New North Brooklyn Air Quality Report Released

By Matthew Fischetti

A new report studying air quality in North Brooklyn found  “concerning but not conclusive results” results.

The study, completed by North Brooklyn Neighbors in collaboration with NYU Grossman School of Health, analyzed the air quality across the neighborhood over a 13 month span, measured from November 2020 to December 2021.

The study measured three different types of air pollutants: Volatile organic Compounds (VOCs), a broad group of chemicals which are typically used as industrial solvents; Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), naturally occurring chemicals found the occur from combustion of oil or gasoline; and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), , which are tiny particles or droplets found in the air defined by their size.

The study sampled five sites across North Brooklyn: Satmar Matzah Bakers at 427 Broadway, United Transit Mix 318 Boerum Street, Entrance Ramp to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway at Roebling and South 4th Streets, Scheel Corporation at 28 Franklin Street and McGuinness Boulevard.

The report does note that the testing cannot “positively identify that the contaminants found are attributable to the specific facilities that we tested near” and calls for additional monitoring to have a more comprehensive report.

Every sample collected found elevated levels of Benzene, a type of VOC,  above the level the state determines to be a safe standard. Benzene, a common byproduct of the plastics industries, is known to be carcinogenic and cause other serious health effects like anemia with longtime exposure.

The report also found that fine particulate matter, PM2.5, exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual standards in five out of eight cases. PM 2.5 is known to cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system in the short term while long-term exposure is associated with increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease.

The report also notes that while not all samples exceed the state’s guidelines, that residents should be wary about the amount of exposure.

“It is important to note that while presumably based in science, exposure guidelines are also subject to politics. Just as it was once acceptable to smoke inside a restaurant, we now do not accept that as protective of human health,” the report reads “Frequently, when guidelines are updated, levels which were deemed safe become more conservative.”

Assemblywoman Gallagher told the Greenpoint Star in a statement that her office is actively exploring state legislation that “improves air quality data collection, transparency, and mitigation.”

“Greenpoint and Williamsburg have long suffered from poor, sometimes dangerous air quality as a result of a toxic industrial legacy and destructive infrastructure like the BQE,” Gallagher said in a statement. “I am committed to working closely with our federal and local partners to make sure everyone feels empowered with the real-time facts they deserve.”

Editors Note: Emily Gallagher is a former Greenpoint Star Columnist

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