KINGSTON, N.Y. — The city is partnering with the Center for the Study of Land, Air, and Water at Bard College to monitor Kingston’s air quality and work to ensure residents have access to clean air.
The Kingston Air Quality Initiative, announced by the city on Monday, is a result of that partnership between the college and the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council’s Air Quality Subcommittee. The initiative has been collecting data since January that will provide baseline information about Kingston’s air quality.
Monitoring is being conducted by Kingston residents, and students, staff, and faculty of the Bard Community Science Lab, the city said in a press release announcing the initiative.
“Studies have shown that exposure to certain air pollutants can lead to serious health problems, and we know that climate change is likely to exacerbate the connections between air quality and human health,” Mayor Steve Noble said in a prepared statement. “Recent research has also shown that there is increased vulnerability to COVID-19 for those exposed to poor air quality.
“This is the first time we will have hard data to help us drive policy and/or operational decisions in the future in Kingston,” Noble said. “This partnership is crucial to the public health crisis we are now facing, and also for future generations.”
Eli Dueker, director of the Center for the Study of Land, Air, and Water at Bard College, said access to clean air is an international issue.
“Although Kingston’s air quality is, for the most part, doing well, we know that increased traffic, train activity, wood burning, and household heating systems can contribute to short-term air quality issues and long-term health issues if not appropriately managed,” Dueker said, also is a prepared statement. “This research addresses what Kingston needs to be able to meet its sustainability goals long-term.”
Lorraine Farina, who chairs the Air Quality Subcommittee, said the group has been working with the Kingston Fire Department to enforce the city air pollution code, and on educating residents about the serious health and environmental effects of air pollution.
Farina said gathering data in collaboration with Bard is a critical first step in making informed decisions and maintaining good air quality.
The Kingston Air Quality Initiative’s initial monitoring efforts are focused on fine particulate matter called PM2.5 because they can be inhaled and penetrate a person’s lungs, the press release stated. It said the short-term effects of exposure can be premature death, increased infant mortality, and increased severity of heart and asthma attacks, while longer-term effects include the development of asthma, heart disease, cancer and dementia, and increased susceptibility to respiratory conditions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set the 24-hour standard for PM2.5 at 35 micrograms per cubic meter, while the World Health Organization states PM2.5 affects human health at any level of exposure, according to the press release.
Major outdoor sources of PM2.5 include vehicle exhaust and wood or oil burning.
Data collected so far indicates Kingston is meeting 24-hour standards, the release said.