I earlier helped shine a spotlight on highway-based air quality monitoring in: “Tiffs: EPA orders emissions monitoring along highways.”
Never in all the days I’ve spent on this planet did I ever imagine a time when monitoring stations would be a reality, much less a time when those stations would become fixtures along highways in major and not-so-major urban settings alike, their purpose, of course, to record air pollution types and levels.
That a move like this has become a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirement in the 21st century is, well, sad commentary in my opinion. What it means to me is that a problem that has existed for some time has now gone on too long. That problem: heavily-trafficked-highway-proximity-related, life-impacting, motor-vehicle-exhausted, toxic emissions releases.
I can relate because from the time I was seven until about 14 or 15, for around five of those years, I lived in a northwest Baltimore (Maryland) suburb and directly behind my family’s home were six lanes of a section of the Baltimore Beltway. During the time I lived in that location, motor vehicles were not as clean-burning as they are today.
Having had direct experience, the first question I would want to know is: What is coming out of the exhaust of internal-combustion-engine-powered motor vehicles and at what concentrations? There are many others, like:
- How much more concentrated are pollutants during peak traffic times compared to non-peak traffic times?
- Does weather have a direct effect on pollutants emitted and, if so, how?
- What are the pollutant concentrations both inside and outside highway-adjacent properties?
- Will monitoring lead to any subsequent changes such as advancing the use of motor vehicle alternative fuels and/or enhanced technologies, alternative forms of transportation and/or setting limits regarding freeway usage, to name a few?
- Related legal challenges; will there be any?
Many questions, I know, but ones that may be asked.
In the Los Angeles Times article mentioned in my earlier TIFFS post, it was pointed out that the monitoring program would be implemented over three years. So, it could be quite some time before information in this regard starts to materialize and is released to the public and the medical community as it has to do with specific determinations or findings.
Meanwhile, in that referenced L.A. Times article, reporter Tony Barboza in citing Scott Fruin, a USC “professor of preventative medicine,” wrote: “‘We have known about the adverse health impacts of living near freeways for almost 20 years but don’t routinely monitor air quality there,’ said Fruin, whose studies have found that pollution concentrations along Los Angeles freeways that are five to 10 times higher than elsewhere in the city.”
Asthma rates were found to be higher among children residing close to heavily trafficked freeways, USC researchers discovered in the landmark Children’s Health Study, according to Barboza. Likewise lung function among members of the same group studied was reduced as I understand it.
At this point it is difficult to predict what if anything is coming down the road mitigation-wise as a result of the monitors going in.
But, if, as a result, air significantly improves, then I really don’t see why anyone, whether living close to freeways or not, would not approve.
Image above: NASA