An idyllic portrait of DC would highlight its famed monuments, its international culture, and its atmosphere of political vibrancy, especially in the neighborhoods around (and including) Foggy Bottom. One would be hard-pressed to venture around Foggy Bottom, or its adjacent neighborhoods, and not see someone on their daily jog, or weaving in and out of traffic on a bicycle. The city of Washington has also put a lot of effort into ‘greening’ the city, providing wide open spaces (particularly around the National Mall), and has worked to solidify its reputation as an eco-friendly city—so much so, in fact, that it placed 8th on SIEMENS’ Green City Index.
Venturing into the heart of GW’s campus, however, one might start to wonder where this reputation came from. Surely the noise pollution from GW’s many campus construction products, or the air pollution—either from the construction or the abundance of smokers on campus—might knock a few points off of that Green City Index score?
In addition to being a Green City, DC also boasts a healthy population, and ranked second on ACSM’s American Fitness Index 2012. However, here are a couple of the detrimental effects that GW’s campus construction might have for your health:
Air pollution is the most abundant construction-related health hazard: VOCs (volatile organic compounds), particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxides are just a few examples of the contaminants that wind scatters around from construction sites. Headaches, nausea, and allergic reactions are a few short-term consequences of air pollution, and it can also aggravate extant cases of asthma and emphysema.
In addition, the increased traffic (from trucks and other construction vehicles) increases the vehicle exhaust present around a construction area, and have similar health effects as those listed above.
Noise pollution is another notable effect of construction—particularly for those living in the immediate vicinity of the construction. Noise pollution has been linked to stress, sleep disturbances, and high blood pressure (and with controlled blasting going on, this problem doesn’t look to be going away soon.)
Other than the obvious solution of simply avoiding the construction projects (which, due to their widespread presence on popular parts of campus, is practically impossible to do), passing through these areas in the morning or evening also reduces the potency of particle pollution. As for noise pollution, the most practical solution is to simply get away from the noise (and flee to the Mount Vernon campus, perhaps?).
While there is no doubt that GW’s construction projects will only serve to better the university—and the surrounding areas—upon their completion, it is worth wondering if they have considered the effects this construction will have on their current students, in their attempts to better the campus for future ones.