Manhattan received a D rating for “High Ozone Days” from the American Lung Association. This grade is calculated by measuring the amount of days in which the air was more polluted than usual. If a county has a weighted average of 0, it receives an A. Receiving a D means Manhattan has a weighted average of 2.1 – 3.2, or 7-9 days over the standard pollution levels.
So how do we get a better grade? One way is to greatly reduce the amount of cars on the road. The issue is that we depend on cars to get to work. Many professionals that work in Manhattan drive in from the outer boroughs, emitting CO2 and polluting the air we breathe. Although hundreds of thousands already rely on our subway system because of the heavy road traffic, it’s unimaginable that New Yorkers will choose to stop driving their minivans.
But what if those New Yorkers faced the facts that air pollution isn’t a concept, it affects our health each and every day. There are roughly 1.6 million Manhattan residents. According to the American Lung Association, more than 21,000 children in New York live with asthma, as do 135,743 adults. Almost 112,000 people have been diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases in Manhattan alone. These health conditions are often linked to the air quality we have. Although scientists and doctors cannot attribute a person’s asthma or cardiovascular disease to one decisive element like air pollution, it has been inferred that the relation definitely exists. It brings to mind the studies talked about in Merchants of Doubt, in which tobacco could not be proven to cause a specific case of lung cancer, but it’s the most logical cause for the huge spike in lung cancer worldwide. Furthermore, the air quality of an entire city is not as isolated as some cigarette smoke. The air that we pollute can travel many miles to neighboring states and countries, affecting millions of people.
There are small changes we can make to decrease air pollution, like only driving an energy-efficient car when absolutely necessary. We can ride bikes more, and petition to take older, polluting NYC buses out of transit. We can push to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals released from our factories. Lastly, we can plant trees and greenery that soak up CO2 we create. The world looks to our generation for these changes.