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    News

    Study Says Areas Including Downtown LB, Belmont Shore, Los Altos, Bixby Knolls At Estimated Heightened Cancer Risk From Port Operations


    (October 15, 2005) -- The CA Air Resources Board (CARB) has released a draft study indicating operations at the Ports of LB and L.A. are creating an estimated heightened risk of cancer from diesel particulate emissions beyond port-adjacent areas, encompassing downtown LB, shoreline bluff areas, Bixby Knolls, Los Altos and Belmont Shore...and extend even further.

    The draft study models the estimated heightened cancer risk (reflected in isopleth curves, map below) across a 20-mile by 20-mile area expressed in terms of the number of predicted cancers per million based on a lifetime exposure (70 years). Curves mainly inside the ports indicate an estimated risk level of 1,000 to 1,500 in a million additional cancers. Successive curves at increasing distances indicate areas estimated to be at risk of 500, 200, 100 and 50 additional cancers in a million. LB's population is roughly half a million. The study says estimated heightened risk extends beyond the map's borders but wasn't part of the study.

    "Draft, Estimated Diesel PM [particulate matter] Cancer Risk From POLA and POLB." cited in Diesel Particulate Matter Exposure Assessment Study for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, p. 8]


    [Numbers on map are difficult to discern but somewhat clearer in the pdf version of the full study. To view or download full study, click here.]

    And in a sobering caveat, the CARB-released study's estimates do not include regional land-based emissions from trucks and locomotives that occur outside the port boundaries.

    "[W]e did not consider the diesel PM emissions of on-road heavy-duty trucks and locomotives related to port activities that occur off-port boundary within the SCAB [south coast air basin] (regional emissions). We estimated the off-port regional diesel PM emissions to be about...10 percent of the total port-related emissions. These regional emissions are distributed throughout the SCAB and may result in localized health impacts to people who are living near freeways and railroad corridors within the SCAB," the draft study says. LB is impacted by four freeways: the 710, 405, 91 and 605 freeways.

    The CARB-released draft study, "Diesel Particulate Matter Exposure Assessment Study for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach," acknowledges that in addition to cancer, diesel particulate emissions from the ports also estimated to result in non-cancer health impacts including premature death, asthma attacks and lost work days.

    73% of the diesel particulate emissions -- by far the largest share -- come from ships using the LB-L.A. ports. 20% of that total results from ships burning high polluting "bunker fuel" while in port.

    The draft study states in part:

    [E]missions from ship activities (transiting, maneuvering, and hotelling) account for the largest percentage of emissions at about 73 percent, followed by cargo handling equipment (10 %), commercial harbor craft vessels (14%), in-port heavy duty trucks (2%), and in-port locomotives (1%).

    Diesel PM [particulate matter] emissions from the ports result in elevated cancer risk levels over the entire 20-mile by 20-mile study area. In areas near the port boundaries, potential cancer risk levels exceed 500 in a million. As one moved away from the ports, the potential cancer risk levels decrease but continue to exceed 50 in a million for more than 15 miles.

    Primary diesel PM [particulate matter] emissions from the ports also result in potential non-cancer health impacts within the modeling receptor domain. The non-cancer health effects evaluated include premature death, asthma attacks, work loss days, and minor restricted activity days. Based on this study, average numbers of cases per year that would be expected in the modeling area have been estimated as follows:

    • 29 premature deaths (for ages 30 and older), 14 to 43 deaths as 95% confidence interval (CI);
    • 750 asthma attacks, 180 to 1300 as 95% CI;
    • 6,600 days of work loss (for ages 18-65), 5,600 to 7,600 as 95% CI;
    • 35,000 minor restricted activity days (for ages 18-65), 28,000 to 41,000 as 95% CI.

    "Hotelling" [ships running their engines while docked in port] emissions from ocean-going vessel auxiliary engines and emissions from cargo handling equipment are the primary contributors to the higher pollution related health risks near the ports.

    Hotelling emissions from ocean-going vessels account for about 20 percent of the total diesel PM emissions from the ports....

    This is the second modeling study to show areas estimated to be at increased risk of cancer linked to diesel particulate emissions. AQMD's MATES-II (Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study) did so in 2001. CARB's study estimates a slightly lower cancer risk tha MNATES-II by assuming the ocean-going emissions 50 meters above the "ground" (sea level) are more dispersed.

    The CARB draft study includes other details, qualifications and uncertainties. It says in part:

    Risk assessment is a yardstick useful for comparing the potential health impacts of various sources of air pollution. For this risk assessment, the amount of diesel PM emitted from each source (e.g. cruise ships) is estimated. An air modeling computer program uses local meteorological data (e. g. wind speed and direction) to estimate the annual average ground level concentrations of diesel PM in the communities around the facility. The increased risk of developing lung cancer from exposure to a particular level of diesel PM can be estimated using the Office of Environmental Health Assessmentís (OEHHA) cancer potency factor for diesel PM. The non-cancer health impacts of diesel PM exposure are possible to quantify, but the cancer health impacts have more commonly been used as the yardstick with which to compare the impacts of various diesel sources. Risk assessment has various uncertainties in the methodology and is therefore deliberately designed so that risks are not under predicted. Risk assessment is thus best understood as a tool for comparing risks from various sources, usually for purposes of prioritizing risk reduction, and not as literal prediction of the community incidence of disease from exposure.

    To view the full draft study released by the CA Air Resources Board, click:

    Draft Diesel Particulate Matter Exposure Assessment Study for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

    The CA Air Resources Board has scheduled two workshops at which the ARB staff will present and take comments on the draft report. Two workshops will be held October 26, 2005 -- 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Marina Hotel, 2800 Via Cabrillo Marina San Pedro, CA 90731


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