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Santa Monica Airport pollution could prompt legislation, Lieu says

December 1, 2011 |  4:01 pm

Lead, ultrafine particles and other aircraft emissions at Santa Monica Airport could pose health risks for residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, scientists said Wednesday evening at a hearing in West Los Angeles.

The studies are "highly disturbing," said state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Air Quality. Lieu said emissions could be exposing Westside residents, especially children, to potentially dramatic health effects, including lower IQs, asthma and bronchitis.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 120 Westside residents attended the hearing at the Felicia Mahood senior center, where researchers presented results from studies at or near LAX and Santa Monica Airport. The scientists included a medical doctor and researchers from UCLA, as well as representatives of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Westside residents testified about their worries over noise and pollution. Laura Silagi of Venice spoke of hearing the "constant roar and drone of planes."

"Closure would eliminate all health risks," she said. "Close it down!" one woman in the audience shouted.

Lieu said the findings raised serious questions about the effects of the airport's operations on public health and quality of life. He added that his policymaking committee would explore whether to put forth legislation to curb possible ill effects.

Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA, said Thursday that the agency had taken steps to limit emissions at the airport by, for example, telling pilots not to start their engines until shortly before takeoff.

He added that no one has yet made any formal emissions-reducing proposals for the agency to evaluate or comment on.

The city of Santa Monica contends that it will have more control over how the airport is used come 2015, when all leases at the property expire. But the FAA has vowed to battle to keep the airport going.


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--Martha Groves