For the past six months there have been a ton of stories in all the big papers and magazines as well as NPR and PBS about Mongolia–Ulan Bator to be precise. Depending on who you ask, the capital of Mongolia is now the most polluted big city in the world. And why that matters to someone involved with Sea-Tac Airport, is that all these articles are now routinely mentioning a new scientific unit of measure: PM 2.5, aka ‘ultra-fine particulates. Further more, all these articles now take great pains to mention the health perils that UFPs present–especially for pregnant women and small children. Carcinogens, soot, heavy metals, they are all mentioned and explained in some detail.
The point is that ‘UFPs’ and ‘PM25s’ are now becoming a part of the common vocabulary of average educated people. It means one less thing you have to explain to the kinds of people who care about the environment and one more thing you can mention freely when you talk to most people without worrying too much that you are talking over their heads or coming off as some ridiculous ‘tin-foil hat’ spouting techno-babble. You can mention the well-documented dangers to pregnant women and babies and expect to obtain an immediate and visceral response.
One other thing that is usually mentioned in all these articles: PM 2.5 Monitors. Ulan Bator, as well as many other large cities in China and the Far East have lots and lots of PM 2.5 monitors. And at the risk of sounding jingoistic, it begs the question: Why do third-world countries seem to have an ample supply of PM 2.5 monitors to at least monitor the risks faced by their populations, but one of the most sophisticated Airports on the planet does not?
We need to start talking about PM 2.5s and mentioning this at every opportunity. The tech is there now. There is no reason to not be measuring PM 2.5s at Sea-Tac other than the obvious one: they don’t want us to know the results.