A new air quality study conducted by the city Health Department has found that Sunnyside and Woodside were the most polluted borough neighborhoods in three out of four air contaminant categories, while the Rockaways ranked among the cleanest.
Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck were found to have lower amounts of two pollutants, but ranked in the middle for the other two categories. Other neighborhoods with higher levels of air pollution were Long Island City, Astoria, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona.
From December 2008 to March 2009, the city tested every city neighborhood for four air pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, elemental carbon and fine particle PM2.5, which Health Department Director of Environmental Research Thomas Matte said “has the strongest connection to public health.”
Elemental carbon, PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide are primarily released into the air by vehicles, Matte said. Sulfur dioxide is more of an industrial-based chemical compound. Elemental carbon is often caused by truck traffic, he said.
“For many neighborhoods, the cleanest air depends on what part of the neighborhood you live in,” Matte said. “If you live near one of the busy freeways that run through Queens, the average for your entire neighborhood isn’t so relevant for where you live. It’s as important where you are in your neighborhood as what neighborhood you are in.”
Matte said air pollution in most Queens neighborhoods was most influenced by whether those communities had heavy traffic and large buildings.
Sunnyside and Woodside had the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide, elemental carbon and fine particle PM2.5, whereas Elmhurst and South Corona were most polluted by sulfur dioxide. Other western Queens neighborhoods that ranked higher on each list were Long Island City, Astoria, Jackson Heights, North Corona, Ridgewood, Glendale and Maspeth.
Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck had lower levels of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, but the northeast Queens neighborhoods ranked in the middle for elemental carbon and PM2.5.
Most South Queens neighborhoods had cleaner air. Queens Village and Rosedale had the least amount of sulfur dioxide, but Jamaica, St. Albans and Hollis had higher levels of nitrogen dioxide.
The Rockaways and Broad Channel had the cleanest air in all categories.
“Air pollution is a problem in New York City that is difficult to break down to specific neighborhoods — there’s a lot of overlap,” Matte said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2009 Community News Group
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