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SMO Transit-Related Air Pollution Greatly Impacts Nearby Neighborhood, UCLA Study Says

UCLA researchers say the Santa Monica Airport sends ultra-fine particles into the North Westdale neighborhood's air.

A plane lands at the Santa Monica Airport.
A plane lands at the Santa Monica Airport.
by Liz Spear

The North Westdale neighborhood of Mar Vista gets a huge thumbs down for air quality, according to UCLA researchers who studied four Los Angeles neighborhoods to compare their air pollution levels.

North Westdale, which had the highest level of ultrafine particle pollutants when compared to West Los Angeles, downtown and Boyle Heights, is downwind of the Santa Monica Airport during typical daytime weather patterns.

"The North Westdale neighborhood is heavily impacted by aircraft activities at Santa Monica Airport," said Professor Suzanne Paulson of UCLA's Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department. "It has exceptionally high levels of ultrafine particles when aircraft are active, possibly among the highest concentrations of any neighborhood in the Los Angeles area."

Noxious particulate concentrations in the North Westdale neighborhood were highest, followed by Boyle Heights and then downtown Los Angeles; neighborhoods in West Los Angeles had the lowest pollutant levels, according to the research.

Researchers used an emissions-free electric vehicle filled with instruments to measure real-time air pollutant concentrations. Large differences were observed among the locations during summer afternoons that featured very similar meteorology.  

The findings are published in December issue of the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Paulson and the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability worked with Arthur Winer, professor emeritus at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health on the study. Fieldwork was led by Wonsik Choi, a postgraduate researcher in Paulson's lab. 

"Boyle Heights is particularly impacted by roadway pollution," she said. "It is nearly surrounded by freeways and crisscrossed by major arterial roads. These streets carry a large number of high-emitting older vehicles, and its neighborhoods are characterized by short blocks with abundant stop signs, causing frequent emission spikes from accelerating of vehicles."

Read UCLA's full press release on the study online here.

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