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ZIP Code-Level Estimation of Air Quality and Health Risk Due to Particulate Matter Pollution in New York City

David Cooley, Andreas Maier, and Frank Divita, Abt Associates; Saravanan Arunachalam, Komal Shukla, Catherine Seppanen, Brian Naess, and Charles Chang, University of North Carolina; Masha Pitiranggon, Sarah Johnson, and Kazuhiko Ito, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene


April 28, 2022

With exposure to particulate matter associated with hundreds of premature deaths each year in New York City (NYC), it was determined that current air quality and health impact assessment tools needed to be replaced with the means for assessing health benefits at neighborhood scales. The goal was to be able to evaluate the potential impacts of energy efficiency or climate policies. Abt was part of a team that developed a new ZIP Code-Level Air Pollution Policy Assessment (ZAPPA) tool for NYC, based in part on the Abt-designed Co-Benefits Risk Assessment Health Impacts Screening and Mapping Tool (COBRA).

In this article, the ZAPPA Design team explain how the tool leverages customized, higher-resolution data inputs for emissions, health incidences, and population. The data is then used to conduct rapid policy evaluations using localized ZIP code tabulation area (ZCTA)-level analyses of the potential health and monetary benefits stemming from air quality policies. An evaluation of the tool using several example proposed policies translated into 210 to 475 deaths avoided, 340 asthma emergency department visits forestalled, and monetized health benefits worth $2 billion to $5 billion annually. Those benefits showed significant variation across NYC’s various zip codes, demonstrating that this level of detail can help prioritize interventions in neighborhoods that would see the most health benefits from air pollution reduction.