By Jimmy Lee
Do you ever notice that you have a nagging cough? How about when you wake up in the morning and you always seem to have some phlegm in your throat that you need to clear out? If you live or work in the Chinatown-International District (CID), you may be wondering about the air quality in this neighborhood. I live in the CID. So when I saw that there was going to be a presentation on air quality in the CID by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA), I knew this was a meeting that I couldn’t miss.
I attended the July 10 meeting of the International Special Review District Board to hear about the state of our air quality here. Unfortunately, it was not good news –– the air quality in the CID is very poor… one of the poorest in the state of Washington. There are a number of air monitor devices located in different locations within the CID. The readings from these monitors indicate high levels of contaminants circulating in the air we breathe, particularly high levels of a harmful substance known as nitrogen oxide. The PSCAA representative indicated that a major contributor to our poor air quality are exhausts released from vehicles that run diesel engines.
Major highways such as I-5 and I-90 cut through and alongside the CID, providing the pathways for diesel engine trucks and diesel engine cars to deposit their daily and deadly bounty of toxic, nitrogen oxide air pollution.
All of us in the CID breathe air containing nitrogen oxide and other harmful contaminants. Epidemiology studies have shown these pollutants to be associated with higher rates of diseases in exposed populations … illnesses and premature deaths due to cancer, cardiovascular abnormalities, and asthma.
Is there anything we can do to improve our situation in the CID? We could just raise our arms up and say we can’t do anything, and tell ourselves that’s just what you get when you live in the big city. Or we can do something about it. One suggestion made by the PSCAA representative is to purchase an effective room air purifier. This could cost $400-$800 or more per unit. But he mentioned another solution that may be a better option — building and using a relatively inexpensive do-it-yourself box fan air filter purifier.
Through a search on Google or YouTube, you can see how simple it is to put together a DIY air purifier, using an inexpensive 20” x 20” box fan (retailing for $16-$20 each) and a 20” x 20” furnace filter. A furnace filter with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of 13 or better will run you $15-$20 each, and these should be replaced at least every three months.
MERV is also a rating of the overall effectiveness of air filters based on filtration capabilities.
I mentioned at this meeting that it is now widely known that German car manufacturers (such as Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi) were cheating our government, our environment, and their customers by generating false low emissions data in a laboratory situation, substantially under-reporting the actual, much higher levels of toxic pollutants that are being released in the air when these cars were being driven. So why not seek funds from these and other guilty companies to finance the purchase of box fans and MERV 13+ furnace filters and distribute these to residents of our community? Washington state is one of 10 states that have or will be receiving compensation in a settlement with Volkswagen for their emissions scandal. We can ask the Attorney General for his help and to direct funding for our air purifiers in the CID. Volkswagen was a start, and we need to ask BMW, Daimler, Audi, and the others to pay as well.
In the CID, we’ve been victims for far too long. Can we demand that the state of Washington help enable us to take a clean breath in our homes?