University of Washington School of Public Health

UW SPH News: SPH researchers study air quality near U.S.-Mexico border region

SPH researchers study air quality near U.S.-Mexico border region

04/17/2018
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Edmund Seto, of the University of Washington School of Public Health, has received a $100,000 grant to further study air quality near one of the busiest land border crossings in the world – the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana.

The project will expand a community air study currently underway in the area to include additional air quality monitoring at sites in Tijuana, Mexico. The North American Development Bank, a binational bank governed equally by the United States and Mexico, awarded the grant.

"This new grant will allow us to expand our community air quality monitoring into Tijuana near the San Ysidro Port of Entry, which is undergoing redevelopment,” says Seto, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the UW School of Public Health. An expansion project at the border will increase traffic lanes and expand pedestrian processing pathways.

“Because this port of entry traditionally has had long lines of vehicles with people waiting to cross the border, it is important for us to continue to monitor air quality as vehicle emissions change during redevelopment.”

San Ysidro, a district of San Diego just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, faces unique risks not felt by other California communities. Being close to the international border may result in exposure to pollution from lines of idling vehicles, trade-related commercial trucks and transport of pollutants from Mexico.

To understand these risks, researchers from the UW, San Diego State University and Casa Familiar collaborated with community members to deploy a network of low-cost sensors in San Ysidro to measure how air pollution changed over time and to identify areas that were most affected. Researchers monitor atmospheric particulate matter that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) and traffic-related gas pollutants that impact human health.

Preliminary results from the original study show an increase in pollution levels during the spring and fall seasons. In addition, pollution levels spiked in the middle of the night.

“This new grant will also allow us to interact more with Mexican stakeholders on the monitoring of border air quality," Seto added.

Learn more about the San Ysidro community air study.

Visit the study’s website for real-time monitoring data.