The city’s asthma statistics are staggering: studies find one in eight adults has had a respiratory condition at some point and city kids are twice as likely as their peers in the U.S. to be hospitalized for asthma.

An effort is under way to target a major trigger: home heating oil. The soot from No. 2 heating oil is used to heat 1.4 million apartments and has 650 times as much sulfur as diesel fuel in buses and trucks.

“If you breathe enough of it, whether you have a lung disease or not, it will cause problems,” Mount Sinai’s Dr. Neil Schachter said.


A bill in Albany would force a reduction of sulfur in heating oil by 99.25 percent, officials said, and give the city a leg up in improving air quality. The Environmental Protection Agency last month proposed new limits on sulfur dioxide and New York has long been in violation of the Clean Air Act.

A research study to be published today in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine points to another asthma trigger from home heating.

“The nickel level in New York City is quite high, higher than most other cities,” said researcher Rachel Miller of Columbia’s School of Public Health. “We suspect it’s from the old boilers.”