NYC Subway Air is Not as Grody As You Think, Says Study

As a native New Yorker, I’m well accustomed to the state of the city’s subways. And by state, I’m referring to cleanliness. I’ve seen vomit, I’ve smelled urine and of course there haves always been the rats skittering up and down the tracks in between trains. With resignation, I’ve long accepted tThe New York subway system becomes a much more tolerable place whenever a bottle of hand sanitizer was nearby. Stemming along the same vein, I had always been 95% certain that I was inhaling unseen toxins and dust that would come back to haunt me some years down the road. Summers were usually the worst, with the heat and humidity.

However, a study published in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology may surprise you — as it surprised me. We New Yorkers have a reason to literally breathe a little easier.

The study found that the microbial particles in the air within subways are nearly identical to air on the city’s streets. 


That's right. Isn't science cool?

According to the lead investigator of the study, Norman Pace of the University of Chicagoolorado, Boulder said the study’s results “are strong testimony for the efficiency of the train pumping system for ventilation” and found himself impressed by the similarities overall. In addition to air from the city streets, the study also found that microorganisms usually associated with human skin were also charted. It sounds strange, but makes enough sense. 

This study was unprecedented, as nothing quite like it had been done before. According to the introduction of the study, previous experiments that focused on subways were more focused on feasible counts of bacteria and fungi, rather than microorganisms floating in the subway’s air. 

While New Yorkers apparently don't have to worry about any funky pollution or biology beyond the average amounts of pollution and biology while catching the train, the same can't be said for other areas of the world, such as China that struggle greatly with maintaining healthy air quality. 

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Zainab Akande

Born and raised in New York City, Zainab is a University of Delaware alum, currently working on obtaining her M.A. in journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York. http://zainabakande.com/

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