Particulate Matter Concentrations in East Oakland’s High Street Corridor

Philmon Lei, Jasmine Jackson, Damaris Romero, DeVondre Spears, and David Weissman

Particulate matter (PM) is a complex mixture of small solid pieces and/or liquid droplets in the air. High concentrations of PM can pose a serious health hazard because inhalation can result in breathing problems and/or aggravate asthma. Long term exposure can increase the likelihood of respiratory problems like asthma and emphysema as well as cancer. The smaller the particles, the deeper they can get into the respiratory system. For this reason, the smallest particles, those smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5), are the most dangerous. PM2.5 is largely emitted from motor vehicles burning fuels that don’t break down fully. Our research team investigated the levels of PM2.5 as well as particles smaller than 10 micrometers (PM10) and total suspended particulate (TSP) along the northeast-southwest trending High Street Corridor, near Fremont High School in East Oakland, California. Using the Aerocet 531 mass particle counter, team members walked through neighborhoods and along major roads within a 1 mile radius of Fremont High School. The Aerocet 531 recorded two minute average measurements of all the relevant PM sizes, which are reported in mg/m3. Measurements were consistently taken in the morning, between 8:30 and 11:30 am. Preliminary results indicate maximum readings of all PM sizes at sites that are in close proximity to a major freeway (Interstate-880). These results support our initial hypothesis that proximity to major roads and freeways, especially those with high diesel-fuel burning truck traffic, would be the primary factor affecting PM concentration levels. Preliminary median and maximum readings all suggest particulate matter levels below what the EPA would consider unhealthy or risky.

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