What you can’t see in our air

When Bullseye Glass in SE Portland learned that they might be responsible for high levels of cadmium and arsenic in the air (see details), they suspended their use of these heavy metals.  It does little to ease the minds of neighbors who were unwittingly exposed. The alarm should continue to sound in other neighborhoods: our air isn’t always as clean as it may look.

We already know from models that Portland has problems with wood smoke, diesel exhaust and certain industrial pollution. But these models don’t always reflect what you may encounter while walking through your neighborhood today. Why? Because there aren’t many monitors, they don’t provide information quickly, and the laws aren’t working well to protect people from risk.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality takes regular measurements across the state on the pollutants that create soot and smog. But these monitors don’t pick up the 52 “air toxics” that can raise the risk of cancer, birth defects and other health problems. For air toxics, the state has only two permanent stations in the state and one that can be moved. Measuring these air toxics is complicated, expensive—and not well supported by federal law or state budgets.

As for polluters, the biggest ones are regulated under federal law for the chemicals released from their smokestacks. But the federal system doesn’t regulate small-scale polluters or the total amount of air toxics around us. In other words, an industry might be in full compliance with the law, but the air may still be raising health risks.

Oregon sets a benchmarks for air toxics. When an air toxic is at levels above the benchmark, public health is at risk. DEQ uses models to understand where the levels of toxics are creating health risks, so that they can focus clean-up efforts. But most of these clean-up actions are voluntary, due to lax federal and state regulation.

So where does that leave the average Oregonian? Downwind of a lot of uncertainty.

The air toxics discovered recently in SE Portland were not a result of routine monitoring or modeling. Instead, it was a US Forest Service study of moss that raised concerns to DEQ, who then followed up with air monitoring in fall of 2015.

That’s why more groups outside of government are taking air quality monitoring into their own hands. DEQ offers Community Air Monitoring advice to communities about how to get the best data by thinking carefully about where to put monitors and how to capture toxic air pollutants.

Inspired by groups like Neighbors for Clean Air, Oregon Environmental Council is exploring ways we might encourage more community involvement in understanding the air we breathe and taking action to reduce harm. We’re also working on ways to promote green chemistry, so that industries are using safer chemicals in the first place.

You can take personal actions today to help keep air clean in your home and neighborhood. See more.

 

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Transportation Solutions Featured Climate Protection OEC News/Updates/Events Water News Living Green Water Action Policy Toxics-Free Environments Toxic Free Priorities Air Quality Media/PR/Statements
Sort by

Do everything

For any person or organization to try to “do something” about the climate crisis, the problem can feel overwhelmingly huge and complex. Everything we do tugs on something else, and the struggle to find the “right way” to make a difference feels impossible. Announce you’re doing something on social media or at a party, and people are likely to inform you of all the ways you’re taking the wrong approach. The thing is, we need to do everything. Everything helps, and we can’t afford
August 19, 2019, 3:26 pm
saraw

1

Let’s talk about microplastics

Your closet and dresser drawers are full of plastic – and not the kind from packaging, straws and shopping bags. Some of our favorite fabrics, whether it’s techy workout gear or your fleece winter pullover, can release upwards of 730,000 synthetic particles

1

The 5 Ws of electric buses

August 1, 2019, 5:39 pm
saraw

1

Youth activism brings the heat to climate policy

Young people have made their voices matter in the debate for climate policy all across the globe this year, and Oregon has been no different. Youth activism centered on climate change climate justice is on the rise. The Guardian, this month, called their growing activism “Generation Greta,” named after Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who inspired mil
July 29, 2019, 3:03 pm
tonyh

1

2019 Legislative Wrap Up

Oregon’s 2019 legislative session proved to be the most divisive in recent memory, with a walkout by Senate Republicans preventing a vote on our major priority–Clean Energy Jobs. Despite this setback, Oregon Environmental Council made strides to protect the health of Oregonians and our environment. Here’s a short recap of our progress.
July 23, 2019, 5:33 pm
morgang

1

For Us, Climate Action Never Dies

July 1, 2019, 8:07 pm
tonyh

1

Oregon Legislature Passes Bill To Curb Toxic Diesel Exhaust

Senate Passes Bill to Protect Oregonians from Diesel Pollution
June 30, 2019, 9:06 pm
kristas

1


1 Reply to "What you can’t see in our air"


Got something to say?

Some html is OK