Spatial and temporal trends of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other traffic-related airborne pollutants in New York City

Traffic-related air pollutants have been associated with adverse health effects. We hypothesized that exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), elemental carbon (EC, diesel indicator), particulate matter (PM2.5), and a suite of metals declined from 1998 to 2006 in NYC due to policy interventions. PAH levels from personal monitoring of pregnant mothers participating in the Columbia’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health birth cohort study, and EC, PM2.5, and metal data from five New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stationary monitors were compared across sites and over time (1998–2006). Univariate analysis showed a decrease in personal PAHs exposures from 1998 to 2006 (p < 0.0001). After controlling for environmental tobacco smoke, indoor heat, and cooking, year of personal monitoring remained a predictor of decline in Σ8PAHs (β = −0.269, p < 0.001). Linear trend analysis also suggested that PM2.5 declined (p = 0.09). Concentrations of EC and most metals measured by stationary site monitors, as measured by ANOVA, did not decline. Across stationary sites, levels of airborne EC and metals varied considerably. By contrast PM2.5 levels were highly intercorrelated (values ranged from 0.725 to 0.922, p < 0.01). Further policy initiatives targeting traffic-related air pollutants may be needed for a greater impact on public health.

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