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U.S. EPA, partners study roadside vegetation and air quality at local school

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Soledad Calvino (

SAN FRANCISCO - Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the expansion of a research project evaluating whether a vegetation barrier is reducing traffic-related air pollution at Brookfield Elementary School in Oakland. EPA is conducting the research with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the CAL FIRE Urban and Community Forestry Program, the California Air Resources Board, Urban Releaf and Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corp.

“EPA encourages the use of innovative scientific approaches to help solve important environmental problems,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “By working with our state partners and engaging the public we can foster creative solutions to these challenges.”

An estimated 45 million people in the United States live, work or attend school within 300 feet of roadways with high concentrations of air pollution due to motor vehicle emissions. Research indicates people who spend time near busy roads may face elevated risks for health problems including asthma, developmental effects and cardiovascular disease. Vegetation barriers – thick areas of trees and plants – can help reduce this risk by lowering concentrations of air pollutants.

EPA and its partners will work with the school community to study the effectiveness of a vegetation barrier in reducing air pollution at Brookfield Elementary, located next to Interstate Highway 880. Project partners have planted vegetation at the site, and EPA and other agencies are assessing air quality before and after the plantings. EPA will provide low-cost sensors to school and community members for monitoring air pollution as the vegetation matures.

“Air pollution from busy roadways impacts us all, but children are especially sensitive to it,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. “The Air District has worked closely with our partners and community groups to develop the vegetative barrier and we’re excited to learn about the resulting air quality benefits to the school and the community. This project could serve as a model for reducing harmful air pollution at schools throughout the state.”

The EPA project at Brookfield Elementary is one of nine across the country studying priority environmental issues including nitrogen pollution, volatile organic compound emission detection and harmful algal blooms.

Learn more about the projects here: 

Learn more about reducing traffic-related air pollution at