Call to Action: Petition EPA to Ban Lead in Aviation Gas

Help lessen Santa Monica Airport's toxicity with this easy-to-do petition.

Help lessen Santa Monica Airport's toxicity with this easy-to-do petition.

Santa Monica Airport (SMO) has been polluting the surrounding communities for many years. Noise pollution has been, and still is, the most obvious and the one that garners the largest number of community complaints. However, the not-so-obvious air pollution from SMO operations has received very little attention from the cty of Santa Monica, the owner and operator of the airport, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

When I say not-so-obvious, I mean to those who are not in the downwind path of the stinking odors of hazardous jet emissions. Since the arrival of the "1 percent" via private jet it is now menacingly noticeable.

What is not noticeable is the toxic fallout of the lead particles from piston aircraft's aviation gasoline (avgas); because there is no foul smell involved. 

Since Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP) was founded in the summer of 2003, SMO air pollution concerns have moved from an under-the-rug issue to a front-burner issue, and until recent concerns regarding the dangers of lead in avgas surfaced, CRAAP's primary focus had been on jet emissions. The logic being that if we could ban all jet aircraft from using SMO due to the lack of a buffer between the jet blast and the residential neighborhood, a huge part of the noise impacts would leave the SMO area as well.

Oh yes, we would also have achieved and gone further than the City of Santa Monica's unsuccessful effort to ban category C & D aircraft. Understand that the pollution argument is scientifically documented and not speculative as were the arguments put forth by the City of Santa Monica to ban C & D aircraft. This is fodder for a future blog post, but let me now return to this blog's focus.

Are the toxic chemicals in jet emissions more harmful than piston aircraft's toxic rain of lead? The more encompassing question is, "what health impacts are airport neighbors exposed to from a combination of both?" Throw noise into the equation and you are subjecting airport neighbors to all kinds of... (This is why there are two "A"s in CRAAP; because there is so much of it!).

Let's focus on the issue of lead in avgas and how you can help by adding your name to a simple online petition.

It is inspiring to learn how the petition evolved and how one individual's contribution can be significant. The individual I am referring to is Natalie McAdams, a resident of Los Angeles's  North Westdale, and who lives very close to the east end of SMO's runway.

In the summer of 2011 Natalie signed up to be on CRAAP's contact list, citing concerns about air pollution, health, large jets, plane crashes and noise pollution. She and her husband Charles attended meetings of the Santa Monica City Council and the Santa Monica Airport Commission to express their concerns for themselves, their children, and their neighbors. They offered to have the North Westdale Neighborhood Association's Airport Committee meetings at their home, and Natalie took on the position of vice-chair of that committee. 

Natalie spoke to me about waging a petition campaign, and thought that it would make sense to garner upport for the efforts that Friends of the Earth and EARTHJUSTICE were doing to ban the use of lead in aviation gas. She spoke about how the website "change.org" has a very useful and effective online method of petitioning, in which every signature on the petition sends out a notice to whom the petition is addressed. I thought that was a great idea and asked her to look into it and run a draft by me for review.

She and I drafted the petition and she launched it on Feb. 8. The petition was addressed to the USEPA's Director Lisa Jackson and Director of Transportation and Air Quality, Margo Oge.

There are already more than 200 signatures.  

I am very impressed with Natalie's contribution to address these critical concerns. And after more than fifteen years of involvement, I am not easily impressed. The point is that there is so much we as individuals can do if we just make an effort; even a small effort. It is incumbent upon us, the community, to look out for ourselves. Let's start by growing the numbers on this very sensible petition.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Monica Hirschberger February 16, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Thank you for your diligent work to educate us all on what is really going on here. I have been residing in Sunset Park for over 20 years and have seen the changes in the volume and type of commercial and private airplane use of SM airport use. The options of making lead no longer an option in small piston planes is a must if not stopping the airport to continue its lease in SM in 2015. If this environmental factor doesn't draw more support, then perhaps down the line a class action suit will follow, when the cluster of illnesses become apparent. Why wait till that happens. The time is now! There are the new airport park where infants and toddlers play on the jungle gyms while older siblings play soccer in the adjacent field. All while toxic lead rains down on them. What about our animals who are also exposed while using the airport dog park.
John B. Murdock February 16, 2012 at 04:38 PM
A long-time pilot (airport supporter) who is also a retired engineer pinpointed for me the avgas issue several years ago and has stated many times that the aviation-engine-industry can and should replace leaded fuel but simply doesn't, because it's cheap. The political pressure isn't there to force the issue, as it was with automobiles years ago. Clearly this petition is an important and necessary step in the political process and should be signed by millions to bring about the changes needed in aviation fuels as part of the overall plan to eliminate the health hazards caused by this industry. John Murdock, Santa Monica
walter Davie February 16, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Mr.Murdock is correct that leaded gas should be replaced. His statement that leaded gas is "cheap" is approximately 150% wrong. Leaded avgas is currently about $1.50 more per gallon than auto fuel. The outrageous side of the leaded gas coin is hat the Calif. State legislature has (by default) mandated the use of leaded gas in about 70% of California's piston aircraft I flew LEAD FREE FROM SANTAMONICA AIRPORT for 20 years (1983--2003) using FAA appproved autogas. This nirvana came crashing to a halt in 2004 when California mandated alcohol in our current auto gas. The FAA prohibits the use of alcohol in piston aircraft fuel. (For very good reasons, alcohol lis nasty stuff for any engine with fuel caps vented to the air, is corrosive and has limited life) 70% of CA's aircraft now use leaded fuel NOT because they NEED the extra octane boost (from 95 unleaded to100)but because 100 octane leaded IS THE ONLY ALCOHOL FREE GAS SOLD IN CALIFORNIA. Iam working with Sen Ted Lieu's office to allow the sale of alcohol free gas for non-auto use in CA. Please send your leaded gas protests to SenLieu and DEMAND alcohol free gas in CA! Walter Davie
NIMBY Watch March 25, 2012 at 04:43 PM
FOLLOW THE $$$- Real estate developers want the airport property to build another Playa Vista-type behemoth. Talk about added pollution! These developers have been trying to buy the land for years--unsuccessfully. So they created a Plan B: circulated flyers and petitions and sent "concerned citizens" into the neighborhoods to stir up controversy. Very clever and effective! The developers remain in the shadows, while emotional residents do the dirty work for them. It's sad to witness this manipulation, but Big Business has learned to influence public opinion to serve its own selfish goals. If you don't believe that developers are behind this push to close the airport, go to City Hall and do a little research in the permits department.


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