2010-08-20 / Top Stories

Rockaway Worst In Ozone Concentration

DOH Report: Peninsula Is Downwind
By Howard Schwach

The Department of Health has warned that a new, comprehensive study shows that the Rockaway peninsula is one of the two worst communities in the city in terms of ground-level ozone concentration, a highly reactive form of oxygen that is formed from other pollutants reacting with sunlight.

The south shore of Staten Island is the other neighborhood hit with the high levels of ozone.

The report shows that air quality varies widely among New York City neighborhoods during the summer months.

A new report from the New York City Community Air Survey (NYCCAS) shows that four major pollutants are heavily concentrated in high-traffic areas such as Midtown and Lower Manhattan, as well as parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island that run along busy freeways. The report – Results from Summer Monitoring 2009 – is the city’s first comprehensive analysis of summertime air quality at the street level. Another recent NYCCAS report identified heating oil as a major contributor to wintertime air pollution, but the new report points to motor-vehicle traffic as a key local source of street level pollution during the summer.

The findings show that summertime levels of fine-particle pollution, also known as PM2.5, vary two-fold or more across NYC neighborhoods – as do concentrations of elemental carbon, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. Most of the major summertime pollutants are concentrated in densely populated areas, where traffic is more congested and where more fuel is used for cooking and water heating.

The study found that areas with the greatest traffic density had three times the concentration of nitric oxide, and twice the concentration of nitrogen dioxide, as areas with the lowest traffic density. PM2.5 follows a similar pattern.

But ozone is different, the report says. Ozone results from chemical reactions among other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide, in the presence of sunlight.

But the same pollutants that generate ozone can remove it from the air in a reaction known as scavenging.

As a result, urban centers with high traffic emission levels tend to have less ozone than downwind areas. The study found that ozone concentrations were highest in downwind suburban locations, such as the Rockaways and lower Staten Island.

`“It’s important to remember that all New York Yorkers have a stake in improving the City’s air quality,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner.

“Exposure to the pollutants evaluated in this report can cause grave health problems, including cardiovascular and lung diseases, and premature death.

This study reiterates the need to switch to more fuel-efficient cars, reduce car traffic, and increase use of public transportation.

We must also continue efforts to make the city an even easier and safer place to walk and bike. Besides increasing physical activity, these active forms of transportation help protect the air we breathe.”

The report, available at nyc.gov/hea lth, suggests that reducing emissions – by expanding mass transit options and continuing efforts to facilitate walking and bicycling – is the key to reaching New York City’s clean air goals.

PlaNYC’s strategy will also include measures to promote cleaner fuels, reduce traffic congestion, and improve mass transit access and performance. They would also like building to convert to combustion system, and promote clean fuel and efficiency measures.

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