Lead at Reid Hillview
What is Lead? Is it dangerous?
What does lead have to do with airplanes?
History of Lead at Reid Hillview
At the request of CAAPSO member, Michael McDonald, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, or BAAQMD, set in place airborne lead detectors in the vicinity of Reid Hillview airport.
In 2021, a study was released by the Mountain Data Group. The author, Dr. Sammy Zahran, found evidence to suggest that there were elevated Blood Lead Levels in the children living within 1.5 miles of the Reid Hillview Airport. Many citizens in the area were outraged due to the known toxic effects of lead. County officials used the results to continue to spread fear about the airport's continued operation. Legislation would be drafted by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to take action to end the emissions of lead at the airport, which would include banning the sale of 100LL at Reid Hillview and possibly closing the airport prior to the expiration of the Airport Improvement Grants which mandate the airport's continued operation until 2031.
Is the airport to blame?
The study had a large amount of data that was incredibly complex to process. However, the team at CAAPSO, specifically member Michael McDonald, has graciously looked through, and found some very interesting information.
In short, the health "hazard," was not made out to be nearly as big of an issue as local organizations reported it to be. The study indicates that in reality, only just over 20% of the Blood Lead Levels in the vicinity of Santa Clara County can be traced to the airport, leaving nearly 80% unaccounted for! Even one of the peer reviewers of the study which ignited this whole debacle said that this was not a "health crisis."
Are we doing anything to stop the lead?
Pilots don't like lead! We expose ourselves to it too as we have to regularly inspect the tanks, refuel our airplanes, and stand in close proximity to engine exhaust. Even the airplanes themselves don't love it that much as it can cause all sorts of unpleasant side effects during operation.