Despite progress made through national air quality standards, urban air pollution remains an important contributor to poor health in many urban areas, including San Francisco. Air pollutants result in adverse effects on lung development, asthma, and life-expectancy. Exposure is greater for communities near pollution sources, such as freeways, distribution centers, and heavy industry and the elderly, the young, and those with higher rates of respiratory disease are most vulnerable to harm. Controlling urban air pollution and reducing disparities in exposure will be necessary for the success of sustainability initiatives that aim to increase the population in existing urban areas and promote active transportation.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health is engaged in a number of activities to assess and control air pollution in San Francisco. Through the use of measurement and modeling tools, we have identified areas of the city disproportionately affected by air pollution. The Department has provided technical leadership for several policy initiatives, such as legislation requiring enhanced ventilation and filtration for new residences built near roadway pollutant hotspots.
Informing Public Policy
The City of San Francisco is developing a Community Risk Reduction Plan (CRRP) to protect human health through the reduction of emissions and exposure to ambient air pollution in the City and County of San Francisco. The Plan will establish citywide objectives and targets for air quality improvement and a set of local actions to reduce health impacts for disproportionately exposed communities in San Francisco.
Developed with technical support from the Department of Public Health, Article 38 of the San Francisco Health Code requires that developers screen sensitive use projects for proximity to traffic, estimate pollutant levels, and incorporate ventilation systems to remove particulates from outdoor air.
Research and Assessment
The SFDPH recently completed a health impact assessment on a potential program that would charge a $3 fee to travel into or out of the congested northeast quadrant of San Francisco during AM and PM rush hours.
Using computer modeling software, the Department is able to map many priority pollutants on a citywide scale and use these maps to inform policy and regulatory actions.
PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights) and community members along with researchers in the San Francisco Department of Public Health's (SFPDH) Program on Health, Equity and Sustainability and at UC Berkeley School of Public Health (UCB) conducted a community-based health impact assessment of traffic and the transportation system in San Francisco's Excelsior neighborhood.