Last-Mile Pollution Hits Homes Near Hubs

Though the study focused on consumer goods, it’s a good reminder for the life science community to consider how shipping and the rise in home healthcare impact air quality, while delivering undeniable patient benefits.

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A recent UW News article highlighted a rarely discussed topic: how residents are affected by pollution from e-commerce hubs.

University of Washington researchers sought to determine how e-commerce delivery affects Seattle-metro area pollution levels, and found that neighborhoods within 1.9 miles of an Amazon last-mile delivery station or sortation center are exposed to twice the amount of delivery van and truck traffic than neighborhoods farther away.

With the growth of e-commerce, it’s not surprising that pollution levels increased.

While pharmaceutical and medical device shipping account for only a small portion of all goods shipped globally—and the study was focused on Amazon, specifically—it’s a good reminder that locations where life science products ship to and from can impact local public and environmental health, particularly as home healthcare increases.

Lately, more focus is being placed on transportation emissions, even for patients. At Pharmapack Europe, Dr. JC Diehl, professor in design for inclusive sustainable healthcare at Delft University of Technology, discussed that patient transport to and from the hospital may ultimately account for more environmental impact than that of the operating theater/packaging for simpler procedures, noting that it may make sense for a patient to undergo cataract surgery in both eyes at once to halve the typical transportation footprint. 

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