Freeway Emmisions Harm Families in Nearby Apartments

Building high-rise apartments and condos on open lots is nothing new to any metropolitan area. However, a key location for some of these new buildings is right near a freeway. And I mean, RIGHT near a freeway.

Truth is, because of air pollution, living in an apartment near a freeway is one of the worst things for your health, especially if you're a child. The air pollution can greatly affect the development of children's lungs. In 2007 The Times reported that people continue to have "respiratory problems for the rest of their lives," because of these conditions.

USC researchers conducted a study of over 3,600 children in 12 central and southern California communities. According to the LA Times, the studies "found that the damage from living within 500 yards of a freeway is about the same as that from living in communities with the highest pollution levels."

The particulate matter emitted from cars are the most dangerous as they find their way into the small airways of lungs. The soot and metals that come from the traffic, noticeable by the black dust that settles on the window sills of these apartments, easily cause lung irritation, coughing and choking.

To make matters worse, the City of Los Angeles is turning a blind-eye to construction projects and forsaking the health of its residents. City Councilman Tom LaBonge said to the LA Weekly, "It would be great if we could call a time-out and try to plan better, but it's not practical…We need to save jobs." He was making it clear that environmental and health issues are not as important as economic ones.

The Los Angeles Housing Department has many council members supporting these "black lung lofts," which are marketed to families. The LA Weekly reported that the Department of City Planning Chief, Gail Goldberg, and the Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa admitted that City Hall is not tracking the number of young families who have moved into apartments within 500 feet of freeways.

Environmental researchers agree that these buildings are not safe, and it is not a hidden fact that health issues are the number one reason to not live near a freeway. In 2004, a USC study published in the New England Journal of Medicine documented the health effects for children living in southern California. The study reported health issues from pollution "ranging from asthma to early death," according to the LA Weekly.

Dr. Joe Lyou, Executive Director of California Environmental Rights Alliance, an environmental justice group, told the Weekly, "[The study] really shocked a lot of people. It not only confirmed what people in the field already knew, but it also created an undebatable view on the issue," he said.

Basically, there are not many pros to living near a freeway. Sure it's convenient, you probably got a good price on it, but imagine developing asthma in your mid-20s, or even worse, seeing your child coughing every morning because of the particles in the air that wouldn't be there if you moved just a few streets in another direction.

The Housing Department will not address these issues. They should start caring about the air that tenants breathe when in close proximity to freeways. It is time to face the fact that these freeway-adjacent buildings are causing residents to have breathing problems and just adding victims to this smog-ridden city.