The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Basil Seggos, and State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, M.D., J.D. have issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for the area of New York City Metro.
While disclosing this in a statement on Monday November 9, 2020, Seggos stated that “The pollutant of concern is: Fine Particulate Matter.”
He added that the advisory will be in effect 10:00 a.m. through Midnight.
“An area of high pressure is situated over the Northeast, resulting in very light winds.
At the same time, unseasonably warm air is present in upper levels of the atmosphere. The combination of these factors is resulting in very little air movement, therefore there is nothing to move pollution away from the area,” he said.
He added that since the high population density in the NYC area results in high levels of emissions of pollutants, and because atmospheric conditions are not conducive to mixing and diluting the pollutants, the pollution has been building up and has reached levels that exceed the standard.
DEC and DOH issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100.
The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value leading to a greater health concern.
Fine Particulate Matter
Fine particulate matter consists of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter. PM 2.5 can be made of many different types of particles and often come from processes that involve combustion (e.g. vehicle exhaust, power plants, and fires) and from chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Exposure can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. People with heart or breathing problems, children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM 2.5.
When outdoor levels are elevated, going indoors may reduce your exposure. If there are significant indoor sources of PM 2.5 (tobacco, candle or incense smoke, or fumes from cooking) levels inside may not be lower than outside. Some ways to reduce exposure are to minimize outdoor and indoor sources and avoid strenuous activities in areas where fine particle concentrations are high.
New Yorkers also are urged to take the following energy saving and pollution- reducing steps.
- Use mass transit instead of driving, as automobile emissions account for about 60 percent of pollution in our cities. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, people are strongly advised to carpool only with members of their households
- Conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions by combining necessary motor vehicle trips.
- Turn off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas.
- use fans to circulate air.
- If air conditioning is necessary, set thermostats at 78 degrees.
- Close the blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air.
- Limit use of household appliances. If necessary, run the appliances at off-peak (after 7 p.m.) hours. These would include dishwashers, dryers, pool pumps and water heaters.
- Set refrigerators and freezers at more efficient temperatures.
- Purchase and install energy efficient lighting and appliances with the Energy Star label.
- Reduce or eliminate outdoor burning and attempt to minimize indoor sources of PM 2.5 such as smoking.