pollution Control Code into compliance with more stringent air quality laws, rules and regulations promulgated by the federal government and the State.

The legislation seeks to make boilers operate more efficiently; force diesel engines and generators to run more cleanly; diminish fuel consumption citywide; and reduce airborne particulate matter by thousands of tons of per year.

Now awaiting signature by Mayor de Blasio, the Council’s expansive bill amends the New York City charter, along with the city’s administrative, building and mechanical codes. Richards described the legislation as “historic,” saying it would establish a “new air quality standard of our city for generations to come.”

Fighting for the title of “cleanest air of any large American city”

The long term goal? That New York City will have the cleanest outdoor air quality of any large city in the United States, notes the Council.

Updates to the city’s air code focus on phasing out “dirty” technologies, and expanding oversight to a greater number of air pollution sources. Some of the many changes to the code include:

  • Requires the most stringent EPA certified emissions standards for newly registered non-emergency stationary engines (generators) after 2018.
  • Codifies the phase out of No. 6 heating oil by 2020, and No. 4 heating oil by 2030.
  • Limits emissions from currently uncontrolled sources, including commercial char broilers, fireplaces, cook stoves, outdoor wood boilers, mobile vending units and wood burning heaters.
  • Limits future construction and the use of fireplaces and wood burning heaters as a primary source of heat to emergencies only.
  • Requires that pre-2007 Type A and Type B school buses (which do not utilize a closed crankcase ventilation system) be retired by 2020.
  • Waives fees for food vendors using an auxiliary engine if the engine meets tier four emissions standards within 18 months of the law going into effect.
  • Creates a multi-agency advisory committee that will offer suggestions on increasing pollution controls to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Simplifies the registration process for more of the city’s boilers, and streamlines the emissions permitting process by allowing on-line permitting.

 

Air Quality Health Advisory Today: July 22, 2014

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Health (DOH) have issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for the New York City Metro region for Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

The pollutant of concern is: Ozone

The advisory will be in effect: 12 p.m. through 10 p.m.

The New York City metro-area includes New York City, Westchester and Rockland counties.

The metro area is currently in “non-attainment” of 2008 federal ozone standards.

According to the DEC and DOH:

Summer heat can lead to the formation of ground level ozone a major component of smog. Automobile exhaust and out-of-state emission sources are the primary causes of ground level ozone and are the most serious air pollution problems in the northeast. This surface pollutant should not be confused with the protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere.

People, especially young children, those who exercise outdoors, those involved in vigorous outdoor work and those who have respiratory disease (such as asthma) should consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity when ozone levels are the highest (generally afternoon to early evening). When outdoor levels of ozone are elevated, going indoors will usually reduce your exposure. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing should consider consulting their doctor.

Ozone levels generally decrease at night and can be minimized during daylight hours by curtailment of automobile travel and the use of public transportation where available.

Air Quality Health Advisories are issued when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter, are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value leading to a greater health concern.

A toll free Air Quality Hotline (1-800-535-1345) has been established by the DEC.

Visit the DOH website to read more about ozone.

 

While Improving, City’s Air Quality Crisis Quietly Persists

In 2013, eight times as many New Yorkers died from air pollution-related health issues as from murder.

A recent analysis by the City estimated that 2,700 “premature” deaths every year can be tied to ozone and fine particulate matter, two leading air pollutants, as opposed to 333 murders in New York in 2013. The public health impacts of air pollution, while not necessarily dramatic, are powerful: air quality rivals other leading causes of death in New York City, such as HIV.

And while the city is making progress improving air quality, some elected officials say that too many New Yorkers are suffering from the debilitating and deadly effects of air pollution. A briefing document prepared for a February City Council oversight hearing on air quality asserts that the City’s “progress, while significant, does not mean that the air is healthy to breathe in New York City.”

Populations especially vulnerable to air pollution include children and the elderly; the poor; people with pre-existing health conditions; and residents of neighborhoods where pollution sources – like highways, waste transfer stations, and powerplants – are located.

“It’s hard to get attention for this,” said Dr. Thomas Matte, Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Surveillance and Policy at the city’s Department of Health. “Air pollution” is not a cause of death that would appear on any death certificate, he added.

“[But] what we know from the science is that when ozone levels are higher, there are more deaths,” Matte stated.

Both ozone and particulate matter pollution can aggravate asthma and other lung conditions, and cause premature death in people with heart and lung disease, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Two reports released in May of this year point to a dual reality: New York City has made major progress in reducing levels of particulate matter pollution, yet that pollution is linked to annual totals of approximately 2,300 premature deaths, 4,800 emergency room visits for asthma, and 1,500 hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Particulate matter pollution – in the form of small particles and droplets – is emitted by many local sources, including heating fuel, power plants, and motor vehicles. These particles and droplets are “so small that they can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems,” says the EPA.

[Read more at the Gotham Gazette]