New York City’s air quality has improved in recent decades, as the City and State have worked to lower emissions from regional and local sources. Despite this progress, air pollution remains a leading environmental health threat to all New Yorkers. Those most at risk include older adults, children and people with preexisting health conditions.
Throughout the year, the city may experience poor air quality due to a high level of fine particles — called PM2.5 — in the air. Exposure to PM2.5 can worsen serious health problems, including heart and lung diseases. That contributes to more hospitalizations and emergency department visits and shortens life expectancy.
During the summer, warm weather and strong sunshine can lead to high levels of ground-level ozone. This is a component of smog that can trigger coughing and throat irritation and lead to other serious respiratory problems. Children and people with lung diseases, such as asthma, are most vulnerable to ground-level ozone. It is also a risk for healthy adults who work or exercise outdoors.
For more information about the impact of ozone and PM2.5, read Air Pollution and the Health of New Yorkers (PDF).