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  QUESTION: Aircraft emissions in Warwick, Rhode Island, 31 Mar 2006, Rhode Island USA

We have been living in Warwick, RI ( 5 miles from Green Airport) for the last 4 years. We moved here when my daughter was 3 years old. At that time she had no health problems at all. After being near Green Airport for a couple of months she began showing breathing problems. It became so bad that she was admitted into Hasbro Children's Hospital three times, being diagnosed with Pneumonia and Asthma. Four years of problems her specialist has found a combination of 4 or 5 meds to keep her asthma under control.
I began noticing black soot like material in our window sills when we moved in. For 4 years I have been wiping and cleaning the windows year round. I have been told by the airport people that it is carbon that I am wiping off and it is perfectly safe in this area. Lately the carbon has become very thick and everywhere.
Also all of our trees leaves had big black (quarter size) spots on them. Every tree in our yard.
I am very concerned for our long term health! Any information that you could send me on this would be appreciated. I am very scared for my childrens future.
I need to know if I should leave this area. Every family that you meet in this area has at least one person, mostly children, that has chronic asthma. The airport air quality people don't seem too concerned!
DEM also told me that the testing of the air in our area is acceptable. My child being this sick and not being able to run like a normal child, if this is causing it, is not acceptable to me!
Thank you,
ANSWER: 03 Apr 2006

Dear Sharon,
Hearing about the health implications your residential area has had upon your daughter is very distressing and shows us that the air quality in your area may have been a significant and immediate threat to your family. Even if the carbon in the air was not a direct cause of your daughter developing asthma, the air quality in your area will only exacerbate the condition, and inhibit the health and recovery of an already vulnerable and weakened immune system and respiratory system.

If it was me personally I would move residence if I could afford it, because the long term effects on residents with more vulnerable immune systems such as your daughter is certainly not worth risking. However, if you choose not to move, your presence amongst a community of other asthmatic and respiratory problem sufferers would be extremely valuable, in promoting greater awareness about pollution, and by bringing the matter to further attention of the DEM, and other influential bodies.

The results from the DEM may not be acceptable to them because black carbon levels do not correlate directly with toxicity, and therefore there is no definitive health benchmark determined for exposure to the substance.

However, the accumulative effects of diesel fumes and jet exhaust on the environment are widely known carcinogens, and although the fumes may not directly exceed air quality levels, reporters such as staff writer Dave Cranshaw report that levels should be kept as low as possible. (Providence Business News, "T.F. Green plans draw criticism", Published 03/25/2006, available at Published 03/25/2006.)

What the results may also mean is that the levels were not high enough to indicate that they cause an immediate toxic effect on a population. There may not be any observable rapidly accelerating toxic effect on residents of the area and the environment.
The results of the tests may also have been influenced by whether the emission standards of the carbons released were based on results that test the chemical emissions individually, or whether they were being studied as part of an entire co-contributing pollutant that interacts with other chemicals to produce an overall toxicity polluting the air.
There are many other variables involved too, for example, sizes of particulate matter, which can range from 0.005 microns in diameter to coarse particles of 100 microns, which I imagine would impact the study, as well as the areas in which the samples were taken.

(Air Quality Division of Pinellas County, )
"Most airborne pollutants are small molecular weight chemicals that must be coupled with other substances (e.g., proteins or conjugates) before they can be recognized by the immune system and cause an effect."

(The Ailing Environment Automotive Exhaust Chemicals: disease causing effects)
"The effects of airborne pollutants on the immune system have been most widely studied in the respiratory tract. An airborne pollutant may enter the respiratory tract as a volatile gas (e.g., ozone, benzene), as liquid droplets (e.g., sulfuric acid, nitrogen dioxide), or as particulate matter (e.g., components of diesel exhaust, aromatic hydrocarbons). These pollutants interact with the immune system and may cause local and systemic responses ranging from overactive immune responses to immunosuppression." (The Ailing Environment)
It has been widely proven that the toxic chemicals in environmental air pollution stimulate the immune system to activate leukocytes and macrophages that can produce tissue damage. This damage occurs especially to the cells that line human blood vessels. Although the damage is initially slight and may not produce significant limitation to blood flow, repetitive exposure to toxic substances eventually interferes with the ability of these lining cells to release EDRF.
The toxic effects upon an individual is gradual, meaning repetitive exposure would be needed, depending on the individual, to cause harm.
The standards that were used to test ambient air quality are used to test the safe level at which exposure in the air at one given point in time would be responsible for immediate toxicity, rather than repetitive gradual inhalation.
EDRF is a substance called endothelial-derived relaxing factor that relaxes the smooth muscle in blood vessel walls. Blocking the release of EDRF leads to systemic hypertension. At the same time, leukocytes on the endothelium's surface appear to play a part in promoting the arteriosclerotic disease process. The combined effect of these events is to accelerate the changes that eventually lead to hypertension and ischemic heart disease.
Another thing to note, is that as the environment also becomes polluted, the plants ability to provide fresh oxygen is also inhibited.
Carbon tetrachloride, one of the carbons identified in the DEM proposal, can be used as a fumigant, and/or as a solvent. It's Toxicity Data may be obtained from the PAN Pesticides Database - Chemicals, which nominates it as a "Bad Actor chemical", indicating it has a high toxicity in the given toxicological category. Specific details on each toxicity category and more, including environmental hazards, may be obtained from the website
PAN Pesticides Database - Chemicals  from which this data is obtained. In conducting the project the RI DEM.s Air Pollution Emissions Inventory identified approximately 18 stationary air toxics sources in the area of Warwick near the Airport. Emissions data for these sources, as well as other Rhode Island sources, have been submitted to the National Toxics Inventory. The locations of the stationary sources and high volume roadways are clearly displayed the two attachments with this email, which is from a copy of the grant proposal for the study, (Update July 9 2010 "Draft Environmental Impact Statement")
Carbon tetrachloride, for example, has been assessed as "Acute Toxicity: Slight"
Study type defines the toxicity endpoint used for a particular study. There are many study types, and these are also found at the site. For the U.S. National Toxicology Program data, the only endpoint evaluated is mortality.
The LD50 is the dose of the pesticide in milligram (mg), microgram (g), or nanogram (ng) of pesticide per kilogram (kg) of body weight. It must be lethal to 50% of the test organisms.
Follow the code I've given you below to work out the findings for these U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) Acute Hazard Rankings. I've added the information for each underneath the code.
(U.S. EPA Categories and Warning Labels given) Category ; PAN Narrative Rating ; Warning Label (Acute Toxicity to Rats by route doses effect ) Oral LD50 (mg/kg) ; Dermal LD50 (mg/kg) ; Inhalation LC50 (mg/L) Eye Effects ; Skin Effects
1 ; Highly Toxic ; Danger-Poison* ‹50 ‹200 ‹0.05 = n/a ; n/a
1 ; Highly Toxic ; Danger ; ‹ 50 ; ‹ 200 ; ‹ 0.05 ; Corrosive (irreversible destruction of ocular tissue) or corneal involvement or irritation persisting for more than 21 days ; Corrosive (tissue destruction into the dermis and/or scarring).
2 ; Moderately Toxic ; Warning ; RESULTS 50-500 ; 200-2,000 0.05-0.5; Corneal involvement or irritation clearing in 8-21 days Severe irritation at 72 hours (severe erythema or edema)
3 ; Slightly Toxic ; Caution ; 500-5,000 ; 2,000-5,000 ; 0.5-2 ; Corneal involvement or irritation clearing in 7 days or less Moderate irritation at 72 hours (moderate erythema)
4 ; Not Acutely Toxic ; None ; > 5,000 ; > 5,000 ; > 2 Minimal effects cle aring in less than 24 hours Mild or slight irritation (no irritation or slight erythema)
*This signal word is used for acute systemic poisons.
The original table, and other information, is by PAN, and is available at
Here is another example of results, obtained from PAN. WHO does not rate inhalation, but rates the following as "Extremely Hazardous" as being :
‹5 mg of chemical per kilo of body weight for solids (oral)
‹20 mg of chemical per kilo of body weight for liquids (oral)
‹10 mg of chemical per kilo of body weight for solids (dermal)
‹40 mg of chemical per kilo of body weight for liquids (dermal)
The proposal document also states that HEALTH issued a preliminary analysis of lung cancer incidence rates in Warwick census tracts. Lung cancer rates were at least 30% higher than the State average for both women and men in five census tracts and at least 20% higher for both genders in eight census tracts east and south of the Airport. All of the six census tracts west of the Airport had lung cancer rates similar to or less than the State average.
From these figures it may be granted that respiratory problems may be a result from contaminants in the environment, related to the airport.
According to the DEM study, average levels of black carbon in Warwick were found to be lower than they are in urban Providence. A majority of the 79 measured compounds were found to be below recommended levels for short- and long-term exposure, although there were six compounds found in excess of or very close to the target levels.

(Alissa Cerny, The Brown Daily Herald, 2/23/06, ).
Levels of black carbon at two of the six compounds were possibly connected to the airport and contained levels of black carbon higher than or the same as sites tested in Providence. (The Daily Brown Herald).
The following information may also be of interest to you:
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
PAHs are a group of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances. PAHs can be man-made or occur naturally. Although the health effects of the individual PAHs vary, the following 15 PAHs are considered as a group with similar toxicity: acenaphthene acenaphthylene anthracene benz(a)anthracene benzo(a)pyrene benzo(b)fluoranthene benzo(ghi)perylene benzo(k)fluoranthene chrysene dibenz(a,h)anthracene fluoranthene fluorene indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene
phenanthrene pyrene
Several factors will determine whether harmful health effects will occur and what the type and severity of those health effects will be. These factors include the dose (how much), the duration (how long), the route by which you are exposed (breathing, eating, drinking, or skin contact), the other chemicals to which you are exposed and your individual characteristics such as age, sex, nutritional status, family traits, life style, and state of health. As pure chemicals, PAHs generally exist as colorless, white, or pale yellow-green solids. Most PAHs are found as mixtures of two or more PAHs. They can occur in the air either attached to dust particles, or in soil or sediment as solids. They can also be found in substances such as crude oil, coal, coal tar pitch, creosote, road and roofing tar. Most PAHs do not dissolve easily in water, but some PAHs evaporate into the air. PAHs generally do not burn easily and they will last in the environment for months to years.
PAHs that are attached to dust and other particles in the air and originate from vehicle exhausts, asphalt roads, coal, coal tar, wildfires, agricultural burning and hazardous waste sites. Background levels of PAHs in the air are reported to be 0.02-1.2 milligrams per cublic meter (mg/m3) in rural areas and 0. 15-19.3 mg/m3 in urban areas. You may be exposed to PAHs in soil near areas where coal, wood, gasoline, or other products have been burned or from the soil on or near hazardous waste sites, such as former manufactured-gas sites and wood-preserving facilities. PAHs have been found in some drinking water supplies in the United States. The background level of PAHs in drinking water ranges from 4 to 24 nanograms per liter (ng/L).
For many people, the greatest exposure to PAHs occurs in the workplace. PAHs can enter the body through the lungs. PAHs enter the body quickly and easily by all routes of exposure. The rate at which PAHs enter your body is increased when they are present in oily mixtures and tend to be stored in the kidneys, liver, and fat, with smaller amounts in the spleen, adrenal glands and ovaries. Results from animal studies show that PAHs do not tend to be stored in for a long time and are excreted within a few days in the feces and urine.
Although these tests can tell that you have been exposed to PAHs, it is not yet possible to use these tests to predict the severity of any health effects that might occur or to determine the extent of your exposure to the PAHs. These tests are not routinely available at a doctor's office because they require special equipment for sampling and detecting these chemicals. (Extracts obtained from "The Ailing Environment").
Thankyou for your question and I hope this helps you.
Josephine Tesoriero
Volunteer Information Officer

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