A city report detailed street-level pollutants in the five boroughs, and the Upper West Side was found to be one of the dirtiest neighborhoods.
Though West Side auto traffic certainly contributes to pollution levels—the neighborhood is packed with traffic from the West Side Highway and Broadway—the survey found that oil-burning furnaces are a big culprit.
A separate study by the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that 1 percent of the city’s buildings that burn the dirtiest grade of oil—known as No. 4 and 6 oil—accounts for 87 percent of the soot pollution. The Upper West Side, as well as lower Manhattan and the East Side, have a high cluster of buildings that burn these dangerous oils, according to the fund.
Throughout the year, the city’s health department collected and analyzed air samples around the city for four pollutants: fine particles, elemental carbon, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. The survey states that these pollutants have adverse health effects, and cause lung irritation and other respiratory problems, such as asthma and emphysema. Seniors and children are especially at risk.
“It’s been the case for years that New York City air does not meet [Environmental Protection Agency] clean air standards for air pollutants that are known to be harmful,” said Dr. Thomas Matte, director of environmental research at the city’s health department. “If someone lives in a neighborhood where there’s more exposure to air pollution and they have a health condition that predisposes them, they are more likely to be affected.”
Though there are higher rates of asthma and other respiratory problems in neighborhoods like the South Bronx and Harlem, Matte said other factors need to be considered, such as access to quality health care and exposure to pollutants in the home.
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