2008-12-26 / Community

DOH Launches Program To Test Rockaway Air Quality

The Health Department today announced the launch of the New York City Community Air Survey, the first comprehensive effort to monitor street level air pollution in neighborhoods across the five boroughs. Air pollution monitors mounted on 150 light posts throughout the city will be used to measure major air pollutants that contribute to health problems. The data collected will help the city better understand how pollution from traffic, buildings, and other sources affects air quality from one neighborhood to another.

The NYC Community Air Survey is an initiative of Mayor Bloomberg's PlanNYC, which aims to make New York City's air quality the cleanest of any large US city. Air quality has improved in the city overall, but there are no reliable data available on how air quality varies across neighborhoods.

"Air pollution aggravates asthma, other breathing problems and heart disease," said Dr. Thomas Matte, Director of Environmental Research at the Health Department. "Motor vehicles are major sources of dangerous pollution, and this study will allow us to track pollution for the first time at the street level, where New Yorkers breathe. We've learned that good data are essential to improving public health. And by identifying air quality differences, we can more effectively target future efforts to improve the quality of the air we breathe."

The Health Department, in partnership with Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College, City University of New York will be collecting air samples over the next year. In the course of the four seasons, each of the 150 locations will be monitored for two-week periods. Air samples will be analyzed for fine particles

PM2.5), nitrogen oxides (NOx), elemental carbon (EC), sulfur dioxide

SO2), and ozone (O3). The monitoring locations are in areas with high or low traffic and low building densities, various mixes of commercial, residential and industrial properties, and in areas with dense or sparse tree cover - a reflection of the variety of urban environments found in New York City.

"We are very pleased to help measure differences in neighborhood air quality that have long concerned many residents and neighborhood organizations," said Dr. Steven Markowitz, the senior Queens College research scientist collaborating in the study. "We can then work together to lower pollution levels and protect people's health."

"Many neighborhoods across New York City have higher rates of asthma and other illnesses, making their residents more vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution," said Peggy Shepard, Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice (WE ACT). "With this study, we will learn for the first time on a citywide basis how the air quality itself varies by community."

"Traffic pollution affects all New Yorkers, especially those who live or work near streets with lots of traffic - and that's a lot of us," said Andy Darrell, Vice President of Environmental Defense Fund. "Science is clear that traffic pollution is linked to asthma attacks and heart disease. Some research suggests that long term exposures might affect children's cognitive development. With this study, New Yorkers will get a clearer picture of pollution levels across neighborhoods and boroughs - an important step toward solving the problem."

The NYC Community Air Survey will not replace the routine rooftop air monitoring done by the Department of Environmental Conservation to track compliance with regulatory standards and issue alerts when necessary.

The study is also not designed to examine pollution at any specific property. It is one of more than a dozen PlaNYC programs to improve air quality in New York City. The plan also includes efforts to: * Improve fuel efficiency of private cars. * Reduce emissions from taxis, black cars and for-hire vehicles. * Replace, retrofit and refuel diesel trucks. * Decrease school bus emissions. * Retrofit ferries and mandate use of cleaner fuels. * Work with the Port Authority to reduce emissions from port facilities. * Implement more efficient construction management practices. * Promote the use of cleaner-burning heating fuels. * Reforest targeted areas of our parkland. * Increase tree-planting on lots.

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