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Air Pollution in New York City


Air pollution is a critical public health threat and one of the most significant environmental problems in urban centers. Kinney explains that New York City is among the most polluted areas in the United States (176). Odach states that environmental experts have ranked it sixteenth compared to other cities (par. 5). My topic of choice is air contamination in New York City. This is because it has caused adverse effects on individuals and resulted in significant deaths and health issues. Therefore, I aim to learn the measures that can be implemented to minimize this air contamination. The main issues that I will focus on include the causes, impacts, and solutions of air pollution in New York. What are pollutants, effects, and answers to the continued air contamination despite the efforts invested by the relevant authorities?

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Common Air Pollutants

The increasing number of people in New York communities has caused air contamination problems. Kinney explains that this pollution has caused conflicts on housing, land use, and movement from one place to another (177). Decisions about where highways should be placed or areas where buildings should be erected have increased emissions in New York City (Culliton par. 6) Fine particles and ground-level Ozone are the primary pollutants in the city.

Fine Particles

The emissions from cars, buses, trucks and burning of fuels play a significant role in polluting the air in New York City, which becomes harmful to people. This city has the second-highest concentration of PM2.5 in the Mid and North East Atlantic after the Columbian District (Kinney 178). This pollution varies from one geographical area to another and causes adverse health effects to individuals. Exposure to fine particles, also known as PM2.5, increases the risk of death and severe illnesses (Culliton par. 6). PM2.5 is also formed by the reaction of droplets or gases, which can happen miles away from the emission’s source. Pitiranggon et al. explain that Some of these fine particles are carried from other areas outside the state and deposited in New York City by the wind. Indoor activities such as cooking, burning candles, or smoking tobacco are sources of PM2.5 (Kinney 179). Although the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) has argued that pollution cases have declined in New York City, PM2.5 and other primary pollutants have continually increased in urban areas than in the countryside.

Ground-Level Ozone

The strong sunshine and warm weather experienced in summer cause high ground-level ozone. This is a colorless gas that forms above the surface of the earth. It is referred to as a secondary pollutant because it is structured by different contaminants (nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which react in stagnant air and sunlight (Kinney 180). Ozone is not emitted from fuel combustion, and its concentration is high in the afternoon and summers, because of high temperatures and long daylight hours (Pitiranggon et al.). Although the emission of nitrogen oxides from cars leads to higher ozone levels in towns, it removes and reacts with atmospheric ozone in a process referred to as scavenging (Kinney 182). Therefore, urban areas with abundant NO caused by vehicles have a relatively lower 03 than rural areas.

Impacts of Air Pollution

The pollution of air in New York City has caused severe damages and significant deaths. Thurston et al. (387) explain that air pollution is the primary cause of 6% of deaths in New York City every year. Exposures to air pollutants are linked to premature deaths, exacerbation, reduced lung function, cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, and asthma. These conditions are caused by inhaling the small PM2.5 particles affecting the heart and lungs (Thurston et al. 387). Premature deaths caused by exposure to air pollution are approximately 320 where half of these are caused by pollution from buses and trucks (Thurston et al. 387). The department of health estimates that the pollution from PM2.5 results in more than 3,000 deaths and 2,000 hospital admissions every year (Pitiranggon et al.). In addition, 6000 children and adults visit the emergency departments (ER) with severe asthma cases (Thurston et al. 388). Research has proved that reducing 10% of the emission of fine particles could prevent approximately 300 deaths, 600 ER check-ups, and 200 hospital admissions annually (Thurston et al. 388). Therefore, strategies should be implemented to minimize these rising numbers.

Ozone damages and reacts with organic materials, for example, the human airway, lung tissues, and plant foliage. Ground-level ozone causes around 400 deaths, 400 hospital admissions, and 4000 children and adults’ ER check-ups (Thurston et. 388). The ozone component triggers throat irritation and coughing and can result in severe respiratory issues. The most vulnerable people to ground-level ozone are individuals with lung disease and children (Thurston et al. 388). Additionally, people who exercise outdoors are at high risk of being affected by this pollutant. The highest number of admitted individuals are older adults, while young ones experience complications because of their developing lungs (Thurston et al. 391). However, medications used for lung and heart illnesses reduce air pollution’s health effects in New York City.


Although the damage caused by air contamination has not been solved completely, the measures to solve these issues have greatly impacted the state. For example, Odach states that New York has created awareness for the implementation of evidence-based strategies to help enhance air quality (par. 7). For instance, the city can establish a new clean transportation technology such as using electric trains (Thurston et al. 391). Battery-electric buses are operational in the state and can significantly solve the traffic problem when adequate investment is done. Although these vehicles have emissions, they do so at lower levels than gasoline cars because they have no tailpipe release. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the Mid and Northeast Atlantic has been incorporated with wind, solar, and other renewable sources of electricity (Thurston et al. 392). This has helped to reduce air contamination from the generation of electricity.

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People can also reduce the use of energy in their houses. For example, Thurston et al. explain that they can lower the thermostat heat during winter and set the air conditioner at seventy-eight degrees during summer (Thurston et al. 393). Additionally, individuals can choose cleaner means of commuting, for instance, riding in the bus, subway, bike, or walk. It is also essential to follow the rules and regulations of New York City car idling. This law, Code Title 24, states that nobody should allow the car’s engine to stay idle for more than three minutes while standing, stopping, or parking (Culliton). However, this rule does not apply to emergency motor vehicles that are authorized and cars whose engines are used for loading, processing, or unloading other devices.

Air contamination can also be eliminated if individuals support the initiatives established by New York City to promote energy conservation and reduce pollution. For example, Thurston et al. explain that the government of New York City has established measures to control air pollutions (394). For example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg established (PlaNYC) a sustainability plan that would prepare the city to care for an estimated one million residents’ growth by improving air quality (Pitiranggon et al.). This strategy aimed to reduce emissions from greenhouses and proposed initiatives that would combat climatic change vulnerabilities.

The New York City University launched the Community Air Survey (NYCCSA’s) which discovered that sulfur dioxide and fine particles were the primary contributors to air pollution. Therefore, New York City issued regulations that addressed public hazards caused by emissions from heating oil (Thurston et al. 396). The city also partnered with Environmental Defense Fund and established the Clean Heat program. This approach helps address the risks caused by emissions from heating oil. Additionally, this plan helps buildings convert fuels using the most appropriate means (Thurston et al. 397). Therefore, the cooperation of New York City and its residents will play a crucial role in decreasing air contamination.


In summary, air pollution has adversely affected the health and lives of individuals in New York City. The two primary contributors to this pollution are ground-level Ozone and fine particles derived from motor vehicle emissions. The vascular and respiratory systems are affected by the exposure to these pollutants, resulting in many deaths, admissions, and emergency department checks. However, efforts such as cleaner means of transport, energy usage at homes, adhering to car idling laws, and supporting the government efforts will help to minimize air contamination.

Works Cited

Culliton, Kathleen. “New York Among Most Polluted Cities in the U.S., Analysis Shows.” New York City, NY Patch, Patch, 2020, Web.

Kinney, Patrick L. “Interactions of climate change, air pollution, and human health.” Current environmental health reports vol. 5, no. 1, 2018, pp. 179-186. Web.

Odach, Robin. “Pollution in NYC.” Home Guides | SF Gate, 2020, Web.

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Pitiranggon, Masha, et al. “Long-term trends in local and transported PM2. 5 pollution in New York City.” Atmospheric Environment vol. 248, 2021. Web.

Thurston, George D., et al. “Outdoor air pollution and new-onset airway disease. An official American Thoracic Society workshop report.” Annals of the American Thoracic Society vol. 17, no.4, 2020, pp. 387-398. Web.

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