PORTLAND, Ore. -- A neighborhood in Southeast Portland conducts non-scientific study on diesel pollution in the community.
After hearing neighbors’ concerns about diesel pollution in the Lents neighborhood, Izzy Armenta along with some Lents neighborhood high school students, joined forces with the Oregon Environmental Council to sample the air quality.
Over the span of two months this past summer, they tested the air at 12 different locations ranging from transit centers, to parks, apartment complexes, and Lent Elementary School.
Using scientific equipment, the volunteers measured the amount of diesel pollution, specifically black carbon, in the air.
According to Multnomah County Health, black carbon is easily inhaled and lodges deep in our lungs where it increases our risk for heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
The community study found surprisingly high levels of black carbon.
"In every place we studied, we found levels that were 10 or 20 or 70 times higher than Oregon's benchmark for health when it comes to diesel pollution," explained Oregon Environmental Council health outreach director Jen Coleman.
Outside of Lent Elementary, the group said it found levels on average that were five times higher than the state safety benchmark.
The group is quick to acknowledge that this is by no means a scientific study.
"I would call this a snapshot," said Coleman
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has been studying diesel particulate matter in Portland for more than a decade. Its research has found levels many times over the health benchmark. The agency was not involved in OEC's non-scientific study, but Kevin Downing with the DEQ said the neighborhood project "would indicate there are high values there that would warrant further investigation."
Dr. Linda George, a professor of Environmental Science at Portland State University, is also currently studying air quality in Portland. While she believes getting students and community members actively involved with air quality issues is important, she does not believe non-scientific studies like this one are the proper way to do it.
"The OEC press release presents data and claims, but says it is not a scientific study. What does the data mean then? Not much," Dr. George said.
The professor added, "since this work was not conducted 'scientifically' it is not reasonable to claim that the variation between neighborhoods they report is real. Our own measurements have shown us that there is tremendous variation block to block within neighborhoods. Determining which neighborhood is more polluted would be complicated process."
George said, although the air sampling equipment the volunteers used can be used in scientific studies, it takes a trained scientist to be able to interpret any findings correctly.
The Oregon Environmental Council said although its study was not a scientific one, its project is meant to build awareness of diesel pollution in neighborhoods.
The group plans to conduct similar studies in other neighborhoods.
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