When Do you Become “Old”?

Population ageing: the timebomb that isn’t? (5 page pdf, Jeroen Spijker and John MacInnes, BMJ(British Medical Journal), Nov. 12, 2013)

Today we review a paper about aging and the implications of using a fixed age, such as 65, to indicate when to worry about “old age” diseases, particularly those such as heart and lung diseases that are aggravated by air pollution. The authors contend that the important statistic to use is the years of remaining life expectancy when the average life expectancy in the UK has increased by 34 years, thus moving the yard stick from the pension age of 65 to later. Over time improvements in medical technology and, indirectly in air quality in some places, seniors are living longer which has increased the size of the older generation, while growing obesity has resulted in earlier occurrence of diabetes with negative impacts on life expectancy. It is clear that the dynamics that affect health of the elderly has changed.

old age dependency

 

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Reporting Local Industrial Air Pollution in Canada’s Largest City

Tracking and Reducing Chemicals in Toronto: Third Annual ChemTRAC Report (David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Board of Health, Jun. 13, 2014)

Also discussed here : ChemTRAC – Improving Toronto’s Air: 2014 Annual Report (David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Board of Health, Jun. 13, 2014)

And here: Toronto Public Health Reveals Local Air Pollution Sources (Jennifer Kalnins Temple, Envirolaw, Jul. 10, 2014)

Today we review the third annual report from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health on the monitoring of local industrial air pollutants, a program (ChemTRAC) that requires local industries to emissions of 25 specific pollutants- the top three of which are VOCs, NOx and PM2.5. The Health Board estimates that of the 1300 deaths caused by air pollution each year, local industry is responsible for 120, in addition to 200 hospitalizations. This not only underlines the importance of the program but also allows for identification of sources of health risks not previously defined- the mercury releases from incineration of human remains at crematoria for example- and allows companies to take measure to reduce the release of critical pollutants. A large majority (90%) of the reporting companies found the ChemTRAC program helpful and 2/3s found that the program helped them to reduce harmful emissions The only question one might ask- why is this not required in other cities, especially large ones with industrial pollution within their boundaries?

map of toronto air poll sources

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What is the Next Biggest Environmental Health Problem After Air Pollution?

Lessening the Severe Health Effects of Traffic Noise in Cities by Emission Reductions (28 page pdf, Tor Kihlman, Wolfgang Kropp, and William Lang, The CAETS Noise Control Technology Committee and the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering, May 2014)

Also discussed here: Traffic noise is dangerous for your health: Solutions exist for dense cities (ScienceDaily, Jul.1, 2014)

Today we review a report that looks at the second biggest environmental cause of health problems after air pollution, noise. As with air pollution, the single biggest source is road traffic from the interaction between tires and pavement or “rolling noise”. Solutions call for “quiet pavements” and improved design of tires although the authors report that present regulations and that most actions by government and industry fall well short of solving the problem. An interesting point was made about safety concerns about electric cars being too quiet to the point that government wants to require noise emitters – a step that is seen as unnecessary and counterproductive. Again, as with air pollution, an effective solution is to reduce roads traffic by promoting quiet forms of transportation, such as walking and cycling. Steps to reduce road noise would also benefit efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and climate change impacts.

noise in cities

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How Liable Are Cities Potentially for Not Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Allowing Traffic and Vehicle Emissions to Increase?

Current environmental liability issues for municipalities (20 page Word doc, Graham Rempe, Dianne Saxe, Osgoode Professional Development, Jun.17, 2014)

Also discussed here:

Current environmental liability issues for municipalities (Meredith James, Envirolaw, Jun. 26, 2014)

And here: Air pollution controls linked to lower death rates in North Carolina (Science Daily, Jun. 23, 2014)

Today we review an interesting discussion paper that analyzes legal cases where failure to act or incorrect actions by municipalities resulted in contamination of the soil or groundwater with legal consequences for the municipalities involved. The accountability was particularly true when the health of humans or animals was threatened. One has to ask why municipalities do not have an obligation to manage traffic and vehicle emissions when these clearly are a major cause, if not the largest cause in some cases, of hastened climate change impacts or of pollution levels which have a direct impact on the health of their citizens. Especially when several far-sighted cities such as London UK, Stockholm and Singapore have demonstrated that application of congestion pricing and other measures within their mandates (as it is in Ontario) reduces traffic and improves air quality. Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act stipulates that “The only precondition is a reasonable belief that the ordered activities will prevent or reduce contamination of the natural environment”.

What are cities waiting for- a law suit?

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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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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