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Study finds high air pollution levels around Santa Monica Airport

November 18, 2009 | 11:44 am

A new UCLA study shows that people who live and work near Santa Monica Airport are exposed to unusually high levels of air pollution — a significant health concern that has been largely associated with major commercial airports such as LAX.

The study, published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found that emissions of so-called ultrafine particles were 10 times higher than background levels about 100 yards downwind of the airport. The levels were 2.5 times higher at a distance of about six football fields.

Less an 1/500th the width of a human hair, ultrafine particles can travel deep into the lungs and penetrate tissue. Research has shown that elevated levels are associated with increased deaths due to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

Santa Monica Airport sits on a plateau surrounded by businesses and homes, some less than 300 feet from the west end of the runway. Nearby residents and businesses have been concerned about air pollution and the increasing use of larger corporate jets at the airport.

UCLA’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences conducted the study — one of only a handful to explore airborne pollutants near general aviation airports that serve private planes and corporate jets.

The research suggests that government officials should pay closer attention to airport-related emissions that could cause health problems. Many smaller airports in urban areas, the study noted, do not have adequate buffer zones to reduce noise and air pollution in surrounding neighborhoods.

-- Dan Weikel

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