Why My Allergies Are Acting Up

Emma at Caoine writes today, “I woke up with that horrible burny sore throat and swollen tonsils and my sinuses are full of crap.” Me too. We’re both in Brooklyn. For me, I know it’s an allergic reaction. My theory is that it’s caused by more particulate matter in the air. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation keeps statistics from air sampling stations throughout New York City, which is desginated as Region 2. More and varied data for all regions can be found in the topic index. A variety of data is collected, but today certain graphs offer a clue to the source of sniffles. Their graphs are created on the fly, so I’ve saved those which are relevant. First, there’s PM2.5 – Computer 24 Hr Avg which translates as the 24-hour average of particulate matter of 2.5 microns in aerodynamic diameter or less, as measured in micrograms per cubic meter. Notice all stations report an increase over 24 hours ago. Next, there’s PM10 – Computer 24 Hr Avg which translates as the 24-hour average of particulate matter of 10 microns in aerodynamic diameter or less, as measured in micrograms per cubic meter. Notice how the one station reporting shows an increase over 24 hours ago. Then we have Total Hydrocarbons measured in parts per meter cubed. Notice the massive spike this morning in the Fresh Kills readings. Most of that is methane. In addition, there’s a small rise in the carbon monoxide readings, measured in parts per million and averaged over eight hours. Finally, there’s a change in wind direction. Notice how in the last 24 hours it’s switched from around 320 degrees—more or less to the north-northwest—to around 160 degrees, with a dip as low as 120 or so, which means the wind is headed for the southeast. So where are the hydrocarbons coming from? Not sure. If it were from the other direction, I’d say JFK, because of this: “One 747 arriving and departing from JFK airport in New York City produces as much smog as a car driven over 5,600 miles, and as much polluting nitrogen oxides as a car driven nearly 26,500 miles.” In February, JFK had 20,862 flights. But most likely it’s automobile exhaust from Manhattan and New Jersey, chemical plant burn-off from New Jersey, and take-offs and landings at Newark Liberty International Airport, which had 28,837 flights in February.

Posted April 25, 2003

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