My car is filthy. I park it under a sappy tree. And we aren’t talking a tad grimy. We are talking filthy black – and it is a white car . I get stares, comments, and attitude.
I love my car. Sporty 4 door, Fun to drive and one of the most efficient gas vehicles on the road. 48 MPG on a recent trip to Minnesota – there, back, and all the travel in between. And I can put a 9′ 2×12 board inside and close the hatchback. This marvelous piece of engineering and efficiency is a 1994 Geo Metro. Eat your hearts out.
“So, why”, you ask, “do you not wash your car.?”
I hate cars. They are filthy, murderous machines to which we are addicted. And they are responsible for a significant part of our world’s resource problems as well as a myriad of negative social and health impacts. As much as I love my car, I refuse to let it lull me into thinking that driving is good for me, or anyone else.
You have a nice car? Lots of pretty things are poisonous. My car is here to remind you that you are driving a malignancy. Just like me.
On June 6th, CART hosted Dr. Doug Brugge of the Tusk University Medical School for a presentation on his work as director of the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH) study.
There is a strong body of research that documents a variety of health problems associated with proximity to major traffic corridors. Ozone precursers, and PM 2.5 particles from vehicle emissions are well documented contributors to health problems. The CAFEH study is looking primarily at the role of Ultra Fine Particulates (UFP’s) that are only slightly larger than individual molecules. These particles are condensed from the gases that leave your tailpipe. CAFEH is actually a series of studies that establishes the health biometrics as well as measuring the particle emissions and individual exposure levels across a number of neighborhoods in the Boston metropolitan area. It is impressively complicated, both technically and logistically. Imagine a long term study that involves multiple blood testing of hundreds of citizens, particle monitoring inside and outside of their homes, particle monitoring from mobile labs that travel the roadways for years gathering data, and an incredible statistical analysis that seeks to adjust exposure to travel habits, work and home, weather conditions, and many other variables.
Most impressive, in the face of these challenges is Dr. Brugge’s commitment to valid science and the search for solutions to these problems.
There are a number of points from Dr. Brugge’s presentation that stand out.
First: Health problems associated with being close to major corridors are indisputable.
Second: Ultra Fine Particulates, unlike Ozone, are worse in the winter months because they are condensates, and things condense more easily in cold conditions. Ozone is created when sunlight interacts with exhaust gases and this occurs in warm months.
Third: Mitigating particulate exposure is difficult. It helps if you are in a building with a central air system with good filtration and sealed windows. It appears much more difficult to protect residences where just opening a door can significantly impact indoor air quality.
Fourth: Vegetative barriers (rows of trees and bushes), and walls, can help reduce particulate exposure for those close to major traffic corridors, but keeping housing and schools farther away is the best solution. California has legislation that requires keeping schools and public housing farther from traffic corridors. Massachusetts is working on similar legislation.
Fifth: Diesel exhaust is many times worse than gasoline, so truck routes are particularly toxic.
Sixth: Investing in electric powered transport –electric rail, private electric vehicles, and light rail transit – is the best way to reduce exhaust toxins of all kinds.
CART would like to thank Dr. Brugge for an enlightening evening and the important work he is doing. We look forward to updates as his research continues.
We would also like to thank the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and JC and Charlotte for their support of this program and our mission.
It is easy to forget that tailpipes put out as much CO2 as Coal Fired power plants – but they do and it is one of the areas in which we can really make a difference. Tail pipe emissions are also a leading cause of Ozone pollution and source for Asthma and other heart and respiratory diseases. CART wants to “Out” the Tailpipe!- to help us remember to drive less, and use and support Transit more. Get one of our new bumper stickers when you become a member.