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Officials failing to lead charge against air pollution

The Hillsboro Tribune’s article “Emissions from airport not only lead-health risk” (July 7, 2016) could lead one to believe that the Port of Portland, the owner of the Hillsboro Airport, has been concerned about lead pollution from flight training aircraft which circle over Hillsboro.

In addition, the article states that the Hillsboro Airport Roundtable Exchange (HARE) group is “leading the charge locally” to stop the use of leaded aviation fuels. Neither is true. Both the Port and HARE only reluctantly began to acknowledge the lead pollution from flight training aircraft at HIO after persistent pressure by Oregon Aviation Watch was started in 2011. After years of dismissal the Port and HARE began to slowly address the issue of flight training aircraft emitting lead over Hillsboro neighborhoods. Sadly, however, no real change has occurred and lead pollution from flight training aircraft is expected to increase. The Port of Portland, as owner of the airport, has the authority to reduce intrastate flight training operations that use leaded fuel but is unwilling to try. The mayor and Hillsboro City Council have expressed no interest in trying to use the city’s police powers to address the lead pollution from the Hillsboro Airport. Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck has called the aviation lead emissions issue a “red herring.”

The article mentions the FAA’s expectation to have a lead free aviation gas available in 2018 but does not mention that there is a phase-out period for the leaded fuels that would likely extend to 2024 at the earliest. Notably, the FAA has been working on a suitable unleaded aviation fuel since 1994.

Another misleading comment in the article states, “the county found the levels of lead originating from the Hillsboro Airport ‘to be significantly below the national standard ...’” The article failed to mention that the levels “found” by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and also found by a third party consultant [hired by the Port of Portland] were estimations based on computer modeling, not actual measurements. Notably, ODEQ’s modeling initially estimated levels above the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead. After discussion with the Port, ODEQ refined their modeling and then found estimated levels did not exceed the Standard for lead.

The article failed to cite my public comment which informed HARE that actual measurements of air lead concentration made in 2015 were greater than ODEQ and the Port’s estimations. This information was given to HARE immediately following the county’s 6-29-16 report to HARE.

Hillsboro Airport is the largest facility source of lead pollution in Oregon, with essentially all of this lead pollution a result of intrastate flight training activity. The CDC has stated, “all nonessential uses of lead should be eliminated,” and “no level of lead in a child’s blood can be specified as safe.” Hillsboro’s flight training airport continues to pollute

our air with lead. Sadly, neither the Port of Portland nor our elected officials are “leading” any charge to protect our children from

breathing air tainted with this potent neurotoxin.

James T. Lubischer, M.D., is a pediatrician at the Aloha Pediatric Clinic and vice-president of the nonprofit Oregon Aviation Watch.