Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reducing Emissions from Wood Burning Stoves

Wood-burning stoves - harmful or safe? (Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Jan. 16, 2012)

Also discussed here: Wood-Burning Stoves: Harmful or Safe? (Science Daily, Jan. 16, 2012)

And here: Guidebook Effective and environmentally friendly firing of firewood ( 8 page pdf, Edvard Karlsvik, SINTEF Energy Research, Norway and Heikki Oravainen, VTT, Finland, EU-project Quality Wood, )

As we reach the depth of winter’s cold in northern climates, today’s focus is on some timely research from Norway that examines the combustion conditions of wood burning stoves that affect emissions and the resulting health impacts. Recommendations include using dry (not wet) wood and modern stoves that ensure complete combustion.

Key Quotes:

”The physical and chemical properties of particulate matter from wood-burning have great influence on how these particles may affect our health. Worsening of cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the main concerns,”

Particulate matter from different sources has different physical and chemical properties, and several factors are important when we study their health effects:
  • Chemical composition - some metals and organic substances are more harmful to the cells in our bodies than others.
  • Solubility - water soluble particles will dissolve easily in the lung lining fluid and be removed from the lungs.
  • Size - particle size determines the deposition rate and probability in our lungs. In addition, the smallest particles have a larger surface per mass unit, providing a larger area for interaction with the cells in our lungs”
“The particles emitted from poor combustion conditions (“smouldering” combustion) contain relatively large amounts of unburned organic substances from the wood, some of which may be carcinogenic, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)”

“Particles from complete combustion (salts) seem to have the least effect on lung cells in culture and are removed most quickly from the lungs.. emissions are reduced by improved combustion conditions and that we are thus exposed to smaller amounts of particles when new stoves are used”

“with a high burning rates, the particle emissions can easily increase 10 times with a high moisture content (above 20 %)”

“with a low burning rate, the particle emissions can easily increase to 30 times with a high moisture content (above 20 %)”
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Onstreet Parking- a Public or Private Good?

A rethinking of what parking is in the first place (Reinventing Parking, Jan. 16, 2012)

Also discussed here: The case for the $6 parking meter (Ideas, Leon Neyfakh, Boston Globe, Jan. 15, 2012)

And here: Minimum parking requirements are like restroom requirements (Reinventing Parking, Aug. 23, 2010)

Today, we look at onstreet parking that could be traded as a private good while remaining available to the public in order to allow for municipalities to manage a scarce resource in an optimum manner- and that in turn provides for a cleaner, more sustainable city. Comparison with other examples of using the pricing of demand shows that this approach works well in most cases.

Key Quotes:

“In dense, urban areas like Boston, as many as 30 percent of cars on the street are cruising for parking at any given time”

“Shoup’s plan: make downtown street parking more expensive. Or.. make the most desirable spots cost what they’re really worth”

Curbside parking isn’t a shared resource, like Boston Common, but rather a valuable piece of real estate, managed by the city, that should be priced according to what it’s worth”

“A city like Boston could adjust prices so that spots cost just enough to keep one or two free on every block….it would help the city as a whole by reducing pollution, preventing accidents caused by distracted drivers, and nudging more people to walk, bike, or take public transit

“parking is not a public good, it is a private good which can have a market price”

“off-street parking? That's a whole different story. Most planning systems require parking with buildings in almost exactly the same way as they require toilets with every building”
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pollution "Glue" and Congestion Pricing in London

Mayor Boris spreads 'pollution glue' across London (Jessica Shankleman, Business Green, Dec.23, 2011)

Also discussed here: (Rav Casley Gera, Clean Technica, Dec. 28,2011)

And here: Low Emission Zone (LEZ)

Today, we review a new approach being trialed in London to reducing pollution hotspots by applying a chemical to the road which attracts particulate matter and allows that to be washed away by rain. The other action being taken to improve air quality on central London on the eve of the 2012 summer Olympic Games is an expansion and continuation of the Low Emission Zone which is being extended to larger vans and minibuses this month (January 2012).

Key Quotes:

“Transport for London (TfL) announced today that it is rolling out a £200,000 trial of dust suppressants at 15 locations in five London boroughs under a new initiative with the Environment Agency…The new scheme expands on trials carried out on two locations in Central London last year..studies showed repeated applications could reduce particulates by around 10 per cent at pollution hotspots over 24-hour periods.”.

Calcium magnesium acetate has the effect of attracting fine dust particles in the air and binding them to the road, where they can be picked up by car tires or washed away by rain”

“Suppressants may achieve compliance in localised areas near monitoring stations and avoid further action from the European Commission, but they address the symptoms and not the causes of the problem,”

“The technique was developed in Scandinavia to tackle dust from road break-up when cars with snow chains damaged road surfaces”

“the trial is part of an accelerated programme funded by a £5m Department for Transport Clean Air Fund, which is intended to help the UK meet legal limits for PM10 pollution”
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Monday, February 20, 2012

What is the Basis for Transit Policy in the USA?

Policy and Planning as Public Choice Mass Transit in the United States (300 page pdf, David Lewis and Fred Laurence Williams, United States Department of Transportation, 1999)

Today’s focus is a comprehensive policy report from the Department of Transportation of the USA which builds the case for subsidizing transit by looking at its benefit/cost ratio (5:1), transit’s value (along with congestion pricing) as the main solution to congestion and the affordability of transit in the rider’s budget. The analysis of congestion by itself contains many useful observations and conclusions. Although written more than a decade ago, the trends and proportions appear valid today.

Key Quotes:

“A methodical exploration of why the American public so persistently supports transit is long overdue“

“.. the public realizes five dollars in cash savings for each tax dollar invested in transit services. These are the costs of owning, operating and accommodating automobiles that several million Americans avoid with the help of transit services“

“In urban America, public transit serves three market niches :
  • transit serves a basic mobility function for children, elderly people, people with disabilities who are unable to drive, people who cannot afford their own cars, and motorists whose car is in the shop.
  • rapid transit enables ..commuters to bypass severely congested freeways and thus save travel time for themselves and motorists alike.
  • transit facilitates a pedestrian friendly streetscape in which walking, elevators and bicycling are more common than driving”
“The fraction of all households owning 2 or more vehicles rose from 29 percent in 1969 to 53 percent in 1988”

“A major long run cause of congestion is the increasing spatial separation of work and residences. Workers tend to live further away from Central Business Districts (CBD) and places of work, seeking private, quite and spacious single detached homes”

“If optimum congestion tolls were charged, the motorist might well choose to use mass transit, to join an auto pool, to make the trip at a less congested time, or to use a less congested but perhaps more circuitous route”

“...a subsidy paid to public transport with a downward sloping cost curve, would lower the costs of travel on both”.In the reverse, a policy that increases roadway capacity luring away transit patrons, increases the costs of transit with increasing per passenger costs of the road system.”
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Intensification, Traffic Congestion and Air Pollution

Public Health and Downtown Traffic (Marcus Bowman , Spacing Toronto, Jul. 21, 2011)

Also discussed here: Ottawa's clogged roads near capacity (Open File Ottawa, Nov. 18, 2010)

And here: Queue Interactions in Synchro 6 (12 page Word doc, Synchro 6)
Today, we focus on some articles that describe how congested cities, such as Toronto and Ottawa, are becoming as the density of the urban population increases and leads to traffic flows that exceed road capacity, queuing at intersections and unnecessary idling and emissions. One ‘solution” is to widen roads to increase capacity but "widening roads to fight congestion is like loosening your belt to fight obesity".

Key Quotes:

Environment Canada estimates that passenger vehicles account for approximately 51% of VOC emissions and 21% of NOx emissions in Canada

“Each new car that hits the road makes the entire system slightly worse for everyone by contributing to greater traffic jams and more pollution. Investing in more traffic capacity will only perpetuate this exponentially growing cycle”

“the well documented phenomenon of induced demand. More road capacity leads to more cars and provides no overall gain in reducing congestion…a 1% increase in road capacity will lead to a 1% increase in the amount of traffic.”

“increases in downtown density must be accompanied by a shift away from automobile capacity or public health will suffer. More density in downtown must be accompanied by a shift towards alternative means of transit”
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Environmental Impact of Parking Spaces and Structures

Parking Infrastructure and the Environment (Mikhail Chester, Arpad Horvath, and Samer Madanat, ACCESS, Fall 2011)

Also discussed here: Paved, but Still Alive (Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, Jan. 6, 2012)

The article reviewed today looks at the overall economic and environmental life-cycle costs, both direct and indirect, for the provision of parking facilities and associated costs associated with travel to the parking spaces and the road infrastructure. The overall cost for the USA is between $4 and 20 Billion, depending on which of 4 scenarios are assumed for the number of spaces per vehicle. The environment impacts in terms of greenhouse gas emissions or health hazardous pollutants (SO2, PM10) are also significant as shown in the figure below.

“Figure 1 shows total emissions caused directly and indirectly by automobiles if all the LCA emissions from parking are attributed to automobiles.”

Key Quotes:

“vehicles spend most of their lives parked. Because abundant free parking encourages solo driving and thus discourages walking, biking, and the use of public transit, it greatly contributes to urban congestion”

“Past LCAs[life-cycle assessments]..have focused on evaluating the resources directly used for travel and have not considered the extensive parking infrastructure, including the costs of its construction, operation, maintenance, and raw material extraction and processing”

“Evaluating life-cycle effects, including health care and environmental damage costs, we determine that emissions from parking infrastructure cost the US between $4 and $20 billion annually, or between $6 and $23 per space per year”

“There are roughly 240 million passenger vehicles and 10 million on-road freight vehicles in the US. All passenger vehicles require a home base and commuting vehicles also require a work space. In addition, using data from a nationwide inventory, we reach a figure of 105 million metered spaces”

  • "A includes the number of parking spaces at commercial sites.. 722 million spaces
  • B, we evaluate roadway design guidelines and distances of urban and rural roadways to determine nationwide on-street parking…810 million spaces.
  • C is based on observed ratios of four spaces per vehicle for cities and 2.2 spaces per vehicle for rural areas…844 million spaces.
  • D is based on an unverified estimate of 8 spaces per vehicle that is often mentioned in planning literature…2 billion spaces”
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Better Ways to Handle Traffic and Parking

Русский: Пробка на Космодомианской набережной ...Image via WikipediaTraffic, Parking, and Our Green Future: Segment 1 (Parking)(28 min video, Donald Shoup, Yale University, Feb. 17, 2010)

Traffic, Parking, and Our Green Future: Segment 2 (Traffic)(33 min video, Tom Vanderbilt, Yale University, Feb. 17, 2010)

Traffic, Parking, and Our Green Future: Segment 3 (Questions)(27 min video, Professor Doug Rae, Feb. 17, 2010)

Two eminent authors: Donald Shoup (“High Cost of Free Parking”) and Tom Vanderbilt (“Traffic”) provide well illustrated and informative insights into better ways to deal with traffic congestion, pricing parking with performance metering, road signage, idling, etc to move toward more sustainable cities that are kinder to the environment and more beneficial to the economy.
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Really Narrow Streets and Sustainable Cities

Maaloula-narrow streetImage via WikipediaThinking Small: The Narrow Streets "Movement" (Old Urbanist, Mar. 29,2011)

Also discussed here: In praise of Really Narrow Streets (StreetsBlog, Jan. 4, 2012)

And here: Recipe for Florence (New World Economics, Jun. 17, 2007)

And here: (Narrow Streets Los Angeles, Dec. 3, 2011)

Today we look at some articles about cities with really narrow streets, most of which were designed B.C. (before the car). These cities, mostly European, are widely praised for their attractiveness not only in their visual appeal, but also in terms of making much better use of space for homes and in terms of a cleaner and healthier environment. Can those in modern card-addicted cities learn and adapt?

Key Quotes:

“Really Narrow Streets and buildings packed together. What fun! It's like a party with lots of people”

“they are rather disjointed and unorganized. That makes things much more interesting than the grid pattern which became popular in the 19th century. This "unorganized" pattern doesn't really create any problems, unless you are trying to drive”

“the Really Narrow Street…These streets were usually created before cars were invented, and they have no place for cars. Some are too narrow for any car. Most are wide enough for one car to pass, but not much wider”
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

GEO Medicine and Lifetime Exposure to Poor Air Quality

Bill Davenhall: Your health depends on where you live (9 min video, TED, Oct. 2009)

Also shown here: Bill Davenhall: Your health depends on where you live (9 min You-Tube)

And discussed here: Heart Attack Rates (Acute Myocardial Infarction per 100,000 Medicare Enrollees) (ERSI, 2005)

The focus today is on a new branch of environmental health called GEO Medicine that looks at geography applied to environmental health and epidemiology, using various new tools including Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and tracking tools such as those found on smart phones. The speaker points out that while lifestyle and genetics are often included on one’s medical history file, rarely is there a record of where one lived and what was the environment . By extension to his own “place history”, he shows how this can help to identify in advance what diseases to expect in old age.

Key Quotes:

“what is really talk about what is the formula for life and good health - Genetics, lifestyle and environment”

“For every community in the United States,you could have your own personalized map of that.… our cell phones can now build a place history”

“ we must teach physicians about the value of geographical information. It's called geomedicine. There are about a half a dozen programs in the world right now”

“Genetics (genes that metabolize certain chemicals and drugs is important) Nutrition/diet is critical to help manage health problems, deficiencies & weakened conditions. Exercise is critical for circulation, brain, mood, spine and plain detoxification”

“The biggest factor mainstream medicine does not pay attention to is toxin exposure..where you've lived as far as outdoor air quality, where you work to consider inside air (copiers, smokers, perfumes, good ventilation) and chemicals, pollution around the work building (incl.. pesticides). Similar questions about home air, smoke, ventilation, paint/formaldehyde & proximity to industrial plants, toxic mold growth all play a role”
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Monday, February 6, 2012

The Better Air Quality at Beijing Olympics- government controls or lucky weather conditions?

Beijing 2008Beijing 2008 (Photo credit: kennytyy)Emission controls versus meteorological conditions in determining aerosol concentrations in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games (15 page pdf, Y. Gao, X. Liu, C. Zhao, and M. Zhang, Atmos. Chem. Phys., Dec. 28, 2011)

Also discussed here: Weather Deserves Medal for Clean Air During 2008 Olympics (Science Daily, Dec. 28, 2011)

And here: Impact of Changes in Transportation and Commuting Behaviors During the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta on Air Quality and Childhood Asthma (9 page pdf, Michael S. Friedman, Kenneth E. Powell, Lori Hutwagner, LeRoy M. Graham,W. Gerald Teague, Journal American Medical Association, Feb. 21, 2001)

Credit for the surprisingly good air quality at the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been given to the Chinese government for various steps taken to reduce pollution sources, especially vehicle emissions, during and before the games- as they had been, with equally good health results, at the Atlanta, USA Games in 1996. A more detailed analysis of the added effect of meteorology, summarized in the article under review, shows that favourable winds and well-timed rainfall had at least as much to do with the results. The lesson to be learned from this, especially for those cities with unhealthy air, with or without Olympic fever, is that major reductions in pollution and improvements in health are possible with enough government will to engage public support.

Key Quotes:

PM10 .. is reported to be the major cause of air pollution in Beijing on about 90% of days from 1999 to 2005 ..and its concentration exceeds the China’s Grade-2 Standard (daily averaged concentration of PM10 of 150 μgm−3) on 30% of the days each year…emissions over the northwest and southwest to Beijing contribute 39% and 15 %, respectively, to the particle matter concentrations over urban Beijing”

“A series of emission control measures were undertaken in Beijing and the adjacent provinces in China during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on 8–24 August 2008..Before the full-scale control (pre-20 July 2008), heavy industrial polluters (e.g. the Capital Steel Company) were relocated, and 50% of government cars were not allowed to drive in Beijing after 23 June 2008”

“During the full-scale control (from 20 July to 19 September 2008), first, the odd/even license plate number rule was applied on personal vehicles in Beijing; second, stricter control was applied on vehicles entering Beijing; third, the production of some factories that can cause air pollution was limited or even stopped.. In addition, extra 20% government cars were not allowed to drive in Beijing, some outdoor constructions were stopped, and usages of coal-burning facilities were restricted”

“on-road concentrations of NOx, SO2, carbon monoxide (CO), and BC were reduced by 41 %, 70 %, 54 %, and 12 %, respectively during the Olympics”

“In addition to the emission controls, the weather was very important in reducing pollution. You can see the rain washing pollution out of the sky and wind transporting it away from the area….while some pollution got washed out by rain or fell out of the sky, most of it got blown away by wind”

“modeled concentrations of aerosol species (sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, black carbon, organic carbon, total particulate matter) in Beijing were decreased by 30–50% during the Olympic period compared to the other periods in July and August in 2008 and the same period in 2007”
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Friday, February 3, 2012

Health Impact of Exposure to Particulate Matter in Beijing, China

Effects of Particulate Air Pollution on Blood Pressure in a Highly Exposed Population in Beijing, China: A repeated-measure study (32 page pdf, Andrea Baccarelli, Francesco Barretta, Chang Dou, Xiao Zhang, John P McCracken, Anaite Diaz, Pier Alberto Bertazzi, Joel Schwartz, Sheng Wang, Lifang Hou, Environmental Health, Dec. 21, 2011)

Today’s review article looks at the link between traffic-related particulate matter on the blood pressure of truck drivers, using both personal and ambient measurements. The ambient levels are as much as an order of magnitude greater in Beijing than in average American cities. Results indicate that the greatest impact in blood pressure occurs about a week after exposure rather than in one or a few days for those examined, noting that they already have higher than average blood pressure levels due to diet, obesity and exercise (or lack)- perhaps indicating that PM pollution has its greatest impact on those already suffering from high blood pressure.

Key Quotes:

Elevated BP is an established risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke, and may be implicated in the association of short-term PM exposure with cardiovascular disease.. An increase as small as 1 mmHg in usual systolic BP is estimated to increase by 2-4% the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease”

“Traffic-derived PM is critical in Beijing due to very high population density and rapid increase in vehicular traffic”

“Truck drivers had higher BMI, reported a higher number of pack-years of smoking, smoked more cigarettes during the study time, and included a higher proportion of usual alcohol drinkers…Average personal PM2.5 was 126.8 μg/m3 in truck drivers and 94.6 μg/m3 for office workers”

“comparatively higher levels of PM exposure exert effects on BP that appear with a delay or possibly require 5-8 days to build up and become detectable”

“the average levels of ambient PM10 in Beijing were approximately 120 μg/m3 during our study. As a reference, the average urban-population weighted PM10 in the United States was 19 μg/m3 in the year 2008”
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Syndemic Approach to Healthy Sustainable Cities

Built Environment and Public Health: A Syndemic Perspective (17 page pdf, Michael McGeehin, 4th annual summit of the Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative, “Incorporating Public and Environmental Health into Sustainable Solutions”, Nov. 8, 2010)

The focus of today’s review is on a recent urban summit linking the built environment to health and a presentation that shows how a syndemic approach is useful one to identify the links between diseases or ill health and their causes and remedies. Examples from transportation include road design, traffic management and removing barriers for pedestrians and cyclists.

Key Quotes:

“We recommend that in laying out new towns and villages, and in extending those already laid out, ample provision be made for a supply, in purity and abundance, of light, air, and water; for drainage and sewerage, for paving and for cleanliness.(1850)”

“Syndemic Perspective - an understanding of disease that focuses on the complex interconnections among co-morbid diseases, biological linkages, and interacting social and environmental conditions"

“Transportation: Highway and Roadway Design, Traffic Volume, Access to Public Transportation, Pedestrian Crossings, Pollution, Bike Paths"

“Research Topics – B.E. and Health: Barriers to Activity in Low Income Neighborhoods, Air Pollution and Acute Cardiac Events…”

“Conclusions: Human Health and Built Environment are Closely Linked, Built Environment and Health Associations are Complex and Comprehensive…”
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