Study: LAX Pollutes More Than Half of SoCal Freeways

by Downwinders on June 2, 2014

Jet pollutionResearchers at the Keck School of Medicine and the University of Southern California have just published a report in the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology journal that shows air traffic from Los Angeles International Airport is responsible for more air pollution than half of all the city's notoriously congested freeways with a plume extending at least 10 miles downwind.

LAX is the world's sixth largest airport, with 40-60 take-offs an hour. DFW averages 46 according to the airport's own website.

USC Scientists spent a month driving around the LA airport taking air samples for Particulate Mater pollution and found that downwind communities had twice the routine background level of PM  in the city. Nine miles out, they found PM levels five times higher than background. Two miles from LAX, PM levels were almost 10 times higher. For comparison's sake, that's equivalent to 174 to 491 miles of freeway traffic. The entire area of Los Angeles County has a total of about 930 miles of freeways. Based on their calculations, scientists concluded that within the area they found to have elevated pollution from the airport, automobiles contributed less than 5 percent of the PN levels. “Therefore, the LAX should be considered one of the most important sources of PN in Los Angeles,” concluded the ACS piece

Why is that a public health concern?

"Ultrafine particles, which form from condensation of hot exhaust vapors, are of particular concern because they deposit deeply into the lungs and can enter the bloodstream. The oxidative stress and resulting inflammation appear to play a role in the development of atherosclerosis (blocked arteries) and can make other health conditions worse, especially for people with existing cardiac or lung conditions including asthma."

As far as we know there's been no study of PM pollution from DFW Airport – no federal highways dollars at stake – but this one from California should prompt one.

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