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Outdoor Air Quality

New York City’s air quality has improved in recent decades, as the City and State have worked to lower emissions from regional and local sources. Despite this progress, two air pollutants, ozone and PM2.5, cause about 2,400 deaths per year in NYC, and thousands more emergency department visits and hospitalizations for asthma, heart and lung problems. Those most at risk include older adults, children and people with preexisting health conditions.

New York City tracks air quality with has its own neighborhood air quality monitoring network, the New York City Community Air Survey.

Common Air Pollutants

Fine Particulate Matter

Fine particulate matter, called PM2.52.5 levels are caused by smoke from fires, either building fires, wildfires or even fireworks. Exposure over time to PM2.5 can worsen serious health problems, including heart and lung diseases. That contributes to more hospitalizations and emergency department visits and shortens life expectancy.

For more information on how to protect yourself from fire-related smoke, see Air Quality: Fire and Smoke.

Ground-Level Ozone

During the summer, warm weather and strong sunshine can lead to high levels of ground-level ozone. This is a component of smog that can trigger coughing and throat irritation and lead to other serious respiratory problems. Children and people with lung diseases, such as asthma, are most vulnerable to ground-level ozone. It is also a risk for healthy adults who work or exercise outdoors.

For more information about the health impact of air pollution, read Health Impacts of Air Pollution: Data for NYC.

Monitor and Limit Exposure to Air Pollution

  • Monitor air quality
    • Check forecasted air quality levels by visiting AirNow, which provides daily updates and can send you alerts by email, text or mobile app.
    • Sign up for air quality alerts from Notify NYC.
    • Look out for air quality alerts on the radio and TV.
  • Follow Outdoor Air Quality Health Recommendations Based on Air Quality Index (PDF).
  • Limit the time you spend outside when air quality is poor. However, indoor air quality can be worse than outdoor air quality if someone is smoking cigarettes or hookah indoors.
  • Plan outdoor activities for days when pollution levels are low.

Reduce Air Pollution

Here are some tips for how you can help lower air pollution levels:
  • Reduce energy use at home and at work. Set your air conditioner thermostat to 78 degrees or low cool in the summer, and lower your heat thermostat in the winter.
  • Choose a cleaner commute. Ride the subway or bus, or bike and walk to get around.
  • Follow the City's car idling law.
  • Support City initiatives to reduce pollution and promote energy conservation.

Additional Resources

More Information