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Taylor Halcomb, a student at Parsons, The New School for Design, stands at the corner of Saint Mark’s Place and describes the contrast between the silhouette of a nearby building and setting sun. Commenting on the dark purple mass hovering over the building Halcomb said, “It’s smog. It’s beautiful smog.”
Environment New York issued a report on Sept 21st stating that New York City ranks in the top 10 smoggiest metropolitan areas in America. Ranking the cities by the number of days when the air is unhealthy to breath, New York and Bridgeport, CT were alerted on 27 days this summer; the worst, Los Angeles with 85 days.
A pollutant, smog is derived from the emission of fossil fuels from cars, industrial facilities, and power plants that react with other pollutants when exposed to sunlight. Smog is also caused by large amounts of coal burning in one area, mixing with pollutants in the air. The inhalation of smog could deepen respiratory diseases and lead to asthma attacks, mostly affecting children and the elderly.
“New York City has some of the country’s highest asthma-related hospitalization and mortality rates among children and young adults,” Peggy Shepard, executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action, told Environment New York. “… State and federal governments should accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy.
Danger in the Air: Unhealthy Air Days in 2010 and 2011 also reported 14 days in 2010 (13 in Long Island) where the smog levels exceeded the national health standard. However their research shows that on 14 additional days there were harmful smog days that were not accounted for due to outdated federal air quality rules.
The threshold for smog pollution is set by the Environmental Protection Agency based on the latest science in air quality. However EPA officials claim that the current standard level is not high enough to protect public health. Considering this, the Obama administration met about adjusting the standard this year but deferred the issue in early September until 2013.
In his statement, Obama explained that setting aside the stronger smog standards did not reflect a weakening of his commitment to the protection of the environment and public health.
“I will continue to stand with the hardworking men and women at the EPA as they strive every day to hold polluters accountable and protect our families from harmful pollution,” Obama said.
But at the corner of Saint Mark’s Place, Halcomb devalues Obama’s dismissal. “We’re still dealing with smog. He didn’t help us.” Struggling with asthma, Halcomb admits that he isn’t sure if it’s the smog that has caused it to worsen this summer but says “it can’t be helping, and 2 years is a long time.”