Millions of commuters who use underground subway systems in the U.S. are exposed to dangerous rates of air pollution, according to a recent study. The study, which sampled air quality in 71 underground stations across the U.S., has revealed air pollution during the morning and evening rush is nothing short of disastrous. The cities that are most affected include New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C.
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The researchers focused on measuring the level of PM2.5 within these underground transit systems. The recommended safe level of PM2.5 in the air is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. In the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) system, the researchers recorded 251 micrograms per cubic meter. The Washington, D.C. system was another highly contaminated train service, recording 145 micrograms per cubic meter.
The worst-case scenario was recorded at Christopher Street station in Manhattan. The station helps connect New York and New Jersey with its rapid trains. But, unfortunately, at a rate of 1,499 micrograms per cubic meter, the station’s pollution was found to be 77 times that of the air outside.
According to Terry Gordon, professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, the amount of pollution in New York is the most alarming.
“It was the worst pollution ever measured in a subway station, higher than some of the worst days in Beijing or Delhi,” Gordon said of Christopher Street station. “New Yorkers, in particular, should be concerned about the toxins they are inhaling.”
The study’s researchers said that a person commuting daily on these systems is exposed to a higher risk of certain health conditions. They noted that a daily commuter at Christopher Street has a 10% higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
After analyzing the collected samples, researchers realized that the particles contain iron and organic carbon. The carbon is mainly produced from the breakdown of fossil fuels and is linked to respiratory conditions when inhaled.
“This is an important contribution, especially to our understanding of the disproportionate burden of air pollution faced by low-income communities and communities of color,” said Gretchen Goldman, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “As the scientific community works to better understand exposure and potential health effects of air pollution in the urban environment, I hope local decision makers use this valuable work to inform the best ways to address the known racial and socioeconomic inequities in air pollution exposure in U.S. cities.”
Via The Guardian
Image via Wes Hicks