By David Danelski, November 1, 2013
Under new federal news, regional air quality official will measure
pollution near freeways. Here, big rigs travel on Van Buren Boulevard
and Highway 60 in Jurupa Valley.
For the first time, permanent air quality monitoring stations will be
placed near Southern California freeways to measure pollution from
The information will be a factor in determining whether an area meets federal air quality standards.
later than Jan. 1, the South Coast Air Quality Management District will
install the air-monitoring stations just off Interstate 10 near
Etiwanda Avenue in a Fontana warehousing district. Another will be
located near Interstate 5 and Lincoln Avenue in Anaheim. The air
district will operate the stations and report the data to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
In Southern California, nearly 3
million people live within 550 yards of a freeway. Years of studies have
found increased health risks — for cancer, heart attacks, asthma, lung
impairment, birth defects and autism, among other ailments.
years of documentation about the risks of living close to freeways, the
federal government until now has deliberately excluded that pollution
zone from monitoring. Regulators were more interested in the regional
situation. But the mounting evidence of the harm from freeway emissions
triggered a change.
Under a new EPA rule, freeway air pollution
monitors will be installed throughout nation, and the data gathered will
count toward determining whether region meets health standards.
is a much-needed step to give us critical information to know how dirty
the air is where people are breathing it,” said Frank O’Donnell,
president the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Air Watch, which advocates
for clean-air legislation and rules.
Phil Fine, one of the South
Coast district’s chief scientists, said the Fontana and Anaheim
locations have among the highest freeway emissions in Southern
California. The pollution readings at those two sites will be comparable
to other areas affected by heavy traffic, he said
district analyzed traffic data to identify roadway stretches with the
highest emissions. District officials then looked for the most practical
places to securely locate two trailers full of monitoring equipment
within 55 yards of the roadway, Fine said.
Under the EPA rule, the
district will start by measuring nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that
reacts with volatile organic compounds — fumes from gasoline, nail
polish, oil-base varnishes and other sources — to form ozone gas that is
associated with headaches, nausea, cough, itchy eyes, asthma attacks
and other health effects.
Fine, however, does not expect nitrogen
dioxides levels near the freeway to exceed a separate health standard
for the brownish-colored gas. In fact, Southern California hasn’t had a
nitrogen dioxide violation since 1991.
Fine-particle pollution is another matter.
new federal rule also requires the district to measure diesel soot and
other microscopic particles along freeways by 2017. The Jurupa Valley,
Fontana and Ontario areas, as well as parts of Los Angeles County, still
fail to meet federal health federal standards for that pollutant.
said he expects higher levels of the tiny particles along freeways, so
the new monitors may mean Southern California will have a harder time
meeting the federal particle-pollution health standard.
though, that pollution from big-rig trucks, the largest source, is
declining, a result of state rules requiring cleaner engines on new
trucks and new pollution-control devices on older vehicles.
“On-road trucks are getting a lot cleaner pretty quickly,” Fine said.
D. Shaw, vice president of external affairs for the California Trucking
Association, said he doesn’t expect the freeway monitoring to affect
the industry, which his now investing about a $1 billion year to reduce
“The modern truck now has almost nothing coming out the tailpipe,” he said.