Is your city allowing homes and schools dangerously close to highways & risking the health of you and your children?

Photo Source:MIT

Is your city allowing developers to build schools, housing, and day care centers near busy highways?  Because of the health risks of living close to a highway can be high, this is a very dangerous practice.

Even in Los Angeles, where California law makes it illegal to build a school within 500 free of a busy highway, and officials warn against building homes and daycare centers within that pollution zone, tens of thousands of homes have been built dangerously close to highways in the last few years.

The health risks of traffic-related air pollution are serious. Traffic-related air pollution is known to cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, and to trigger asthma attacks.

In addition, though causality has not been in many cases been proven, traffic-related air pollution been linked to a number of other health problems in adults, some very serious.  Examples include atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, cognitive decline, reduction in brain volume, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, dementia, cardiovascular diseases, and strokes, high blood pressure, premature death, respiratory disease, and suicide.

In children, traffic-related air pollution has been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression, autism and autism spectrum disorder, birth defects, brain cancer, impulsivity and emotional problems, insulin resistance & diabetes, leukemia, low birth weight, lupus, lung damage and other respiratory problems, mental illness, obesity, preterm birth, and reduced intelligence.

The cause of these problems?  Traffic-related air pollution contains dozens of toxins, including particulate matter and nitrogen oxides and as many as 40 other toxins from diesel exhaust, and carbon monoxide, toluene, and benzene from automobiles.

How close is too close?  Scientists cannot yet answer that question authoritatively, but there are indications that health risks are very high within 500 feet of a major highway – and even double that distance is not safe. 

For example, studies have found increased respiratory health problems in children who live or go to school within 100 meters (~330 feet) of a busy roadway, with the greatest risks appearing in the first 50 meters (~165 feet).

For adults, those living:

  • close to densely trafficked roads were at a far higher risk of stroke and dementia than those who lived farther away, and

  • within 1,500 feet of the highway were likely to have 14 percent more C-reactive protein in their blood than those who lived more than a half-mile away. Higher amounts of the protein indicate a higher likelihood of a stroke or heart attack.

Are there things you can do to protect yourself even if you can’t move to a home in a safer location?  Yes, the Lancet reports that your government can cut particulate matter in neighboring communities in half by installing noise barriers and vegetation along the highway, and you can reduce the amount that gets into your home by attaching filters to your and air conditioning systems.  These measures won’t solve the problem, but they can reduce the levels of air pollution you inhale, and lower your health risks.

You can make your city safer.  Protect yourself and your community by educating your public officials on the health risks of near roadway pollution and demand that they put measures in place to protect you and your children.  

To learn more about what you can do, come to the free 4th International Moving Forward Network Conference on October 13-14. This is a rare opportunity, so if you would like to help your family and community, sign up today!

For more background on this subject, see these resources:

New evidence of the dangers of living near highways, Boston Globe

Living Near Highways and Air Pollution, American Lung Association

Living Near A Highway Is Terrible For Your Health. 1 In 10 Americans Do It, Think Progress

Living close to a major roadway could increase dementia risk, study says, CNN

The surprising link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease, LA Times

New studies cast dark cloud over air pollution, The Lancet

L.A. warns homebuilders, but not residents, of traffic pollution health risks, LA Times

L.A. keeps building near freeways, even though living there makes people sick, LA Times

The invisible hazard afflicting thousands of schools, The Center for Public Integrity

Port of Oakland air pollution violates the civil rights of the community – Feds to investigate

 

Photo: CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE

Many of the effects of diesel exhaust and other traffic-related air pollution are known and widely accepted  – including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and triggering of asthma attacks. In addition, studies have shown that the more air pollution a person is exposed to, the more likely they are to suffer from many other maladies and illnesses, including premature birth, autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and cognitive decline.

To top it off, a study of 60 million adults release just a couple of weeks ago shows that Particulate matter air pollution kills many elderly people in the U.S., even at levels the EPA considers ‘safe’.

And study after study has shown that the people most often subjected to high levels of air pollution are disproportionally poor and non-white.  

Residents of West Oakland, California know all of this from first-hand experience.  Residents of this port community, who are predominately black and Latino, are exposed to much more air pollution than richer and whiter residents just a few miles away. West Oakland has 90 times more diesel pollution per square mile on average than the rest of California, resulting in high levels of asthma and other diseases known or suspected to be caused by air pollution.

After fighting for decades to make their communities safer and being ignored all too often by local government, West Oakland residents have made it clear they are not going to take it anymore.  In April, Moving Forward Network members West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and Earthjustice teamed up to file a federal civil rights complaint demanding that the Federal government provide them the same levels of protection as people in whiter, richer communities, specifically when making decisions concerning the Port of Oakland the Oakland Army Base redevelopment project.

 “Time and time again, both the city and port have dismissed the consistent input and opposition to their actions from directly impacted West Oakland residents, nearly 80 percent of whom are people of color,” 

The complaint says the city has engaged in a “pattern of neglect and systemic disregard” for the health and well being of West Oakland residents, which will only get worse as the city redevelops the former Oakland Army base. And, it alleges the port’s continuous expansion of maritime activities has consistently failed to incorporate adequate measures to mitigate the elevated pollution levels. The complaint asked that the two Federal agencies that provide the funds and approvals for port projects put measures in place to protect them.  

This week, the agencies sent this letter to the City and Port of Oakland stating that they will investigate the complaint.

For more information, check out the resources below, and stay tuned for more news as it develops.

Community group alleges civil rights violations by the city and port of Oakland in complaint to Federal government, Earthjustice

When pollution discriminates: Feds to investigate alleged civil rights violations in West Oakland, Mercury News

A black community in Oakland says pollution is violating its civil rights, Grist

This army base once drove West Oakland’s economy. Now it drives discrimination, Grist

Particulate matter air pollution kills many elderly people in the U.S., even at levels the EPA considers ‘safe’

A study of over 60 million American seniors recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that long-term exposure to particulate matter air pollution raises the risk of premature death of people over 65 years of age, even at levels well below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.  

In urban areas, diesel exhaust is one of the main sources of particulate matter, along with coal-fired power plants.

“We are now providing bulletproof evidence that we breathing harmful air.  It is very strong compelling evidence that currently, the safety standards are not safe enough.”  Francesca Dominici,  co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative.

The study, “Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population”, found that the risks of premature death were highest in men, low-income elders, and blacks, with blacks having mortality risks three times higher than the general population.

The study authors reported that lowering particulate matter air pollution in the U.S. by just 1 microgram per cubic meter would save 12,000 lives per year.  The current EPA annual average health standard for P.M. 2.5 is 12 micrograms per cubic meter.

Joel Schwartz, Harvard University professor of environmental epidemiology and the study’s senior author said “This study shows that although we think air quality in the United States is good enough to protect our citizens, in fact we need to lower pollution levels even further.”

To learn more, check out the excellent NPR audio news report or other references below. 

 Study: Even Low-Level Air Pollution Kills the Elderly, Medpage Today

60-Million-Strong Study Shows Clear Link Between Exposure To Air Pollution & Premature Death, CleanTechnica

Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population, New England Journal of Medicine

New Harvard Study: There is No “Safe Level” of Exposure to Smog or Particulate Matter. Downwinders at risk

Coalition for Healthy Ports shows dirty diesel trucks are killing residents; demands reinstatement of plan to ban the dirtiest trucks

Photo: Edited image from the Village Voice

The Coalition for Healthy Ports NY NJ, which includes Moving Forward Network members Clean Water Action and the Ironbound Community Corporation, as well as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union and faculty of the Rutgers School of Public Health, released a very informative report yesterday, and called for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to reinstate a planned ban on dirty diesel trucks manufactured before 2007.

Unless ports set healthier standards, economic pressures generally lead to the use of the very oldest and dirtiest trucks on the roads to haul freight from ports to warehouses, and this problem is exacerbated in and around the Ports of New York and New Jersey by a huge amount of trucking through neighborhoods around the ports.  

Diesel exhaust causes a host of diseases, including cancer and strokes, and triggers dangerous and sometimes deadly asthma attacks.  Diesel exhaust has been strongly linked to many other diseases, including many serious neurological problems, though the science is not yet advanced enough to prove causality.  Just this week a study of 60 million Medicaid recipients showed that the more particulate matter a person is exposed to, the more likely they are to die prematurely.  In urban areas, diesel exhaust is the primary source of particulate matter.

The Coalition’s report showed that residents throughout their eight-county study area face an increased risk of premature death due to the failure of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to ban the dirtiest diesel trucks, including residents who live far from the port.  For more information, see the original report or news articles linked below.

Complete report

Evaluation of the Port of New York & New Jersey Clean Trucks Program Rollback

 More information on the study and demands to reinstate the ban on old trucks

Coalition Urges Port Authority to enforce old diesel truck ban, NJ.com

NY-NJ under pressure to revive ban on older truck engines, Journal of Commerce (Free subscription required)

 Air pollution and health

There Is No ‘Safe’ Level Of Pollution — Even Small Amounts Lead To Premature Death, Kaiser Health News

New study adds more evidence that diesel exhaust can damage your heart

Image: Northwestern University

Even as the current U.S. presidential administration is slashing regulations and funding for reducing air pollution and protecting public health, a new English study found that long-term exposure to diesel exhaust particulate matter at levels far below EPA standards can cause enlargement of the heart, which is associated with increased heart disease and deaths.

“There is strong evidence that particulate matter (PM) emitted mainly from diesel road vehicles is associated with increased risk of heart attack, heart failure, and death” Dr. Nay Aung, Queen Mary University of London

Lead researcher Dr. Nay Aung said that reducing diesel emissions should be a public health priority.  She recommended that people with cardiac and respiratory diseases limit time spent outside during rush hour and that everyone reduce their exposure to diesel exhaust by bicycling and walking on less-polluted routes and as far from traffic as possible.  

 

For more information, see:

Study: Diesel Pollution (PM 2.5) Tied Directly To Heart Damage, CleanTechnica

Diesel pollution linked to heart damage, European Society of Cardiology

New evidence links particulate matter air pollution to breast cancer

Image source: National Breast Cancer Foundation

The linkage between particulate matter and cancer is well established.  For example, in 2012, the World Health Organization identified diesel exhaust, one of the chief sources of particulate matter in many cities, as a carcinogen,  and a study last year associated exposure to fine particulate matter with “sharply higher mortality rates from cancers of the breast, the upper digestive tract and other organs.”

New research by University of Florida scientists strengthens the science behind the linkage.   Their study of over 250,000 women living in the U.S. found that those with very dense breast tissue, a well-established and strong breast cancer risk factor, are about 20 percent more likely to live in areas with high levels of particulate matter. 

According to Lusine Yaghjyan, the lead author of the study, this may be caused by toxins delivered by the particulate matter. “Chemical components in particulate matter could influence breast density by interfering with normal tissue growth, thus increasing the amount of fibroglandular tissue in the breast and, subsequently, breast density.”

Learn more about the study here:

Higher air pollution exposure linked to denser breast tissue, University of Florida

Link between air pollution and breast cancer discovered, International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics

EPA Webinar – Easy Modeling to Assess and Address Near-Road Air Quality – April 20

We received the notice below by email from the EPA Environmental Justice Listserv.  For a heads up on what how their modeling tool works and what it does, check out this video.

 

UPCOMING WEBINAR

Easy Modeling to Assess and Address Near-Road Air Quality

Thursday 20 April 2017 at 2pm – 3:30pm Eastern

Register Here Today!

Summary

Sometimes the groups most exposed to near-road air pollution are also the most disadvantaged and marginalized to do something about it. Land values near roads are typically devalued because of noise, pollution, and visual blight. Long-term exposure to near-road pollution can have serious health effects, contributing to diseases such as cancer and respiratory illness; and short term exposure can exacerbate existing conditions, like childhood asthma attacks. Children, elderly, and folks with pre-existing conditions are especially sensitive to roadway pollution.

This webinar will present the Community-LINE Source Model (C-LINE) (https://www.epa.gov/healthresearch/community-line-source-model-c-line-estimate-roadway-emissions): a scientifically sound, near-road air pollution model that plays almost like a video game, available to any user with a computer or tablet.

C-LINE allows users to not only evaluate what is going on in their local area, but also what might happen if things change, such as from increases in traffic or diesel trucks cutting through town. Users can easily manipulate model inputs to also examine upwind and downwind effects, or estimate the areas most influenced annually by near-road pollution. In addition to roads, railways and railyards, ports, ships, and industrial sources also influence near-source neighborhoods.

The model is being further developed to include these and other sources for public use. Would you use this model? How? How might we help you do that? Learn more in this interactive webinar!

C-Line Webinar – Estimating Roadway Emissions in Communities with EJ Concerns

Speakers

  • Betsy Smith is a research biologist in the EPA Office of Research and Development. She has worked for the Agency for 20 years primarily in the areas of interdisciplinary science using spatial analysis to identify patterns and trends that can inform local- to national-scale decision-making. Betsy is currently the lead for EPA’s Sustainable Port Communities Study.

  • Tim Barzyk is a research scientist at the EPA. Tim works with community organizations, state and local agencies, EPA Regions and Program Offices, and academic partners to develop and apply near-source air quality models, citizen science portable sensor technologies, and decision analysis methods for use in local scale environmental health assessments. While focused on environmental health, his research acknowledges that local values and knowledge about social, environmental, and economic conditions must inform the assessment process in order to support evidence-based decision making by local residents, policy makers, or commercial interests to improve environmental conditions.

  • Vlad Isakov is a research scientist at the EPA. His current research focuses on the development and testing through applications and innovative approaches to model spatially and temporally resolved air quality concentrations in support of exposure and health studies.

000955


If you are not already a member, the Office of Environmental Justice would like to invite you to join the EJ ListServ. The purpose of this information tool is to notify individuals about activities at EPA in the field of environmental justice. By subscribing to this list you will receive information on EPAs activities, programs, projects grants and about environmental justice activities at other agencies. Noteworthy news items, National meeting announcements, meeting summaries of NEJAC meetings, and new publication notices will also be distributed. Postings can only be made by the Office of Environmental Justice. To request an item to be posted, send your request to environmental-justice@epa.gov and indicate in the subject “Post to EPA-EJ ListServ”

Air pollution exposure may increase risk of dementia

The excellent article below, published with the permission of the authors, makes a strong case that exposure to particulate matter may cause one in five cases of dementia, and includes links to lots of additional information.

The article doesn’t focus on the sources of particulate matter or the fact that diesel particulate matter is particularly dangerous, since it typically includes over 40 toxins.  For more on that subject, see Overview: Diesel Exhaust and Health, by the California Air Resources Board.

——————————————-

 

Caleb Finch, University of Southern California and Jiu-Chiuan Chen, University of Southern California

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease that eventually strips sufferers of their ability to remember, communicate and live independently. By 2050, it is projected to affect nearly 14 million Americans and their families, with an economic cost of one trillion dollars – more than the estimated combined total for treating heart disease and cancer. The Conversation

Of the leading causes of death in America, Alzheimer’s disease is the only one that we currently cannot prevent, cure or even stall. Our latest research seeks to change this situation by providing a better understanding of the environmental causes and mechanisms behind the disease.

Our findings lead us to conclude that outdoor air pollution, in the form of tiny particles released from power plants and automobiles that seep into our lungs and blood, could nearly double the dementia risk in older women. If our results are applicable to the general population, fine particulate pollution in the ambient air may be responsible for about one out of every five cases of dementia.

This study, the first to combine human epidemiologic investigation with animal experiments, adds to a growing body of research from around the world that links air pollution to dementia. It also provides the first scientific evidence that a critical Alzheimer’s risk gene, APOE4, interacts with air particles to accelerate brain aging.

Where there’s smoke

Previous research at the University of Southern California has already established that air pollution accelerates the risk of having a heart attack. Based on this work, we established the AirPollBrain Group to examine whether and how exposure to fine particulate matter – known as PM2.5 because the particles measure 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter – impacts the aging brain.


Click to zoom.
USEPA

We designed this study to answer three broad questions. First, we wanted to know whether older people living in locations with higher levels of outdoor PM2.5 have an increased risk for cognitive impairment, especially dementia. We also wanted to know whether people who carry the high-risk gene for Alzheimer’s disease, APOE4, are more sensitive to the damage potentially caused by long-term exposure to PM2.5 in the air.

Our third question was whether similar findings could be observed with controlled exposures to particles in mice modified to carry human Alzheimer’s disease genes. If we found similar effects in mice, it could shed light on possible mechanisms underlying what is happening in human brains.

We focused on older women and female mice because APOE4 confers a greater Alzheimer’s disease risk in women than in men.

Human subjects

For the human epidemiologic study component, we collaborated with investigators from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, or WHIMS, which followed a large group of older women nationwide, starting in the late 1990s when these women were 65 to 79 years old but did not have dementia or any significant cognitive impairment.

We combined EPA monitoring data and air quality simulations to build a mathematical model that allowed us to estimate the everyday outdoor PM2.5 level in various locations where these women lived from 1999 through 2010. Because the WHIMS followed its study participants very closely, we were able to gather detailed information on other factors that may affect an individual’s risk for dementia, such as smoking, exercise, body mass index, hormone therapy and other clinical risk factors like diabetes and heart disease. This allowed us to account for these other factors and better isolate the effects of air pollution exposure.

We found that women exposed to higher levels of PM2.5 had faster rates of cognitive decline and a higher risk of developing dementia. Older women living in places where PM2.5 levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard had an 81 percent greater risk of global cognitive decline and were 92 percent more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s. This environmental risk raised by long-term PM2.5 exposure was two to three times higher among older women with two copies of the APOE4 gene, compared with women who had only the background genetic risk with no APOE4 gene.

Nonattainment areas are not meeting the EPA standard. Areas designated unclassifiable do not have enough verified monitoring data to show they are meeting the standard, but are working with EPA to improve their data.
USEPA

Mouse models

For the laboratory studies, we exposed female mice with Alzheimer genes to nano-sized air pollution for 15 weeks. The air particle collection technology, invented by our colleague Constantinos Sioutas from USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, collects air particles from the edge of USC’s campus as a representative air sample from urban areas.

The experimental data showed that mice systematically exposed to this particulate matter accumulated larger deposits of proteins called beta-amyloid in their brains. In humans, beta-amyloid is considered as a pathological driver of neurodegeneration and is a major target of therapeutic interventions to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or slow its progress. Similar to our epidemiologic observation in older women, these effects were stronger for APOE4 female mice, which are predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease.

Future studies

Our future studies will look at whether these findings also apply to men, and whether any drugs under development may provide protection against air pollution exposure. More work is also needed to confirm a causal relationship and to understand how air pollution enters and harms the brain.

Brain aging from exposure to air pollution may start at development, so we also want to look at early life exposure to air pollution in relation to Alzheimer’s disease. We already know that obesity and diabetes are Alzheimer’s risk factors. We also know that children who live closer to freeways tend to be more obese, an effect that is compounded if adults in the household are smokers.

Based on existing mouse models, one would predict that developmental exposure to air pollution could increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease. This is an important piece of the scientific puzzle that we’d like to better understand.

Air pollution, public health and policies

Air pollution knows no borders. This gives our study global implications that should be taken seriously by policymakers and public health officials.

The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to develop National Ambient Air Quality Standards that provide an adequate margin of safety to protect sensitive populations, such as children and the elderly. In 2012 the EPA tightened the U.S. standard for PM2.5. Nonetheless, in 2015 nearly 24 million people lived in counties that still had unhealthful year-round levels of particle pollution, and over 41 million lived in counties that experienced short-term pollution spikes.

Recent studies have shown that the prevalence of dementia in the United States declined between 2000 and 2012. However, we don’t know whether this trend is connected to air pollution regulations, or if exposures to lower levels of PM2.5 in recent years still pose some degree of long-term threat to older Americans, especially those at risk for dementia.

If long-term PM2.5 exposure indeed increases the risk for dementia, this would imply that public health organizations are underestimating the already large disease burden and health care costs associated with air pollution. For instance, the World Health Organization’s latest assessment of the global burden of disease caused by PM2.5 does not include dementia. Air pollution levels are much higher in India, China and many other developing nations than U.S. levels.

The World Health Organization recommends reducing PM 2.5 to an annual average of 10 micrograms per cubic meter.
Phoenix 7777/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Similarly, EPA has estimated that the Clean Air Act will provide almost US$2 trillion in benefits between 1990 and 2020, much of it from reduced deaths and illnesses. If there is a connection between particulate pollution and dementia, the Clean Air Act may be providing even larger benefits than EPA’s estimate.

The U.S. National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, which was mandated by legislation enacted in 2011, aims to prevent or effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. We believe any measures that undermine EPA’s operation or loosen clear air regulations will have unintended consequences that will make it challenging to meet this goal.

Caleb Finch, University Professor, Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California and Jiu-Chiuan Chen, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New study links particulate matter air pollution to premature births

A new study adds to the weight of evidence linking premature births to particulate matter air pollution (PM) – a cautionary note for those who live near highways and other sources PM. This research, by Swedish, British, and American scientists, links almost 1 in 5 premature births to fine PM air pollution.

Research published last year by researchers from NYU and other universities estimates the costs of premature births in the U.S. linked to air pollution at over $4 billion per year, and emphasizes that “considerable health and economic benefits could be achieved through environmental regulatory interventions that reduce PM2.5 exposure in pregnancy.”

The primary sources of PM air pollution in the U.S. are traffic-related air pollution, particularly from diesel engines, burning of biomass, and coal power plants.

Economic costs of premature births

Read More

New research shows traffic-related air pollution may lead to dementia in older women

Image: USC School of Gerontology

Scientists at the University of Southern California published research yesterday that shows that Particulate Matter air pollution from power plants and vehicles may greatly increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Their work indicates that air pollution may be responsible for over 20 percent of dementia cases.  Their study was published in the Nature journal Translational Psychiatry.

Over 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimers Disease, and it is estimated that almost 14 million people will be afflicted by 2050.  To learn more, see the video or references below.

The USC Research

The surprising link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease, LA Times

Air pollution linked to Alzheimer’s disease, study says, Press Enterprise

Air pollution may lead to dementia in older women, USC School of Gerontology

Background

Diesel exhaust linked to magnetic particles in our brains and Alzheimer’s Disease, Moving Forward Network

Air Pollution May Be The Cause Of Alzheimer’s Disease, Innotrendz

2016 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures, Alzheimers and Dementia Journal

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