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The Little-Known Pollutant That Could Finally Reprioritize Transportation Projects

When the public learns that freeway pollution discriminates against nearby residents with devastating health consequences, the tide of public opinion will finally turn against the automobile—a call to action by Bill Adams.
February 4, 2016, 9am PST | wadams92101
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Eunika Sopotnicka

(Updated 02/04/2016) UFP (ultrafine particulate) air pollution effects people living, working, or going to school near freeways, with devastating consequences. However, there is little public understanding of the difference between UFP and ozone pollution, i.e., smog, writes UrbDeZine editor Bill Adams. In a prior article, he detailed the scientific findings about UFP pollution, including: 

  • Heart disease, lung function impairment, leukemia, asthma, and lung cancer, are some of the conditions that have been associated with UFP exposure
  • The UFP high danger zone is the area roughly within 1,000 - 1,500 feet of either side of a high-traffic roadway, with variations due to topography, wind direction, and other factors.
  • UFP substantially stunts lung development in children living within 500 meters of busy roadways compared to those living more than 1,500 meters away.
  • 6 million school children are exposed to dangerous levels of UFP because of the location of their schools.
  • Low income and minority communities are disproportionately impacted by UFPs.

However, as evidence accumulates, public understanding will grow, predicts Adams:

"When people view highways as rivers of toxic air importing disease and death into nearby neighborhoods, rather than as simply regional polluters, resistance to road projects and demand for protection from existing highways will dramatically increase. The cost of road projects and mitigation, including mitigation of emissions from existing highways, will dramatically increase, making transit projects more cost effective."

The effect on property values and profits within these highway pollution zones may be an even greater agent of change, writes Adams. He goes on to urge readers to get the word out to save lives and improve the built environment. 

[The headline of this post was updated to reflect the correct usage of scientific terms.]

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Published on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 in UrbDeZine
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