Traffic Pollution at UCR Well Within State Standards, Study Shows

Research by UCR graduate student was supported by a Sustainability Student Fellowship from UCOP

An image of a map highlighting pollution on campus

Levels of particulate matter and other pollutants on the UCR campus are well below California standards.

Those worried about traffic-related pollution at UCR can breathe a little easier thanks to a recent study by Xuewei Qi, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

This past spring, Qi and fellow graduate student Jill Luo collected traffic and weather data on and around the campus, using it to predict pollutant emissions and how they are dispersed. The work was supported by a $1,500 Sustainability Student Fellowship from UC President Janet Napolitano’s office.

By creating color-coded maps, the team illustrated the concentration of pollutants in an area immediately around campus spanning University Village, UCR Extension and Canyon Crest Heights. Not surprisingly, traffic on Interstate 215/State Route 60 is the source of most pollutant emissions, but even freeway pollution remained well below California standards.

For example, particulate matter (PM10) was estimated at a maximum of 2.38 µg/m3 near campus, compared to a California standard of 50 µg/m3, and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) was an estimated maximum of 2.18 µg/m3 near campus compared to a California standard of 12 µg/m3. Carbon Monoxide was estimated at a maximum of 218 µg/m3 around campus, compared to a California standard of 10,000 µg/m3. The full study is available here.

“This study provides a good estimation of mobile source emissions at UCR that can be used as a benchmark for continued evaluation of air quality on campus. Although the pollutant levels are well within current California standards, there are still things we can do to reduce them, like planting more trees and creating additional walking paths,” said Qi, who is conducting graduate research at the Bourns College of Engineering’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT).

Qi added that the results relied on limited traffic data, some of which was collected manually by the authors. Eventually, he’d like to see the levels measured in real time and posted online daily.

Launched in February, UC President Janet Napolitano’s Sustainability Student Fellowship/Internship Program supports the UC’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. Napolitano’s office provided $7,500 to each of the UC’s 10 campuses to encourage students to get involved. Qi’s project was one of five funded at UCR

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