What are the Health Benefits of Closing Down a Freeway?

Air quality impacts of a scheduled 36-h closure of a major highway (Abstract, David C. Quiros, Qunfang Zhang, Wonsik Choi, Meilu He, Suzanne E. Paulson, Arthur M. Winer, Rui Wang, Yifang Zhua, Atmospheric Environment, Mar. 2013)

Also discussed here: Air Quality Results of a Freeway Closure (5 page pdf, Arthur Winer, Yifang Zhu, and Suzanne Paulson, ACCESS, Jun. 2014)
Today we review the quantitative improvement in air quality that results from temporary closure of a heavily used freeway in southern California. Before and after measurements of air pollutants indicate as much as a 83% reduction during the period it was closed. The authors strongly recommend that steps be taken to reduce roadside pollution from freeways in future by limiting the use of single occupancy vehicles and to convert electrically powered vehicles. Almost make one wonder who came up with the idea of freeways to start with and, more to the point, why run these “pollution sewers” through urban centres where people have to breathe the resulting pollution! Vancouver is the only major city in North America that I can think of that does NOT have a freeway running through its centre- they must have clever urban planners there!

freeway closing

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Does Traffic Make Children Fat?

Traffic-related air pollution and obesity formation in children: a longitudinal, multilevel analysis (21 page pdf, Michael Jerrett, Rob McConnell, Jennifer Wolch, Roger Chang, Claudia Lam, Genevieve Dunton, Frank Gilliland, Fred Lurmann, Talat Islam and Kiros Berhane, Environmental Health, Jun. 9, 2014)
Today we review research into the links if any between traffic-related pollution and obesity in pre-teen children. Results indicate that children have a higher body mass index (BMI) who live in an area with higher traffic density and related pollution. Noting the direct health impacts of air pollution, this appears to be a combination of the known lower levels of physical exercise near heavy traffic, as well as such factors as drive-in fast food joints and their negative effect on healthy diets and obesity in children. Solutions include such basics as better land use planning to brings homes and jobs closer together, more use of public transit and less of private car commuting and limiting heavy traffic from the vicinity of schools and parks.

fat boys and girls

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How Can We Find the Most Environmentally Sustainable Place in the World?

Construction of an environmental quality index for public health research (39 page pdf, Lynne C Messer, Jyotsna S Jagai, Kristen M Rappazzo, Danelle T Lobdell, Environmental Health, May 22, 2014)

Today we review research aimed at developing a more accurate index of environmental quality than traditional indices used to select the greenest or healthiest or highest environmental quality of a place in the world. The older indices tend to use spot observations of a single indicator to represent an area or ambient value, and they tend not to consider a combination of several variables to evaluate land, air, water, built environment and socio-demographic conditions. An example of the latter is the difference in crime rates between urban and rural areas where the latter would feel safer and have a higher environmental quality than the former, all other variables constant. On the other hand, some urban areas have a better built environment (more bike and pedestrian paths, etc) than some rural areas where highway deaths are higher.

The proposed Environmental Quality Index (or EQI) uses 22 performance indicators to estimate environmental sustainability for all the counties in the USA. The resulting indices were weighted so that there were an equal number of regions at the low end as well as at the high end of the index scale. As the authors note, the EQI represents only the outdoor environment and indoor conditions may, on occasion, be more important from a health point of view or need to estimated from a different set of variables.

env index

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How Can Exhaust from Air Conditioning be used More Effectively?

 

Image of Atlanta, Georgia, showing temperature...

Image of Atlanta, Georgia, showing temperature distribution, with hot areas appearing white (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anthropogenic Heating of the Urban Environment due to Air Conditioning (F. Salamanca, M. Georgescu, A. Mahalov, M. Moustaoui and M. Wang, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, Mar. 6, 2014)

Also discussed here:
Use of Air Conditioners Increases Nighttime Temperatures, Escalates Demand for Air Conditioning – Experts advise turning ‘wasted heat’ into ‘useful energy’ (Newswise, May 16, 2014)

Today we review research carried out in Phoenix, Arizona to assess the impact of air conditioning on the urban heat island. Results indicate that air conditioning increases the mean air temperature by 1 deg C and that air conditioning consumes more than 50% of electricity used during extreme heat events. Instead of simply exhausting this heat into the atmosphere, the report recommends that it could be used for useful activities inside the house such as water heaters which could result in savings of at least 1200 MWh per day for the city. Continued climate warming will make this an even bigger issue affecting not only the formation of smog from ozone and excessive heat. Redirecting the exhaust heat offers the possibility of reducing electrical usage which itself is produced by the burning of carbon fuels which accelerate climate warming.

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Is Windshield Washer Spray a Health Hazard?

Windshield Washer Fluid a Source of Legionnaires (ASMevents, American Society for Microbiology, May 19, 2014)
Also discussed here: Windshield washer fluid a source of Legionnaires: Found in most school buses (ScienceDaily, May 18, 2014)

Today we review research by Otto Schwake who established a link between windshield washer fluid and Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia. The link is a bacteria, Legionella, found in the fluid which is transmitted to humans in the mist that is formed when sprayed on the windshield and then inhaled. The bacteria can also cause Pontiac fever, a milder illness resembling the flu. More bacteria were found in summer than in winter and in 75% of the washer fluid samples taken from school buses in Arizona. Although most people exposed to this threat do not become sick, seniors and smokers are at most risk. As much as 20% of those affected by Legionnaires’ disease in the UK, outside of those in hospitals, was found to be associated with automobile windshield washer fluid. One more reason to reduce the number of cars on the road and the pollution they cause.

 

windshieldwasherfluid_small

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How Polluted are the World’s Cities?

Ambient (outdoor) air pollution database, by country and city (Excel data base, World Health Organization, May 7, 2014)

Also discussed here:  Ambient (outdoor) air pollution in cities database 2014 (World Health Organization, May 7, 2014)

And here: Air quality deteriorating in many of the world’s cities (Press Release, World Health Organization, May 7, 2014)

And here: Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health (World Health Organization, Fact sheet N°313, Updated March 2014)

And here: Top 20 most polluted cities in the world (Madison Park, CNN, May 8, 2014)

Today we review a report from the World Health Organization that presents the state of air quality in 1600 cities world-wide in an Excel data base that is easy to manipulate. Only 1/8th of the cities surveyed meet WHO guidelines for fine particulate matter (PM). Those that do better (examples Bogota, Colombia and Copenhagen, Denmark) do it by actively promoting cycling and walking. 88% of the 3.7 million premature deaths/ year because of air pollution occur in low and middle income countries and most of these are in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. 7 out of the 10 most polluted cities with the highest levels of particulate matter (PM10) are in Pakistan (Pakistan: Peshwar, Rawalindi and Karachi) or India (Gwalior, Ahvaz, Raipur and Delhi) while all 10 of the least polluted cities are in the USA (mainly in the southwest). Even in regions such as Europe, where WHO guidelines are generally met, lives are shortened by 8.6 months because of exposure to PM.

pm in world cities

PM10: Fine particulate matter of 10 microns or less; Amr: America, Afr: Africa; Emr: Eastern Mediterranean, Sear: South-East Asia, Wpr: Western Pacific; LMI: Low- and middle-income; HI: high-income. PM10 values are regional urban population-weighted.

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How does the Public View the Cost of Air Pollution and Noise?

Multi-country willingness to pay study on road-traffic environmental health effects: are people willing and able to provide a number? (24 page pdf, Tifanny Istamto, Danny Houthuijs and Erik Lebret, Environmental Health,May 9.2014)
Today we review research aimed at finding ouit how to ask the publics in four European countries what cost the see in the impacts of air pollution and noise, recognizing that these two environmental conditions impact the public in different ways and so must be assessed differently. One of the challenges in designing questionnaires is to identify and if possible reduce the number of don’t know (DK) and protest vote (PV) answers through the use of factual choices and scenarios in a process meant to capture what the public is willing to pay (WTP) to reduce the impacts- and then assess if the proportion of DK’s varies by country or socio-economic status etc. About 1/3 of the PVs thought that the polluter or the government should pay for reducing air pollution or noise.

questions about pollution and noise

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What is the Impact of Air Pollution on IQ and Lifetime Earnings?

Prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and IQ: Estimated benefit of pollution reduction (Abstract, Frederica Perera, Katherine Weiland, Matthew Neidell and Shuang Wang, Journal of Public Health Policy, May8, 2014)
Also discussed here: Improving air quality in NYC would boost children’s future earnings by increasing IQ (ScienceDaily, May 8 2014)
Today we review research into the link between a pollutant associated with the burning of fossil fuels in an urban environment (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH) and the impact on a child’s IQ, and further, how a lower or higher IQ affects lifetime earnings by that child. The impact of air pollution on aging and seniors has been studied as has the impact on pregnant women and the health of their babies but this is the first we have seen to make the link to IQ and lifetime earnings. Results indicate that a 25% decrease in PAH translates to an increase of $215 earnings for the population of New York City.

NYC pollution

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Has Health Impacts fromToronto’s Traffic-Related Air Pollution Become Worse?

Path to Healthier Air: Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness Update(15 page pdf, Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto Board of Health, Apr. 11, 2014)
Today we review an updated report from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health on the health impacts from air pollution in Canada’s largest city (and the 4th largest in the USA and Canada). The good news is that the number of premature deaths have decreased by 23% and hospitalizations by 41% over the last decade showing the benefits of a number of steps taken to reduce vehicle emissions including a Bike Plan, A Green Fleet Plan and the ChemTrac program to follow emissions from businesses. A major improvement also resulted from the provincial order to shut down all coal-fired utilities by 2014.

The bad news is that traffic related pollution contributes to 20% of these deaths and if one considers only pollution originating from within city boundaries, 42% of deaths. One culprit is the role of heavy, diesel-powered vehicles which make up only 1.5% of vehicles but are responsible for 80% of PM 2.5 and over half of NOx emissions. One recommendation is to develop an urban freight strategy which would shift truck delivery away from rush hours and improve efficiency. Another is to add to the present network of four surface air monitors in order to pin point sources of air pollution which also include toxic gases from businesses in the city.

NO2 in toronto

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Is It Time to Get Serious about Reducing the Impact Of Cars on Society?

Is it time for a real war on cars? (David Suzuki Foundation, Apr. 17, 2014)
Also discussed here: It’s time for a bigger recall of a seriously defective product: The Car (Lloyd Alter, Treehugger, Apr. 3, 2014)
And here: The Growth of Car Culture (Urban Times, Nov. 2012)
Today we review a provocative article calling for a substantive effort to reduce the number of cars on the road and by doing that reduce the impact that cars have on our health and quality of life. Included in a number of suggestions are the collection of the costs to maintain infrastructure needed for cars and the full costs for health costs caused by cars and the costs for building walkable cities and alternative modes of transportation Revenue for these improvements would come from gas taxes and tolls on roads, bridges and freeways. . Signficant advances in GPS technology and computer communications make the collection of these funds much more feasible, effective and more convenient than ever before, reducing the overhead from over 50% to less than 5%.

Time to get serious.

death rates from cars

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What does the Latest IPCC Report Say about Health Impacts from Climate Change?

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (44 page pdf, IPCC WGII AR5 Summary for Policymakers, Mar. 31, 2014)

Also discussed here: Climate Change: Health Impacts and Opportunities – A Summary and Discussion of the IPCC Working Group 2 Report (19 page pdf, The Global Climate and Health Alliance, Apr. 3, 2014)

And here: Climate change: yes, it’s getting worse fast and it matters (Dianne Saxe, Environmental Law and Litigation, Mar. 31, 2014)

And here: Global warming dials up our risks, UN report says (CBC news, Mar. 31, 2014)

Today we review the recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its Working Group that deals with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. With high confidence, the report notes that climate change for the next few decades will cause existing health impacts to get worse until by the end of the century for some times of the year and some parts of the world “projected to compromise normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors”. There are similar assessments of the risks facing other sectors of society and in various regions in other ways but clearly the time for action was yesterday.

health cl change and cities

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How does TRAP (Traffic-Related Air Pollution) Affect Asthma for Children?

Air pollution from traffic increases odds of hospital readmission for asthma(Press Release, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Mar. 27, 2014)
Also discussed here: Air pollution from traffic increases odds of hospital readmission for asthma(Science Daily, Mar. 27, 2014)
And here: Traffic Pollution Sends White Kids With Asthma Back To The Hospital(John Ericson, Repubhub, Mar. 27, 2014)
Today we review research on the health impacts for children living close to roadside emissions from traffic. Results indicate that white children were three times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than black children. Black children already were exposed to asthma causing conditions because of the health risks associated with low income living conditions which do not on average occur with white children in the USA.

traffic and asthma

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How Depressing is Traffic-Related Air Pollution for the Elderly?

Ambient Air Pollution and Depressive Symptoms in Older Adults: Results from the MOBILIZE Boston Study(26 page pdf, Yi Wang, Melissa N. Eliot, Petros Koutrakis, Alexandros Gryparis, Joel D. Schwartz, Brent A. Coull, Murray A. Mittleman, William P. Milberg, Lewis A. Lipsitz, and Gregory A. Wellenius, Environmental Heralth Perspectives, Mar. 7, 2014)
Today we review a study that had surprising results for older people in reasonably good health who live near traffic and air pollution in a large American city (Boston). Despite much environmental health research that this exposure causes neurological and cardiovascular diseases, there was no evidence from this study that air pollution on a short or long term bases causes depression. By contrast, it is worth noting that those most likely to suffer depression and living near traffic were younger females.

Dragging the weight of the old age

Dragging the weight of the old age (Photo credit: Giulio Magnifico)

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2012 Update on Global Impact of Air Pollution

Burden of disease from Household Air Pollution for 2012 (17 page pdf, World Health Organization, Mar. 24, 2014)

Also discussed here: An Integrated Risk Function for Estimating the Global Burden of Disease Attributable to Ambient Fine Particulate Matter Exposure (7 pages, Richard T. Burnett, C. Arden Pope III, Majid Ezzati, Casey Olives, Stephen S. Lim, Sumi Mehta, Hwashin H. Shin, Gitanjali Singh, Bryan Hubbell, Michael Brauer, H. Ross Anderson, Kirk R. Smith, John R. Balmes, Nigel G. Bruce, Haidong Kan, Francine Laden, Annette Prüss-Ustün, Michelle C.Turner, Susan M. Gapstur, W. Ryan Diver, and Aaron Cohen, Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb 7, 2014)

And here: 7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution (Press Release, World Health Organization, Mar. 25, 2014)

And here: Air pollution ‘kills 7 million people a year’ (The Guardian, Mar. 25, 2014)

Today we review the annual report from the World Health Organization on the global impact of indoor and outdoor air pollution which is estimated as 4.3 and 3.7 million deaths, respectively, each year.   While outdoor air pollution has been somewhat more controlled and reduced in recent years, indoor air pollution continues to increase the number of deaths especially among women in developing countries because of their greater exposure to emissions from cooking on wood stoves. More than 60% of deaths from indoor air pollution are attributed to strokes and Ischaemic heart disease with most of the remaining deaths (34%) from COPD and acute lower respiratory disease. The smallest cause (6%), unlike tobacco smoking is lung cancer. By contrast, 80% of deaths from outdoor air pollution were Ischaemic heart disease and from strokes.

Beijing Air Pollution

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How Can Statistics Be Used to Link Air Pollution Exposure to Health Impacts?

Classification and regression trees for epidemiologic research: an air pollution example (18 page pdf, Katherine Gass, Mitch Klein,Howard H Chang, W Dana Flanders, Matthew J Strickland, Environmental Health, Mat. 13, 2014)

Today we review a paper that looks at ways that statistical regression trees may be used to improve the estimates of how much “confounding” [mix up (something) with something else so that the individual elements become difficult to distinguish.] goes on when there are multiple air pollutants that may or may not combine and augment each other in producing the health impacts that they collectively cause. The authors used over10 years of daily data for CO, NO2, O3, and PM2.5. Interestingly, they suggest that this same approach may be useful in nutrition.

Aq health statistics

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How Dangerous is it to Live Near a Wind Turbine?

Measuring electromagnetic fields (EMF) around wind turbines in Canada: is there a human health concern?(8 page pdf, Lindsay C McCallum, Melissa L Whitfield Aslund, Loren D Knopper, Glenn M Ferguson and Christopher A Ollson, Environmental Health, Feb. 15 ,2014)

Also discussed here: Electromagnetic fields and public health – Exposure to extremely low frequency fields(Backgrounder, World Health Organization, June 2007)
Today we review the first objective research into health hazards near wind turbines n Canada, based on extensive measurements of electromagnetic fields (EMF) near a wind farm in southwestern Ontario. Despite popular fears about the potential dangers, results indicate that the EMF near a wind turbine (3-4 mG) is much less than from a microwave oven (300 mG) or a electric shaver (600mG) and therefore does not constitute a significant health threat which is backed up by statements form the World Health Organization and Health Canada. Even the fields below high voltage (500 kV) power lines, another target of public health concerns, are small (16-46 mG) by comparison. This finding is important in dismissing arguments against windpower which could be a major replacement for carbon-powered electricity sources which play a large role in high air pollution levels.

English: Modern wind energy plant in rural sce...

English: Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery. Français : Une éolienne moderne dans un paysage rural. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

magnetic field

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How Dangerous is Traffic-Related Air Pollution to Your Health?

Traffic Related Air Pollution and the Right Ventricle: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis(Abstract, Peter J Leary, Joel D Kaufman, R Graham Barr, David A Bluemke, Cynthia L Curl, Catherine L Hough, Joao A Lima, Adam A Szpiro, Victor C Van Hee, and Steven M Kawut, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Mar. 7, 2014)

Also discussed here: Traffic-related air pollution associated with changes in right ventricular structure, function(Science Daily, Mar. 7, 2014)

And here: A New Study Shows How Fossil Fuel Pollution Damages The Heart(Jeff Spross, ThinkProgress, Mar. 7, 2014)

Today we review research into the health impacts of traffic-related air pollution on the heart, specifically the right ventricle which has not been studied as much as the left. Results indicate exposure to nitrogen dioxide- one of the main hazardous pollutants from vehicle emissions (along with particulate matter from diesel vehicles) causes the right ventricle to expand and this is linked to heart attacks and cardiovascular death.

los-angeles-traffic-smog-e1394210847342-638x425

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Car Exhaust Linked to Hypertension in Pregnant Women

Ambient air pollution and hypertensive disorder of pregnancy(Abstract,  Xiaohui Xu1, Hui Hu1, Sandie Ha1, Jeffrey Roth, J Epidemiol Community Health, Sep. 10, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air pollution is more harmful than SMOKING for pregnant women: Exhaust fumes could cause dangerously high blood pressure(Ellie Zolfagharifard, Daily Mail, Feb. 17, 2014)

Today we review the harmful effects of air pollution on the development of fetuses during pregnancy. Results indicate not only that air pollution including carbon monoxide from car exhaust causes hypertension in pregnant women which leads to higher blood pressure and harmful effects on their child to be born and throughout their life in terms of lower intelligence. The lessons learned from dealing with cigarette smoking after decades of warnings now need to be applied to vehicle emissions which are even worse.

smoking and pregnancy

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How Do Temperature Extremes Affect People with Multiple Health Issues?

Extreme ambient temperatures and cardiorespiratory emergency room visits: assessing risk by comorbid health conditions in a time series study(20 page pdf, Eric Lavigne, Antonio Gasparrini, Xiang Wang, Hong Chen, Abderrahmane Yagouti, Manon D Fleury, Sabit Cakmak, Environmental Health, Feb. 3, 2014)

Today we review research that assessed added health risks to patients with serious pre-existing and multiple health issues to temperature extremes. Results indicate that several specific comordid conditions such as respiratory diseases and cancer are especially vulnerable during periods of heat stress, as are kidney disease sufferers during and after periods of extreme cold. In the latter case, the link between colder temperatures and increased blood pressure is considered important. These results are important for public health planers in assessing and coping with impacts of climate change which combine increased extremes, both cold and hot, along with increased periods of heat stress.

comorbid and cl ch

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How Does Traffic-Related Air Pollution Affect the Health of Overweight Children?

English: A schematic of the global air polluti...

English: A schematic of the global air pollution. The map was made by User:KVDP using the GIMP. It was based on the global air pollution map by the ESA (see http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEM340NKPZD_index_0.html , http://esamultimedia.esa.int/images/EarthObservation/pollution_global_hires.jpg ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure, obesity and childhood asthma in an urban cohort (Abstract, Kyung Hwa Jung, Matthew Perzanowski, Andrew Rundle, Kathleen Moors, Beizhan Yan, Steven N. Chillrud, Robin Whyatt, David Camann, Frederica P. Perera, Rachel L. Miller, Science Direct, Jan. 2014)

Also discussed here: Obese Children More Susceptible to Asthma from Air Pollution(Science Daily, Jan. 22, 2014)

And here: Effects of fine particulate matter and its constituents on low birth weight among full-term infants in California(Rupa Basu, Maria Harris, Lillian Sie, Brian Malig, Rachel Broadwin, Rochelle Green, Environmental Research, Jan. 2014)

Today we review research into the links between traffic exhaust and the health of children. Results indicate that three times as many obese children have asthma as non-obese children. Further that this type of pollution also has a negative effect on birth weights. Explanations have to do with the greater time spent indoors by overweight children, exposing them to more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and the fact that overweight children breath at a greater rate than non obese ones and thus have greater exposure to pollution.

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Can “Sustainability” Apply to Cities?

The Unsustainable City(10 page pdf, Matthias Berger, Sustainability, Jan. 13, 2014)

Today we review an interesting thoughtful article that examines the concept of sustainability as applied to cities which, on the surface, seem unsustainable. The author goes further though in identifying the origin of the word – not in Brundtland’s 1987 report “Our Common Future” and the introduction of the “sustainable development” concept but earlier. He concludes by suggesting that although the application of sustainability lacks time constraints that the objective is to improve the state of the city in all six aspects of the term: aesthetical, environmental, financial, functional, political, and social sustainability.

urban sustainability

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How Difficult is it for Elderly to Give up their Car?

The importance of driving for older people and how the pain of driving cessation can be reduced (11 page pdf, Charles Musselwhite, Signpost: Journal of Dementia and Mental Health, 2011)

Also discussed here: Too old to drive? So now what? (Adrian Davis, World Streets, Dec. 19, 2013)

Today we review an article that examined the challenge that will eventually affect all of us- giving up driving one’s car because of old age. This is not only a shock that could lead to depression or worse if unprepared but statistics show that more and more of those over 65 are driving, especially females. The trend toward poor urban design in many cities that encourages sprawl and a dependence on having a car does not help.  Public transit is not a viable option for many seniors. Solutions include involving seniors in training and developing social outlets in the community to seek out ways to lead happy lives without dependence on a car.

elderly-drive-stats

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Is Denying Climate Change Like Suppressing Health Risks?

Is Learning about Climate Change like Having a Colonoscopy? (5 page pdf, Richard C. J. Somerville, Earth’s Future, Dec. 16, 2013)

Readers of this blog know that it focuses on the links between urban pollution and health. Today we review a short article that addresses the challenge of communicating the facts of climate change and why so many people seem to want to avoid knowing that or even deny that it exists.  The article observed that the same reaction is found when some people are faced with the hard realities of medical disease, especially ones that end in death such as heart attacks and cancer. Further, a poll revealed that over half (55%) of those responding did not want to know about their risk to disease because of their fear of knowing the answer, a phenomenon called “health information avoidance”. But most of those who did want to know the risks (82%) also wanted to know the options available to deal with the disease. Turning to communicating climate change, the author reasoned that a little priming of the pump by providing more about policy options could produce more understanding and support for those policies and less climate change information avoidance and denial. Let’s hope.

States that have declared GHG mitigation strat...

States that have declared GHG mitigation strategies or hold action plans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How to go Carbon Neutral in a Simple Effective way

The Microsoft carbon fee: theory & practice  (40 page pdf, Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Microsoft Corporation, Dec. 13 2013)

Also discussed here: A Carbon Fee For Your Business? Microsoft Can Help(Sustainable Business, Dec. 13, 2013)

And here:  The Carbon Neutral Company

Today we review a plan and guide that Microsoft developed to make itself carbon neutral by the use of a carbon free and a  process to make an inventory and monitor carbon use, collect a carbon fee and then invest it in ways that would accelerate the carbon neutral end state.

Although many forward looking companies and a few governments have put carbon pricing into their future plans, Microsoft is the first to actually implement such a plan. While carbon taxes and cap and trade approaches have been tried and generally failed, what makes the Microsoft plan appealing is its simplicity- the fee is flexible based on consumption of carbon use multiplied by a carbon price that is set externally. Another key feature is the use of targets which not only provides managers with a goal for carbon use but also an investment outlook with key revenue targets which can be used to purchase things that would accelerate the whole process. The bottom line is that Microsoft openly declares that they are doing this because it is good for the bottom line, promotes efficiency and transforms the company to a sustainable one – what is holding so many municipal and national governments back from emulating this?

carbon fee

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How Healthly are American Cities?

Decade of Design – Report on the State of Health + Urbanism  (130 page pdf, Alan Berger, MIT, Dec. 11, 2013)

Today we review a report from MIT which examines the state of urban health in the eight largest cities in the USA and explores ways to improve it  socially,  economically and environmentally, while testing the validity of several widely held assumptions. One belief, for example is the greater urban density can be linked to improved urban health while data suggest the opposite when it comes to water quality and biodiversity in cities. Adding more sidewalks to encourage more exercise from walking also puts people at risk if the sidewalks are close to vehicle emissions from heavy traffic. Measures of urban health for planners are different and sometimes incompatible with those used by public health specialists. The report contains rich, informative and differing assessments of each of the cities considered.

aq violations

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Who Is Legally Responsible for Climate Change Impacts (and avoiding them)?

International Climate Change Liability: A Myth or a Reality?  (Jennifer Kilinski, 42 page pdf, J. of Transnational Law & Policy, Spring 2009)

Also discussed here: Office of the Auditor General 2012 Annual Report (City of Ottawa, Nov. 28, 2013)

And here: The Alaskan village set to disappear under water in a decade (Stephen Sackur, HardTalk, BBC News Magazine, Jul. 29, 2013)

And here: The Moral and Criminal Case Against Canada’s Climate Negligence (William Rees, Dec. 7, 2013)

Today we review the liability of companies which emit greenhouse gases for losses caused by anthropogenic climate change.  Several suits have been raised in the last 5 years by plaintiffs that have suffered significant impacts against the main emitters of carbon pollution which in the USA is the electrical generation industry which is responsible for 25% of that nation’s emissions.

While these suits concern flooding from sea level rise of Arctic islands, such as Kivalina, Alaska, the Auditor General for the City of Ottawa found that “Lack of a systematic and comprehensive climate change adaptation plan may result in impairment to municipal infrastructure and services due to extreme weather resulting from climate change. This could then result in potential legal action due to sustained property damage”. This liability was linked to the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act requires an emergency preparedness plan be in place.

Taking this thinking a step further,  most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions originate in cities and one of the principal GHG emitters is the transportation sector and private vehicles n particular which are owned and driven by around 70% of the city’s population. Those most affected by air pollution from these vehicles are too young or too old to drive. Just as the Inuit on a small Alaskan island are among the lowest emitters of GHGs and suffer the most from climate change, the same logic applies to the young and elderly in cities who conceivably could launch a valid class action against those responsible for vehicle emissions for both health impacts, accentuated by climate change, and for damage to property and infrastructure as the Auditor General found. The Court found in the Kivalina case that regulation of greenhouse gases was a political rather than a legal issue and one would look for accountability at that level.

However,  the failure of the City of Ottawa to prepare a plan of action to protect and adapt to climate change appears to provide a potential legal recourse for those suffering losses, whether they be structural or health. In addition, cities have a dominant role and mandate in regulating traffic, congestion and roads, as well as the ability to price use of these, which in turn gives cities the ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and the liability that goes with this responsibility. How long will it take those who are impacted to sue the city and vehicle owners for damages?

English: Aerial view of Kivalina, Alaska, USA....

English: Aerial view of Kivalina, Alaska, USA. View is to the southeast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How Does Bad Air Affect the Economy?

Ripple effects of air pollution felt in many sectors (China Daily, Dec. 10, 2013)

Also discussed here: Smog Hits Half Of China, 104 Cities Severely Polluted  (Lu Chen, Epoch Times,  Dec. 8, 2013)

And here: Air pollution kills 21,000 Canadians each year – Transportation-related emissions to blame, say UBC researchers (Pamela Fayerman, Vancouver Sun, Oct. 22, 2013

And here : Commissioner hints at new EU air quality measures (Air Quality news, Dec. 11, 2013)

Today we review a news story which brought up an interesting aspect of heavy air pollution and the reaction by the people it affects – mainly the older and younger generations. In this case, it is an example from large polluted Chinese cities, but the levels observed are not that much different from those observed in the downtowns of many large congested western cities, so the same reaction and impacts can be expected. This includes the travel industry where those with the time and money to travel deliberately – the baby boomers over 65 – chose destinations with cleaner air and avoid those with polluted air. Schools are closed in China for the same reason that those in urban areas of  the USA and Canada which are within 200 m of heavy traffic should be closed.

While the Chinese government seeks to improve its air quality (by 20% in 4 years!), and action is being taken to strengthen EU air quality guidelines, their counterparts in Canada and USA focus only on ambient air standards while roadside air quality becomes worse as cities attract more and more polluting vehicles and traffic congestion. Only one jurisdiction in Canada (Halton Region in southwestern Ontario) has taken steps to monitor roadside emission and keep heavy traffic away from residences because of vehicle pollution and the health threat this represents. Meanwhile, more people die from air pollution than from obesity and traffic accidents combined (at last count, 21,000 premature deaths each year in Canada).

Heavy Smog Hits East China

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Health Impacts from Long-Term Exposure to Roadside Emissions

Effects of long-term exposure to air pollution on natural-cause mortality: an analysis of 22 European cohorts within the multicentre ESCAPE project (Abstract, Rob Beelen, Ole Raaschou-Nielsen, Massimo Stafoggia, Zorana Jovanovic Andersen, Gudrun Weinmayr, Barbara Hoffmann, Kathrin Wolf, Evangelia Samoli, Paul Fischer, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen,  Paolo Vineis, Wei W Xun, Klea Katsouyanni, Konstantina Dimakopoulou, Anna Oudin, Bertil Forsberg, Lars Modig, Aki S Havulinna, Timo Lanki, Anu Turunen, Bente Oftedal, Wenche Nystad, Per Nafstad, Ulf De Faire, Nancy L Pedersen, Claes-Göran Östenson, Laura Fratiglioni, Johanna Penell, Michal Korek,  Göran Pershagen, Kirsten Thorup Eriksen, Kim Overvad ,Thomas Ellermann, Marloes Eeftens, Petra H Peeters, Kees Meliefste, Meng Wang, Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, Dorothea Sugiri, Ursula Krämer, Joachim Heinrich, Kees de Hoogh, Timothy Key, Annette Peters, Regina Hampel ,Hans Concin, Gabriele Nagel, Alex Ineichen, Emmanuel Schaffner ,Prof Nicole Probst-Hensch, Nino Künzli, Christian Schindler, Tamara Schikowski, Martin Adam, Harish Phuleria, Alice Vilier, Françoise Clavel-Chapelon, Christophe Declercq, Sara Grioni, Vittorio Krogh, Ming-Yi Tsai, Fulvio Ricceri, Carlotta Sacerdote, Claudia Galassi, Enrica Migliore, Andrea Ranzi, Giulia Cesaroni, Chiara Badaloni ,Francesco Forastiere, Ibon Tamayo, Pilar Amiano, Miren Dorronsoro, Michail Katsoulis, Antonia Trichopoulou, Bert Brunekreef, Gerard Hoek, The Lancet, Dec.9, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air pollution ‘kills at levels well below EU guidelines’ (European Lung Foundation, Dec. 12, 2013)

And here: Air pollution ‘kills at levels well below EU guidelines’ (Medical News Today (MNT), Dec. 9, 2013)

Today we review a comprehensive Europe-wide assessment of the links between traffic emissions, the resulting concentration of pollutants and the mortality rates of people breathing air within 100 m of  these roads over the long term. Results indicate a clear association between PM2.5 levels and mortality even when these levels are well below the EU guidelines (annual mean 25 μg/m3), indicating that safe levels need to be reassessed and people need to be kept further away from roadside emissions.

English: Vehicles emissions standards in EU, U...

English: Vehicles emissions standards in EU, USA and Japan Français : Comparaison des valeurs limites d’émissions des voitures dans l’Union Européenne, au Japon et aux États-Unis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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What are the Impacts of Transportation on Cities?

A closer look at urban transport – TERM 2013: transport indicators tracking progress towards environmental targets in Europe(112 page pdf, Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM), European Environment Agency, Dec. 3, 2013)

Also discussed here: Front-running cities changing transport, improving quality of life(Press Release, European Environment Agency, Dec. 3, 2013)

Today we review a report from TERM in Europe which monitors progress of  cities toward EU goals concerning air pollution and noise from transportation, principally from privately-owned vehicles especially those fuelled with diesel whose fate is nicely summed up by this quote: “Many cities are applying innovative ideas which will make the car-based transport system seem like an idea belonging to the last century.” Some of the alarming statistics include: 96 to 98  % of city dwellers are exposed to fine particulate or ozone levels above WHO guidelines, half of the urban population is exposed to noise levels above 55 dB and  nearly EUR 100 billion is lost annually as a result of traffic congestion. Further development of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans is recommended which would include improvements for cyclists and pedestrians and traffic calming and better public transport.

transportation health impacts on Europe

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What is the Risk of a Stroke from Long Term Exposure to Particulate Matter ?

Fine Particulate Air Pollution and the Progression of Carotid Intima-Medial Thickness: A Prospective Cohort Study from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution (9 page pdf, Sara D. Adar, Lianne Sheppard, Sverre Vedal, Joseph F. Polak, Paul D. Sampson, Ana V. Diez Roux, Matthew Budoff, David R. Jacobs, Jr., R. Graham Barr, Karol Watson, Joel D. Kaufman, PLOS Medecine, Apr. 23, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air Pollution as a Heart Threat (Deborah Blum, New York Times Poison Pen blog, Nov. 15, 20)

And here: Evolution of Air Pollution Monitoring in Ottawa (Natty Urquizo, 60 slides PowerPoint, Upwind-Downwind Conference, Hamilton, Feb. 23, 2012)

Today we review research into the health impact of long term (10 years) exposure to particulate matter and how this affects the thickening of arterial walls [intima-medial thickness]and heart disease through  atherosclerosis. Results indicate that an increase of PM 2.5 mg/m3 is associated with a 2%  relative increase in strokes and is evident at the neighbourhood level. This is significant because it expands the impact of PM from the known impact of short term exposure to long term. It also suggests that neighbourhoods located near higher levels of PM (such as proximity to vehicle emissions from traffic) would have higher mortality. Studies (such as from the City of  Ottawa) show that many urban areas have more than 50% of vulnerable populations living within 50 m of busy roads and are at risk.pm and strokesproximity to roads ottawa

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How Does Polluted Air Affect Your Eyes?

Residents of most polluted US cities — New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami — have increased risk of dry eye syndrome(Press Release, American Academy of Ophthalmology, Nov. 16, 2013)

Also discussed here: Residents of Most Polluted US Cities Have Increased Risk of Dry Eye Syndrome(Science Daily, Nov. 16, 2013)

And here: Dry Eye Syndrome Linked To Big City Air Pollution (Matthew Mientka, Medical Daily, Nov 17, 2013)

And here: Environmental Factors and Dry Eye Syndrome: A Study Utilizing the National U.S. Veterans Affairs Administrative Database (PO052)(Anat Galor, paper presented at 117th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Nov. 16-19, 2013)

Today we review a paper that examined the link between air pollution and a deficiency in tear production, dry eye syndrome, that affects up to 21% of the population in cities with high levels of air pollution such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and New York. The resulting impact produces stinging eyes and the production of more tears that make it difficult to read or view computer screens.

dry-eye-syndrome-linked-air-pollution

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How Does Exposure to Air Pollution Affect Deaths from Pneumonia?

English: Main symptoms of infectious pneumonia...

English: Main symptoms of infectious pneumonia. Sources are found in main article: Wikipedia:Pneumonia#Signs_and_symptoms. To discuss image, please see Template_talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Has the short-term effect of black smoke exposure on pneumonia mortality been underestimated because hospitalisation is ignored: findings from a case-crossover study(19 page pdf, Matthew Gittins, Roseanne McNamee, Melanie Carder, Iain Beverland, Raymond M Agius, Environmental Health, Nov.7, 2013)

Today we review research into the location and exposure of those with pneumonia prior to being hospitalized and dying prematurely as a result of particulate pollution. Results indicate that location is an important factor and this adds another aspect that should be included in air pollution – mortality studies in general.

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What Do Crematoriums Contribute to Urban Air Pollution?

Toxic Emissions from Crematories: A Review(7 page pdf, Montse Mari, José L. Domingo, Environment International, Oct. 12, 2009)

Also discussed here: Incineration – EMEP/EEA Emission Inventory Guidebook(13 page pdf, Marc Deslauriers, David R. Niemi and Mike Woodfield, 2009)

Today we review the literature on emissions from incineration  of human bodies which is the way almost all bodies are disposed of in Japan and China and have increased to around 37% in the USA and Europe today and increasing about 10% per decade. Very few analyses of emissions from crematoriums are available but there are concerns about the amount of mercury from tooth fillings that end up in the air. The paper concludes that unless  mercury emissions from crematories are properly controlled, these facilities -which number over 1,000 in Europe alone – could become an important source of air pollution.

cremation

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How can Mobile Phones be used to Estimate Air Pollution Exposure?

Mobile phone tracking: in support of modelling traffic-related air pollution contribution to individual exposure and its implications for public health impact assessment(26 page pdf, Hai-Ying Liu , Erik Skjetne, Mike Kobernus, Environmental Health, Nov. 4, 2013)

Today we review a paper that explores an approach that uses personal mobile phones equipped with GPS tracking ability to estimate the exposure of a group of individuals to air pollution and make these estimates available in real-time at low cost. Such a method could be applied in developing countries where expensive monitoring equipment is often unaffordable. The potential of gathering information such as this from a wide segment of society also opens up very large opportunities for progress in public health by collective tracking of large numbers of people.

mobile phone process

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Is There a Need for Standards for Brief Peaks of Air Pollutants?

Peak event analysis: a novel empirical method for the evaluation of elevated particulate events(12 page pdf, Aaron Orkin, Pamela Leece, Thomas Piggott, Paul Burt, Ray Copes, Environmental Health, Nov. 1, 2013)

Today we review research into the occurrence of brief peaks of suspended particles (or dust), how often they occur (in a rural area of southern Ontario) and if the results point to a need for standards for periods of less than an hour- the shortest time period currently used in Canada and many other countries. The resulting analysis showed that peak values of PM10  twenty to one hundred times greater than values averaged over an hour which were within the current standards. Although the aim of the research was to examine single events with high associated levels of pollution, one cannot help but wonder what the health impacts would be for people exposed to repeated doses of high pollution for shorter periods than are covered by existing standards, such as proximity to roadside emissions at rush hour each day. If there is a definable health impact, that would both call for standards for shorter periods- say 10 minutes or one minute- and might explain the degree of mortality associated with traffic (which has been estimated as about 1/3 of all deaths from outdoor air pollution in a study conducted by the City of Toronto Medical Officer of Health).

short period AQ

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What Is the Answer to China’s Continuing Air Pollution Problems?

Clearing the Air in China(Chris P. Nielsen and Mun S. Ho, New York Times, October 25, 2013)

Also discussed here: Clean and Dirty: China’s Energy Binge(New York Times, Oct. 26, 2013)

And here:

(37 sec You-Tube video)

Today we review an OP-ED from the New York Times which assessed China’s progress in the use of renewable energy and on curbing air pollution which, for sulphur dioxide, is “one of the most swiftly effective air pollution policies ever implemented anywhere”. At the same time, however, double digit GNP industrial growth over the last few decades has produced an even greater overall increase in  emissions and a deadly level of pollution in cities located near industrial centres, such as Harbin and Beijing. A modest carbon tax ($10/ton) could prevent close to 90,000 premature deaths each year and bring in much needed revenue to further accelerate the use of non-polluting energy sources.

Electricity from Renewable Sources                        Ann. Growth (%)

(hydro, nuclear, wind, solar)

(Brown-US; Red-USA)

china-electricity

Carbon Fuels Consumed

(coal, oil, nat. gas)

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Health Impacts Downwind of the Alberta Oil Sands

Heavy air pollution in Canadian areas with excess cancers(MNT, Oct. 23, 2013)

Also discussed here: Study documents heavy air pollution in Canadian area with cancer spikes(UC Health, Oct. 22, 2013)

And here: Study says pollution, cancer a match near Canada industry(Orange County Register, Oct. 21. 2013)

And here: Oil sands pollution comparable to a large power plant(American Geophysical Union Press Release, Feb. 22, 2012)

And here: Air quality over the Canadian oil sands: A first assessment using satellite observations(Abstract, C. A. McLinden, V. Fioletov, K. F. Boersma, N. Krotkov, C. E. Sioris, J. P. Veefkind, K. Yang, Geophysical Research Letters,  Feb. 2012)

Today we review research based on ground air quality monitors and remote satellite air quality imagery that points to the elevated levels of carcinogenic air pollution, downwind of oil sands processing plants in western Canada. This moves the debate about the Alberta oil sands from one about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to one about direct health impacts, such as leukemia, for those who live downwind of these utilities.  The findings indicated levels of volatile pollutants such as benzene higher than found in large polluted cities elsewhere in the world. It also underlined the value of taking actual measurements of air quality near industrial plants rather than depending on assumptions from models and stack emissions, as is the case with many urban incinerators, such as the Plasco municipal waste disposal plant near Ottawa.

oil sands aq

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What Can Be Done to Reduce Health Impacts from Roadside Vehicle Emissions?

Traffic-related air pollution and health in Canada(Michael Brauer, Conor Reynolds, and Perry Hystad, Commentary, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Oct. 21, 2013)

Also quoted here: Traffic-Related Air Pollution Substantial Public Health Concern(Science News, Oct. 21, 2013)

And here: Traffic-related air pollution a growing concern in Canada(Karen Graham, Digital Journal, Oct 21, 2013)

Today we review research into the public health risk posed to Canadians (and citizens of other countries) from traffic –related air pollution, especially to the third of its population (10M) that lives within the length of a football field (100 m) of major roads with heavy traffic. Solutions include, first and foremost, reducing vehicle emissions by reducing traffic congestion, keeping high emission vehicles, such as trucks and buses, away from schools, day-cares and retirement homes though better zoning to reduce sprawl, as defined in official municipal plans, and encouraging alternate commuting modes with urban congestion charge zones among other options.

trap and health in canada

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Outdoor Air Pollution Now Classified by the UN as a Human Carcinogen

IARC: Outdoor air pollution a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths(4 page pdf, Press Release #221, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Oct. 17, 2013)

Also quoted here: Outdoor air pollution a leading cause of cancer, say UN health experts(UN News, Oct. 17, 2013)

And here: IARC Scientific Publication No. 161 – Air Pollution and Cancer(245 pages ePUB, Kurt Straif, Aaron Cohen, and Jonathan Samet, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2013)

And here: Air pollution a leading cause of cancer – U.N. agency(Reuters, Oct. 17, 2013)

Today we review a report from the UN has now classified outdoor air pollution among its highest health threat level (of 4 levels) as a Group 1 human carcinogen, after analyzing pollution data from around the world. This should “send a strong signal to the international community to take action without further delay.”

pollution cancer map

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Are Composts a Public Health Hazard?

Legionella bacteria found in compost products (University of Strathclyde, Oct. 1, 2013)

Also quoted here: Legionella spp. in UK composts – a potential public health issue (Abstract, Sandra L. Currie, Tara K. Beattie, Charles W. Knapp, Diane S. J. Lindsay, Clinical Microbiology and Infection, Sep.3,  2013)
And here : Does compost really pose a threat to our health? (Lucy Siegle, The Observer, Oct.20, 2013)
Many people compost their organic garbage, thinking that this is good for the environment, produces rich soil for home gardens and extends the life of urban land-fills. Today we review a report from the UK which looked at the presence of Legionella in composts both store-bought and home-made. Almost 60% of the composts contained Legionella which can cause human disease. The good news is that  infection from this is rare, especially if proper hygiene is followed – and it is recommended that compost packaging carry public health warnings to this effect.

compost heap

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How Can the Law be used to Curb Traffic on Roads that Cause Congestion and Air Pollution?

Legal warning over pollution impact of roads(Campaign for Better Transport, Oct. 18, 2013)

Also discussed here: Environmental Statement Volume 1 (288 page pdf, A556 Project Team, Highways Agency & Jacobs, Mar. 2013)

And here: A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement Scheme – consultation response(16 page pdf, Campaign for Better Transport, Oct. 16, 2013)

And here: A14 upgrade ‘may push air pollution past legal limits’(Chris Havergal, Cambridgenews, Oct. 16, 2013)

Today we review efforts by a group in England to convince the highway authority to find other ways to reduce congestion than by widening roads which it claims would only lead to more congestion and health impacts from air pollution- which was confirmed by the Highway Authority in an Environmental Statement. What is interesting about this is the mechanism that allows citizens to raise concerns in a substantive and legal way on a specific project and, surprisingly (to a Canadian in Ottawa with similar concerns about roads and air pollution) get results. Worth noting too is that the UK, as one of a few countries in the world with comprehensive road side monitoring of air pollution in urban areas, provides data that can put a limit on traffic-related air pollution (TRAP). roads and the law

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The Risk of Underweight Babies Born to Mothers Exposed to Particulate Matter and Traffic

Ambient air pollution and low birthweight: a European cohort study (ESCAPE) (1 page pdf, Abstract, Dr Marie Pedersen, Lise Giorgis-Allemand, Claire Bernard, Inmaculada Aguilera, Prof Anne-Marie Nybo Andersen,  Prof Ferran Ballester, Rob M J Beelen, Leda Chatzi, Marta Cirach, Asta Danileviciute, Audrius Dedele, Manon van Eijsden, Marisa Estarlich, Ana Fernández-Somoano, Mariana F Fernández, Prof Francesco Forastiere, Ulrike Gehring, Prof Regina Grazuleviciene, Olena Gruzieva, Barbara Heude, Gerard Hoek, Kees de Hoogh, Edith H van den Hooven, Siri E Håberg, Vincent W V Jaddoe, Claudia Klümper, Michal Korek, Ursula Krämer, Aitana Lerchundi, Johanna Lepeule, Prof Per Nafstad, Wenche Nystad, Evridiki Patelarou, Daniela Porta, Prof Dirkje Postma, Ole Raaschou-Nielsen, Peter Rudnai, Prof Jordi Sunyer, Prof Euripides Stephanou, Mette Sørensen, Elisabeth Thiering, Prof Derek Tuffnell, Mihály J Varró, Tanja G M Vrijkotte, Alet Wijga, Michael Wilhelm, John Wright, Prof Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen, Prof Göran Pershagen, Prof Bert Brunekreefi, Prof Manolis Kogevinas, Rémy Slama,  The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Oct. 15, 2013)

Also discussed here: Urban air pollution increases low birth weight risk (Ilaria Bertini, Blue & Green Tomorrow, Oct. 15, 2013)

Today we review research into the link between exposure of pregnant women in 12 European countries over 7 years to particulate matter and the impact on their babies. The conclusions were that for every increase of 5 μg/m3, the risk of low birth weight increase by 18%.  A similar conclusion was reached for women living near roads with heavy traffic where if action is taken to reduce this exposure, 22% of low birth weights could be avoided.

low birth weight

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How Well is Europe Doing in 2013 to Improve Its Air Quality?

Air quality in Europe — 2013 report(112 page pdf, European Environment Agency, Oct. 15, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air pollution still harming health across Europe(European Environment Agency, Oct. 15, 2013)

And here: Air pollution country fact sheets(Fact sheets for 33 EEA member countries, European Environment Agency, Oct. 15, 2013)

And here: Bulgaria’s Air Is Dirtiest in Europe, Study Finds, Followed by Poland(Danny Hakim, New York Times, Oct. 15, 2013)

Today we review a report from the European Union on the progress being made to reduce air pollution in the states that make up the EU over the last decade. Long term health targets were selected to reduce the loss of life expectancy by 47% from exposure to PM and 10% less deaths from exposure to O3. While the levels overall for all pollutants have decreased, they do not yet meet the targets set and in particular over 90% of urban dwellers breath air with PM 2.5 and O3 that exceed guidelines.

eu pop over guidelines

Percentage of the EU urban population exposed to air pollution exceeding EU air quality standards

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Elevated Air Pollution Levels and Heart Attack Risk for Older People

Air Pollution Increases Heart Attacks(Science Daily, Oct. 7, 2013)

Also quoted here: Air pollution increases heart attacks (Oct. 7, 2013 European Society of Cardiology)

Today we review research into the health impacts of higher levels of particulate matter on the acute cardiovascular events. The author concludes that the EU threshold of 50 micrograms/m3 needs to be lower, underlining that there is no absolutely safe level when it comes to fine particulates and the heart. Also those over 65 years old are particularly affected so that with the doubling of older segment of society in many countries, this research becomes more important than ever.

English: A schematic of the global air polluti...

English: A schematic of the global air pollution. The map was made by User:KVDP using the GIMP. It was based on the global air pollution map by the ESA (see http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEM340NKPZD_index_0.html , http://esamultimedia.esa.int/images/EarthObservation/pollution_global_hires.jpg ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Are You Most Likely to Die from Air Pollution?

Here’s where you’re most likely to die from air pollution(John Metcalfe, Grist, Sep. 20, 2013)

Also discussed here:The Global Toll of Fine Particulate Matter(NASA Earth Observatory, Sep. 19, 2013)

And here:An Estimate of the Global Burden of Anthropogenic Ozone and 
Fine Particulate Matter on Premature Human Mortality Using 
Atmospheric Modeling(Susan C. Anenberg, Larry W. Horowitz, Daniel Q. Tong, J. Jason West, Environmental health Perspectives, Apr. 9, 2010)

And here:Air Pollution Kills More Than 2 Million a Year(John Metcalfe, Atlantic Cities, Jul. 16, 2013)
Today we review a map showing levels of pollution, expressed in terms of premature deaths per year per 1,000 km2. The map was based on global atmospheric modeling which shows the relative impact of air pollution (specifically PM2.5) on human mortality between 1850 and 2000. Not surprisingly, the most polluted areas lie in China and India.  Somewhat surprisingly,  the southeast states in the USA show improvement as a result of cleaner ways of producing cotton and a decrease in local biomass burning.

air-pollution-global-premature-deaths-map-nasa-key
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How to Monitor Urban Air Pollution? Go Fly a Kite!

Kite detects pollution, shines light on Beijing smog (Holden Frith, for CNN, Sep. 4, 2013)

Also discussed here: FLOAT Beijing

And here: Stars in the Haze(6 mi documentary video, Joshua Frank, Dec. 20, 2012)

Today we review a description of an award-winning project by a graduate student at Harvard University which adds air quality sensors (for ozone, carbon monoxide and particulates) to kites along with a display of trailing lights that indicates the relative pollution in real-time  to those below.

float beijing

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Future Health Impacts of Climate Change Around the World

Impacts of 21st century climate change on global air pollution-related premature mortality(15 page pdf, Yuanyuan Fang & Denise L. Mauzerall & Junfeng Liu & Arlene M. Fiore & Larry W. Horowitz, Climate Change, Jul. 16, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air Pollution Worsened by Climate Change Set to Be More Potent Killer in the 21st Century(Science Daily, Sep. 4, 2013)

Today we review global climate modeling research that estimated the changes in mortality over the next 100 years, resulting from air pollution with or without climate change included. Results indicate a 4% increase in deaths or up to 100,000 deaths overall, augmented by the reduced amount of low stratus cloud in a dustier atmosphere which normally scours out the particles during precipitation.

world pm with cl ch

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What Sources of Air Pollution Cause the Most Premature Deaths?

Air pollution and early deaths in the United States. Part I: Quantifying the impact of major sectors in 2005(Abstract, Fabio Caiazzo, Akshay Ashok, Ian A. Waitz, Steve H.L. Yim, Steven R.H. Barrett, Atmospheric Environment, November, 2013)

Also discussed here: Air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths each year in the US, study finds(PHYSORG, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Aug. 29, 2013)

Today we review research which examines the sources of air pollution causing early death in the USA. About half of the 200,000 premature deaths are linked to vehicle emissions and electric power generation with less to industrial pollution which historically had been thought to be the largest contributor and the object of many air pollution reduction policies. Road transportation, in particular, is singled out as a major threat as a result of growing urban populations and the proximity of people to the emissions.

 


road power deaths

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How Much Could Our Health Improve from Reduced Vehicle Emissions?

Respiratory Effects of a Reduction in Outdoor Air Pollution Concentrations (Abstract, Boogaard, Hanna; Fischer, Paul H. Janssen, Nicole A. H.; Kos, Gerard P. A. Weijers, Ernie P. Cassee, Flemming R.; van der Zee, Saskia C.; de Hartog, Jeroen J.; Meliefste, Kees; Wang, Meng Brunekreef, Bert; Hoek, Gerard,Epidemiology, Sep 2013)

Also discussed here: A case for “natural experiments” in urban health (OEH Science, Aug. 25, 2013)

Today we review research that examined the direct cause and effect between reducing traffic emissions on the one hand and improvement in health on the other. Results indicate a small but significant health improvement (up to 6%) from reduced air pollutant concentrations of 10-25%. 

Protesters gathered outside a courthouse to pr...

Protesters gathered outside a courthouse to protest against the arrest of Simon Oosterman (second from left), Auckland’s 13 Feb 2005 WNBR organizer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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What Links the Population of Large Cities and Air Pollution?

Scaling Relationship for NO2 Pollution and Urban Population Size: A Satellite Perspective(Abstract, L. N. Lamsal, R. V. Martin, D. D. Parrish, and N. A. Krotkov, Environmental Science and Technology, Jun. 13, 2013)

Also quoted here: Scientists Relate Urban Population to Air Pollution(Science Daily, Aug. 19, 2013)

Today we review a new look at the relationship between the size of cities and the level of air pollution world-wide,  as estimated from satellite measurements of nitrogen dioxide, whose main source is vehicle emissions. Although  there were regional differences, the pollution more than doubled when a city’s population increased from 1 to 10 million and even more (by a factor of 5)  in China with its large number of new megacities. This result has major implications for urban planning of developing large cities, especially where vehicle emissions is a major contributer to that pollution and little is being done to limit them.

city pop and aq

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