In an effort to better gauge the health risks that many claim are byproducts of air pollution emanating from the nearby Santa Monica Airport, members of the Mar Vista Community Council will be conducting a survey in Mar Vista and communities that ring the airport within the next few weeks.

“We have heard many, many complaints over several years about the difficulties that people who live near the airport are having with the noise and fumes from the airport, and we decided that, rather than just talk about it, we wanted to correlate exactly who was being affected by this issue and where they are living in relation to the proximity of the airport,” explained Albert Olson, the Community Council’s chair of the Santa Monica Airport Committee.

The Mar Vista Community Council, which is the Neighborhood Council certified by the City of Los Angeles for the area, approved the survey February 12th.

The questionnaire will present a series of questions on fumes and noise from the airport, and will ask residents to respond with their own comments regarding their experiences with the emissions and pollutants that many attribute to the number of jets that take off and land at the airport.

Ping Ho, who lives in Santa Monica, believes that the survey could yield solid benefits to the communities around the airport, whose residents have long complained of health risks that they believe to be associated with pollution from the airport.

“I applaud the Mar Vista Community Council for taking on this study,” said Ho. “Although nothing will be definitive, it nevertheless will be helpful in determining how far away from the airport people are being harmed by air pollutants from the jet fumes at the airport.”

Ken Alpern, a member of the council’s board of directors, feels that his Neighborhood Council and other activist groups are forced to conduct their own studies because government agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have not taken the health concerns of residents who reside near airports seriously.

“I think that it’s safe to say that the FAA has not shown a lot of interest in people living by the Los Angeles International Airport and the Santa Monica Airport,” said Alpern.

Olson, who lives a bit farther from the airport than some of his neighbors, says that on frequent occasions he hears people who live a mile or more from the airfield complain about the pollution that they encounter.

“I’m amazed at how often I hear from people who tell me that they can really smell the fumes coming from the airport,” he said.

The environmental health of residents of the Los Angeles communities of Venice and Mar Vista and of the City of Santa Monica has been jeopardized due to the fact that officials of the FAA have permitted an increase in airport traffic over the last decade, says Martin Rubin of the grass-roots neighborhood advocacy group Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP).

“The fact that they’ve allowed jet traffic at the airport without the safeguards and proper health and safety studies for residents who live in close proximity is reprehensible,” Rubin asserted.

Like Ho, he believes that the resident survey is a good first step that can be used as an accurate barometer on how far air pollution is affecting the population

“The survey is well put together,” he said. “It’s a good, enlightened outreach to move the issue forward.”

While the study is being conducted by the Mar Vista Community Council, it will extend to residents of Santa Monica who live near the airport, such as neighborhoods like Sunset Park.

“We would like to expand it to Santa Monica and possibly to Venice, as they are communities that are experiencing the same difficulties that we are in Mar Vista,” Olson added.

Ho is hopeful that Santa Monica residents will join their neighbors in Mar Vista in participating in a similar study at some point.

“I hope that we can collaborate more on this survey,” she said.

Ho, the director of educational outreach at the UCLA Pediatric Pain Program, has compiled a health policy analysis on aircraft emissions detailing the effects on air pollution around the airport.

Like others who believe that air pollutants are responsible for what they say is an increase in respiratory ailments in humans and pets who live near the airfields, Ho wishes that her municipal government, Santa Monica, would undertake a similar project like Mar Vista is conducting.

“I believe [the City Council] would support one, if the funds were available,” she says.

The Santa Monica City Council approved an ordinance in December that would ban certain aircraft from the airport, a move that the FAA strongly opposed.

The ordinance will limit the use of the airport to aircraft that operate safely within the capacity of the airfield’s facilities and are consistent with the standards for an “ARC B-II” airport, which is the classification for Santa Monica. Selected aircraft in “Categories C and D” would be prohibited.

While many feel that this can be beneficial in reducing runway overruns, it will not greatly help reduce the noise level and the fumes that emanate from the airport.

“It would be like going from four packs of cigarettes a day to two packs,” said Rubin.

The ordinance will not significantly affect noise from the airport, nor will it ban jets.

Robert Trimborn, the acting director of the airport, acknowledged that because jets will still be allowed, the new law would have minimal effect on noise.

“Many jets are in A and B classes,” Trimborn said.

Olson said that he and the Mar Vista Community Council are considering various ways to let people know about the survey, in order to ensure maximum participation.

“We are considering hiring someone to go door-to-door,” he said. “We are considering publishing it in the Mar Vista Council newsletter and distributing them at the Mar Vista Farmers Market. Right now, we are in the process of deciding how to implement the survey.”

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