Fellow Story

Fruin finds harmful effects of planes' exhaust extend further than previously thought

Fellow(s): Scott Fruin

High levels of potentially harmful exhaust particles from jets using Los Angeles International Airport have been detected in a broad swath of densely populated communities up to 10 miles east of the runways, a new air quality study reported Thursday.

The research, believed to be the most comprehensive of its type, found that takeoffs and landings at LAX are a major source of ultrafine particles. They are being emitted over a larger area than previously thought, the study states, and in amounts about equal in magnitude to those from a large portion of the county's freeways.

It further concludes that areas affected by aircraft exhaust at major airports in the U.S. and other parts of the world might have been seriously underestimated.


"We rightly spend a lot of time worrying about schools and homes that are close to freeways, but here's a huge source of ultrafine particles that we've apparently missed," said Scott Fruin, a professor of preventive medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine who led the research.

The bulk of the study was conducted last year, when scientists spent weeks taking measurements from two vehicles filled with air quality monitoring devices. They drove north-south routes through residential streets and major thoroughfares, measuring pollution concentrations at increasing distances from the airport.

"We kept looking for the end of the impact and never really found it," Fruin said. "We never reached a point far enough downwind that we didn't measure" particles from LAX.