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New Health Department Report Shows Improvements in Citywide Air Quality Between 2008 and 2014

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NEW YORK CITY - The Health Department today released the latest New York City Community Air Survey results, which found improvements in air quality between 2008 and 2014, marking progress toward Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC goal of achieving the cleanest air of any large U.S. city by 2030.

The report describes methods and summarizes six years of data from the largest ongoing urban air monitoring program of any U.S. city. In 2014, the annual average levels of major air pollutants that impact public health, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, were 16% and 21% lower, respectively, than levels measured six years previously. Sulfur dioxide levels in the winter of 2013-14 were 68% lower than in the winter of 2008-9.  These pollutants have been linked to a variety of adverse health outcomes such as exacerbation of cardiovascular and respiratory disease leading to emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and premature death.  The report shows seasonal trends in air pollution levels from winter 2008-2009 through fall 2014, highlights sources that contribute to high levels of pollutants in NYC neighborhoods, and provides maps of neighborhood air pollution levels by year. 

The de Blasio administration, through its OneNYC plan, is continuing to take action to both reduce emissions and improve air quality citywide. Among many initiatives, this past February, the de Blasio administration and the Department of Environmental Protection announced that all 5,300 buildings that were registered as burning the most polluting heating oil (No. 6 oil) in 2011 have converted to a cleaner fuel as of December 31, 2015, greatly reducing building emissions of sulfur dioxide and fine particles that contribute to premature deaths and hospital admissions from cardiovascular and lung disease. In September 2015, Mayor de Blasio launched the NYC Retrofit Accelerator, which provides free technical assistance and advisory services for building owners to go green through clean energy upgrades.  The program will prioritize assistance to buildings in high poverty neighborhoods that are still using #4 heating oil. This complements the major new steps to dramatically reduce emissions from buildings announced on Friday, and many other OneNYC initiatives underway. 

“All too often, the quality of the air we breathe is determined by the neighborhood we live in,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Living in a neighborhood with poor air quality can cause health problems, exacerbate chronic health conditions, and increase the risk of people dying too soon. Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC will bring the City closer to a city where every resident can breathe clean air, regardless of their ZIP code.” 

“As co-chair of the Congressional Asthma and Allergy Caucus, I’m tremendously pleased to see these marked improvements in our City’s air quality. Asthma is one of the most serious chronic diseases in the U.S., affecting roughly one-and-a-half million New Yorkers,” said Congressman Eliot Engel (NY-16). “Asthma takes a particularly heavy toll on the Bronx, which has one of the highest rates of asthma-related emergency room visits in all of New York. This report shows that we’re making important progress that will make a real difference for all New Yorkers – especially those living with asthma and allergies.” 

“Air pollution is an often unseen but much-felt menace that imposes immense costs on our city in the form of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and even premature death,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, Ranking Member of the Environmental Conservation Committee. “And while air quality remains a problem throughout the city, including here in my district, DOHMH’S New York City Community Air Survey -- the single largest urban air monitoring program in the United States -- provides encouraging signs of progress in City-wide efforts to improve the air we breathe. I’m grateful to Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bassett for this report, which I hope will serve as a wakeup call to lawmakers on the urgent need to address the dangers of air pollution throughout our State.” 

"I am proud to see the community air survey found improvements in our air quality, especially in our building emissions due to a conversion to cleaner heating oil,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Council Environmental Protection Committee. “The survey also showed that there is more we must still do, as high density areas and summertime ozone levels remain as issues.  In order to reduce air pollution even further, we must implement policies such as stricter heating oil regulations.  I look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio and DOH Commissioner Bassett as we continue to improve our air quality and our public health."


NYC Community Air Survey Major Findings:

a) Annual average levels of fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide have declined 16%, 21%, and 24%, respectively over the past six years; b) The largest declines have been observed for sulfur dioxide due to heating oil regulations - wintertime average levels have declined by 68% from 2008 to 2014; c) Summertime average ozone levels have remained stable across the past six years; d) High levels of fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and nitric oxide continue to be observed in areas of high traffic density, building density, residual oil boilers, and industrial areas. e) Higher sulfur dioxide levels are observed in areas with remaining residual oil boilers, and g)  Ozone levels are higher in the outer boroughs – in areas that are downwind of high emissions density and have less combustion emissions. - Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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