Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Concerned about NYC’s air quality? Here’s a quick page to check…

Posted 04 Nov 2016 / 0
2016-11-04The EPA’s AirNow site allows you to see real-time indices of air pollution in your area

The section in Josh Fox’s How to Let Go of the World film about Chinese air pollution got me thinking about the air that I expose myself to in New York City. There are so many ways in which living in New York City makes me healthier: I don’t have to drive in a car as often, I can ride my bike to work every day, I have access to a great variety of healthy foods, and I have the potential to maintain a really tight-knit community. But undeniably I live in a city with air pollution issues, and all that bike riding is a bit scary when you consider that it probably exposes me to more rather than less exposure to air pollution.

So I wanted to track down some places where I can start to track the air quality where I live. So far, the best site I have found is United State Environmental Protection Agency‘s AirNow site. It’s a pretty interesting site because you can both look at the whole country (and be thankful that you don’t live in any of California’s valleys) and particular cities. Here’s the page for New York City.

Another site that seems useful — if not a bit littered with advertisements — is the World Air Quality Index site. It’s a bit hard to tell who runs it, but it seems to be run out of China… a logical place for air quality concerns. What’s most interesting is its world air quality page, which really tells the story of air quality environmental injustice across the globe. There’s also a page dedicated to New York City. Perhaps a bit disturbing is that the EPA and WAQI metrics for NYC — both of which are supposedly “real time” — don’t match up… but this may be due to a slight time lag in the WAQI measurements (11 am today versus 1 pm). The air quality numbers do shift quite a bit as the day progresses.

In the Fox documentary we learn of how Beijing residents check their air quality forecasts on their phones much the way that we check the weather forecast. I am going to try to do something similar so that I can get a better sense of just how much New York City’s air quality fluctuates… and how often it fluctuates into the danger zone.

A Minor Post, Pollution, Public Outreach, Sustainability, Urban Planning

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