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Peace Bridge Air Study

What is the study?

This study is a monitoring effort to determine whether the levels of air pollutants from motor vehicles are of public health concern in the residential neighborhood at the Peace Bridge. Air monitoring was conducted for a full year to collect data to understand changes in pollutant concentrations during traffic congestion and from season-to-season. Another important aspect of the study was the collection of data on ultrafine particles. Currently, there is no federal air quality standard for ultrafine particles. The results for ultrafine particles from this study have been submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for consideration in the development of a federal air quality standard.

How was the study conducted?

The study was conducted for one full year - September 2014 through September 2015 - at two sites, both within residential neighborhoods. One site was located downwind and close to the Peace Bridge Complex on Busti Avenue and Rhode Island Street. This site provided information on maximum impacts from the Peace Bridge operations. Another site was located 1,000 meters (about 0.70 mile) east of the Peace Bridge Complex at the PS198 Preparatory School (formerly Grover Cleveland School). This site provided information on levels of air pollutants in an urban environment away from the direct influence of the Peace Bridge Complex and surrounding highways.

What was monitored?

Air pollutants associated with the combustion of fuel and evaporative releases from diesel trucks and motor vehicles.

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were collected as a 24-hour sample, once every six days. Some examples of VOCs from vehicle emissions include benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene.
  • Carbonyls were collected as a 24-hour sample, once every six days. Some examples of carbonyls from vehicle emissions include acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. Carbonyls like acetaldehyde and formaldehyde also can be formed from other gases in the presence of sunlight through a process called photochemistry.
  • Black carbon was collected hourly, every day. Emissions from diesel engines are one of the sources of black carbon.
  • Fine particles (PM2.5) were collected hourly, every day. The burning of fuel by any source causes the release of PM2.5, including motor vehicles.
  • Ultrafine particles were collected hourly, every day. The burning of fuel by any source causes the release of ultrafine particles, including motor vehicles.

Are both residential monitors looking for the same suite of air pollutants?

The downwind site close to the Peace Bridge contained instruments collecting data for all five categories of air pollutants. The urban site (at PS198) contained instruments to collect measurements for PM2.5 and black carbon, which is an indicator of motor vehicle emissions. DEC's monitoring network has a number of sites collecting data for VOCs and carbonyls in urban environments. Results for VOCs and carbonyls from these sites will be used for comparison to the results from the downwind monitor.

How is this study different from the first study?

The first monitoring effort included a shorter period of sampling (September 2012 - March 2013) and focused on PM2.5 and black carbon, which is an indicator of motor vehicle emissions. The new study included VOCs, carbonyls and ultrafine particles. Results from ultrafine particle monitoring from other locations in the New York and across the country will be used to compare to the results obtained near the Peace Bridge. The new study was designed in collaboration with the community and involved community volunteers collecting samples.

Why the interest in ultrafine particles?

Recent studies have found connections between exposures to ultrafine particles and adverse cardiovascular and respiratory effects. The evidence from these studies suggests that potential health risks are associated with the size and number of particles and not just the weight of particles. The ultrafine instrument selected for this study provides information on the number of particles in the air rather than the weight of particles in the air. Because of these recent studies and the refinement of the instrumentation, EPA now recommends that states monitor ultrafine particles near busy roadways.

What else is DEC doing about ultrafine particles?

DEC staff have worked with researchers for more than a decade to learn about ultrafine particles in ambient air and those emitted from vehicles. DEC installed an ultrafine particulate monitor at a site near the busy Interstate-90 thruway in Cheektowaga (near Buffalo). Ultrafine particulate monitors also are located in a rural area in Pinnacle State Park near Corning, NY and in urban settings in Rochester and Queens, NYC. The DEC also wrote to EPA in July 2014 asking for support of an ultrafine particle monitoring effort. See the letter and the EPA's response under "Important Links."

What is the current status of the study?

The study is complete and the final report was released in September 2016. The final report, a report summary, as well as a presentation that provides an overview of the report, can be accessed by clicking on the links on the left side of this page. DEC staff held three meetings at the Region 9 office prior to the completion of the study. The presentations are available here:

Peace Bridge study - 1st Data Review Meeting (PDF) (1.72 MB, 27 pgs.)

Peace Bridge study - 2nd Data Review Meeting (PDF) (4.39 MB, 46 pgs.)

Peace Bridge study - 3rd Data Review Meeting (PDF) (3.43 MB, 47 pgs.)

Peace Bridge study - Final Report Presentation (PDF) (1.75 MB, 62 pgs.)

How can I access the data?

Validated hourly data for the period August 2014 through September 2015 are available in Excel format. Send email requests for this data to For more information, contact:

Dirk Felton or Randi Walker
(518) 402-8508

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