New York City air quality reaches cleanest levels in over 50 years

air quality new york city
The city’s air quality has reached the cleanest levels in more than 50 years, officials announced Thursday.
Credit: Getty Images

The city’s air quality has reached the cleanest levels in more than 50 years through efforts that will save the lives of some 800 New Yorkers annually, officials announced Thursday.

“New York has the cleanest air now of any major American city,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

In the last five years, the levels of sulfur dioxide—which can cause difficulty breathing, death and contribute to acid rain production—decreased by 69 percent,  according to a study conducted by the city. Soot pollution has dropped 23 percent since 2007.

Phasing out the most toxic heating oils as part of the Bloomberg administration’s PlaNYC initiative is the largest contributor to the reductions, officials said.

Through the Clean Heat program, more than 2,700 of the most heavily-polluting buildings converted to cleaner fuels since 2011, though regulations only require they do so by 2030.

“All of the people in this city have gotten together and, whether they really thought about it or not, collectively they’ve made a real difference in the stuff we’re putting in the air,” Bloomberg said.

Expanding the regional gas supply and local distribution as well as state emission regulations have also contributed to cleaner air quality.

Officials said these efforts were the biggest step in saving lives in the city since banning smoking in bars and restaurants a decade ago. Since 2008, there’s been about 25 percent less pollution-related deaths, hospital and emergency room visits, Bloomberg said.

air quality new york city
Sulfur concentrations in New York City from winter 2008 to 2009, before efforts were made to convert certain buildings to cleaner-burning fuels.
Credit: Office of the Mayor
air quality new york city
Sulfur concentrations in New York City from winter 2012 to 2013. Officials announced Thursday that these concentrations have decreased significantly in just five years.
Credit: Office of the Mayor

Chemicals and particulates in the air can get in the lungs or bloodstream and cause or exacerbate a number of health problems, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

“No one has the ability to chose what air to breathe and what air not to breathe,” Farley said. “That means it’s government’s responsibility to keep the air as clean as possible.”

Some of the city’s lowest-income communities are most helped by the reductions, officials said. Northern Manhattan, northern Queens and the South Bronx saw the greatest improvement in air quality.

“There’s nothing more fundamental than the right to breathe,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, after praising the results.

Though Bloomberg insisted he would not comment on the election, he said the next mayor would have the tools to continue his administration’s efforts in improving air quality.

“I’m going to live here and I’m going to breathe that air, too,” he said.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

National Guard to withdraw from riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri

By Carey Gillam and Scott MaloneFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The governor of Missouri ordered the withdrawal on Thursday of National Guard troops from riot-torn Ferguson,…

National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…