Saturday, April 18, 2009

IKEA and ultrafine particles

When I heard that IKEA was coming to Assembly Square back in 2003, the first thing I thought about was the increased traffic and pollution it would bring with it, especially on the weekends. I've been against the idea from the beginning, not only for those reasons, but also because I have no love for big box stores and their impact on local economies. To anyone who believes that these types of establishments are assets to their communities, I recommend the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.

This past week, The Boston Globe (as well as the Somerville Journal) reported that a group of scientists will begin a study on the effect of ultrafine particles released into the air by combustion engines in high traffic areas, such as the neighborhoods abutting Mystic Ave. and 93 in the area of Assembly Square. Ultrafine particles are microscopic pollutants that have been correlated with increased incidences of heart and lung disease among people living within 300 feet and downwind of heavily used highways. Somerville residents have requested that the Tufts Community Research Center perform the study based on anecdotal evidence showing high rates of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease among those living in the Nunnery Grounds neighborhood. If their suspicions prove valid, and the already high volume of traffic actually increases with the opening of IKEA, then the situation becomes one of sacrificing lives for cheap goods. I'm curious to see whether IKEA will be allowed to begin construction before this study is complete; if the health risks will be rationalized by focusing on job creation and increased commerce.

In a town that's been shifting strongly away from the corporate mentality, with residents supporting independent local businesses, and getting furniture and other goods through craigslist, freecycle, thrift stores, yard sales, flea markets, and community swaps, building an IKEA doesn't reflect the prevailing Somerville zeitgeist. Going forward, I hope awareness of the health risks posed by increased traffic in the Assembly Square area will play an important part in any future decisions made about IKEA.

The Museum of Science will host a free public forum on the issue of vehicular pollution on Sunday, May 3, at 7pm. Advance registration is required. Call 617-589-4250 or email forumrsvp@mos.org.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous James M said...

Only way to stop them is not shop there. It is simple, as long as we continure to fill their pockets, they will continue to rape our communities.

2:36 PM  

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