NYC’s Ban on Heating Oil Helped Clean the Air

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8, 2021 (HealthDay News) — New York City’s ban on a certain type of heating oil led to significant reductions in air pollutants that pose a risk to health, new research shows.

“It is very encouraging to see the overall success of the Clean Heat Program in reducing pollution levels in the city, and particularly exciting to find that the policy is effective in both low- and high-income neighborhoods,” lead author Mike He said in a Columbia University news release. He did the research as a doctoral student at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Under the Clean Heat Program, the city banned heating oil #6 in 2016. Till then, three types of heating oil were used in the city — #6, #4 and ultra-low sulfur oil #2.

Both #6 and #4 are classified as residual heating oils, which were identified as a major source of air pollution in New York City and linked to numerous health risks, including heart disease.

As the lightest of the three, oil #2 is considered a cleaner energy alternative. Any newly installed boilers have to burn oil #2.

Heating oil conversions in buildings began in 2012, so the authors compared data from 2011 and 2016 — when #6 was banned — to assess changes in air pollution.

They found significant reductions in fine-particle (PM2.5) pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The reductions were attributable to the ban of oil #6 and independent of other sources of air pollution, such as traffic.

“Given the well-established associations of SO2, PM2.5 and NO2 with numerous adverse health outcomes, the reductions in these air pollutants are likely to result in several potential health benefits and in general improve population health outcomes in New York City,” said senior author Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia.

The findings were published Dec. 8 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

More information

The World Health Organization has more on air pollution and health.

SOURCE: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, news release, Dec. 8, 2021