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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: Communities Around Seattle Airport Exposed to a Unique Mix of Air Pollution

Communities underneath and downwind of jets landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are exposed to a type of ultrafine particle pollution that is distinctly associated with aircraft, according to a new study led in part by the University of Washington School of Public Health, the first to identify the unique signature of aircraft emissions in the state of Washington.

The finding comes from the two-year Mobile ObserVations of Ultrafine Particles or “MOV-UP” study funded by the Washington State Legislature to examine the air-quality impacts of aircraft traffic on communities located within 10 miles of Sea-Tac Airport.

Researchers collected air samples at numerous locations around Sea-Tac Airport over the course of a year between 2018 and 2019. The research team then developed a new method to distinguish between pollution from jet traffic and pollution from other sources such as roadway traffic. Ultrafine pollution particles are emitted from both sources, but the research team found key differences in the particle size and mixture of particles they emit. The team mapped each type of emission mixture to show its specific geographic footprint around the airport.

Although this study did not consider the health effects of exposure to roadway or aircraft-related pollution, previous studies suggest smaller pollution particles are more likely to be inhaled and to penetrate the body than larger particles.

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