Across the United States and in New York City, air quality has improved over the last 20 years as a result of measures implemented to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. In 1990, the revised Clean Air Act allowed for the EPA to better enforce regulations reducing air pollutant emissions, limiting the degree of air pollutants across the nation. Nevertheless, air quality in New York City and many other metropolitan areas still does not meet clean air standards, while new scientific studies link air pollution to various public health issues including asthma, heart disease and certain cancers.
As part of the New York City environmental sustainability plan known as , several initiatives have been launched to reduce local emissions beyond the steps required by Federal and State regulations. PlaNYC acknowledged that better information was needed to understand how air quality varies between neighborhoods to better target and prioritize air quality improvement efforts in the future. As a result, The Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launched the New York City Community Air Survey (NYCCAS) in December 2008.
The NYCCAS program monitors pollutants that cause health problems such as fine particles, nitrogen oxides, elemental carbon (a marker for diesel exhaust particles), sulfur dioxide and ozone. NYCCAS air pollution measurements are taken at 100 locations throughout New York City in each season. Monitors are mounted 10 to 12 feet off the ground on public light poles or utility poles along streets and in some parks. The portable ambient air monitors use battery-powered pumps and filters to collect air samples.
The analysis of the monitoring data involves the use of statistical models, developing associations between measured pollution and sources near the monitoring sites such as traffic density or boilers in buildings. The NYCCAS statistical model provides estimates of air pollution concentrations across New York City.
Holger Eisl, Ph.D. is an environmental scientist with backgrounds in physics, engineering and urban planning. He received his graduate education at the Technical University of Berlin (Germany) and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Eisl's research interest centers on the analysis of environmental, energy and resource issues and providing citizens and community organizations that are concerned with these problems with technical and scientific advice.
Dr. Eisl is currently co-director of the New York City Community Air Survey in a joint project with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He oversees all activities related to the collection of ambient air monitoring data, lab analysis, and data validation procedures for the NYCCAS project. Under his direction, the Center works on new and innovative air monitoring instruments and performs field testing of environmental monitoring devices.
Steven Markowitz, M.D. is a physician specializing in occupational and environmental medicine. Dr. Markowitz is currently Director of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems (CBNS) and Professor of Environmental Sciences at Queens College, City University of New York. He is also Adjunct Professor of Community and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he was on the full-time faculty from 1986 to 1998. He received his undergraduate education at Yale University and his medical degree from Columbia University. Dr. Markowitz is board-certified in occupational and environmental medicine and internal medicine.
Dr. Markowitz currently directs the Worker Health Protection Program, a medical screening program for former Department of Energy workers who built the nuclear weapon arsenal of the United States. This program is co-sponsored by the United Steelworkers International Union and the Atomic Trades & Labor Council. This program conducts the largest early lung cancer detection project in occupational health in the country through the application of low-dose helical CAT scanning. To date, over 10,000 workers who were exposed to asbestos, uranium, and other lung carcinogens have been screened for lung cancer in this program.
Dr. Markowitz co-directs the North Shore-LIJ/Queens College World Trade Center Clinical Center of Excellence and monitors the health of over 2,000 WTC workers and provides treatment services to WTC workers with 9/11-related health conditions.
Dr. Markowitz' research interests center on occupational and environmental disease surveillance; occupational cancer; asbestos-related diseases; and the burden and costs of occupational diseases and injuries. Dr. Markowitz is Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. He is Associate Editor with William Rom MD of a major textbook, Environmental and Occupational Medicine, (4nd Edition, Lippincott William and Wilkens, New York, 2007, 1884 pp.). In 2000, he co-authored a landmark book, Costs of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (University of Michigan Press). He has additionally served as a consultant to the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, and the Department of Energy.
John E. Gorczynski Jr. is the Laboratory Director for the Queens College-based NYCCAS Laboratory. He is a Certified Laboratory Scientist and was previously the Manager of Instrumentation Services for 34 years at the New York University Medical Center's Department of Environmental Medicine in Tuxedo, NY. John's work included design and fabrication of specialized air monitoring instruments, specifically a Multi-Port Sequential PM2.5 and PM10 Sampler using a touch tone screen for programming which has been used to collect environmental samples continuously for 14 days from the World Trade Center disaster site. Since joining Queens College in January of 2008, he has designed and fabricated with the collaboration of Dr. Eisl a portable battery operated PM2.5 and NOX/NO2/SO2, O3 Sampler. These samplers are fully programmable and unique; being the first of its kind to measure PM2.5 and gaseous pollutants at street level. John is an expert in the calibration, programming and data analysis of analytical instruments such as HPLC, IC, AA (GFAAS), ICP(MS), Reflectometry and XRF.