May 4, 2005
EL MONTE -- The California Air Resources Board (ARB) at its public meeting Thursday night unanimously approved the "Air Quality and Land Use Handbook: A Community Health Perspective."
"Our primary goal in developing this guidance document is to provide information that will better protect public health by helping to keep Californians out of harm's way with respect to air pollution from nearby emission sources," said ARB Acting Chair, Barbara Riordan. "Our intent is to highlight potential health impacts associated with living, playing and going to school near high air pollution sources so land use decision makers can consider these issues throughout the land use planning process."
The Handbook, which is advisory and not regulatory, was developed over the past two years through an extensive working partnership with community and environmental groups, business organizations, local air districts and other state and local agencies involved in the land use planning process. That two year effort included numerous workshops and working meetings to gain the information needed from community leaders and others with expertise in business, community planning and public health.
Recent studies, including some co-sponsored by the ARB, have demonstrated a link between exposure to poor air quality and respiratory illnesses, both cancer and non-cancer related. Living or going to school in areas where residential districts have encroached on industrial zones or where industry has been built too close to residences may increase health risks. The ARB handbook recommends that planning agencies strongly consider proximity to these sources when finding new locations for "sensitive" land uses such as homes, medical facilities, daycare centers, schools and playgrounds.
Air pollution sources of concern include freeways, rail yards, ports, refineries, distribution centers, chrome plating facilities, dry cleaners and large gasoline service stations.
Key recommendations in the Handbook include taking steps to avoid siting new, sensitive land uses:
These guidelines are based primarily on data showing that the amount of exposure to these air pollution sources
can be reduced as much as 80 percent with the recommended separations.
The Handbook also offers methods to help integrate local air quality concerns into land use planning processes and lists specific tools developed by ARB that can assess cumulative air pollution emissions and risk on a neighborhood scale. They include:
Other sections of the Handbook address specific "community-focused" issues such as mixing incompatible land uses (e.g., building a school or hospital near an industrial center or a heavily-traveled roadway), and the cumulative impacts of air pollution from multiple sources. Also included is a detailed list of questions for decision makers to consider when reviewing new land use projects, as well as the relevant portions of the handbook that address those questions. For more information and a pdf version of the handbook, go here.
The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.