For the past two years the East Boston Chapter of Mothers Out Front has been lobbying to have HEPA purifiers installed in every school, home and daycare in Eastie to combat air pollutants that lead to a wide array of respiratory diseases.
Over the summer Mothers Out Front received a City of Boston Community Clean Air Grant, a program offered by the Environment Department and the Air Pollution Control Commission.
Mothers Out Front received $51,764 for the East Boston Home Daycare Air Purification project. The project focuses on an air quality campaign providing HEPA purifiers to at-home childcare facilities, many of which are run by women of color and vulnerable populations.
Mothers Out Front and the East Boston Social Center, collaborated with Air Partners/Olin College,to install HEPA purifiers in 27 East Boston home daycares. The objectives are to reduce children’s exposure to ultrafine particulate pollution and to create engagement strategies that both build awareness of pollution and related health implications, and also ensure compliance and success.
Now, the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) is joining the movement to purify the indoor air in Eastie and recently received a $50,000 Community Clean Air Grant to place 40 HEPA filters in Eastie homes and businesses.
“The first round of grant money went to Mothers Out Front but we teaked our application based on comments from the city for the second round of grant money,” said NOAH’s Latifa Ziyad. “We were actually the only recipient in the second round and basically what it allowed us to do is to go to 40 residents, businesses or spaces where there’s a lot of foot traffic indoors and then place a HEPA filter in those spaces.”
Ziyad said NOAH will use special equipment to test the air quality in the homes or businesses prior to the HEPA filters being installed and then go back and retest the air quality after the HEPA filters are up and running.
“After the HEPA filters are installed we will go back about a week later and kind of examine what (the air quality) looks like and see how it has changed,” said Ziyad. “We honed in on folks that said that they had asthma in their home and prioritized those homes and businesses.”
Ziyad said the goal of the program is after NOAH collects the before and after air quality data NOAH will go to Massport to demand more stringent policies on ultrafine particles coming from airplanes landing and taking off at Logan Airport.
“So that’s the whole point of all of this is to kind of build that localized argument,” she said. “There’s a big residential area that is impacted by ultrafine particulates and what we’re hoping is this program is going to be a learning experience for people. We’re already talking with some other potential funders to be able to bring more filters in the area.
Studies show that 70 percent of Eastie pollution makes it indoors and twenty one percent of residents in Eastie are children who are especially vulnerable to the many health effects of air pollution.
Specific models of HEPA purifiers can reduce their exposure to ultrafine particulate pollution by up to 94 percent. NOAH will be using the Austin Air Purifiers and the Blue air purifier manufactured by Blueair Pure 411.
Like cars, jets burn fuel and release harmful ultrafine particles that are so small they absorb right into the bloodstream and can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
In 2013 the East Boston Times reported that the neighborhood’s “Godmother of Environmental Justice”, the late Mary Ellen Welch, had for decades tried to force Massport to measure ultrafine particles or PMs.
Welch long argued that the airport’s runway and roadside operations pose too much of an environmental impact on the neighborhood not to be considered when Massport files environmental impact statements or operations reports.
PMs from car exhaust and jet aircraft have been shown to cause a wide array of adverse health impacts.
The large number of deaths and other health problems associated with particulate pollution was first demonstrated in the early 1970s and has been reproduced many times since. PM pollution is estimated to cause 22,000-52,000 deaths per year in the United States and 200,000 deaths per year in Europe.
The effects of inhaling particulate matter that have been widely studied in humans and animals now include asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular issues, birth defects, and premature death.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that inhaling PM leads to high plaque deposits in the arteries causing cardiovascular problems.