Air Matters

Student | Yanxin Mao
Faculty | Leonel Ponce, Ira Stern
School of Architecture, Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment

This project seeks to assess community needs in the fight against air pollution, evaluate monetary cost of pollutants, specifically PM 2.5, and raise public awareness in the South Bronx community by working with New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. A behavioral change framework encourages participation and action through existing advocacy and community networks. A monetary analysis tool informs stakeholders and incentivizes discussion about how poor air quality imposes greater burden to this underserved community

PM2.5 (particle matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers) is the most common and problematic pollutant generated by air pollution sources. It can cause asthma, cancer, and other illnesses, and cannot be filtered out by the respiratory system. Pathology of Asthma, source: Alila Medical Images.
Concentrations of PM 2.5 are highest around congested highways and critical infrastructure. While PM 2.5 pollution has recently decreased across the city, it has remained high in the South Bronx. Source: South Bronx Environmental health and policy Study, NYU.
This map of NYC child asthma emergency department visits shows that communities in the South Bronx have some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in The City. Source: NYC DOHMH New York City Community Health Profiles, 2018 Map Atlas
NYC – EJA has been working with local community-based organizations to monitor air quality in the South Bronx. Workshops by Youth Ministry of Peace and Justice (YMPJ) and the Barry Commoner Center For Health and the Environment help residents understand air pollution and use of monitoring equipment. Source: YMPJ.
Adaptive actions reduce exposure to polluted air, such as wearing a face mask and/or reducing outdoor activities during busy hours. Mitigative measures, which aim to reduce source pollution, include public transit usage, environmental campaigns to limit emission of air pollutants from truck traffic such as PM 2.5.
This study focuses on the potential to motivate local residents, local organizations and government agencies to take actions against worsening air pollution, and protect themselves from harm, by estimating the heath cost brought by increased PM 2.5 in the air and delivering the message to different stakeholders.
The overall monetary cost of PM 2.5 in the South Bronx is 11.56 % of the household income per year, if the burden is shared by everyone in the community. However, for those who have patients in their house or who have lost someone due to asthma or other induced disease, the cost could be much higher.