Where does particulate matter come from?
Particulates in the air can result from man-made or natural processes. Natural processes for particulates include common household dust that may contain mold, pollen, and small insect parts.
Man-made causes of particulates include combustion processes and products such as tobacco smoke, car exhaust, power plants, wood stoves, oil burners or other heating systems, and spray painting.
Another major cause is diesel-powered equipment at construction sites (see answer 3 below for more details), which LMCCC aims to minimize by coordinating compliance with diesel emission rules and regulations.
How does PM affect us?
Particulates affect the body when they are inhaled. The size of the particle often determines where in the body the particle may come to rest and possibly correlate to health. For example, if pollen enters into the breathing zone, it may be captured in the nose or upper airways.
The mucous and tiny hairs that line our bodies’ airways can capture the pollen, preventing it from entering the lungs. Smaller particles, such as silica, tobacco smoke, lead, office equipment materials, and combustion by-products get past the nose and upper airways and are deposited in the lungs. This is one of the main reasons LMCCC monitors the emissions from off-road construction vehicles, which are diesel fuelled.
What are steps taken by LMCCC to mitigate fugitive dust and emissions?
LMCCC monitors construction sites on a regular basis to check for any sources of fugitive dust. For example, soil and dirt tracked out by construction vehicles could dry up and become a source of fugitive dust. Whether there is visible dust or not, LMCCC encourages construction sites to keep the driveways and other areas where the ground is exposed wetted down at all times. Wetting minimizes fugitive dust.
In the case of off-road construction vehicles, LMCCC inspectors perform monthly checks at all major construction sites in Lower Manhattan to check for retrofitting of vehicles with Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF), which have been shown to reduce the particulate emissions by up to 90%.
What is the current condition of air quality in Lower Manhattan?
Particulate matter data obtained from the four stationary monitors, mobile dust monitoring, and other sources show that air quality is generally considered good or moderate per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of the Air Quality Index. LMCCC does not monitor or evaluate other air pollutants, such as ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, or nitrogen oxides.