STEP is a community group dedicated to improving transportation in Somerville, MA. We advocate for the Green Line extension, a more livable city, and public health issues.
Think you’ve heard more planes overhead recently? You’re right. Data shows that takeoffs from runway 33L, which come up the Mystic River and then turn over Somerville and Cambridge, are way up. In 2006, 33L accounted for 7% of all takeoffs. Now it’s 24%, an increase of 243% year over year.
This morning there was a hearing on a bill sponsored by Denise Provost that would explore the health effects of particulate matter, which is suspended particles in tailpipe exhaust. House Bill 2227 would have the Department of Public Health conduct a study on the health effects of this type of pollution, including mapping the distribution and concentration of particulate matter aorund high-traffic roadways and rail lines.
A growing body of scientific evidence links high exposure to particulates to substantially increased risks of pulmonary disease – including COPD and lung cancer – and cardiovascular disease – including heart attack and stroke. Men and women living close to major roads are at increased risk of premature death. Children growing up near highways often suffer impaired lung function, are more likely to develop asthma, and suffer more asthma attacks.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found very high increases in mortality among older women exposed to local fine particle pollution.
Boston Globe: “Air pollution raises women’s heart disease risk, says study”
The study: “Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Incidence of Cardiovascular Events in Women”
A new study piles more evidence on the dangers of local highway pollution on children’s health, specifically lung impairment of those who grow up close to highways.
LA Times: “Freeways’ tainted air harms children’s lungs, experts say”
The Guardian: “Living near a motorway damages children’s lungs, research reveals”
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council 2007 Calendar features a map with the following text…
Heavy Traffic Affects Air Quality and Health
If you live, work or attend school within 100 yards of a roadway carrying 100,000 or more vehicles per day, you are more likely to suffer from cardiac or pulmonary disease.
According to local and national studies, this tendency is linked to traffic-related air pollutants. Health risks associated with traffic pollutants are greater for young and old people and for those with permanent health conditions. Some states have begun to pass laws to protect their citizens. California state law restricts the siting of new schools within 500 feet of a freeway or an urban roadway with 50,000 vehicles or more per day. The California Air Resources Board recommends caution before siting residences, day care centers, playgrounds, or medical facilities within those same distances.
This map shows roadways and intersections in the MAPC region that exceed 100,000 vehicles per day and those that exceed 50,000 vehicles per day. The map could help policy-makers formulate measures to protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
The connection between ultrafine particles (less than 100 billionths of a meter in diameter) and health problems is growing stronger, as shown by various studies and expert speakers at this conference. A study by Rob McConnell of USC showed a 50% increase in asthma for children living within 75 meters of a highway as compared to those living more than 300 meters away. For children who lived near a highway from before the age of two and had no family history of asthma, the increase was 150%. In other words they were 2.5 times as likely to have asthma as those living further away.
Ultrafine Particle Conference presentations
Wig was among eight people selected to speak today at a meeting of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. Afterward, the panel agreed to clarify and stress the seriousness of its prior recommendation to EPA Administer Johnson calling for stricter annual average fine particulate matter standards. (EPA proposed an unchanged annual standard on December 21st despite overwhelming scientific evidence of significant harm to human health at the exposure levels allowed currently.)