Data provided by
|2||The Caedmon School|
|3||State route 143|
|5||Fresh Kills West|
|8||Public School 274|
|9||City College of new York|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
5:57, Aug 11
live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Moderate||58 US AQI||PM2.5|
|Close your windows to avoid dirty outdoor air|
|Sensitive groups should reduce outdoor exercise|
|Saturday, Aug 8|
Good28 US AQI
|Sunday, Aug 9|
Good50 US AQI
|Monday, Aug 10|
Moderate55 US AQI
Moderate82 US AQI
|Wednesday, Aug 12|
Moderate68 US AQI
|Thursday, Aug 13|
Moderate54 US AQI
|Friday, Aug 14|
Moderate57 US AQI
|Saturday, Aug 15|
Good33 US AQI
|Sunday, Aug 16|
Moderate81 US AQI
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Despite being the most populous city in the United States, New York City has relatively clean air on average. For the last three years (2017, 2018, and 2019), New York’s air quality index (AQI) has remained less than 50, or “good.” The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines “good” air quality as air that poses little to no risk to health.
PM2.5, or fine particulate matter, is a dangerous and prevalent air pollutant, widely regarded as one of the most harmful to human health. The World Health Organization (WHO) uses a slightly more stringent threshold for PM2.5 levels than the US EPA (< 10 μg/m3). Since at least 2017, New York air quality has consistently fallen within this target (2017, 2018, and 2019 averaged 6.8, 7, and 7 μg/m3 respectively). These annual PM2.5 levels are comparable to the air quality of Taos, New Mexico and Waco, Texas (6.9 and 6.8 μg/m3, respectively).
While low PM2.5 levels meeting the < 10 μg/m3 target are recommended, the WHO advises that no level of exposure has been shown to be free of health impacts.1 Current New York air pollution levels continue to threaten communities, particularly lower-income neighborhoods, and raise the risk for heart and lung health complications. The New York Health Department estimates that PM2.5 pollution contributes to more than 3,000 deaths and 2,000 hospital admissions for coronary and respiratory conditions annually.2 A PM2.5 reduction of 10% could reduce the number of deaths and hospital emissions by 300 and 200, respectively. Majid Ezzati, from Imperial’s School of Public Health, concluded in a recent study that further lowering the PM2.5 standard below the current level can provide an opportunity to save more lives and equalize the health of New York residents across income levels.3
While annual averages for particulate pollution pass most guidelines, the city continues to struggle with ozone pollution. Ozone is among the most dangerous gaseous pollutants and a critical component of smog. The State of the Air Report published by the American Lung Association gave New York City an “F” for ozone pollution.4 This rating was provided on the basis that 5.5 days in 2019 exceeded the national 8-hr ozone standard of 70 ppb.
A 2011 analysis found that roughly 10% of hospital visits for asthma in New York City are attributable to ozone pollution.5 Staten Island, Southern Brooklyn, Central Queens, and the Northwest Bronx have the highest ozone-related death rates.
While city-wide ozone has decreased significantly in the last three decades, ozone still presents one of the greatest environmental health threats to residents. Tackling ozone pollution is challenging, however, as it’s a gas pollutant that is created in the atmosphere from precursor pollutants reacting in sunlight. Precursor pollutants are sometimes emitted in other cities and states as well as from New York City’s high vehicle congestion. Rising temperatures as a result of climate change are expected to further exacerbate this problem.
Monitoring air pollution data and taking action to reduce pollution exposure are the first steps in protecting oneself from associated adverse health effects. Refer to the top of this page for New York’s forecast air quality data and live air quality data.
New York air quality has improved over the past several decades. More recent progress, however, has been relatively stagnant. 2017 to 2018 observed a very small increase in PM2.5 pollution of 0.2 μg/m3, while 2018 to 2019 remained unchanged in terms of annual PM2.5 average (7 μg/m3). A gradual shift towards more electric vehicles and cleaner energy provides an opportunity to drive emissions and pollution levels down further in the future.
In March of 2020, New York became the epicenter of the US COVID-19 outbreak. Lockdown measures were put in place on a state and city level in order to slow the spread of the virus. During this lockdown period, New York observed a 25% reduction in fine particle pollution (PM2.5) as compared to the same time period in 2019, according to the COVID-19 Air Quality Report. During the analyzed three-week period (March 23 - April 13, 2020), 100% of hours were in the best US AQI “good” category (up from 94% in 2019). Several hours experienced PM2.5 levels below 1.3 μg/m3 (or AQI 5), an extremely rare event for the largest city in the U.S., and while these reductions were brief, they provide insights into what could be achieved if the city depended on more electric or clean transport and reduced or cleaner industry.
New York’s unhealthy air quality is primarily attributable to high ozone levels. Ozone occurs in the atmosphere when high temperatures (over 80°F) cause pollutants, nitrogen oxides, and reactive organic substances from vehicles and smokestack combustion to react. In 2019, New York was deemed “nonattainment” for ozone pollution as a result of several high pollution episodes.
Despite relatively strict emission controls, New York’s high population density and heavy vehicle traffic poses the city’s greatest challenge to tackling air pollution. The city has been legislating for ‘cleaner’ mass transport in hopes of further reducing traffic congestion.
While particle pollution meets annual “attainment” levels, as established by the US EPA, it still contributes to thousands of deaths and hospital visits annually. The majority of fine particles in New York City’s air originate from outside of the city, and local sources account for differences within the city. Primary sources include transport exhaust, particularly from cars, heavy-duty trucks, ships, and planes, industrial businesses on the city outskirts and residential buildings in New York City that burn residual fuel oil.
New York’s summer and winter are traditionally more polluted than the spring and fall. This trend is attributable to unique winter weather, including cool air inversions, and summer weather, including abundant sunshine that creates atmospheric ozone from precursor gases. New York’s most polluted months in 2019 for PM2.5 pollution were July (9.1 μg/m3), January (8.7 μg/m3), and December (8.4 μg/m3).
Explore New York’s air pollution map to observe how local emission sources (such as major roadways and burning residual oil) account for differences in PM2.5.
+ Article Resources
 Air quality guidelines – global update 2005. (2020).
 Kheirbek I, et al. (2011). Air pollution and the health of New Yorkers: the impact of fine particles and ozone.
 Bennett J, et al. (2019). Particulate matter air pollution and national and county life expectancy loss in the USA: A spatiotemporal analysis.
 State of the Air – 2020. (2020).
 Crean S. (2014). While improving, city's air quality crisis quietly persists.