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What Costco Doesn't Tell You About Health Risks of the Proposed Gas Station

Things Costco does not tell you about potential health risks of siting a gas station so close to homes and a school for disabled children.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ktown mom February 08, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Wow, thank you for all that information. This underlines why this mega gas station shouldn't be anywhere near a school for medically fragile kids. Planning Board, make Costco move that station away from a public school for disabled kids with respirators!
Jim Core February 08, 2013 at 05:19 PM
Costco's entire application is misleading. There is no need for this station in Wheaton and now they are playing loose with the facts - and it affects our health. Where is the corporate social responsibility?
Jim Core February 08, 2013 at 05:45 PM
The monitoring stations cited by Costco are in park like settings with great tree canopies. The Rockville location is in the Lathrop environmental education center, and the Beltsville station is in the Howard University property on Muirkirk Road. These locations have little in common with environmental conditions in Wheaton.
wkc torrance February 08, 2013 at 06:07 PM
All I can say is: Really Costco? The great thing about the Wheaton mall is that it is near transit. Instead of working with the significant assets from that site, you want to ram through a truck-stop-sized gas station near families, and kids on respirators? Suddenly I am not impressed that you carry dishwasher detergent that has enzymes. What about the kids, families, and other adults that live, work and play in this established neighborhood? I don't want my neighborhood to be a case study for what bad things happen when people breathe this particulate matter. Other Costco's don't have gas stations, like the one in Pentagon City. Why push for something so detrimental for this one?
Francis Rienzo February 09, 2013 at 04:50 PM
I would like to see a COSTCO employee or board member, or any of the amazing folks at the Gates Foundation allow something like this in their neighborhood. You never would. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH! The alternative is known as hypocrisy. Do not allow your integrity to be compromised by someone's performance bonus.
Citizen X February 10, 2013 at 07:06 PM
It's hard to take anyone seriously that is not willing to sign their name to a published article ("MJ", "Webmaster" flash, etc...).
Andrea February 10, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Thank you for posting this excellent summary of the REAL health risks that Costco doesn't want any of us to know about. The scientific evidence is definitely there even if Costco does not want us to know about it. Jim, I like your question about corporate social responsibility. Costco actually took their code of ethics which talked about exceeding environmental standards and being a good neighbor OFF their website recently. To me that speaks directly too their company culture which apparently has no problem with placing families and especially children with disabilities at real risk. I canceled my costco membership last year and urge everyone to do the same! Until Costco agrees to withdrawal their special exception application for the gas station I will not be shopping there.
MJ February 10, 2013 at 08:01 PM
or "Citizen X", etc... Here are some published references. You can read them and draw your own conclusions then decide how seriously you would like to take them. Ralph J Delfino, et.al. Association of FEV1 in Asthmatic Children with Personal and Microenvironmental Exposure to Airborne Particulate Matter. Environmental Health Perspectives 2004; 112(8). James C Slaughter, et.al. Effects of ambient air pollution on symptoms severity and medication use in children with asthma. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 2003;91:346-353. Onchee Yu, et. al. Effects of Ambient Air Pollution on Symptoms of Asthma in Seattle-Area Children Enrolled in the CAMP Study. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2000;108(12);1209-1214 R dales, et. al. Acute effects of outdoor air pollution on forced expiratory volume in 1 s: a panel study of schoolchildren with asthma. European Respiratory Journal 2009; W James Gauderman, et al. Effect of exposure to traffic on lung development from 10 to 18 years of age: a cohort study. Lancet 2006:368 W. James Gauderman, et al. The Effect of Air Pollution on Lung Development from 10 to 18 Years of Age. New England Journal of Medicine 351(11); 1057
Citizen X February 10, 2013 at 09:19 PM
I am briefing commenting and not writing an article like "Webmaster" and "MJ". Both sides can mention published references, my point was simply how credible would you take a reference or article that the writer did not want to be associated with by putting their name on it?
Danila Sheveiko February 11, 2013 at 05:11 AM
Dear Citizen X: Every single one of the scientific articles quoted here was published in peer-reviewed academic publications. You are grasping at straws here...

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