This editorial is the fourth in a series of discussions on seven areas of concerns with the proposed Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway (SMF). To begin the series, I discussed the fact that Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children’s (PARC’s) chances of winning in court are extremely good because the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) did a poor job studying the impacts of the SMF. For example, ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are complicit in:
• Distortion of purpose and need for the SMF.
• Air pollution.
• Negative health effects – especially for children.
• Destruction of wells.
• Danger from hazardous materials.
• Desecration of South Mountain.
• Destruction of quality of life (noise, crime facilitation, home values).
In my second editorial, I began the discussions of each of the specific areas of concern with the SMF with the topic of distortion of purpose and need for the SMF. My third editorial was about air pollution. This discussion will be about the third topic, negative health effects — especially for children.
To quote the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “People exposed to toxic air pollutants at sufficient concentrations and durations may have an increased chance of getting cancer or experiencing other serious health effects. These health effects can include damage to the immune system, as well as neurological, reproductive (e.g., reduced fertility), developmental, respiratory and other health problems.”
The EPA further states, “exposures occurring during early childhood are assigned ‘age-dependent adjustment factors’ which adjust the ‘potency’ of the chemical for lifetime cancer risk as such:”
• Before 2 years of age, a 10-fold adjustment.
• Between 2 and 15 years of age, a three-fold adjustment.
In my last editorial, I showed how the air pollution in Ahwatukee would increase to unacceptable levels if the SMF were to be built. As stated above, the EPA recognizes how this type of increase in air pollution is a particular threat to children.
Experts also agree that our children are at high risk for negative health effects from the SMF. Numerous studies have documented the role of traffic related pollution in respiratory health.
One of PARC’s experts, Dr. George Thurston, a full professor at the New York University School of Medicine in the Department of Environmental Medicine, has published extensively and is a recognized expert in the area of human health effects of inhaled air pollutants. With respect to the SMF, Thurston has specifically indicated that children attending schools within a half mile of the freeway would be at high risk of developing asthma or making it worse and experiencing retarded respiratory development and reduced lung function. Over 14,000 students are currently enrolled in 17 such schools, and 10 of these schools are in Ahwatukee.
Thurston has also stated that for adults, particularly seniors, exposure to air pollution from freeway traffic has been linked to heart attack, coronary artery disease, and increased risk of premature death.
ADOT has failed to address adequately the public health risks associated with the SMF project. If the SMF were to be built, our children would pay the highest price. PARC will file a lawsuit against ADOT and the FHWA very soon to protect Ahwatukee — especially our children.
PARC will host a public meeting shortly after the lawsuit is filed. For more information on the SMF, how PARC will stop it, and how to donate, see the PARC website at protectAZchildren.org.
The next editorial will discuss the wells that would be destroyed during freeway construction.
• Dr. Pat Lawlis is president of Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children’s (PARC’s), a non-profit organization by and for the residents of Ahwatukee. She has a PhD in software engineering from Arizona State University and has been a resident of Ahwatukee for more than 20 years.