By Lookout Staff
November 18, 2009 -- A UCLA study released Wednesday
found that air pollution levels were ten times higher than
normal near the east end of Santa Monica Airport's runway,
which faces residences.
The long-awaited report adds fuel to neighbors' complaints
that they have been exposed for years to the health risks
of emissions that leave a think coat of soot on their patio
furniture and in their pools.
"The observation of highly elevated ultrafine particle
concentrations in a large residential area downwind of this
local airport has potential health implications for persons
living near general aviation airports," the study found.
The pollution was measured downwind of Santa Monica Airport
in the spring and summer of last year using an electric
vehicle mobile platform equipped with fast response instruments,
according to researchers.
"Peak ultrafine particle (UFP) concentrations were
reasonably correlated with fuel consumption rates associated
with aircraft departures, estimated from aircraft weights
and acceleration rates," researchers wrote.
"UFP concentrations remained elevated for extended
periods associated particularly with jet departures, but
also with jet taxi and idle, and operations of propeller
aircraft," the study found.
Studies have found that ultrafine particles -- which are
far tinier than the diameter of a human hair -- are "small
enough to pass through the lung tissue into the blood stream,
circulating like the oxygen molecules themselves,"
according to the American Lung Association.
The particles also are small enough to penetrate tissue
and to get past the blood-brain barrier, researchers have
found. The particles can pose health risks for children,
the elderly and those suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular
Other small airports in urban areas can pose similar risks,
which should be addressed, the UCLA report found.
Jet operations had been steadily increasing at Santa Monica’s
63-year-old municipal, from 17,736 in 2005, to 18,101 in
2006, to a high of 18,575 in 2007.
The upward trend -- fueled by the Westside’s rise
as a booming entertainment and high-tech mecca – skyrocketed
after 9/11, as the very rich and top corporate executives
sought a way around long security checks at LAX, airport
The jets also became larger after companies like NetJets
began offering “fractional ownership” as well
as leases of large, luxurious jets, according to aviation
The City's efforts to regulate jet traffic has put it in
a collision course with the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA), which sued the City after the council banned larger
faster jets at Santa Monica Airport in April 2008. (“Jet
Ban Awaits Court Order,” April 24, 2008)
In ordering the City to suspend the ordinance approved
by the council, the FAA argued that the measure -- which
bans C and D aircraft with approach speeds of between 139
and 191 mph -- is unnecessary and would harm jet operators.
The City called the federal government’s challenge a
“legal assault” on an ordinance responding to
increasing concerns that soaring jet traffic is putting neighboring
homes, as well as pilots, in danger.