Congressman Smith Introduces Legislation to Protect Airport Communities from Ultrafine Particles

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Smith introduced the Protecting Airport Communities from Particle Emissions Act. Recent studies have indicated that ultrafine particles (UFPs) from a variety of sources could have detrimental impacts on human health. In recognition that communities located near airports could be more likely to be exposed to aviation-related particle pollution, Congressman Smith introduced this legislation to require a national study on ultrafine particles to help direct policy and solutions to improve the quality of life for local communities.

The full extent of health impacts resulting from UFPs has not been completely examined. Because of their structure and size, these particles can enter deep into the lungs and find their way into the blood stream. There are many sources that contribute to the rise of UFPs, including congested roadways, industrial emissions, as well as air travel. The health effects that can arise from UFPs include aggravation of heart and lung disease as well as asthma. These damaging health impacts can result in increased hospital admissions.

The act will ensure that affected localities across the country, including the communities surrounding Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state, have access to information about the health risks of UFPs. It will direct the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator to compile existing data from previous research and then conduct an original study on UFP prevalence around the twenty largest airports in the country. This will lead to a better understanding of how nearby communities are exposed to UFPs and the adverse health impacts associated with them. In addition, the study will also evaluate whether biofuel use at airports could contribute to reduced UFP emissions.

The bill requires coordination between the FAA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to study the rates of exposure to UFPs and adverse health impacts that communities of color, economically insecure residents, vulnerable individuals, and other disparately impacted groups experience. A report on the findings of the study is to be submitted to Congress within two years of enactment of the legislation.

This study parallels research on airport traffic and air quality currently being conducted at the University of Washington and builds upon the collaborative efforts Congressman Smith has been engaged in with local communities and the Port of Seattle.

Communities have the right to know how they are being impacted by ultrafine particulates in the atmosphere, what the sources of these pollutants are, and whether the use of alternative fuels could reduce those impacts.

“A comprehensive study of the ultrafine materials that jet fuel pollution emits is necessary to begin to develop practical and effective policies to protect impacted communities,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “The evidence from this national study will serve as the foundation for future work at the local, state and federal level to ensure a better quality of life for those experiencing the negative health impacts from airplane emissions.” 

“Studying ultrafine particles found in jet fuel pollution is critical to understanding the potential health impacts on airport communities and what can be done to mitigate negative effects,” said Representative Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines. “Washington state recently funded a study of Sea-Tac airport, one of the fastest growing airports in the nation. While I’m proud that we funded this local study being conducted by the University of Washington, I am very grateful for the leadership of Congressman Adam Smith in seeking to have our federal partners study this further.”


“The Port of Seattle is pleased to support Representative Smith’s effort to create a federal study on ultrafine particles and their relationship to airport-related activity,” 
said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton. “Healthy communities depend upon healthy environments. There is a current lack of data and academic studies on ultrafine particulate emissions resulting from aviation activities, and so we welcome this legislation – as well as the study on this topic that the Port is supporting and co-funding at the state level – as an essential step toward deepening our understanding of this important topic.”

“My constituents are in need of accurate information regarding the presence of ultrafine particle pollution and the potential health risks such particulates pose to themselves and their families,”said Senator Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines. “I thank Congressman Smith for his advocacy and partnership to ensure we have the information and resources we need to protect our communities adjacent to commercial airports.”

“I would like to thank Congressman Smith and all other government partners for listening to my constituents in Federal Way and Des Moines, and for his leadership in Congress on this important issue,” said Representative Mike Pellicciotti, D-Federal Way.

The Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus seeks to raise awareness of the impact of aircraft noise, hold the FAA accountable to the concerns of local communities, and find meaningful legislative and administrative solutions to reduce airplane impacts. As a member of the Quiet Skies Caucus, Congressman Smith has convened roundtable discussions with local elected officials, city officials, and Port of Seattle Commissioners to discuss possible solutions for airplane noise and emissions, including ultrafine particles. Air travel is an economic engine for the Puget Sound Region. Congressman Smith is committed to ensuring the Port of Seattle continues to create economic opportunities for local residents, and finding solutions that will diminish the adverse impacts of air travel and improve the quality of life for local communities.

The Protecting Airport Communities from Particle Emissions Act has been cosponsored by Representatives Jackie Speier (CA-14), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), and Mike Quigley (IL-05).