According to a report from the American Chemical Society (ACS), a new study finds that heavy aircraft traffic at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – even up to 10 miles away – can add even more pollution to the dense layer of smog covering the City of Angels from ground traffic on congested freeways. The study, which appears in the latest issue of the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, has grave implications not only for the health of residents near LAX – the sixth-largest airport in the world – but also at other airports around the globe.
Study researchers note that, although earlier investigations measured pollution from air traffic, most of these studies only sampled air within a mere few miles from airports. These analyses found higher levels of such pollutants as nitrogen oxides and ultrafine particles less than 0.1 micron that scientists ascribed to airplane emissions.
Forming from condensation of hot exhaust vapors, ultrafine particles are of particular concern to public health officials because they set down deeply into the lungs and can penetrate the bloodstream. The oxidative stress and resulting inflammation may play a role in the development of atherosclerosis and can exacerbate other health conditions, particularly for people with existing cardiac or lung conditions including asthma.
Over 29 days, the study researchers drove the area within 10 miles downwind of the airport to measure levels of air pollutants. The area included densely packed residential neighborhoods bordered by three major freeways. The researchers concluded that, within the area they found to have elevated pollution from the airport, automobiles contributed less than five percent of the particle number levels.
The Natural Resources Defense Council says that air pollution, both indoors and outdoors, poses health risks to millions of Americans every day, contributing to asthma, emphysema, heart disease, and other potentially lethal conditions. Managing air pollution causes, and defending successful safeguards like the Clean Air Act, is critical to the human, economic, and environmental health of our communities.