Air Kills! Health Advisory Puts Brooklyn On Notice

Smog over Manhattan and Brooklyn - Courtesy of urbanfeel via Flickr

Whenever I see a Notify NYC alert in my inbox, I half expect it to be announcing the end of days.

Usually, though, reality falls far short of my expectations, and Notify NYC is sending a note about low-flying planes or something banal going on nowhere near here (and that’s good… boring, but good).

Today, though, I got this one:

Notification issued 06/04/10 at 11:40 AM. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and The Bronx from 1 PM to 10 PM today.  For more information visit the NY State DEC website at

My first impression is that if city officials want people to read this stuff and take it seriously, they need to make it sound less… er… trival. Or boring. Okay, maybe they’d be going overboard with a headline like “Ozone On Murderous Rampage” or “Air Will Kill Your Children and Grandparents.” But it would get people’s attention!

Moving on, the facts behind this Air Quality Health Advisory is that the Department of Environmental Conservation is forecasting a day chock full o’ ozone. The NYC Metro has an air quality index of 125 today due to those zany pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources that react chemically in the presence of sunlight.

To put that in perspective, 50 or below is the score you want. We were at 85 yesterday and expect 70 tomorrow. Those are moderate levels and even people with sensitive respiratory issues should be fine, so long as they don’t exert themselves for too long.

An air quality index of 125, however, is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Active children and adults, and people with lung disease, such as asthma, should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

So, if you’ve got asthma, it looks like you just scored yourself a day sitting inside with air conditioning and watching TV. That’s right – good for you, and screw us chumps who have to swim around New York City’s pollutant stew.