This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Hanauer, Deputy Commissioner of Air Pollution Control of the City of New York, answers questions.
Moderated by Marvin Sleeper.
Panelists: Paulette Singer, Larry Lipsitz, and Flo Casey
Since 1946, the amount of solid material in the air has dropped 50%. The most obnoxious pollutant is a matter of personal taste. Industrial pollution is not measured separately from the rest of the city. Correct each observable condition. The entire staff of the department is approximately 100 people. Requested more inspectors from the budget. Influence of New Jersey on New York City air. Interstate Sanitation Commission should be taking measurements in New Jersey itself. Cooperative arrangement with the Department of Health to alert the Air Pollution Department if there are any reports of sickness. Housemakers need to make sure their furnaces are properly adjusted and not burn leaves. Superintendents should watch incinerators and oil burners. Car drivers must make sure no smoke comes out of the exhaust. NYC's problem is simpler than LA's.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72294
Municipal archives id: LT7388
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
How much cleaner is New York air since we've had an air pollution program is dirty air a factor in causing lung cancer do we have small to New York City or answers to these and other questions let's not go to campus press conference I transcribed program in which college editors interview prominent personalities in the news here now to introduce the panel and tonight's guest is our moderator Marvin sleeper award winning reporter for The New York Journal American Here now is Mr sleeper Good evening and welcome to another edition of campus press conference our guest tonight is Mr Stillman and Hanauer deputy commissioner of air pollution control for the city of New York it is no one coincidence that we invited Mr Hanover to come before our microphones today. Because this is the kickoff for cleaner air week in our town and I think we all must admit that these last few weeks prior to the election the air gets pretty soggy with political hot air and there's nothing very much anyone can do about that not even an expert like Mr Hannah are but he can tell us what we can do and what has to be done about ridding the atmosphere of pollutants that cannot be charged off to the politicians so let's find out what we can do during cleaner air awake to make our town air a little more invigorating to breathe here to question Mr Han our campus press conference reporters call that singer and Larry let's say it's of the N.Y.U. square Journal a slow pace of the Hunter College arrow and how about the first question from you Flo Mr Hiler is New York's air cleaner since the air pollution program opened Yes I'm very happy to say that New York say or is at least fifty percent cleaner than it was ten years ago as a matter of fact if you'd like to see the documentation on that you will see a graph that we put that the mayor published in his van you will report to the citizens of the city that shows that sense. Nineteen forty six the amount of solid material in the air has dropped at least fifty percent understand our is that fifty percent of the knotting forty six think is the present ones I'm assuming here that the pollution of the air has gotten worse since that in forty six while there are two things to consider and actually to answer your first question they first two percent is based on the one nine hundred forty six figures however keep in mind that everybody and everything we do create contributes to pollution the more fuel lots burn the more electric lights that are yos which require more fuel to be burned a greater number of automobiles in fact almost everything we do creates pollution so that the amount of pollution to be gotten rid of is constantly increasing How do you measure the degree of pollution. There are several ways of measuring the degree of pollution most people think of pollution sort and dust and dirt and this is what way in the Apple ocean control field consider and talk about solid particulates matter this is the kind of thing that you can collect in a pickle jar and by careful measurement in the chemical laboratory measure the amount out there are also invisible Polow such as gases and vapors of various kinds and this requires a much more detailed and technical way of measurement and can be reported and in fact we do report this every day in our laboratory Mr Hanover what it had on what is the the most. Noxious pollutant we have him here today well of the most obnoxious followed and depends on whose whose know is your attacking this is a question of personal taste if you're a traffic policeman and you're standing at the corner of say Madison Avenue on forty second Street and there are dozens of buses and hundreds of cars passing they policeman would tell you that the most aggravating pollution that he has to contend with as the motivator call exhaust on the other hand if you are in a district next to some industrial plant such as and the. Parts of Brooklyn and Queens that border the the East River you might find that the subtle and the vapors that are the result of some of that chemical processes are the most obnoxious to you and still further a few are a resident in an apartment house where one of your neighbors has a very bad incinerator this might be the most important pollution problem for you so it can't be said that any one thing is the most important pollutant Now how are you attacking each of these pollutants that you talked about. For instance the are you taking care of the copper forty second Madison while unfortunately I must say in all truthfulness that we're not taking care of him as rapidly as we would like to you may recall some time ago that commission a brain bird and mentioned on a program that he was hopeful but in the course of a few years that all of the diesel prices would be converted to liquefied petroleum gas this has no odor and practically no products of combustion. The automotive people in the passenger car feel tell us and I think this has been reported in the papers that the new models are going to have and jacked years for gasoline driven cars in place of the present carburetor if this happens it would be a fine step forward because the injection manner of feeding gasoline to work our results in much less unburned gasoline and much less carbon die carbon monoxide coming out of the exhaust line which ran our and like to turn to industrial pollution and has not decreased. And thus triple ocean is not measured by us as a separate factor we do not have the staff at the present time to be able to monitor each industrial plant or each industrial area separately from the rest of the city all we can do is to take each observable condition and try to have it corrected as soon as possible how large is your staff across the entire staff of the department in round numbers of approximately one hundred people you might be interested in knowing how these are divided among our four bureaus the inspection bureau has approximately forty These are the men who go out into the field and observe the existing conditions report on them try to get people to correct them so summonses if they do not the engineering division. Approximately thirty people these are the man who examine the plans and specifications and passed upon new ones to lay sions for the purpose of seeing that new installations do not contribute to pollution than the rest of the staff are comprised the executive division the records division and the laboratory the laboratory is perhaps the most glamorous part of our whole organization and considering the fact that it has only ten people we think it does a wonderful job Paul I think I understand how you said that there are only forty inspectors in the department doesn't it seem like a pretty small number to take care of all of New York City it not only seems like this is a small number we think it's a very very small number we requested from the city fathers in our last budget request but we have at least half again as money but of course there are many demands on the city's funds and this is what we were allotted for our share you know how many you could you really use in the city Well you know. We could really use twice as money on the other hand if we just had twenty more this would seem like so much more than we now have that I'm sure there would be a great improvement in our results I don't know Stan know exactly what is the procedure when an inspector find some sort of violation Well a lot of the film The inspector is patrolling his area and he observes dense smoke coming out of an apartment house he goes to this apartment house he goes up on the road and lets a little chart that he has as part of his equipment here preserves the color of the smoke coming out of the stack the chart that he owes is is called a micro or a moment chart and it has four shades of gray or black on it they third grade and the fourth grade are prohibited under our rules if he finds that this is a violation he then goes down and saves the man in charge of the building usually the superintendent. He tries to help the superintendent correct the difficulty with his furnace by having him observe the flying the air and lat and other adjustments on his burner if he thinks the superintendent is going to be able to correct the condition he says a violation notice as a warning If however his record shows that he has served a previous violation then the second time he doesn't get a free bite he started with a summons and we take him to court do you have any trouble with violated Sue objects to the interference of your department Well yes and no violator does not like to be taken to court so of course they object very strenuously but by and large we find that the citizens of this city are happy to cooperate because they realize that this is not only the best course of action for them but it actually saves them money in the long run about how many violations go on record in the year I would say that there are approximately five when when you said violations and you mean violations of summonses violations although there are probably. Two thousand violations that go on record but not all of these up brought into court perhaps only a fifth of them come into court in any one year how many are finding that fits that Fest ninety percent of them are fine a lot of them what are the fines how much a fine the fines run anyways from five dollars to five hundred dollars. Where we find a constant offender and the magistrate recognizes the fact that this offender is unwilling to cooperate and repair his equipment we have succeeded on occasion and and the magistrate finding the violate a five hundred dollars but anyone going to jail know no one has gone to jail and we hope this will not happen although it may well be that in the future someone may have to now. You're talking about New York City's problem I recently attended a metropolitan regional conference. That was held in Jersey City. The mayor was present and officials from Connecticut and New Jersey and it was pretty generally agreed that New York's problem of air pollution could never really be cleaned up satisfactorily until there was some cooperation from New Jersey and Connecticut particularly New Jersey because they don't have any substantial air pollution control program as we understood it is that correct that is substantially correct and one of the reasons why your statement is correct is due to the media a logical conditions in this area are prevailing whether draft from the west towards the east therefore any pollution that develops over Jersey and most cases well dressed over New York City so that when we are measuring Apple ocean here we are measuring not only our own but that which we get from across the river now as you know. The New Jersey legislature and the New York legislature have each appropriated thirty thousand dollars for a joint study of the interstate quotient problem this problem this study is now getting under way under the direction of the interstate sanitation commission which has been authorized to include Apple ocean as well as what pollution its work now if you clear it up if it were possible to clear up New York's problem perfectly if you had a hundred fifty inspectors if you had jet propelled gas or whatever you call it. If your or your industrial plants had a perfect equipment. How much air pollution would New York City have of Jersey didn't do anything about it I wish I could answer your question but we have never had the funds to make studies outside of the border of the city in order to answer your question we would have to do what we help the interstate sanitation commission is now going to do and that's to take air pollution readings in Jersey itself and various at parts of the border of the title waters and in other places when we have that information we'll be in a better position to answer your question and that's Donna I'm not a reader has mentioned probably the ideal situation that is New York City without an air pollution problem do you think that we can someday have the situation with increasingly better scientific techniques Well I think it would be pretty discouraging if I were to answer your question and say no we'll never have clean air I think it will take a long long time after all we've been going along now for a great many years without any regulation to speak of that all the existing installations of which there are approximately ten thousand and center writers and perhaps seventy thousand or albinos and who knows how many factory stacks have all got to be collected eventually this is going to take a long time but I think you'd be interested in that as I noticed when I was out West on my vacation that one of the newspapers reported that the air pollution problem and its area was due that week to blowing dust so that it's not only and congested areas where air pollution occurs it's also in other areas Larry and so now we hear a lot of talk about dirty air causing lung cancer is that true well I can't say it's true because no one in the medical field has come out flatfooted late enough to say it's definitely true. The question has to be had in the bank the best you can say about it now is that the indications are there is a good relationship between air pollution and respiratory disease and lung cancer what is good relationship based on this is based on a number of studies that have been made and Engeland as well as in the United States and it's been rather broadly reported in the medical literature but keep in mind that people who live in the country where the air is clean also get lung cancer. And people who live in the cities I'm happy to say most of them do not get lung cancer so it's pretty hard to say that this is an ironclad situation all you can say is it looks as if there was a relationship that more people exposed to air pollution get lung cancer than those who do not what is the relationship between air pollution and regular health as a home well. I think you you can you can judge this for yourself a Fiat five state that an end to dump of very severe air pollution such as London had a number of years ago such as occurred and Dinora Pennsylvania about eight years ago my recollection is correct those who had any kind of a respiratory ailment or Doro were either made very very sick or in some cases died so we judged that if Apple ocean and it's a very serious phase can cause the death of those who are not well it must in some respects affect even those of us who are well is there any chance of that happening in New York City what happened in Aurora what happened in England now I would say that there well let me say a purse way there's always a chance of the unexpected occurring however our geography is such that we have pretty good when circulation and the swipes the pollutants out of the air and sweeps them out to sea However I think you may be interested in this during this past week on Mon