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Sen. Lieu asks state to investigate air pollution, lead-blood levels around Santa Monica Airport
July 19, 2011
Request follows recent and highly disturbing study
SACRAMENTO – State Sen. Ted W. Lieu, D-Torrance, today released a letter he sent to the state Department of Toxic Substance Control asking that the state investigate pollution and blood-lead levels among residents surrounding Santa Monica Airport.
Below is Lieu’s letter:
July 18, 2011
Director, Department of Toxic Substance Control
California Environmental Protection Agency
1001 I Street, 25th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Director Raphael:
Thank you for your work in protecting the public from toxic harm. As the Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Air Quality, I am writing to request that the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) conduct a formal investigation of a dangerously toxic situation for California residents who live adjacent to Santa Monica Airport (SMO). No airport in the United States has residents who live as close to an airport as at SMO. Some residents live less than 300 feet away, and the exhaust from aircraft blows into their homes on a daily basis. Multiple studies have shown that residents near SMO—many of whom live in the Senate District I represent—ingest significantly higher levels of suspended particulate lead and ultra-fine particulate matter. I have visited many of these homes and I believe the soil is also contaminated with lead and other toxic particulate matter.
A highly disturbing study, just released on July 13, 2011, showed that children who live within 500 meters of airports have significantly higher levels of lead in their blood. (Attachment 1, A Geospatial Analysis of the Effects of Aviation Gasoline on Childhood Blood Lead Levels). Children within 1000 meters of airports also had increased levels of blood lead. The study, funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, found children living near airports in North Carolina had lead in their blood caused by piston aircraft using aviation gasoline. The study concluded: “Our analysis indicates that living within 1000 m of an airport where aviation gasoline is used may have a significant effect on blood lead levels in children. Our results further suggest that the impacts of aviation gasoline are highest among those children living closest to the airport.”
At SMO, children live far closer to the airport, within 500 feet, not 500 meters. Moreover, SMO is a general aviation airport with many small aircraft with piston engines that use aviation gasoline rather than jet fuel. I believe an investigation by DTSC will reveal high levels of lead exposure and blood lead in children, as well as adults, living near SMO.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated there is no safe level for blood lead in children. Even miniscule amounts of blood lead have been shown to cause learning disabilities, behavior disorders, and substandard academic performance in children. Higher levels will cause premature death.
The blood-lead study builds upon multiple studies conducted at SMO that demonstrate the air, and likely the soil, is contaminated by lead and other particles, such as black carbon. Between April 2006 and March 2007, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) conducted a field study at SMO (Attachment 2). The study found that “Ambient concentrations of total suspended particulate lead (from the leaded fuel used in piston-driven aircraft) and ultrafine particles (UFP; very small particles emitted from aircraft exhaust and other combustion processes) on-site and near SMO were found to be significantly higher than the corresponding levels present further away from the airport.”
In April 2011, SCAQMD updated its study and conducted additional field samples at SMO (Attachment 2). The study found that at some places near SMO, including a residents’ backyard, the level of ultra-fine particles was 50 times greater when the airport was in use, compared to when the airport was not in use.
In September 2009, researchers at UCLA and USC conducted a study in real-time of ultra-fine particle concentrations at SMO (Attachment 3). Similar to the SCAQMD studies, the UCLA/USC study confirmed residents near SMO were breathing in significantly higher levels of ultra-fine particulate matter. The study found “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 consistency of the multiple studies conducted at SMO, as well as at other general aviation airports, show that residents living near SMO are living in a toxic atmosphere. I believe these studies provide more than enough basis for DTSC to conduct a formal investigation into the toxicity of the soil, vapor, and air surrounding SMO. The DTSC website also provides the ability to file a formal environmental complaint. Through this letter, I am both requesting a formal investigation as well as filing a formal environmental complaint.
I commend DTSC for its strong leadership in protecting the public from the harmful effects of toxic exposure, especially in the area of lead exposure. From reducing lead in plumbing, jewelry, and wheel weights, DTSC has been at the forefront of protecting Californians from the dangers of toxic lead. The studies and Powerpoint presentations on your excellent website found through the search function provide additional information regarding the harmful effects of lead in blood. The residents living near Santa Monica Airport desperately need DTSC’s expertise in investigating the levels of lead and other toxics exposure—from the soil, to vapor, to the air—in the communities adjacent to the airport.
DTSC’s expertise will be especially critical given the fact that the lease between the Federal government and Santa Monica for airport operations at SMO expires in 2015. The results of DTSC’s investigation will be useful in determining what mitigation measures are necessary at SMO, and whether SMO should even continue operating as an airport past 2015.
Thank you for your consideration.
TED W. LIEU
Senator, 28th District
Chair, Senate Select Committee on Air Quality
1. A Geospatial Analysis of the Effects of Aviation Gasoline on Childhood Blood Lead Levels, July 13, 2011
2. General Aviation Airport Air Monitoring Study: Follow-up Monitoring Campaign at the Santa Monica Airport, April 2011
3. Aircraft Emission Impacts in a Neighborhood Adjacent to a General Aviation Airport in Southern California, September 2009
Congressmember Henry Waxman
Congressmember-elect Janice Hahn
State Senator Fran Pavley
Assemblymember Julia Brownley
Assemblymember Betsy Butler
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky
Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl
Santa Monica Mayor and City Council
For more, visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below.
Ted W. Lieu chairs the Senate Labor represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance, as well as portions of Los Angeles and Long Beach. For more, visit www.senate.ca.gov/lieu