Health impacts of air pollution datasets:

About Health impacts of air pollution

Air pollution is an important environmental threat to the health of New York City residents. Exposures to two common air pollutants, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3), can worsen respiratory illness and heart conditions and contribute to premature deaths. Older adults, children and people with existing heart and lung disease are especially affected. This site provides estimates of the impact of air pollution on the health of NYC residents as measured by the numbers of emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths attributable to PM2.5 and ozone.

About PM2.5, Ozone and Health

Fine particulate matter, also known as (PM2.5), are small airborne particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs. Major sources of PM2.5 include trucks, buses and cars, and the burning of fossil fuel to generate electric power and heat buildings. Exposure to particulate matter has been linked to breathing problems, reduced lung function, heart disease and premature death. Ozone, also called smog, causes irritation and inflammation of the lungs and worsening of asthma.

About the Data and Indicators

PM2.5 and ozone attributable health events are estimated using well established health impact methods often used to estimate the changes in the number of illnesses and deaths that could occur in a population if air pollution concentrations were reduced by a specified amount. This method:

  • Uses air quality monitoring data from EPA’s Air Quality System to characterize current or baseline air pollution levels
  • Specifies comparison of air quality conditions, such as background levels of air pollution without any man-made emissions, also called modeled natural background level
  • Computes change in air pollution levels as the difference between the current level and the comparison level for each neighborhood
  • Uses the change in air pollution levels, concentration-response functions from epidemiological studies, and information about the local population and baseline emergency room visits, hospitalization and death rates to calculate the health impact associated with the change in air quality in each neighborhood.

See report for detailed descriptions of health impact methodologies.


To help improve air quality and reduce the risk of health effects from air pollution:

  • Choose a cleaner commute - walk, bike or use mass transit instead of a car, especially during rush hour.
  • Support policies that promote public transportation and energy conservation.
  • Spend less time outdoors and in strenuous physical activity on poor air quality days. Avoid being outdoors in the middle of the day when pollution levels are highest.
  • Know how sensitive you are to air pollution, and plan outdoor activities when and where pollution levels are lower. Local TV and radio stations report air quality forecasts, and you can track the Air Quality Index.

Key Messages

Air pollution is an important environmental threat to the health of New York City residents, even small improvements in air quality can lead to large public health benefits. Many contributors to poor air quality in NYC are targeted for improvements in the City’s long-term planning and sustainability plan, OneNYC Air Quality. Continuing and expanding these and other efforts at the State and Federal level can result in large benefits to the health of New York City residents.

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