Earlier this month, Inhabitat reported that Brookhaven National Laboratory and the NYPD would be releasing trace amounts of perfluorocarbon gas into the subway system as part of the Subway-Surface Air Flow Exchange program to better evaluate risks caused by airborne contaminants. Today, July 25th, 2013, will be the last day of the study. Low concentrations of the gas, which is known to be stable, inert, nonreactive, and nontoxic, will be released at several subway and street-level locations for about 30 minutes today.
The Subway-Surface Air Flow Exchange program (S-SAFE) was commissioned by the NYPD and financed by the Department of Homeland Security. The purpose of the study, which is the country’s largest urban air flow study to date, is to better prepare New York City, and other large cities, for possible chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) weapons. As part of the project, perfluorocarbon gas was released into the subway system on several mornings in July, after which researchers tracked the movement of the harmless tracer gases using air sampling devices.
When we first wrote about S-SAFE, we mistakenly reported that a flyer that was distributed to subway riders on the first day of the study was an official MTA communication, but learned afterwards that it was actually the work of an unknown outside party. According to Aaron Donovan, Deputy Director for External Communications at the MTA, the gases used in the study “are safe for our customers and employees, and the entire test will be performed with no impact on them and no interruption to service.” Perfluorocarbon has been deemed mostly harmless, but it is worth noting that excessive exposure to the substance could cause effects on the brain and heart.
Learn more about the S-SAFE study here.