Air Pollution from Los Angeles Airport Drifts Further than Previous Research Demonstrated

According to the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), research “shows that airliner activity at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) worsens air quality over a far larger area than previously assumed. The study, published May 29, 2014, in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and conducted with University of Washington (UW) researchers, found a doubling of ultrafine particle number concentrations extended east more than 10 miles downwind from the airport boundary over a 20-square mile area, encompassing communities including Lennox, Westmont, parts of South L.A., Hawthorne and Inglewood, and, in certain wind conditions, areas south of LAX. ‘Our research shows that airport impacts extend more than 5 times further than previously assumed,’ said Scott Fruin, D. Env., lead researcher and assistant  professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.  ‘Effects from planes that are landing appear to play a major role in this large area of impact.’ To put this large area of impact into perspective, the researchers calculated that one-quarter to one-half of the entire L.A. County freeway system produces an equivalent increase in ultrafine particle numbers on a concentration-weighted basis. ‘LAX may be as important to L.A.’s air quality as the freeway system,’ said Fruin. ‘The impact area is large, and the airport is busy most hours of the day. That makes it uniquely hard for people to avoid the effects of air pollution in affected areas.’ Most previous research on the air quality impacts of airports focused on measuring air quality near where jet takeoffs occur. Takeoffs produce immense plumes of exhaust but only intermittently, and pollution concentrations downwind have been observed to fall off rapidly with distance. The assumption has been that total airport impacts also fall off rapidly with distance. The new research finds that this assumption is wrong.”

To read the abstract, click here; the press release from USC, here; and a Los Angeles Times article, here.