October 12, 1970

Air Pollution—Critical Choices

Author Affiliations

Secretary AMA Council on Environmental and Public Health

JAMA. 1970;214(2):362-363. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03180020080016

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What do you want, good air or good comfort? Parodying a familiar slogan describes the current dilemma of citizens in New York city. Added to their 1970 summer doldrums, stagnant air loaded with sulfur oxides and particulate pollution caused New Yorkers public annoyance, insults to their sense perceptions, and respiratory difficulties. Officially reported to be the worst in the country, New York's air has three times as much sulfur dioxide as the federal government considers safe for human life. New York city also experienced this summer its worst power shortage since the 1965 Northeast blackout. Two massive generators broke down, reducing power capacity by 17%. Emergency plans to conserve electricity called for the subway system to use a third fewer trains and to run them at half speed.

Opposition from a number of sources has delayed for years a plan of the utility company to build a pumped-storage hydroelectric plant