air toxics

InvestigateWest and KCTS 9 co-produce "Breathing Uneasy," a look at the air pollution crisis in South Seattle

“Breathing Uneasy” is the result of a collaboration between InvestigateWest and KCTS 9. Veteran environmental reporters Robert McClure of InvestigateWest and Jenny Cunningham of KCTS 9 spent six months examining the impact of truck traffic on the communities that border the Port of Seattle, an area that new studies say has some of the worst air in the state. Their stories detail how toxic emissions from diesel trucks endanger residents of some of Seattle’s poorest communities, but also contain lessons and implications for any area dealing with major roadway traffic near schools and residential neighborhoods.

In addition, McClure and Cunningham examine how Port of Seattle Chief Executive Officer Tay Yoshitani helped oppose changes in legislation that would have made trucks cleaner, despite his promise to make Seattle the “cleanest, greenest, most energy-efficient port in the U.S.”

A special report on air pollution, co-produced by InvestigateWest and KCTS 9,  will air on KCTS Connects Friday, June 17 at 7 p.m. Click here to view the video.

To read the stories on Crosscut, click here.  And you can listen to Robert McClure discuss the issue with Ross Reynolds on The Conversation during the noon hour Tuesday, June 14 on KUOW 94.9 FM.

Byline: 

100-plus air toxics are killing us

smokestack-by-doe2Air toxics are largely not subject to the kind of strict regulation that "traditional" air pollution like NOX, SOX and particulates are, and yet just the other day we begged off a longer discussion of the topic, opining that air toxics were a subject for another day.

Well, aren't we the lucky ones? Our friends at the Society of Environmental Journalists have just helpfully provided a guide to what's happening with the National Airborne Toxics Assessment. It's an eye-opener.

For example, it turns out there are something like 180 kinds of toxic gunk in the air that are killing us. Bear in mind that there are no ambient air standards for most of these. No lie.

NATA estimates risks for only about two-thirds of the air toxics.  Even considering that limited picture, they do plenty of harm. SEJ's staff has compiled a piercing summary of what NATA shows, including:

The results indicate that almost every person in the US lives in an area where the cancer risk exceeds 10 in 1 million after a lifetime of exposure to selected air toxics, well in excess of EPA’s general target of 1 in 1 million. For 2 million people, the risk is far worse, exceeding 100 in 1 million.

We’re killing our neighbors with our cars

We are literally killing people with air pollution.

It’s a simple fact that tends to get forgotten in the everyday bustle of our lives. And it’s that bustle itself – specifically, zipping to and fro courtesy the internal-combustion engine – that is proving most difficult for air-pollution regulators to fight.

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These points are brought out nicely in a story by Keith Matheny that ran Sunday in The Desert Sun, the newspaper in Palm Springs, Calif. Thousands of people die from air pollution each year there in the Coachella Valley alone.

Now, it’s true that Palm Springs is cursed with unfortunate geography of being just over a low pass from Los Angeles, and located in a bowl of a valley. So the gunk in the air from LA and western Riverside County becomes a problem for Palm Springs.