To the Editor:
According to the person overseeing the issue of particulate matter at the state EPA, the Harrison Park Air Study is based on a flawed study design. A recent long-term study of 3,500 children in the Los Angeles basin found no correlation between particulate matter and increased respiratory distress among athletes versus non-athletes.
To understand the folly of the Harrison Park Air Study you need to go back about six years. It was then that L A Wood, who wanted the park land used as a location for the corporation yard, brought up the argument that the land shouldn’t be used for a park because the air quality was so bad. This statement flew in the face of the air studies that had already been done which indicated the air quality was acceptable for playing fields. So the previous study was attacked as inadequate and the environmental forces reached an agreement with city staff to conduct a second, more comprehensive study. Within the scientific community one of the emerging links between respiratory distress and air quality was particulate matter, or dust. So the Harrison Park Air Study was designed to measure particulate matter at Harrison Park.
Unfortunately, for several reasons the study was doomed to failure even before the first air quality measurement was taken. The city chose to locate the machine that measures the particulate matter off the playing fields right next to the railroad tracks. As freight and passenger trains move up and down these tracks all day long, one would hope the machine would register high levels of dust or you would have to suspect the machine wasn’t working. The city’s rationale for placing the machine next to the railroad tracks is that they wanted to have a “worst case scenario.” However the central locus for activity at the park is between 100 and 125 yards away from these tracks.
Another problem is that state EPA particulate standards are based on the exposure for someone who lives seven days a week (24-hour exposure) in the air quality environment. When the Berkeley Daily Planet reports that the air quality at Harrison Park exceeds state standards and couples this with pictures of kids playing soccer, it gives the reader the impression that there is an air quality issue for these children. The Planet articles never mention that, at most, a child is at the field for six hours out of the 168 hours in the EPA week. Or put another way the child has an exposure rate of less than 4 percent of the EPA standard. Assuming the EPA standards mean anything, it would suggest that there isn’t a problem.
Association of Sports Field Users