Examine exhibits New York subways have a air pollution downside
In the Big Apple, even local transport can pose a pollution risk.
New York’s subways are the most polluted in the northeast, and one underground station has higher levels of particulate pollution than any other station in the world, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The study, conducted by researchers from NYU Langone’s Department of Environmental Medicine with the assistance of researchers in Connecticut and Alabama, measured particle and carbon pollution during morning and evening rush hour traffic at 71 stations in four northeastern metropolitan areas: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington , DC and New York. The researchers measured pollution on platforms, in the environment outside of stations, and on trains as they traveled between stations.
The dirtiest system in the region? According to the study, these are the Port Authority’s centuries-old Trans-Hudson Lines that connect New York City with northern New Jersey. The researchers found that one station in particular – the Christopher Street PATH station in Manhattan – had particulate air pollution “higher than any reported level for a subway system around the world”.
The mean amount of particulate pollution in the PATH stations examined in the study is more than twice as high as the mean amount at subway stations in Boston, Philadelphia or Washington.
In all systems tested, the measured particle values were two to seven times as high as recommended in the ambient air quality standards of the environmental protection authorities over a period of 24 hours.
The New York subway system, a separate train network managed by New York State, took second place. Prices were below those of the PATH system but higher than in the other three cities.
“We are obviously concerned,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, which operates the PATH system, Thursday. “We only received the report yesterday, around noon. We plan to examine the report first.
“We are fully committed to protecting the health and safety of our employees. We are fully committed to protecting the health and safety of PATH drivers. We will look at it, come to conclusions and, if necessary, develop an appropriate plan of action, ”he said.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority, the state agency that operates the New York subway system, did not respond to requests for comment.
The results “raise serious health concerns”
In all systems, according to the researchers, underground stations had higher levels of particle pollution than trains between stations. The measurements on the train were higher than at above-ground stations and all measurements were higher than the pollution level outside the transit system.
The researchers wrote that particle pollution analysis found that iron was the most abundant particulate matter in the air in all systems tested, accounting for more than half of the particles collected.
They wrote that data “strongly suggests that the environment (particulates) is not a likely source of pollution in New York City subway stations” and that instead, other sources “such as the continuous dragging of train wheels against the rails, the electricity “shoe collection and diesel soot emissions from maintenance locomotives are important sources. “
The authors were quick to point out that only a few stations were selected in each system and that those stations were chosen on purpose with the expectation that they would have the highest particulate pollution in their system. The New York MTA system stations were “a biased sample” selected based on the results of a previous 2014 study.
“However, our results clearly show that the (particle) concentrations in underground stations, which are measured in underground trains, are much higher than above-ground concentrations (levels), at least during rush hour.”
“Even if (the data) is extreme for these stations,” they continued, “they raise serious health concerns and warrant additional research.”
Kevin O’Toole, chairman of the port authority, agreed on Thursday. “We just got the report, we will be doing a deep dive in the next few days,” he said. “The health and safety of workers and the public is of the utmost importance.”