MAPC, CAFEH Release “Particulate Policy” Report on Air Quality Policy Solutions

Paticulate Policy Title Card

MAPC, CAFEH Release "Particulate Policy" Report on Air Quality Policy Solutions

For immediate release: Monday, June 21

BOSTON Massachusetts policymakers have an opportunity to protect residents from harmful traffic-related air pollution, according to a new analysis released today by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH).

“Particulate Policy: An argument for a regulatory approach to transportation-related ultrafine particle exposure” links transportation emissions to negative health effects and lays out state and local policy changes that could protect residents.

Read the report at mapc.ma/particulate-policy.

“People that live closer to high-traffic roads, who are disproportionately people of color, are suffering due to their exposure to air pollution—especially ultrafine particulates,” said report co-author Sharon Ron, a MAPC public health planner. “States and local governments have an important role to play in advancing building design, land use practices, and transportation policies that reduce that exposure.”

“Particulate Policy” focus on particle pollution, a subset of air pollutants with the ability to penetrate tissues and organs. Ultrafine particles concentrations are especially strong along major roadways. 

“Ultrafine particles are invisible and odorless,” said report co-author Doug Brugge, the chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. “Even people exposed to very high concentrations are usually not aware of themOur research in and near Boston has shown that ultrafines are associated with inflammation in the blood, an indicator of risk of heart attacks and strokes. We also showed that reducing exposure resulted in lower blood pressure. It is critical that policymakers learn about and begin to respond to this threat faced by near highway residents.”

Transportation emissions, the paper shows, are linked to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and asthma—and COVID-19.

A May 2020 MAPC analysis found that Greater Boston residents of color are more likely to live near major traffic corridors with higher pollution intensities.

Communities of color were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. That wasn’t a coincidence: it was the direct result of past and current policy decisions,” said Chelsea City Manager Thomas G. Ambrosino. “We have a chance now to protect those same communities from the health effects of air pollution.”

The paper makes the case for the kinds of policy changes included in proposed legislation sponsored by Rep. Christine Barber and Sen. Patricia Jehlen. “An Act to improve outdoor and indoor air quality for communities burdened by transportation pollution” would require air filter installation in certain buildings, mandate advanced HVAC filtration systems for new eligible buildings, upgrade building codes, and expand air monitoring for ultrafine particulate matter and other pollutants.

The bill will be discussed on Tuesday, June 22, at the Joint Committee of Public Health’s virtual hearing on environmental health.

“The release of this white paper depicts how vitally important it is to address exposure to particulate matter,” said Rep. Barber. “Science shows us that exposure to any amount of particulate matter increases the risk of developing numerous diseases. This is of particular concern for my district, as Somerville contains multiple environmental justice communities living near I-93 and McGrath Highway/Mystic Avenue. I continue to collaborate with the legislative Somerville delegation, City Councilors and activists to keep the pressure on MassDOT and the federal government to concretely address the harms particulate matter does to our community members. I am grateful for the findings of this report and we will not stop working to bring real mitigations to improve the health of those negatively impacted by particulate matter.”

Read the report at mapc.ma/particulate-policy

Press Contact

Elise Harmon
Digital Communications Specialist
eharmon@mapc.org