Saturday, December 30, 2017

Diesel death zones: particulate matter

A street without cars in Century City

Automobiles are a basic part of our lives, but they are exposing us to cancer.  New dimensions of that danger are exposed in this article today in the LA Times by Tony Barboza.

My friend Kathy McTaggart died of non-small-cell lung cancer in 2012 at age 69.  She had never smoked, so the source of her disease was particles in the air we breathe.

Particles are airborne as much as a mile from the freeway at night and in the early morning when air currents move, but only 500-600 feet in the daytime.

  • Keep your windows shut, experts say.  
  • Run air filters.  
  • Don't exercise or live near a freeway, especially where there are interchanges or jammed traffic.
  • Keep your windows shut while driving.

But everyone in Los Angeles lives not too far from a freeway.

And even if all cars were electrical, the friction on rubber tires and brakes and lubricating oils creates fine particles.

Here's part of Barboza's report:
It’s especially unhealthful to live near freeways and roads frequented by diesel trucks, which spew many times more harmful gases and particles than cars. Diesel particulate matter, carcinogen-laden soot that deposits deep in the lungs, is responsible for the bulk of the cancer risk from air pollution and more than 1,000 early deaths a year in California.
Experts are most concerned about people living near ports, warehouse distribution centers and other freight corridors. Asthma rates and cancer risk there can be so elevated that physicians have labeled it the “diesel death zone.”
An air-monitoring station next to a truck-congested stretch of the 60 Freeway in Ontario had the highest levels of fine-particle pollution, or soot, of all near-roadway sites in the nation, according to 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data. About 217,000 vehicles a day passed by in 2015, more than 29,000 of them trucks.
I don't know what to do about this problem.  Stop driving?  Move to somewhere far from freeways and power plants, whether coal or nuclear or other?

I will do what I can: encourage you to read this article researched by Tony Barboza and published by the Los Angeles Times.