• New buildings popping up near Boston's highways, but what about car pollution?

    By: Drew Karedes

    Updated:

    BOSTON - It's a thriving trend in the Boston area – drawing tenants to brand-new buildings that continue to go up along the city's busiest highways.

    Boston 25 News has learned that the city has few rules in place to protect people in those developments from the car pollution they could be breathing in. However, some experts and local leaders are working to change that.

    The new construction right next to the Mass. Pike and the Southeast Expressway is showing no signs of stopping. It’s bringing more and more new tenants to an area that’s almost unrecognizable to what it used to be. But some local experts say what’s getting lost in all this excitement is awareness of the air people there could be breathing in.

    "You're practically living on top of the Mass. Pike, the highway system," said Ed Flynn, a Boston City Councilor for District 2. "My responsibility is not for people to make money selling real estate, my responsibility is the public health of the residents."

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    Flynn has been a front and center advocate for residents of nearby Chinatown, which was recently found to have the highest rate of air pollution in the state. He and others now have a warning for the new residents moving in just down the street.

    "To make sure public health is part of the debate, part of the process, especially for new development happening in Boston," Flynn said. 

    Environmental experts say Boston currently has few regulations to protect tenants near highways from the car pollution. Some are now publicly questioning how many of the new buildings have designed ventilation systems to address what’s spewing into the air.

    "The real problem is there's not a demand, there's not a rule, there's nothing that pushes them to take that extra step," said Dr. Doug Brugge Professor and Chair of UConn’s Department of Community Medicine and Health Care

    Dr. Brugge has studied air quality throughout the Boston area and wants others to know that the city's zoning code does not take traffic pollution into account.

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    "I think if the customers who are buying and renting start saying, 'what is the ventilation? How well does it filter the air?' I think that's going to influence the developers substantially," he said.

    "I really like the idea of this development bringing life to an area that was not residential before," said Stacie Freasier, who moved to Boston from D.C.

    Like many others who are settling in there, Freasier and her 14-month-old boy are from out of town. And while the location's convenience is a draw, the thought of what she and her child could be breathing in is concerning.

    "It's not even in the consciousness of me, and I consider myself a conscientious person," she said.

    A city spokesman tells Boston 25 News that private developments near highways are not required to take any special protective measures to filter the air from outside.

    We currently do not know if any of the new developments in Boston have opted to do this on their own. Boston 25 News did reach out to the developers behind many of these new projects, and we will let you know if we hear back.

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