Little-understood, unregulated particles pollute neighborhoods under Sea-Tac flight paths, UW study finds [The Seattle Times, 20/12/19]
Kent Palosaari’s persistent cough started eight years after he moved to a rambler on a hill half a mile from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
“When I’d go in to talk to the doctors, they’d ask, ‘Are you sure you don’t smoke?’” he said. “No, I don’t. I’m not around smokers. They were confused about why I was getting sick.”
Palosaari said he believes a new study from the University of Washington, funded by the state, may bear some clues to the cause of his illness.
It also makes him worry about his two young children’s health, he said.
The UW researchers found plane emissions are polluting communities near the airport with a particularly worrisome type of “ultrafine” particles.
Ultrafine particles are less than 100 nanometers in diameter — one one-thousandth the width of a human hair — and their impact on health is only beginning to be studied. Ultrafines aren’t specifically regulated by any state or federal air quality standards.
Such particles are found in both vehicle and plane emissions. In fact, the UW researchers observed a higher concentration of ultrafines by roadways than by the airport.
But for the first time, researchers found a crucial difference in the type of ultrafines emitted by cars and trucks versus jet planes.
A higher proportion of the ultrafine particles (UFPs) in jet emissions are so small they can penetrate the central nervous system when inhaled, the report said.
Cover image: Kent Palosaari, his son Kai and daughter Mira in SeaTac. University of Washington researchers say emissions are polluting communities near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and Palosaari worries that the particles may be affecting his health. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)