For many years, California air quality officials have warned developers against building homes within 500 feet of roadways that carry large amount of vehicle traffic.
Their reasoning? People living in these areas have been observed to have higher rates of asthma, strokes, lung cancer, heart conditions, and many other associated ailments. With developing lungs, children are especially impacted by the pollutants, causing higher rates of asthma, smaller lungs, and potentially childhood obesity.
Recent research has shown that the 500 foot exclusion zone may not be enough – wind patterns during the daytime versus night/early morning show that harmful pollution (including particulate matter) might have the ability to travel almost a mile, depending on the wind conditions and topography of the area.
Despite the associated health hazards, many cities throughout Southern California are issuing permits for development in this hazardous area. In 2016 alone, the city of Los Angeles issued 3,000 building permits for development within 500ft of a freeway.
Here at Driving2Save, we are not arguing the merits of development policies in Southern California. Nor are we giving people who live near busy roads the (likely) impractical advice to move in order to improve their health. Rather, if you live near a busy road or drive in heavy traffic, we wanted to pass along a few tips to help improve your health:
- Avoid early morning exercise near high traffic areas – lack of winds and cooling from the night help trap pollutants near the surface. If you need to walk your dog or go for a run, try to do it later in the morning or go to higher ground away from the freeways.
- If you live close to the freeway, the typical nighttime weather conditions also make it better for you to keep your windows closed at night (notwithstanding lighter traffic overnight).
- In your home or apartment, use an air filter with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Report Value) of 13 of higher to ensure that at least 70-90% of the particle pollution is filtered.
- If you can avoid driving in heavy, slow-moving traffic, do it! Schedule your day and routes to minimize sitting in traffic. This is because the cabin filter in your vehicle is designed to filter out pollen but not fine particulate matter that can enter your lungs. Therefore, spending less time in the car in traffic can reduce the amount you breathe in as well as the amount you generate!
- If driving during that high traffic times is unavoidable, close your windows and set your vents to recirculate to reduce the amount of harmful particles entering your car. Notwithstanding our clear preference for rolling your windows down with your vents open to cool your car, we don’t recommend this when you are stuck in heavy traffic.
We hope that these tips will help you and your family live safer and healthier. Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.