Citizen volunteers’ work monitoring air quality leads to recommendations for reducing harmful emissions
Report from California based on 12 months of sampling along busy truck route
A new report makes the case that citizen volunteers can play a role in monitoring air quality and working to mitigate harmful air emissions. The report, by TriCounty Watchdogs and Global Community Monitor, focused on emissions from diesel-truck traffic.
Titled “EXHAUST-ed! Community Exposure to Diesel Air Pollution in California’s Transportation Corridor,” the report details a year-long project in Lebec, Calif., and provides recommendations to reduce emissions.
Residents of the mountain community measured levels of concentrated air pollution in suspected “hot spots” along the Interstate-5 Highway, a heavily trafficked road. An analysis of the air samples collected during the project found harmful levels of diesel soot around Lebec’s schools, public buildings, and local residences.
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“This report demonstrates that communities located along transportations corridors which are not being monitored for serious health threats can conduct air monitoring themselves in credible, scientific ways,” says Denny Larson, executive director of Global Community Monitor.
Citizens have valuable experience to contribute to air-monitoring efforts, Larson says. “As volunteers, they can lower the cost of these types of projects.”
Although there’s been progress reducing air pollution from freight transportation in the Los Angeles and Oakland port areas, down-road communities, such as Lebec, have not benefited, Larson says.
“The challenge is how to replicate this type of air-quality improvement along huge transportation corridors and around goods-movement centers,” Larson says.
In 2012, Global Community Monitor received a three-year grant from The Kresge Foundation to support community engagement and air monitoring in port communities. The grant was part of the Kresge Health Program’s clean freight transport initiative. (Read the report)
Prompted by citizen complaints about foul air, TriCounty Watchdog volunteers collected air samples from March 2011 through March 2012 at a local truck stop, the Lebec post office, two residences, and a state park near El Tejon Middle School.
An independent analysis revealed that the community, including 240 schoolchildren, was heavily affected by diesel particulates from heavy truck traffic. The pollution levels posed a serious health threat, and exposure could lead to hospitalizations, heart attacks, and death, according to the analysis.
Based on the results, TriCounty Watchdogs and Global Community Monitor recommendations for reducing emissions and the health risks from diesel soot:
- Plant trees along the freeway to serve as a barrier.
- Schedule play periods at the middle school to avoid exposure to high levels of pollution.
- Electrify the truck stop so that drivers needn’t keep engines running.
- Encourage monitoring of ultra-fine particulates by the San Joaquin Air District.
- Increase local government’s capacity to regulate freight transportation and conduct land-use planning.