People who live, work or travel within 165 feet downwind of a major freeway or busy intersection are exposed to potentially hazardous particle concentrations up to 30 times greater than normal background concentrations found at a greater distance, according to two recently published UCLA studies.
The studies -- published in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association and in Atmospheric Environment -- show that proximity to a major freeway or highway dramatically increases exposure to "ultrafine" particles (tiny particles less than 0.1 micrometers in diameter), which are linked to neurological changes, mild pulmonary inflammation and cardiovascular problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, and ultrafines represent the very smallest particles inhaled by the public.
Traffic-related air pollution is of great concern to Los Angeles, which has the most severe particle air-quality problem in the United States. The Los Angeles Basin is home to more than 15 million residents and 10 million vehicles contributing to its daily traffic. Motor vehicle emissions represent the most significant source of ultrafine particles. Moreover, recent toxicological studies have shown that ultrafine particles are more toxic than larger particles, potentially leading to increased mortality and illness with increased exposure to particulate matter.
Wendy Hunter | EurekAlert!
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