LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Residents near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) are exposed to the same amount of toxic chemicals in the air as is found in hundreds of miles of freeway traffic, researchers said Thursday.
A study published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology journal found that pollution levels within nine square miles of the airport are 10 times higher than in other parts of LA and affects neighborhoods up to 10 miles east of the airport.
KNX 1070’s Ron Kilgore reports residents living in Hawthorne, Inglewood, El Segundo, Lennox, South Los Angeles and Westmont are the most likely to be affected, while cities south of the airport are affected to a lesser degree.
Researchers from the USC Keck School of Medicine noted that while past studies have measured pollution from air traffic, the majority of such studies only sampled air within a couple of miles — at most — from airports.
These studies often found higher levels of pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and small “ultrafine” particles about one-thousandth of the width of a human hair that scientists attributed to airplane emissions, according to the study’s authors.
USC Assistant Professor Scott Fruin said the presence of ultra-fine particles, which form from condensation of hot exhaust vapors, are of particular concern because they deposit deeply into the lungs and can enter the bloodstream. From there, they could play a role in the development of blocked arteries and other health conditions, especially for people with asthma or other existing cardiac and lung conditions.
“Our research shows that airport impacts extend more than five times farther than previously assumed,” said lead researcher Scott Fruin of USC, according to the Daily News.
Scientists conducted the study over a period of 29 days by driving to the area within 10 miles downwind of the airport — which includes densely packed residential neighborhoods flanked by three major freeways — to measure levels of air pollutants.
According to the study’s findings, particle concentrations were double normal background levels over a 23-square-mile area, and five times higher than background levels over nine square miles. Within nearly two miles east of the airport, particle levels jumped to nearly 10 times higher, equivalent to levels found in 174 to 491 miles of freeway traffic.
By comparison, the entire area of Los Angeles County has a total of about 930 miles of freeways.
In response to the study, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) issued the following statement: “LAWA cannot directly control aircraft-related emissions. But, LAWA has taken steps to reduce emissions that are within our responsibility and influence.”
According to airport officials, about 40 to 60 jets take off and land every hour during the busiest times at LAX.
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