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New York City’s poor air quality is “probably way worse than smoking a cigarette,” health expert says



NEW YORK — Breathing the air in New York City as the region continues to be affected by smoke from wildfires in Canada may be worse than smoking a cigarette, one health expert told CBS2.

Dr. Nidhi Kumar, a cardiovascular specialist and a CBS2 contributor, discussed the impact Wednesday’s poor air quality can have on your health.

“These particles are really, really small, less than 2.5 micrometers. So what that means is that whenever we take a breath in, those particles are going straight into our lungs, deep into our lungs, and our bloodstream, and what that translates to is irritation and inflammation,” Kumar explained.

“Some people have compared it to smoking a cigarette. Is that fair after breathing this for maybe a day or so?” CBS2’s Maurice DuBois asked.

“I mean, it’s probably way worse than smoking a cigarette … What we are dealing with right now are high levels of pollutants, toxins, carbon monoxide, and there’s such a high concentration of it in the atmosphere right now, and that’s causing not only cardiac issues for patients, [but also] pulmonary issues and just general inflammation in the body,” Kumar said.

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Health officials have stressed that everybody, not just immunocompromised and other vulnerable individuals, should stay inside while the air quality health advisory is in effect.

“At the very highest levels of pollution, people without underlying disease are also potentially exposed to symptoms, so everybody’s got to monitor themselves and be aware of worsening symptoms. Those symptoms can include things like cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness,” said Dr. Michael Niederman, a professor and pulmonologist at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Michael Niederman on health dangers of poor air quality


Kumar added that symptoms may linger days after this exposure, so the key is to limit exposure as much as possible.

The air quality index peaked Wednesday at 484. The highest possible AQI is 500.


CBS2’s First Alert Weather team reports we are expected to see a slow improvement in air quality overnight, but it continues to remain at dangerous levels.

An air quality alert remains in effect through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, but it could be extended into Friday. A significant improvement in air quality is expected by the weekend.

Source: CBS

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