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Mayor: Air Quality Cleanest In 50 Years

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The city's air is cleaner now than it has been in more than half a century, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday.

City officials say since 2008 sulfur dioxide levels have dropped by 69 percent and soot levels have dropped by 23 percent.

The mayor's "PlaNYC" clean heating program, which phased out the use of heavy polluting heating oils, is being credited for at least some of that improvement.

Health officials say the improved air quality is preventing nearly 800 deaths and around 2,000 emergency room visits every year, but not all city residents are convinced.

"Three years ago, New York ranked seventh among major American cities in the level of particulate matter in our air, and today we've moved up to fourth place. So just think about that, in just three years we've leap-frogged three cities in air quality," Bloomberg said.

"Wisps of exhaust, puffs of cigarette smoke, it's all going to be here, but we appreciate any effort to make it better," said one city resident.

Q: You think the air is bad still?
New Yorker: Yeah, still very bad.
Q: How do you know that, you react to it?
New Yorker: Yeah, I react to it definitely. I'm sneezing a lot in the city all the time.

The Community Air Survey measured street level air pollution at 150 locations from 2008 to 2010 and at 100 sites from 2010 to 2013.

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