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People riding American subway lines are exposed to air pollution that’s worse than a bad day in Beijing, according to new research that studied subway networks in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and D.C.The tiny pollution particles, known as PM2.5 for their size, are easily inhaled. These are the same ones that we reported yesterday kills nearly 9 million people a year globally. The air samples from subway stations had iron and organic carbon, produced by exhaust from diesel locomotives, abrasion between rails, wheels, and brakes, and dead animals.
Why this Matters: We hope Secretary Pete takes note because this is an environmental justice issue. Air quality issues anywhere can lead to serious health issues as the recent study on air pollution and health makes clear. For people who work on the trains or in stations, it’s even more of a concern as they spend their workday exposed.
“This is an important contribution, especially to our understanding of the disproportionate burden of air pollution faced by low-income communities and communities of color,” Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Guardian.
Need for more transit not less
New York’s Christopher Street station had the worst pollution, with the underground reading 77 times higher than the fresh air above. That’s a level “more commonly found near a large wildfire or during a building demolition,” The Guardian writes. Even in stations that weren’t as bad, the concentration of particles was two to seven times higher than outside air. Commuting regularly through polluted Christopher Street increases your risk of heart problems by 10%, according to the research.
Although air pollution underground is a public health concern, so is air pollution created by exhaust from cars and other diesel engines on the road. All of the subway systems studied were planning service cuts because of financial shortfalls during the pandemic, Money from the federal COVID relief bill is a much-needed boost that has at least temporarily stopped most cuts. Recent research suggests that pollution from fossil fuels caused nearly one in five deaths in 2018, higher than previously estimated. That’s an argument to electrify our transit systems and continue to build out clean public transit, rather than let the subway systems in American languish.
Opportunity for “generational” transportation change: With Pete Buttigieg recently confirmed as secretary of transportation, subways and trains will be part of the administration’s broader climate-friendly approach to transit. That could include changing the criteria for the federal BUILD grant program, which funds rail and transit projects, to incentivize emissions reductions — which could include electrified trains.
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a plan to implement final standards to protect residents from the adverse impacts of municipal landfills. The Trump administration previously tried to delay these protections and waive restrictions on other sources of methane emissions. The EPA’s new standards are just one in a series […]
The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the Limetree Bay refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands to close for at least 60 days because its operation is an “imminent risk to public health,” the agency said in a statement.
Why This Matters: The air pollution and oil that were being emitted at the plant have long caused harm to the people of St. Croix, a majority Black island.
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Air pollution from animal farms leads to nearly 13,000 deaths annually, according to a new study that links food protection and air quality harms. The manure and animal feed from farms produce fine-particle pollution that leads to breathing issues as well as long-term health issues like heart disease and […]
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