NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City's air quality has reached the cleanest level in over half a century, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Thursday, as he credited the city's sustainability program PlaNYC for helping to bring about dramatic reductions in air pollutants.
The level of soot pollution has dropped by 23 percent since 2007, while the levels of sulfur dioxide in the air have dropped by 69 percent since 2008, said Bloomberg, who is leaving office at the end of the year after serving three four-year terms.
Bloomberg said the administration's Clean Heat program, which phased out use of the most heavily polluting heating oils in New York City, was the single biggest factor in the change.
"Switching to cleaner heating fuels is contributing to dramatic improvements in the air quality of New York City, and will help all of us stay healthier," said Thomas Farley, Bloomberg's health commissioner.
The cleaner air has prevented 800 deaths and 2,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations from lung and cardiovascular diseases annually, compared with 2008 figures, city officials say.
(Reporting By Edith Honan; editing by Gunna Dickson)