Air quality forum in South Minneapolis

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Approximately 150 concerned people spent last Thursday evening learning about the state of Minnesota’s air quality and strategies to improve it. They attended the Plymouth Congregational Church attending the League of Women Voter’s Air Quality Forum, where they heard from a panel of experts from the business, medical and science communities.

“This [forum] really helped me connect the dots,” said Lucia Wilkes Smith. “There was almost too much information presented tonight.”  

Mayor R.T. Rybak described his vision for cleaner air in Minneapolis through sourcing more of our foods locally and building out the public transportation system. “We need to make a whole way of living that’s good for air quality,” said Rybak. Despite being optimistic about the future, he also expressed frustration about the lack of air quality data.

Jean Johnson, program director of the Minnesota Department of Health, showed that while air quality in general has improved since the 1950s and 1960s, those measurements don’t include nano-particles, which researchers are discovering can make an impact on human health. The question is how much impact they have.

The Department of Health is wrapping up a multi-year study in which they have been monitoring the nano-particles in the air throughout the state with the help of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Johnson anticipates having preliminary numbers within a few months.

In the meantime, “the easiest way to impact air quality is to share the ride,” urged John Siqveland, a representative of Metro Transit.  Highway gasoline vehicles are the biggest contributor of air pollution followed by exhaust from recreational equipment, the use of solvents, and residential wood burning.

Dr. Paul Kubic’s presentation asserted that air pollution is associated with increased heart attacks, heart failure and hospital visits. And Representative Karen Clark presented a case study that showed that the low-income residents of Minneapolis are disproportionately affected by air pollution, suffering from higher rates of asthma and lead poisoning.

“We’re hoping people will get fired up and connect with each other to fight for clean air,”  said Kay Kessel co-organizer of the Air Quality Forum. “We need to support the legislators that are friendly to the environment.”

This forum was part of series of annual forums organized by the Healthy Legacy Coalition. Past forum topics include: water quality and toxins found in children’s products.