Companies have the responsibility to their shareholders to expand profits. The proposed mega gas station will certainly do that for Costco; however, the gas station will certainly have a negative effect on the respiratory health of our community residents. A flier that Costco recently circulated is their effort to convice us that we need the station and that concerns of health risks are insignificant. We, the community, answer back a resounding “NO!” and the following is why.
Costco’s flyer and their submissions to the planning board do not provide balanced information to properly inform the community and community leaders of the potential health risks of a mega gas station located in such close proximity to residences and a school for disabled children (Stephen Knolls). Costco ignores a significant body of scientific evidence that demonstrate that exposure to ambient air pollution even at levels below EPA limits can be associated with negative effects on respiratory health.
Costco says that community concerns about health risks are unfounded and have no “rational or scientific basis.”
Costco tells us that their models predict that air pollution and particulate matter (PM2.5, which comes from motor vehicle emissions) levels will be within standard EPA 24 hour and annual average limits.
Costco says, “Scientific site studies prove that there is no significant environmental or health risk to the community.”
Costco expects that the above statements will reassure the community that siting such a large gas station so close to residences and a school for disabled children is nothing to worry about. However, it is not what Costco says that is the problem. It is what Costco does not tell you that is the most troublesome.
The community should not allow itself to be so easily convinced by a large corporation and its presentation of unbalanced information accompanied by promises of cheap gas. The facts below are facts for serious consideration when deciding whether one should or should not be concerned about health risks related to the proposed gas station.
What Costco Does Not Tell You About Health Risks of the Gas Station:
Costco does not tell you that there actually is a lot of rational and scientific basis to community health concerns regarding the gas station. Scientific studies show that higher levels of fine particulate pollution (PM2.5), which is generated by motor vehicles, are associated with greater odds of having asthma symptoms exacerbated, having a more severe asthma attack, decreased lung function and increased rescue inhaler use.
Costco does not tell you that even though average 24h and annual levels of ambient air pollution and particulate matter measured from a central site monitoring station may be within EPA standard limits, studies show that individual personal exposures may be much higher dependent on the daily activities of the individual. For example, a child or adult who stands in traffic while waiting for a bus or who perhaps lives in close proximity to a mega gas station or who has to walk by a mega gas station on their way to work/school will have much higher personal exposure levels to particulate air pollution compared to levels measured at a distant central station. These personal exposure levels are likely to exceed standard EPA 24h exposure limits and have been shown to have negative effects on asthma symptoms and lung function. Studies have shown that short-term exposure lasting minutes to hours has clinically relevant negative respiratory effects.
Costco does not tell you that even though air pollution levels measured at a central monitoring site may be within EPA limits, air pollution levels near point sources like a mega gas station or freeway can be much higher and exceed standard limits.
Costco does not tell you that the central monitoring sites in our local area reside in Rockville and Beltsville, in areas that are not as urbanized as Wheaton and that do not have a mega gas station near them.
Costco does not tell you that while ambient air pollution levels measured at those monitoring sites may be within standard limits the individual personal exposure levels of people living, or walking near the mega gas station are likely to be much higher and exceed standard limits. Costco does not tell you that measurements of ambient air pollution levels at central monitoring sites are not good measures of personal exposure levels and are likely to underestimate personal exposure levels and health risk.
Costco did not mention in their analysis that there have been scientific studies of the negative health effects of living near sources of particulate pollution and that residing near high traffic areas like a freeway is associated with decreased childhood lung development. Lung development from the ages of 10 to 18 years is reduced in children exposed to higher levels of ambient air pollution which includes motor vehicle derived particulate matter. Children who grow up in residential communities located in close proximity (within 1500 feet) of particulate air pollution sources such as a freeway attain lower lung function levels by age 18 compared to children who grew up in communities located greater than 1500 feet away from such pollution sources. These lower levels of lung function are clinically relevant and were observed even though average ambient levels measured at central monitoring sites were within EPA limits.
Costco does not tell you that scientific studies show that incremental increases in particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution exposure are associated with decreased lung function in school children with asthma and that these adverse effects of ambient air pollution were observed even though levels at central monitoring sites were within EPA limits.
Costco’s predictive modeling does not "prove” that the health risk of putting a mega gas station within as close as 125 feet of homes and 850 feet of a school for severely disabled children is insignificant. In contrast, published scientific evidence demonstrates that there is significant cause for concern. Increased exposure to ambient air pollution due to placing of a mega gas station so close to homes and a school for disabled children may very likely have negative impact on symptoms of asthma and other chronic lung diseases as well as childhood lung development.