Is Air Pollution Silently Killing Your Children?

Are you aware of the health effects that impact infants that are born in air polluted communities such as Inwood, Washington Heights, Harlem and the South Bronx?

About 725 African-American and Latino pregnant women participate in a study conducted by Columbia University that monitors their infants from birth to about fourteen years of age. These mothers live in Inwood, Washington Heights, Harlem, and the South Bronx. According to, the “Northern Manhattan community asthma mortality and morbidity rate is up to five times greater than the citywide average and hospitalization rates for asthma are 21 times higher than the least affected neighborhood.” The air pollution in these communities has been proven to be harmful to children’s health. The study showed that children born to mothers that are exposed to high levels of air pollution may demonstrate negative health effects such as: high rates of asthma, low birth weight, smaller head circumferences, and impaired cognitive development. Impaired cognitive development can cause children who don’t retain information as fast as other children.
According to the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are a group of chemicals released into the air during the incomplete burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel, coal and other organic substances. Exposure to PAH’s begins in the womb and it is contracted from combustion related air pollution, pesticides in common home pest control products, and pest allergens in the home which can result in asthma and other respiratory symptoms. PAH’s may delay a child’s cognitive development and increase children’s risk of getting cancer. PAH’s can enter into the placenta and reduce fetal growth and cognitive functioning.

New York City is one of the few places in America that still burns No. 6 oil in their boilers to heat up buildings during the winter. The burning of heavy oil emits particulate matter, metals, and other chemicals.  The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has found that wintertime PM2.5 concentrations are on average of 30% higher in neighborhoods where heavy oil is used, compared to those where it is not. When PM2.5 becomes embedded into people‘s lungs it can aggravate existing respiratory diseases such as asthma and can cause heart attacks or other cardiovascular episodes. Airborne nickel was also significantly elevated in these areas. Overall, nickel concentrations were found to be nine times higher in NYC than those of any other large U.S. city.

According to NYC Clean Heat, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued regulations that will require buildings to convert from heavy oils No. 6 and No. 4 to cleaner fuels. With this regulation their goal is to achieve a 50 percent reduction in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions from building burning heavy oil by the end of 2013; accomplishing all this it will save lives. More than 300,000 children have been diagnosed with asthma in the city, because of the air pollution.

In conclusion, by eliminating heavy oils and using cleaner fuels we might see dramatic health benefits. According to NYC Clean Heat, it will save 120 lives a year, prevent 200 emergency room visits and 77 hospitalizations. This will save parents whose children suffer from combustion related illnesses hundreds of dollars in hospital bills yearly.


One response to “Is Air Pollution Silently Killing Your Children?

  1. Pingback: Converting from No. 6 to a Cleaner Fuel Doesn’t Have to be Expensive | Energy Efficiency Initiatives in Multifamily Buildings in Northern Manhattan·

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