NYC's Air Quality Is Cleaner Than Ever Since Monitoring Began

Based on a survey from New York City's Health Department, the city has seen drops in greenhouse gas emissions and the air quality is as clean as it's been since monitoring it back in 2008. It's all part of Mayor de Blasio's sustainable efforts from 2015.


May 18 2019, Updated 8:19 a.m. ET

New York City has the cleanest air quality since it began monitoring results a decade ago. The New York City Community Air Survey shows that various pollutants in the air have fallen, having a positive effect on our health with the air we breathe. It’s also helping NYC reach their goal of becoming the largest clean US city by 2030.

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Monitoring units installed by the Health Department and Queens College have been installed on lamp posts up to 12 feet from the ground. These measure samples of pollutants like particulate matter and nitric oxide, and both of those have declined annually by 28 and 35 percent, respectively.

Some of that change can be attributed to Mayor Bill de Blasio updating NYC’s Air Pollution Control Code in 2015. He added new regulations for some of the worst violators of carbon emissions, such as char broilers, fireplaces, and food trucks. There are still high levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in areas where there’s high traffic and lots of buildings.

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“Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, New Yorkers have not been able to breathe air this clean,” Mayor de Blasio said in the announcement. “We are making significant strides in reducing air pollution to help protect the health of everyone in our city. That said, there is still much more work to do to bring down pollution in some parts of the city.”

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Sulfur dioxide levels have fallen the most in the wintertime -- 95 percent -- as they phase out residual heating oil. 5,300 buildings that used the worst heating oil in terms of pollution converted to a cleaner fuel by the end of 2015. The highest sulfur dioxide levels were expectedly in areas with residual oil boilers remaining.

All of this is part of OneNYC, a plan created by the de Blasio administration to be “the most resilient, equitable, and sustainable city in the world.” They’ve invested $500 million to improve energy efficiency in their buildings and $1 billion to protect their drinking water. As of 2014, solar panel installations have increased six times and over 620,000 trees have been planted.

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The NYC Retrofit Accelerator was also implemented in 2015 by de Blasio. This program offers a free analysis on how buildings can become more energy efficient that not only improves the environment, but can cut down on operating costs. It’s already been used in over 5,000 buildings across the city.

“As the federal government works to weaken environmental protections, New York City demonstrates the value of local action to improve air quality,” Daniel Zarrilli, NYC’s Senior Director on Climate Policy and Programs, said in the press release. “Today’s announcement is great news for every New Yorker and highlights our success in reducing emissions and improving public health.”

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