New York Voters Support Changing the Building Code to Require Indoor Air Quality Monitors
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Last month, the White House hosted a summit on indoor air quality to discuss community-based interventions to improve air quality and stop the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. This summit came at a key time, as scientists are reporting early increases in seasonal flu activity and releasing more research detailing how airborne transmission is the dominant mode by which the coronavirus and a number of other pathogens spread.

There is an urgent need to scale up capacity to clean indoor air in public spaces, particularly to protect high-risk Americans, and use targeted intervention in cities like New York with high rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Relatively low-cost steps can be taken to clean indoor air and meaningfully reduce virus transmission in the short term, including by installing air quality monitors in public spaces.

New polling from Data for Progress shows that New York voters support changing the building code to require businesses to install air quality monitors to detect and prevent outbreaks that could lead to pandemics by a +42-point margin.

Notably, voter perceptions of this reform vary by race, with 88 percent of Black New Yorkers supporting building code reforms for indoor air quality monitors, compared to 72 percent of Latina/o respondents and 63 percent of white New Yorkers. These results make sense in light of extensive research showing that people of color are over three times more likely to live in communities with polluted air than their white counterparts. Communities of color — particularly Black communities — as well as low-income communities and people with cardiovascular conditions are more at risk of harm and premature death due to air pollution exposure.

New Yorkers have repeatedly demonstrated that they’re ready to see a change, with a majority of voters agreeing that the state should place stricter limits on air pollution to help communities mitigate the risk of health conditions, namely asthma, driven by this pollution.

Mitigating the coronavirus and other airborne pathogens like the flu through increased investment in air quality monitoring and filtration, coupled with more comprehensive mitigation strategies, is essential for maintaining our basic functionality as a country and limiting existential risk. As people throughout the country begin to spend more time indoors throughout the fall and winter, and flu season comes to a head, we must act to implement commonsense, science-based COVID-19 risk mitigation measures in public spaces, including businesses, public schools, and office buildings, to make indoor environments safer for all.

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