Air quality is an issue across public health, disability, climate, and more. From ongoing air quality issues caused by wildfire smoke to our experience with COVID-19 and the specter of future pandemics, worrying about air quality has become part of the daily lives of New Yorkers.
We saw during the pandemic that the quality of indoor air can greatly impact the level of risk associated with getting sick or can help exacerbate already existing chronic conditions like asthma and heart disease. But little has been done so far to regulate indoor air quality standards and ensure our refuge from outdoor pollution is actually safe. We spend about 90% of our time indoors; to keep us healthy, we need to make sure our buildings are healthy.
That’s why Borough President Levine and Council Member Keith Powers have introduced a comprehensive package of legislation to set NYC on a path toward better ensuring that we know and can improve the air quality in schools, municipal buildings, and commercial and residential spaces. These bills would require the City to publicly post information and data on air quality in the common spaces of these buildings – including temperatures, humidity, and air changes per hour (where practicable), as well as airborne pollutants like carbon dioxide, monoxide, and particle pollution -:
- Intros 1127 and 1128 would require real-time monitoring and reporting on air quality in public schools and City-owned building common spaces, and would require the creation and updating of rules setting standards for indoor air quality in these buildings annually.
- Intro 1129 would establish a five-year pilot program to monitor indoor air quality in common spaces in commercial buildings, with data shared in real time to participants in these buildings. During the pilot, the City would install real-time indoor air quality monitors in all common spaces regularly open to the public and, with the consent of tenants, in spaces occupied by tenants in buildings participating in the pilot. The data gathered would be posted conspicuously in building common spaces and displayed as a real-time dashboard available to the public.
- Intro 1130 would set up a five-year pilot program to monitor indoor air quality in common spaces of residential buildings, with data shared in real-time to participants in these buildings. As with Intro 1129, the City would install real-time indoor air quality monitors in all common spaces (e.g. lobbies, hallways, gyms), conduct outreach and education, and develop a report summarizing the results and providing recommendations on improving air quality in and developing a permanent air quality regulatory framework for residential buildings.
This package of bills would also require the City to educate New Yorkers about the importance of clean indoor air, including how to understand real-time air quality data and recommendations on how to improve air quality in their buildings.
We know that our indoor air is a key factor for reducing the risk of spreading disease and mitigating flareups of existing chronic illnesses and disabilities. As we address the current and future climate change crises, it is vital that we begin the hard work of ensuring that our air is healthy and clean. These bills begin us on that path.