I was on Think Out Loud yesterday talking about the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's report on toxic air pollutants in the Portland metro area. As I wrote on the blog last week, most of the toxins DEQ has mapped are coming from everyday sources: Our cars, trucks, lawn mowers, construction equipment and wood stoves. Metal foundries were the main industrial sources of these toxins, and their emissions of toxic metals tend to stay close to the neighborhood.
Several people have asked to see more detailed maps of which pollutants they're breathing in their neighborhood. DEQ is still working on an interactive map that will get down to the nitty-gritty neighborhood level. In the meantime, I highly recommend the maps below (click on the link and then zoom in to see them in full detail). Each one maps a different pollutant that was found to be above the benchmark for what is healthy to breathe. The sidebars explain the possible sources and associated health risks.
Notice how some of the pollutants – cadmium and manganese, for example – are localized in small patches around industrial areas. Meanwhile, 15 PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), which come from burning wood, oil, gas or anything else containing carbon, are all over the metro area at pretty high levels. In the next post I'll dive into the details of what the deep red level means.