Particulate matter (PM) pollution has been linked to asthma, cancer, heart disease, and, most recently, Alzheimers. There is no known safe PM exposure level. Like greenhouse gas emissions, PM emissions have been increasing, especially in lower income and minority communities. This is why the 350 Mass Transportation Working Group supports An Act to improve outdoor and indoor air quality for communities burdened by transportation pollution, (S4117, H2230) as a 350 Mass priority bill in the current State legislative session.  

Gas engines have become more efficient, yet greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow because of the popularity of SUVs and trucks and, until COVID hit, increased driving. Average vehicle weight is at an all time high, as was vehicle miles traveled in 2019. In my city, Newton, daily vehicle miles traveled increased from 20 miles per person in 2015 to 24.7 miles in 2019.  

Electric vehicles (EV) greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but not necessarily PM pollution. PM pollution in EV comes from ‘non-exhaust sources”, tire, road, and brake wear. PM is visible as haze on roadways. It is measured in micrometers. PM2.5 is pollution smaller than 1/30th of a strand of hair, small enough to enter your bloodstream.

In December 2020, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development published the report Non-exhaust Particulate Emissions from Road Transport stating:  “EVs do not necessarily emit less PM2.5 than ICEVs (internal combustion engine vehicles, i.e. gas). Although lightweight EVs emit an estimated 11-13% less PM2.5 than ICEV equivalents, heavier weight EVs emit an estimated 3-8% more PM2.5 than ICEVs.”

An Act to improve outdoor and indoor air quality for communities burdened by transportation pollution would improve outdoor air monitoring in pollution hotspots, set air quality targets by 2030 and 2035, and require installation of air filters in buildings, such as schools and hospitals, affected by PM pollution.   

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