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Bad News: There’s Gross Stuff in the Air You’re Breathing

Everybody knows that New York City’s air is questionable at best, but you may be surprised by some of the things this scientist found fluttering around the city’s streets.

Take a deep breath. Smell that fresh spring air? Chances are, if you live in New York City, the answer to that question is an immediate and resounding “no.”

Scientist, author, and seasoned air expert, Bill Logan, recently conducted an experiment to determine what exactly New Yorkers are breathing in on a daily basis. The results revealed a surprisingly wide range of materials — in addition to the expected pollutants like pollen, exhaust fumes, and dust.

Interestingly enough, air content can paint a remarkably accurate picture of a specific neighborhood’s cultural and commercial makeup. For example, the air in particularly diverse neighborhoods, like Midtown, contained skin cells from a wide variety of races, while Chinatown air was full of fat and starch from all of the Chinese food restaurants in the area.

Intriguing correlations aside, some of the findings were just downright nasty. Let’s take a look at some of the weirder things found floating through the streets of the five boroughs.

Something in the Air

As Logan moved throughout the city with his homemade air quality tester, according to the New Daily News, he discovered the presence of a wide variety of materials, each more interesting than the next.

His first stop was beautiful Brooklyn Heights, an affluent, residential neighborhood west of Downtown Brooklyn. The air here was full of fat molecules — likely from the kitchens of the neighborhood’s many restaurants and bars. The area is also in close proximity to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which meant that the air contained tiny bits of rubber and silica glass. Yikes.

The now-trendy Williamsburg, tested positive for bits of denim and other natural fibers, nail polish, pollen, and even human hair — unsurprising, considering the overwhelming abundance of hipsters in the neighborhood.

The blocks surrounding Times Square — full of cars and humans — were unsurprisingly teeming with dead skin cells, soot, tire rubber, and carbon from automobile exhaust. Meanwhile, the air in the South Bronx was saturated with noxious fumes, like carbon, diesel exhaust, and bits of rubber.

And in East Elmhurst, Queens, Logan detected significant samples of rust spores, miniature glass fragments, carbon exhaust, and even flecks of insect exoskeletons.

With all of these strange and occasionally toxic materials floating around, it’s no wonder that the asthma rate in New York City is higher than in any other major city in the United States, as the New York Times reports.

In fact, a study indicated that in Central Harlem, up to one in four children suffer from the disease. To put that into perspective, there are no well-known case studies indicating levels above 20% anywhere else in the country.

Pick Your Battles

While we certainly can’t control the air floating through the city streets, we can exercise a certain amount of control over the indoor air quality (IAQ) of our own homes and workspaces. If you consider the fact that most Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors (according to the EPA), improving IAQ is more critical than ever — especially if you’re a New Yorker, or a citizen of any metropolitan area, for that matter. 

Particulate matter like dust, haze, and smoke enter your living spaces through poorly ventilated or sealed off rooms, negatively affecting your IAQ. If there are cracks in your windows and doors or openings in your air vents, your home isn’t adequately protecting you from the dangers of the urban outdoors.

Cutting-edge air filtration systems, like those offered by Rabbit Air, are simple, powerful tools that can help you in the battle against unhealthy air. Rabbit Air purifiers employ a four-stage filtration system that will capture the smallest and most “unique” particles the Big Apple has to offer, making the space around you safer, healthier, and toxin-free.

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