Publication Review
Traffic-Related Air Pollution Risk Is Greater for Minority and Low-Income Populations
By Götz Kaufmann, 2015-07-01
New Rochelle, NY, July 1, 2015 – Low-income and minority populations disproportionately reside near roadways with high traffic volumes and consequently face increased exposure to traffic-related air pollutants (TRAP) and their associated health effects. New case studies demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating strategies to reduce TRAP exposure into the building design and site development for near-highway housing and school developments in the planning stages, as described in an article in Environmental Justice, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publisher. The article will be available free on the Environmental Justice website until August 1, 2015.

National data has shown that non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and people living just above or below the poverty line are more likely to have higher TRAP exposure. While much interest has focused on preventing and minimizing indoor sources of air pollution to achieve "greener," healthier buildings, more research and implementation of TRAP-reducing tactics, such a HEPA filtration, land-use buffers, vegetation or wall barriers, and better urban design are needed to protect people who live near high traffic roadways.

In "Developing Community-Level Policy and Practice to Reduce Traffic-Related Air Pollution Exposure," Doug Brugge, PhD and coauthors from Tufts University School of Medicine and Tufts University (Boston, MA), Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ), City of Somerville and Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (MA), and Linnean Solutions (Cambridge, MA) present case studies carried out in Somerville, MA and Boston Chinatown.

"Preventing exposure to traffic pollution is critical to achieving optimal environmental health for environmental justice communities", says Sylvia Hood Washington, PhD, MSE, ND, Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Justice, and Research Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.

The article's abstract reads as follows: The literature consistently shows associations of adverse cardiovascular and pulmonary outcomes with residential proximity to highways and major roadways. Air monitoring shows that traffic-related air pollutants (TRAP) are elevated within 200–400 meters of these roads. Community-level tactics for reducing exposure include the following: 1) high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filtration; 2) appropriate air-intake locations; 3) sound proofing, insulation; 4) land-use buffers; 5) vegetation or wall barriers; 6) street-side trees, hedges and vegetation; 7) decking over highways; 8) urban design including placement of buildings; 9) garden and park locations; and 10) active-travel locations, including bicycling and walking paths. A multidisciplinary design charrette was held to test the feasibility of incorporating these tactics into near-highway housing and school developments that were in the planning stages. The resulting designs successfully utilized many of the protective tactics and also led to engagement with the designers and developers of the sites. There is a need to increase awareness of TRAP in terms of building design and urban planning.
Image: © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.