Let’s Talk Air Quality

By Jack Rubinger

“Let’s Talk Air Quality,” a community-based video and report made its premiere Sunday, January 22 at the Lents Team Center.

The event drew an enthusiastic crowd and was successful in helping educate, generate awareness and foster solutions to diesel pollution problem that is of growing concern in the Lents community. It’s an important issue affecting all Oregonians.

The Oregon Environmental Council conducted much of the air sampling which was the basis for the video. According to the OEC, even on a beautiful day, we experience this type of pollution, even in indoor spaces.

OEC shared snapshots of different neighborhoods in Lents which are raising red flags. Overall, more children are at risk, too.

The video features interviews from people in the community expressing concerns about air pollution in their daily lives while going to work, to school, commuting and living near major arteries like 82nd Ave. and 1-205.

Speakers included Adam Brunelle, Program Director for Green Lents; Jen Coleman, Health & Outreach Director from the Oregon Environmental Council and Eden Radar, Lents Youth Initiative Project Manager for ROSE Community Development.

Brunelle helped organize the work with another Vista Corps volunteer last fall to collect the sampling with teens from Lents Youth Initiative.

Coleman works on communications, education and outreach in regards to important public health issues at Oregon Environmental Council, including ways to mitigate exposure to pollution, toxics and other environmental concerns.

Radar coordinated teens to help with air sampling during July – October and coordinated interviews for the video and made  the final edits.

“We designed this community air sampling project to build awareness of diesel pollution in our lives,” said Coleman.

“Community members identified locations of concern and then conducted observations and air quality sampling at those locations, including Beyer Court, Ed Benedict Park, and the Lents Transit Center.

“The result is a series of air quality ‘snapshots’ revealing personal exposures to diesel pollution. Our samples found short-term exposures consistently 10-20 times above the state health benchmark and as high as 70 times.

“We found levels that would increase the risk of heart and lung disease as well as increase risk of cancer with consistent exposure over a lifetime.”

The evening’s discussions, raised the following questions:

• What legislation is in the works?

• What are the steps for creating a barrier?

• Why didn’t Oregon join California and Washington to deal with the problem of dirty of trucks that generate diesel pollution?

• What/who is stopping Oregon from moving forward with policies dealing with this problem?

• What is Governor Brown’s stance on diesel pollution?

“Engines built since 2007 are cleaner and less polluting,” explained Coleman. “Unfortunately, Oregon is moving slowly at getting dirty engines off the road, but there is a 68 million dollar settlement that can put more money into getting dirty engines off the road.”

“Neighborhoods can come together to successfully deal with air pollution from diesel engines, but those in power to help make a change have to know the faces of the people they’re hurting. Not just a red map.”

Coleman continued, “At a local level, we can do simple things like planting trees to create barriers or we can get leverage our legislators, or we can call the contractors directly and ask them to use cleaner construction equipment.”

The OEC offered these ways to protect your health and breath less pollution:

Plan your route. Seek a path to avoid high traffic and construction sites.

Stop engine idling. Oregon law requires trucks, buses and heavy duty vehicles to shut off their engines if idling for more than five minutes.

Reduce pollution in the car. Diesel pollution can be 4-8x more concentrated inside your car. Set your air system to recirculate air.

Get fresh air in your home. Open the window. use exhaust fans to draw stale air out and fresh air in.

Take off your shoes indoors. Avoid tracking pollutants from outside into your home

Speak up for change. Tell city and state lawmakers you’re concerned about air quality.

Forge Good Neighbor Agreements. Research ones that have worked.

If you see a construction vehicle in your neighborhood, find out if it is “clean” or “dirty.” Then complain/alert in the media. Ask if the contractor can use a clean engine on-site.

• Green Lents is a nonprofit founded in 2009 and supported by neighbors who work to promote a culture of sharing and neighborhood sustainability in and around the Lents neighborhood.  See greenlents.com.

• ROSE Community Development is dedicated to serving the needs of outer SE communities by developing affordable housing and helping to create educational and economic opportunities. ROSEcdc.org.

• Oregon Environmental Council advances innovative, equitable solutions to Oregon’s environmental challenges for today and future generations.

To sign up for action alerts, visit oeconline.org/join-us/take-action.

Let’s Talk Air Quality

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