EarthFix · Oregon Public Broadcasting
November 4, 2013
SEATTLE — New research results suggest coal trains are contributing to the Northwest’s air pollution.
That’s according to the preliminary results of a University of Washington atmospheric and environmental scientist’s crowdfunded study.
“We did find an increase in large particles in the air when coal trains pass by and it does suggest that it’s coal dust and it’s consistent with coal dust from those trains,” said the UW scientist, Dan Jaffe. He released his preliminary research results Monday evening.
Jaffe gathered air quality samples at two sites next to train tracks in the Northwest. He tested 450 trains as they passed – roughly 10 percent of which were carrying coal.
One of the sites is in the Columbia River Gorge, the other is in the Blue Ridge neighborhood of north Seattle, on Puget Sound. The monitoring devices were placed within 30 meters from the train tracks.
Coal dust contains arsenic, mercury and other contaminants but little is known about how dust from trains could impact people who live nearby. Public health officials in Washington have raised concerns about coal dust and called for more monitoring.