Soot and the city: Evaluating the impacts of Clean Heat policies on indoor/outdoor air quality in New York City apartments

Gould, Carlos Francisco; Chillrud, Steven N.; Phillips, Douglas; Perzanowski, Matthew S.; Hernandez, Diana

New York City has had a long history of implementing local policies to reduce air pollution. Enacted as a part of PlaNYC, the Clean Heat policies aim to lower wintertime ambient air pollution by phasing out dirty No. 6 heating fuel oil and transitioning to comparatively cleaner No. 4, No. 2, or natural gas. This study evaluates the impacts of policies on ambient air pollution and, given that people spend the majority of their time inside, importantly, indoor air pollution. Using a natural experiment, we evaluate the effects of the policies by measuring average two-week levels of indoor and outdoor black carbon (BC) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in 48 upper Manhattan apartments in successive winter heating seasons before and after mandated fuel transition. We failed to observe systematic improvements in indoor BC and PM2.5 concentrations in follow-up. However, outdoor levels of PM2.5 did improve, with statistical differences observed among buildings converting to the cleanest fuels. Non-statistical improvements were observed for outdoor BC. However, when accounting for meteorological differences, apartment characteristics, and behavioral patterns that may have influenced air pollution measurements, these differences were not significant. The study results have important policy and equity implications considering the differential improvements in air quality by conversion to No. 4 oil as compared to the cleaner No. 2 oil and natural gas.

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