Tagged: air pollution

State of the Air — 2014


The American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report finds half of Americans still live in counties where ozone or particle pollutions levels make the air unhealthy to breathe. The 15th annual national report card shows that while the nation overall continued to reduce particle pollution, a pollutant recently found to cause lung cancer, poor air quality remains a significant public health concern and a changing climate threatens to make it harder to protect human health. Especially alarming is that levels of ozone (smog), a powerful respiratory irritant and the most widespread air pollutant, were much worse than in the previous year’s report…

What did “State of the Air 2014” find?

Nearly half of the people in the United States (147.6 million) live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution.

More than 27.8 million people (8.9%) in the United States live in 17 counties with unhealthful levels of all pollutants measured in the report.

Twenty-two of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities in the 2014 report – including Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago – had more high ozone days on average when compared to the 2013 report.

Thirteen of the 25 cities with the worst year-round particle pollution reached their lowest levels yet, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Bakersfield.

To learn more go to http://www.stateoftheair.org to see how your community ranks and to learn how to protect yourself and your family from air pollution.

Harass your Congress-critter to support Clean Air proposals. I’d especially suggest wandering through the State of the Air site and reviewing up-to-date info on climate change and how that’s affecting the air we breathe.

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China’s capital to begin replacing some coal-fired plants


Auld Reekie

China will replace four coal-burning heating plants in the capital Beijing with natural gas fired ones by the end of next year as it steps up efforts to clean up pollution…

The report, citing the city’s Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, said the four plants and some 40 other related projects would cost around $8 billion and cut sulphur dioxide emissions by 10,000 metric tons. It did not detail the related projects.

The plan is the latest step by authorities to deal with a persistent smog crisis in China’s big cities that is fuelling public anger. The capital has been shrouded in thick hazardous smog for several days during the ongoing seven-day national holiday.

China has been under pressure to tackle air pollution to douse potential unrest as an increasingly affluent urban populace turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has besmirched much of China’s air, water and soil.

Last month the government announced plans to slash coal consumption and close polluting mills, factories and smelters, though experts said implementing the targets would be a major challenge.

The new plants will replace four coal-fired ones that provide heating for homes in the city’s central urban area as well as generating electricity, Xinhua said.

Beijing is the Auld Reekie of the 21st Century. For those of you who don’t know the term, it described Edinburgh [and London] not only in the years before World War 2, but, especially afterwards during the efforts to ramp industrial production back up to speed in the UK.

Then, as now, though industrial use was a significant portion of the air pollution, everyone’s attachment to their wee coal fire heating the main rooms of home was a tough cultural obstacle – just as central to established urban life in Beijing. The solution has to be the same – replacing those coal fires with natural gas or electricity generated by means other than burning coal.

The cost of bringing large volumes of natural gas to locations in and around Beijing also lays the groundwork for local provision and access to that cleaner substitute for coal. Smart idea.

Fossil fuel particulates, air pollutants linked to autism

Women in the U.S. exposed to high levels of air pollution while pregnant were up to twice as likely to have a child with autism as women who lived in areas with low pollution, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health. It is the first large national study to examine links between autism and air pollution across the U.S…

Exposure to diesel particulates, lead, manganese, mercury, methylene chloride and other pollutants are known to affect brain function and to affect the developing baby. Two previous studies found associations between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and autism in children, but those studies looked at data in just three locations in the U.S.

The researchers examined data from Nurses’ Health Study II, a long-term study based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital involving 116,430 nurses that began in 1989. Among that group, the authors studied 325 women who had a child with autism and 22,000 women who had a child without the disorder. They looked at associations between autism and levels of pollutants at the time and place of birth. They used air pollution data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to estimate women’s exposure to pollutants while pregnant. They also adjusted for the influence of factors such as income, education, and smoking during pregnancy.

The results showed that women who lived in the 20% of locations with the highest levels of diesel particulates or mercury in the air were twice as likely to have a child with autism as those who lived in the 20% of areas with the lowest levels.

Other types of air pollution—lead, manganese, methylene chloride, and combined metal exposure—were associated with higher autism risk as well. Women who lived in the 20% of locations with the highest levels of these pollutants were about 50% more likely to have a child with autism than those who lived in the 20% of areas with the lowest concentrations.

Most pollutants were associated with autism more strongly in boys than girls. However, since there were few girls with autism in the study, the authors said this finding should be examined further.

This doesn’t suggest the association means air pollution causes autism directly. There is a contributory link. Research samples from both mothers and babies will be analyzed over time to see exactly which chemicals are involved.

Though air pollution has diminished since the Clean Air Act there is an enormous task remaining to get to truly healthful air chemistry. Know-nothings, Tea Party-types and other butt-kissers of the Oil Patch Boys will try their darndest to impede or roll back measures taken. Even though they offer the potential for a longer healthier life for their own kids and grandkids.

New Delhi, is now more polluted than Beijing

India has recently pulled far ahead of China on one dubious development marker – air pollution in the country’s capital.

The air quality in New Delhi now often measures significantly worse than the air quality in Beijing, according to real-time air monitors run by the Indian and U.S. governments in both cities.

New Delhi, a landlocked, fast-growing metropolis of more than 16 million people, is regularly shrouded by haze and smog (sometimes euphemistically referred to as fog) in winter months, as barometric pressure and cooler air mix with construction dust, smoke from cow dung fires and car exhaust, which then hover over the city for days.

But this year, the air quality in New Delhi has seemed noticeably worse than previous years as the summer heat dissipates…

Cooling temperatures are trapping air pollution created by a rising number of cars, which is being supplemented by dusty winds from the northwest, said G. Beig, the program director of the air monitoring program at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology…

A database recently published by the World Health Organization also shows New Delhi with higher pollution levels than Beijing, but that database relies on official government figures. Beijing’s government has been criticized for down-playing the city’s pollution problems, and recently began tours of its air monitoring facilities.

The air quality both places doth verily suck. In truth, China has proven to be spending a higher portion of the national budget on fighting pollution than India – and many Western nations that were finally pushed into action a century or more after the industrial revolution.

Cumulative health costs of 6 U.S. climate disasters = $14 billion

Deaths and health problems from floods, drought and other U.S. disasters related to climate change cost an estimated $14 billion over the last decade.

“When extreme weather hits, we hear about the property damage and insurance costs,” said Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council and a co-author of the study. “The healthcare costs never end up on the tab…”

Scientists and economists from the non-profit NRDC, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-San Francisco estimated the health costs for the following events from 2000 to 2009:

* U.S. ozone air pollution, 2000-2002, $6.5 billion;

* West Nile virus outbreak in Louisiana, 2002, $207 million;

* Southern California wildfires, 2003, $578 million;

* Florida hurricane season, 2004, $1.4 billion;

* California heat wave, 2006, $5.3 billion;

* Red River flooding in North Dakota, 2009, $20 million…

The six case studies are examples of events related to climate change that are projected to worsen as the planet warms, the authors said.

These six events resulted in an estimated 1,689 premature deaths, 8,992 hospitalizations, 21,113 emergency room visits and 734,398 outpatient visits, according to the study.

In dollars, the largest cost by far was for premature deaths at $13.3 billion. This number was based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s value of a statistical life, $7.6 million, co-author Wendy Max said. This was not meant to put a value on any one life but to calculate how much people in aggregate would be willing to spend to lessen the risk of death from certain causes, including the events cited in the study.

Climate deniers could care less. Flat-earthers and know-nothings could care less. Most disasters they write off as caused by some mysterious deity. What’s left for everyone else is the cost of those disasters. Trying to come up with the money for family illness.

Why do Republicans hate clean air, clean water?

Last month President Obama finally unveiled a serious economic stimulus plan — far short of what I’d like to see, but a step in the right direction. Republicans, predictably, have blocked it. But the new plan, combined with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, seems to have shifted the national conversation. We are, suddenly, focused on what we should have been talking about all along: jobs.

So what is the G.O.P. jobs plan? The answer, in large part, is to allow more pollution. So what you need to know is that weakening environmental regulations would do little to create jobs and would make us both poorer and sicker…

Do you really need that explained to you? Are you as delusional as the Republican Party?

The important thing to understand is that the case for pollution control isn’t based on some kind of aesthetic distaste for industrial society. Pollution does real, measurable damage, especially to human health.

And policy makers should take that damage into account. We need more politicians like the courageous governor who supported environmental controls on a coal-fired power plant, despite warnings that the plant might be closed, because “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people.”

Actually, that was Mitt Romney, back in 2003 — the same politician who now demands that we use more coal.

How big are these damages? A new study by researchers at Yale and Middlebury College brings together data from a variety of sources to put a dollar value on the environmental damage various industries inflict. The estimates are far from comprehensive, since they only consider air pollution…

For it turns out that there are a number of industries inflicting environmental damage that’s worth more than the sum of the wages they pay and the profits they earn — which means, in effect, that they destroy value rather than create it. High on the list, by the way, is coal-fired electricity generation, which the Mitt Romney-that-was used to stand up to.

As the study’s authors say, finding that an industry inflicts large environmental damage compared with its apparent economic return doesn’t necessarily mean that the industry should be shut down. What it means, instead, is that “the regulated levels of emissions from the industry are too high.” That is, environmental regulations aren’t strict enough.

Republicans ignore studies like that, the overwhelming body of industrial environment studies, BTW. Why start letting facts get in the way of profits for their largest contributors? Mining, power production industries are among the largest contributors to congressional Republicans. Simple-minded politicians who live the country-club life.

Their families, their kids are OK, Jack. The rest of us can go scramble for clean air and clean water whether we can afford it or not. There hasn’t been a Republican in office that I can recall fighting against pollution since that era before Ronald Reagan. Someone like that certainly wouldn’t be supported by today’s RNC or the KoolAid Party.

Clean air at the expense of waterways

Masontown, PA — For years, residents here complained about the yellow smoke pouring from the tall chimneys of the nearby coal-fired power plant, which left a film on their cars and pebbles of coal waste in their yards. Five states — including New York and New Jersey — sued the plant’s owner, Allegheny Energy, claiming the air pollution was causing respiratory diseases and acid rain.

So three years ago, when Allegheny Energy decided to install scrubbers to clean the plant’s air emissions, environmentalists were overjoyed. The technology would spray water and chemicals through the plant’s chimneys, trapping more than 150,000 tons of pollutants each year before they escaped into the sky.

But the cleaner air has come at a cost. Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north…

Even as a growing number of coal-burning power plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air emissions, many of them are creating another problem: water pollution. Power plants are the nation’s biggest producer of toxic waste, surpassing industries like plastic and paint manufacturing and chemical plants, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data…

Yet no federal regulations specifically govern the disposal of power plant discharges into waterways or landfills. Some regulators have used laws like the Clean Water Act to combat such pollution. But those laws can prove inadequate, say regulators, because they do not mandate limits on the most dangerous chemicals in power plant waste, like arsenic and lead…

Even when power plant emissions are regulated by the Clean Water Act, plants have often violated that law without paying fines or facing other penalties. Ninety percent of 313 coal-fired power plants that have violated the Clean Water Act since 2004 were not fined or otherwise sanctioned by federal or state regulators, according to a Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency records.

RTFA. It goes on and on – pretty much as you would expect.

It remains cheaper to buy state officials than a congress-critter; so, the ever-popular federalist defense utilizes states rights to fend off the rare attempts to use federal regulations to stop pollution creep.