Letter to electeds on the importance of data collection

This letter is in support of a legislative proposal we have made concerning air quality monitors around Sea-Tac Airport.

Senator Keiser, Rep. Orwall, Rep. Johnson.

I know how busy you all are. I hope you will take 4 minutes to listen to this very good piece of audio. You can start at about 1:40.


(Just click the paper clip to play the audio. If you have time, I also highly recommend the entire Data Disappeared article.)

As I’ve told you before, part of my career as an engineer involved data collection for environmental reporting. We had a saying, “If there’s no data, there’s no problem.” As you will hear, until the late 70’s there was no legislation on lead because NO DATA COLLECTION HAD BEEN DONE (sorry for shouting 😀 ). We did not quantify the exposures and it is that lack of information itself which prevented any meaningful regulations from being developed.

People had known that lead was poisonous since the time of the Romans (they noticed that people drinking from lead plumbing got sick.) But because lead was so economically important and prevalent in so many products, *you simply could not collect data.

We have the same problem at airports. Everyone knows that the air quality is poor. But we never do proper air quality studies… and by that I mean consistent measurements of -all- the bad actors so that we can track their progress over time. And since we have no -data-, we can never move the law forward.

Mr. Subramanium is doing a vital public service by raising the alarm on this issue: the fact that you cannot regulate unless you are measuring.

This is why I have asked for your help with comprehensive air quality monitoring around Sea-Tac Airport.

Thanks for your time on this.


A little-known part of this story is that it was largely due to a single very eccentric chemist Clair Patterson who insisted on doing the absolutely tedious work of establish baseline data on lead concentrations in the environment. His extremely boring work has saved literally tens of thousands of lives.

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