Air pollution and its possible adverse health affects has long been a big concern for those who live near Santa Monica Airport. Now, in a historic step the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to study lead emissions from Santa Monica Airport to help improve their evaluation of lead impacts from piston-engine aircraft that burn aviation fuel that contains lead. Matthew Lakin Ph.D, the EPA Environmental Scientist who will lead the study discussed the details of the study at a Santa Monica Airport Commission meeting.
At the January 26 meeting Dr. Philip Fine, from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) stated that his air quality study conducted from 2005-2006 at Santa Monica Airport found that although lead concentrations near the Airport were higher near the runways they did not exceed the standards set by the EPA. The EPA selected Santa Monica’s Airport for its study based on the foundation the SCAQMD study laid, because a dense population lives near the Airport and because there are no major industrial sources of lead within a mile of the Airport. Lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft are being studied because they are responsible for 45 percent of the lead in the air.
The results of the study will be used to help the EPA determine if other airports in the United States are meeting the EPA’s 2008 Lead National Ambient Air Quality Standard, to create a modeling approach for states and local authorities to study lead and other pollutants’ concentration and dispersion at airports, will provide a tool and data to evaluate how reducing lead emissions at airports could reduce the amount of lead in the air, and provide information on how leaded aviation gasoline contributes to lead in the soil. However, the EPA will not use the study to decide whether or how to control lead emissions at the Santa Monica’s airport.
EPA representatives will be collecting air and soil samples from February through July of 2009. The results of the study, according to Lakin, should be available in early 2010. Latkin also mentioned that lead could have serious negative health affects especially on children because it can cause them to have a lower IQ or engage in aggressive behavior. He also pointed out that jet fuel does not contain lead and that major lead emissions occur when piston-engine aircraft take off.
The community also participated in the meeting. Martin Rubin who is the Director of the Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution stressed as many of the other speakers that “our main gripe has been with jet emissions but we certainly recognize that lead in piston-engine aircraft fuel needs to be looked at in terms of health risks as well.” However, the EPA needs to study the health risks from jet fumes to us so we will know “if we’re not in harms way or if we are.”