In California 40% live near major roads
and 19.3 percent of the U.S. population live within 500 meters of a high volume
over represented by Minority and Low Income households .
Adrian Martinez 17 September
STUDY: Transport and the Environment published in the
Journal of Transportation Research finds that
19.3 percent of the U.S. population live within 500 meters of a high volume
road, over represented by Minority and low income households .
Regulators have been slow to remedy the
ample scientific evidence demonstrating high levels of air
pollutants near major roadways.
The research is all the more important in a place like
California where the study found that 40 percent of the
state’s population lives near high volume roads—the biggest percentage of any
state. Yet, air regulators in California
have been slow to take initial steps to place AIR
MONITORS near heavily trafficked
I’m pleased EPA regulations on
nitrogen dioxide air monitors are kicking in by the end of the
year, but we still await monitoring of other harmful pollutants by our
regulators. I agree with the conclusion of a recent
L.A. Times editorial that authorities can no longer
ignore the situation.
As the paper points out, the lack of monitors near major roadways is
potentially hiding violations of clean air standards—otherwise known as
National Ambient Air Quality Standard or
NAAQS. Once identified, a region must reduce
emissions and “perform more detailed air quality analysis when developing
transportation plans.” Thus, until we get these monitors in place to understand
the extent of the pollution problem near highways, our regulators are allowing
region’s to mask their duties to bring clean air to highway adjacent residents.
Cleaning up this air near highways will not be easy, but will get more
difficult the longer we wait with our head in the sand.
The study also has large implications for environmental
justice because it found that low-income residents and minority
communities are overrepresented in the population near these roadways. The study
also found that greater traffic density is associated with increased race and
Last night at dinner with some Earthjustice
supporters, I tried to explain why our regulators are slow to take action on
this health threat. I did not have a good answer, and I doubt the regulators do
either. We need swift action to remedy highway pollution, and there is no better
place to start than in California.