All those Salesforce employees in New York City who are giving up the commute for good may have more reasons than one to be glad about it. A study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives looked at the quality of the air during AM and PM rush hours in 71 subway stations in NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn't great. But here's how not-great: The established safe daily level of the minute airborne pollution particles called PM2.5 is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The figure was worst in NYC, at 251 micrograms per cubic meter. And the worst of those stations was truly the worst. The Christopher Street Station that acts as a connector between New York and New Jersey registered 1,499 micrograms per cubic meter, reports the Guardian.
A press release says that figure is what you'd expect amid sooty contamination from forest fires or building demolition. Study co-author Terry Gordon, a professor at New York University's Grossman School of Medicine, elaborates: "It was the worst pollution ever measured in a subway station, higher than some of the worst days in Beijing or Delhi." He says the readings were so shocking they repeated them several times to verify them. As for how the other cities fared, the readings clocked in at 145 micrograms per cubic meter in Washington, DC; 140 in Boston; and a comparatively slim 39 in Philadelphia. The average reading for above-ground air in those cities was 16 micrograms per cubic meter. The researchers next want to look at where the pollution is coming from and what it means for the health of commuters and transit employees. (Read more discoveries stories.)