In an effort cut down on the noxious pollutants emitted from idling vehicles on its streets every year, New York City recently passed a law making vehicle idling of more than 60 seconds punishable by a stiff fine. While New York and other major cities have had laws against idling for more than three minutes on the books for years, lax enforcement has meant that violators usually get away with it for much longer periods. As a result, school kids, office workers, and apartment dwellers have had little choice but to close their windows, which can be especially dangerous on stiflingly hot summer days when pollution levels are highest and cool breezes through open windows are most needed. As part of the new law, the city will beef up enforcement of illegal idling and is readying a public awareness campaign to get the message out via radio, bus stops and billboards.
A new report by the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund estimates that idling cars and trucks generate some 130,000 tons of the leading greenhouse gas carbon dioxide each year in New York City. According to the report, idling is also responsible for the emission of 940 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide, 24 tons of soot particles and 6,400 tons of carbon monoxide, each of which is associated with exacerbated pre-existing respiratory illnesses such as asthma—the most common cause of hospitalization for children 14 years and younger and a leading cause of missed school days across New York City.