Residents who live in close proximity to Santa Monica Airport (SMO) have been concerned about possible negative health impacts from operations at the airport for years. On February 22 an environmental workshop was held to review three studies that looked at air pollutants that were generated by aircraft operations at the airport.
Dr. Arnold Den, Senior Toxicologist, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, discussed the results of their study of lead concentrations around the airport. He stressed that all piston-engine aircraft use leaded aviation gasoline. The EPA collected air samples in 2008 and then created a model to predict lead air concentrations for every day in 2008 at SMO. Their model predicted air lead concentrations on airport property above the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 150ng/m3. The summer months were predicted to have the highest average air lead concentrations.
The EPA also sampled soil and dust samples on airport property, in local parks, and at­ local residences. The results showed no elevated lead levels on airport property or in local parks. However, two homes out of the five sampled had elevated lead levels but the EPA was unsure if all of the lead levels were due to aviation sources.
Den also mentioned that the results of study would be used to “develop a national modeling approach to quantify how emissions from piston-engine aircraft affect ambient lead levels on a local scale.”
A South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) study found that the most significant air quality related impacts from aircraft operations were on the levels of ultrafine particles (UFPs), lead, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). SCAQMD’s Dr. Phil Fine noted that the study showed “aircraft idling near the runway before departure and during take-off were found to generate large numbers of UFPs over short periods.” Lead levels were also found to be elevated at sites near the runway. In addition, VOCs levels were found to be elevated substantially in samples collected near the blast-fence when jet-propelled planes were idling close to the runway. Samples for these studies were taken at SMO in 2006 and 2007.
Fine hopes future studies can correlate UFP levels with aircraft type and aircraft operations.
UCLA Professor Susanne Paulson explained that UFPs could have a negative impact on health because they “deposit in human airways.” After penetrating into the lungs they transfer through cell membranes to the circulatory system. This could be a possible mechanism that increases a person’s chance of having a heart attack or stroke. She also pointed out that there are currently no existing standards to regulate UFPs levels.
Paulson’s study involved making measurements of UFPs at various sites around SMO for four days in 2008. Her results show that all aircraft operations generate UFPs.
Mirror Contributing Writerhannah@smmirror.com