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Mass transit unhealthy!? NYC subways have ‘alarmingly high’ pollution levels – 3 times higher than EPA standards, study finds


Scientists have found “alarmingly high” concentrations of potentially toxic particles in the air in New York City subway stations.

New York University researchers surveyed 271 platforms in December 2021 and found levels of airborne iron particles were a staggering 126 times more than the outdoor average, according to a paper published last month in the International Atmospheric Pollution Research journal.

One study shows iron, which makes up the bulk of the air pollution on the subway, can be neurotoxic if inhaled and is linked to autism, schizophrenia, and ADHD.

Another study showed a correlation between iron inhalation and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory illness, although more research is needed into the health impacts, the NYU scientists noted.

The worst station surveyed was at 181st Street on the 1 line, with an average concentration of airborne particles 17 times higher than the daily average level of metal ions the EPA considers unsafe.

It was followed by 168th Street on the 1 line; Bowling Green on the 5 line; Broadway-Lafayette on the B line, and High Street on the 3 line.

Masoud Ghandehari, the lead investigator, said even he was surprised by the level of pollution found not only on the platforms but on the trains themselves.

Nine lines — the 1, 3, 5, 6, B, C, F, M, and R — all showed average concentrations of particles higher than the EPA’s safety standard while traveling below ground, although they were about half as polluted as the platforms themselves.

The 1 train was the worst, with an average about three times higher than EPA standards.