Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Using Lichens to Find Air Pollution Hot Spots

Lichen Training Manual 2010/2011(Good Neighbour Campaign/GNC, Environment Hamilton, 2010)

Also discussed here: Tree Lichen Monitoring - The Quick How-To Video (6 min You-Tube video, GNC)

And here: Arboreal Lichens:Preliminary Indicators of Hamilton Air Quality(48 page pdf, Dan McCarthy and Hague Vaughan, Upwind / Downwind Air Quality Conference, Hamilton, Ontario, 2004)

And here: Students Take Lead in City-Wide Pollution Study (MediaDesk, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Jun. 6, 2011)

And here: Anthropogenic Environmental Aerosols:Measurements and Biological Implications(350 page pdf, Pierre Madl, PhD dissertation, University of Salzburg, Oct. 2009)

And here: Highway exhaust aerosols and their effects on alpine lichen populations(1 page pdf, Abstract, E. Heinzelmann, P. Madl and W. Hofmann, Anthropogenic Environmental Aerosols: Measurement and Biological Implications, 2009)

And here: Ecological Effects of Roads - A review(40 page pdf, Andreas Seiler, Introductory Research Essay No 9, Department of Conservation Biology, SLU, Uppsala, 2001)

 And here: Air Quality and Lichens - A Literature Review(Jenifer Hutchinson, Debbie Maynard, and Linda Geiser USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region Air Resource Management Program, Dec. 16,1996)

Today we review a project to analyse the air quality in a neighbourhood of Hamilton, Ontario, using a technique developed by George Sorger from McMaster University to link growth in two forms of lichen on maple or ash trees to air pollution levels. The preliminary results show the potential for identifying concentrations of air pollutants in an urban environment year by year without the need for expensive equipment or highly skilled technicians which are usually required.  

Key Quotes:

 “Our goal is to cover a great deal of the city in order to gain a greater understanding of the city’s pollution hotspots”

“Students used the methods of McMaster University biology professor emeritus Dr. George Sorger. Testing Ash and Maple trees, Sorger noted a link between lichen growth – specifically of greyish Physcia Millegrana and yellowish Candelaira Colcolor – and Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels.”

“Areas with high SO2 and NO2 had low to non-existent levels of lichen; areas with low levels of SO2 and NO2 had high levels of lichen”

“Lichens are exposed to air pollutants at all times and, without any leafy bits that fall off, they cannot avoid the accumulation of pollutants. Without roots, lichens depend heavily on the air. This makes some lichen species great biomonitors of air quality and – because they grow slowly – monitoring is only required once a year.”

 “The process:
  1. Indicate the street boundaries in which you will be canvassing.
  2. Start to identify Maple and Ash Trees (see pg. 7-8) . Record their location.
  3. Hold the wired quadrants up against the middle of the tree so that it is at eye level . The bottom being approximately1m above ground.
  4. Beginning with one of the quadrants, check to see if the Millegrana species present. Use the scale of 0-3 to indicate the level that you see. Repeat for the rest of the 3 quadrants.
  5. Repeat the same process for all cardinal directions/sides of the tree (North, East, South and West).
  6. You should now have numbers for 16 quadrants (4 per side). Calculate the average and find the standard deviation. Repeat this process on the same tree for the Candelaria species.
  7. Once done canvassing your area, take the average of all the trees and use that to find the standard error. Repeatfor the Candelaria species.
  8. Send your information to the GNC Coordinator”
“results found lichen growth to be sparser in the industrial north end of the city, and more robust as monitors approached the Niagara Escarpment…The two different lichen species differed in their growth levels at the same sites; there were only modest levels of lichen in leafy Dundas, which may be due to a small sample size; and the Keith neighbourhood has little to no lichen, indicating a contaminated air shed”
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Monday, October 29, 2012

Short Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Minor Strokes

Short-term effects of ambient particulates and gaseous pollutants on the incidence of transient ischaemic attack and minor stroke: a case- crossover study(20 page pdf, Getahun Bero Bedada, Craig J Smith, Pippa J Tyrrell, Adrian A Hirst and Raymond Agius, Environmental Health, Oct. 15, 2012)English: Comparison of the amount of air pollu...
Comparison of the amount of air pollutants produced by the three alternatives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 The research reviewed today is a first look at the relationship between short term exposure to six -common pollutants and the occurrence of minor strokes in the Manchester-Liverpool area of the UK. A marginal association was found with Nitrogen Oxide(NO) , produced by combustion from vehicles and a precursor for NO2, but not from the others. More research was recommended with larger samples to confirm this finding.  

Key Quotes:

 “The primary objective of the study is to investigate the effects on the onset of TIA [transient ischaemic attack] and minor stroke of short-term exposure to PM10 and the following gases: NO, NO2, CO, SO2 and ozone.. the first study to have specifically investigated the effect of ambient air pollutants on the occurrence of TIA and minor stroke”

 “The analysis was based on 709 patients with TIA or minor stroke, ... The participants were mostly elderly patients with an age range of 27-93 years ..About 62% of the participants were above the age of 65….The majority of the participants (99%) were white and they were predominantly male. One third were current smokers”

 “Measured pollutants have had more pronounced effects in those above 65 years old, in male and in cold months than in participants below 65 years, female and warmer months respectively”

 “This study has shown a modest positive association between ambient NO and the occurrence of TIA and minor stroke, in Manchester, which was modified by age, gender and season”
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Mapping Urban Greenhouse Gases down to the Street Level

Quantification of Fossil Fuel CO2 Emissions on the Building/Street Scale for a Large U.S. City(Abstract, Kevin R. Gurney, Igor Razlivanov, Yang Song, Yuyu Zhou, Bedrich Benes, and Michel Abdul-Massih, Environ. Sci. Technol., Aug. 15, 2012)

Also discussed here: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Mapped to Building, Street Level for U.S. Cities(ScienceDaily, Oct. 9, 2012)

 Today we review research aimed at mapping greenhouse gases in cities down to the scale of streets using a variety of surface data which in turn permits agencies to monitor and identify sources of emission across the urban landscape. This “ground” data is to be used in conjunction with a satellite to ne lanced in 2013 that will permit the implementation of effective greenhouse gas legislation at ultimately the global level.


Key Quotes:

 “this research effort is the first to use bottom-up methods to quantify all fossil fuel CO2 emissions down to the scale of individual buildings, road segments, and industrial/electricity production facilities on an hourly basis for an entire urban landscape”

"Cities have had little information with which to guide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions -- and you can't reduce what you can't measure,"

 “hope to ultimately map the CO2 emissions in all major cities across the United States, which accounts for nearly one-quarter of all global CO2 emissions”

 “We compare the natural gas component of our fossil fuel CO2 emissions estimate to consumption data provided by the local gas utility. At the zip code level, we achieve a bias-adjusted Pearson r correlation value of 0.92”

 "Hestia offers practical information we can use to identify the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions and track progress over time,"

“Hestia is part of a larger effort that combines information about emissions with ground and satellite-based measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration… expected to complement NASA's planned December 2013 launch of the Orbital Carbon Observatory satellite, which will measure the concentration of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How Useful are Mobile Air Pollution Monitors?

Understanding intra-neighborhood patterns in PM2.5 and PM10 using mobile monitoring in Braddock, PA(29 page pdf, Brett J Tunno, Kyra Naumoff Shields, Paul Lioy, Nanjun Chu, Joseph B Kadane, Bambang Parmanto, Gede Pramana, Jennifer Zora, Cliff Davidson, Fernando Holguin and Jane E Clougherty, Environmental Health, Oct. 10, 2012)

Today we review a paper that reported on a two year study using handheld monitors at 25 stops near Pittsburg, a highly industrialized area in the eastern USA. The design and results of the study may prove very useful in developing air quality networks in other cities, as well as providing clues to the timing and severity of short term pollution episodes which may have significant health impacts.


Key Quotes:

“A mobile air monitoring study was designed and implemented in morning and afternoon hours in the summer and winter (2010-2011) to explore the within-neighborhood spatial and temporal (within-day and between-day) variability in PM2.5 and PM10.. We measured PM2.5 and PM10 at specified locations along a fixed route of 25 stops using continuous instruments, during multiple weekday mornings and afternoons, in both seasons”

“Mobile monitoring can be built in as a preliminary step of any air pollution field study design because it provides a better representation of local air pollution, providing confidence in placement of stationary air monitors in a neighborhood..'
  • "mobile monitoring is cost-effective. The route can be customized to focus on particular areas of concern, such as high traffic roads or neighborhood fixed sources"
  • "concentrations are typically measured at short intervals using continuous instruments which, with good quality-control efforts, can provide information about short-term peak exposures associated with adverse acute health effects"
  • "mobile monitoring can also be used to validate conceptual dispersion models by capturing data at multiple points downwind of the source, under varying windspeed and direction conditions"
  •  leveraging the repeated measures andintegrating meteorology and land use characteristics, mobile monitoring data can be used to more richly characterize spatial variability throughout the region”
“local pollution sources, and frequent inversion events in Pittsburgh, are superimposed on a high regional background (owing to proximity to Ohio Valley coal emissions)”

“Our measurements of PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations in and around Braddock, PA, during summer and winter months 2010–2011, highlight the impact of summer morning inversion events on particulate pollution”

“Our approach provided the foundation for the design of a longer-term air pollution monitoring strategy ….city-wide sampling will be performed Monday through Friday during potential morning inversion hours (6 to 11 AM) using eight stationary ..randomized and spatially re-allocated each week, over six weeks each season, to estimate PM2.5 in concentrations capturing the range of elevation, proximity to industry, and traffic density across the Pittsburgh metropolitan area
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Listening to Air Pollution

Beautiful Music, One Good Thing To Come From Air Pollution(Michael Coren, CoExist) 

Also discussed here: The sound of Bakersfield pollution 

And here: Turning Air Pollution into Music(Alan Cross, Oct. 8, 2012) 

 And here: Scientists listen to the sun in new sonification project(Physorg, Feb. 26, 2010) 

Today we look at a different way to analyze air pollution- by converting the sampling data into acoustics or “music”- a process called sonification. This approach has previously been applied to physics (Geiger counter) and astronomy (solar wind) data and opens up a new way that makes use of one’s hearing ability to detect and identify characteristics that were only seen visually.

Illustration of a Geiger-Müller tube. Based on...
   Illustration of a Geiger-Müller tube. Based on a public domain image by Kieran Maher (see original image) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Key Quotes: 

 “Turning data about dirty air into musical performances puts the need to keep our skies clean into a different context” 

 “The pair drew their air sample data from airborne particulates, separated in a gas chromatographer, and analyzed by a mass spectrometer for their exact chemical structure”

 “The 'clean’ air is actually loaded with chemicals, off-gassing plant resins, and fragrances,..that create a more intricate and, I think, enjoyable sound. There are light pops and and crackles throughout the soundscape, in a way that reminds me of bees hurrying around a field. The polluted air, on the other hand, is just loaded with hydrocarbons, which lump up in the sound file to create a terrifying drone." 

Human hearing, in fact, is exquisitely sensitive at detecting the difference between subtle tones, as well as detecting patterns that might otherwise overwhelm our other senses”

 “[ref solar wind data] In this sonification, we can actually hear in the data when the temperature goes up, or when the density increases,”
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Heart Attacks in Cold Cities

English: Pneumonia and influenza mortality for...
English: Pneumonia and influenza mortality for 122 US cities, 4 years through week ending October 31, 2009. This time series shows the seasonality of seasonal influenza, and that during the 2007-2008 season influenza exceeded the US epidemic threshold. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 Influenza epidemics, seasonality, and the effects of cold weather on cardiac mortality(20 page pdf, Stephanie von Klot, Antonella Zanobetti and Joel Schwartz, Environmental Health, Oct.1, 2012) 

Today we review a study of a large sample of seniors in 78 cities across the USA to assess what impact cold weather has on heart attacks and how much influence influenza epidemics has on the mortality rate – in the absence, unfortunately, of corresponding air pollution data which is known to have health impacts. Results indicate that there is a link between variations in mortality rates with the influenza. While these results are interesting, a similar study in colder countries with many more sub-zero winter days, such as Russia or Canada, along with associated air pollution data would be revealing. 

 Key Quotes: 

 “extremes in ambient temperature are associated with short term increases in mortality” 

“hypothesized that the principle reason for the winter time increase in cardiac deaths is respiratory, primarily influenza epidemics”

 “influenza related cardiac deaths over the study period added up to 69,714 over the cities, 2.3% of all cardiac deaths observed”

 “In this study on the temperature effects on cardiac mortality we did not adjust for air pollution. The reason was that there were many cities with sparse air pollution data” 

“we showed in a multi-city study that the association of cardiac mortality with ambient temperature could be parsimoniously fit by including influenza data into the time series analyses”
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Teaching Children about Air Pollution

Wings and Thingamajigs E- Book(21 page pdf, Halton Region, September, 2012)

Also discussed here: Wings and Thingamajigs - Children’s Picture Book(Halton Region)

Today we review a rare and exceptionally well-illustrated picture book, aimed at teaching children from 4 to 8 years old about air quality and climate change. It comes from Public Health in Halton Region, one of the more advanced in the province of Ontario, when it comes to improving air quality and its impacts on human health- one of the first in Canada to use roadside air quality monitors, for example.The e-book is available free in a number of languages including French, Spanish, Cantonese, Polish and Punjabi, to meet the needs of the diverse multicultural community in southwestern Ontario (and for some in the rest of the world). Highly recommended!  

Key Quotes:

“Wings and Thingamajigs is the second book in a three-book series about the implications of air quality and climate change on human health”

 “explores some of the things that can be done to improve air quality and slow climate change. It also explores health-related impacts such as asthma in children.”


*“Featherwagon: a motorized vehicle used by birds to travel places”  

*“Thingamajig: a non-polluting and self-propelled form of transport”

“In the story, the birds learn to travel to school without using featherwagons. Instead, they fly, walk, pedal, and skate. Discuss how children travel to school and if there are alternatives.”

"This book gives a voice to children’s real life experiences with asthma and the environment. A gentle reminder for adults, caregivers, and health professionals how easy it is to underestimate the quiet subtle nature of asthma and the manner in which breathing difficulties can shape our children’s lives."
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