According to new research from Environmental Defense Fund, on U.S. warehouse proliferation, 15 million people live within a half-mile of a warehouse in 10 states across the country.
The report, "Making the Invisible Visible: Shining a Light on Warehouse Truck Air Pollution," provides a look into the impact of truck-related air pollution exposure experienced by people living in close proximity to warehouses.
“As corporations taught consumers to expect just-in-time products and delivery, warehouses have moved closer to people’s homes in more communities than ever before, bringing harmful air pollution from trucks with them,” said Aileen Nowlan, EDF’s U.S. policy director, Global Clean Air Initiative. “It’s important to understand who is bearing the brunt of health burdens associated with living close to heavy truck traffic in order to develop and implement smart, targeted policies that protect public health and reduce emissions.”
Mapping Shows Unequal Burden
EDF researchers combined warehouse industry data with a Geospatial Information System (GIS) application known as Proximity Mapping, which applies areal apportionment to estimate the characteristics of populations living near specific facilities and pollution sources, using the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Five-Year estimates.
- Some 17,600 warehouses are located within 10 states;
- More than 1 million children under five live within a half-mile of warehouses; and
- Warehouse proliferation does not distribute the risk evenly. In some states like Illinois, Massachusetts and Colorado, the concentration of Black and Latino residents around warehouses is nearly double the state average.
Diesel Trucks Bring Harmful Air Pollution
While warehouses can bring jobs and other economic growth opportunities to communities, they also attract diesel trucks and their harmful air pollution, according to the report. Each warehouse generates hundreds of truck trips every day, and trucks can emit more pollution while idling or traveling at slow speeds than while driving at faster speeds.
Exposure to air pollution from these trucks is linked to a range of health issues, including the risk of developing childhood asthma, heart disease, adverse birth outcomes like premature birth and low birth weight, cognitive decline, and stroke.
Affordable Solutions Exist
The report calls for several interventions, including increased air quality monitoring, that can provide a better understanding of air pollution around warehouses and help accelerate investments in zero-emissions goods transport.
While the Energy Information Agency maintains a database of oil and gas infrastructure, nothing similar exists for current and proposed warehouses. The report said more transparency around plans for warehouse expansion can help local leaders and communities plan for and address the challenges that come with these new facilities.
Further, zero-emission options exist for delivery vans, yard trucks and regional haul trucks, and manufacturers are investing billions to expand zero-emissions for long-haul trucking as well. States and cities can spur the transition to zero-emission trucks through policies such as the Advanced Clean Trucks rule.
Finally, EPA recently proposed tailpipe regulations designed to ensure that up to half of new urban delivery and freight vehicles sold by 2032 will be zero-emitting. Taken together with historic investments from the Inflation Reduction Act, these recent moves are turbocharging investments in clean trucks, charging infrastructure, and job creation.
“Communities deserve to know more about the businesses that operate near their homes and schools, especially if they pose a health threat,” Nowlan said. “Solutions exist today to reduce truck-related air pollution and protect public health. Greater transparency around warehouse locations and the pollution they attract is critical.”