Health: Air Pollution in US Subway Systems

The Story:

An investigation by The Guardian indicates that commuters using the subway systems in several US cities are exposed to unsafe amounts of particulate matter thrown into the air by the friction between train wheels and rails. New York City’s system had 251 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter, followed by Washington DC with 145 micrograms per cubic meter.


The Guardian, a daily British paper that has been around since the 1820s, quoted Terry Gordon, a professor at the Grossman School of Medicine, New York University, on the severity of the New York number. “It just wasn’t believable….People should be highly alarmed by these high levels.”

Although there are obviously a lot of pollutants above-ground too in the downtowns of major cities, pollutants that one could inhale waiting for a bus rather than descending into the subway stations, the severity is much great. The open atmosphere at the bus stop allows for the dissipation of the fumes from passing vehicles, for example. But many subway stops are only poorly ventilated.

In Pill Form:

New York’s MTA, asked for comment on the tests, said that it is looking at new air filtration systems.

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