Study: Residents near Sea-Tac Airport exposed to ultra-fine pollution particles
University of Washington researchers say people who live around Sea-Tac airport breath in more air pollution than others in the region.
The new study indicates airplanes emit ultra-fine and distinct pollution particles in communities within 10 miles of the airport. Residents are exposed to a type of ultra-fine particle pollution, which is less than 0.1 micron in diameter, 700 times thinner than the width of a single human hair.
Communities below and downwind of jets passing over are impacted. Because of their very tiny nature, other studies have shown that such particles are more likely to be inhaled and penetrate the body’s defenses, and other studies have found that prolonged exposure can increase risk of cancer, heart disease, and lung conditions.
The study was able to distinguish between pollution from jet traffic and nearby road traffic, mapping a geographic area where each appeared around Sea-Tac.
“We found that communities under the flight paths near the airport are exposed to higher proportions of smaller-sized, ‘ultra- ultrafine’ pollution particles and over a larger area compared to pollution particles associated with roadways,” said Edmund Seto, co-principal investigator and DEOHS associate professor.
Up next for researchers is determining how such communities and airport officials can help reduce the impact of these particles.
“We can now study the specific health effects of aircraft-related pollution, how different neighborhoods may be affected by it and specific interventions that could reduce human exposure to these pollutants,” said DEOHS Chair and Professor Michael Yost, co-investigator on the study. “We hope to work with state and local policymakers as well as affected communities to pursue these questions.”