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DEC celebrates Air Quality Awareness Week in New York


Mon, May 6th 2024 12:30 pm

Annual observation May 6-10 promotes importance of air quality monitoring and state’s successful clean air initiatives

Submitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar announced May 6-10 is Air Quality Awareness Week (AQAW). The public awareness event is held in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s nationwide campaign to share information about efforts to protect and improve air quality. Throughout the week, DEC is promoting a different air quality topic on its social media platforms to highlight state initiatives and investments to promote clean air. The theme for this year is “Knowing Your Air.”

“Air Quality Awareness Week helps educate the public about actions they can take to improve air quality, as well as New York’s significant progress in protecting and enhancing air quality statewide,” Mahar said. “I encourage all New Yorkers to take part by learning about the pollution that impacts public health, sign up for air quality alerts and newsletters, and check out DEC’s website and social media platforms to better ‘Know Your Air’ this week and all year long.”

Air pollution can harm public health and natural resources in a variety of ways. Hot summer weather sets the stage for two major pollutants of concern for human health: the formation of ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter. Fish and wildlife show harmful effects from acid rain and mercury in air. Greenhouse gases in the air are changing the world's climate and contributing to harmful impacts including extreme heat, deadly flooding, drought, fires, rising sea levels, and severe storms.

Air pollutants originate from many human activities. Most pollutants come from:

√ On- and off-road vehicles and power equipment;

√ Power plants that burn oil, gas or coal;

√ Heating and cooling of residential and commercial buildings; and

√ Industries that manufacture chemicals and other goods.

New York state leads the nation with some of the most stringent air quality guidelines and regulations to help protect public health and the environment. Due in large part to these requirements and the ongoing efforts of DEC’s dedicated air quality staff, statewide emissions of pollutants from major facilities were significantly reduced from 2000-22: 

√ Particulate matter (PM) – 88%;

√ Sulfur dioxide (SO2) – 97%;

√ Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – 81%;

√ Volatile organic compounds (VOC) – 67%;

√ Carbon monoxide (CO) – 58%; and

√ Hazardous air pollutants (HAP) - 73%. 

From 2000 to 2022, monitored ambient levels of pollutants statewide were also reduced:

√ Particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5) – 50%

√ SO2 – 90%

√ Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – 30%

√ Ozone – 12%

Everyone can help significantly reduce pollution by following tips on “Living the Green Life.”

Air quality alerts and forecasting

DEC’s division of air resources closely monitors air quality conditions statewide and works with the state Department of Health to issue timely public health advisories that millions of New Yorkers depend on each year. Visit dec.ny.gov for updated forecasts and information about air quality index levels, and http://www.health.ny.gov/ for information on health risks and precautions related to air quality.

In February, the U.S. EPA announced a final rule to strengthen the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particle pollution, also known as fine particulate matter (PM2.5) or soot. The lower standard may result in more days identified higher on the AQI scale, but that does not mean PM2.5 pollution in New York state has gotten worse. The changes to the AQI reflect the latest science on particle pollution and health, and the updates U.S. EPA has made to the annual standard for fine particle pollution. For more on the new standards including a list of commonly asked questions, visit the AIRNOW website at https://www.airnow.gov/.

Community air quality

Residents and community-based organizations often approach DEC when they have air quality concerns. DEC uses existing air quality data, air quality model results, and information on local sources of air pollution to better understand community concerns. In a limited number of instances, this has led to DEC conducting a more in-depth air quality study such as in Tonawanda, and Albany’s South End neighborhood.

More recently, the DEC collected air quality data for the statewide Community Air Monitoring Initiative, required by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. This initiative gathered air quality data in 10 disadvantaged communities across New York.

Air Quality Awareness Week

AQAW provides an opportunity for people to learn about what causes poor air quality and how people can prepare for and respond to events and environments with poor air quality – not just during the month of May, but year-round.

Follow DEC information throughout the week using #AQAW2024. Daily topics highlighted throughout the week on DEC’s social media platforms (@NYSDEC) include:

√ Monday, May 6 – wildland fires and smoke

√ Tuesday, May 7 – “Asthma and your health”

√ Wednesday, May 8 – air quality and climate

√ Thursday, May 9 – air quality and environmental justice

√ Friday, May 10 – “Air, animals, and plants”

DEC is also highlighting air quality on the next “DEC Does What?!” podcast episode.

To follow and receive updates on DEC air news throughout the year, subscribe to the Air Mail! Newsletter at https://dec.ny.gov/news/dec-delivers

More information on the national EPA AQAW can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/air-quality/air-quality-awareness-week.

Everyone can help significantly reduce pollution by following tips on Living the Green Life.

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