Friday, November 30, 2012

How Does Air Pollution Affect Your Thinking Ability?

Bad Air Means Bad News for Seniors’ Brainpower(1 page pdf, Press Release, The Gerontological Society of America, (GSA) 65th AnnualScientific Meeting, Nov. 16, 2012)

Also discussed here: Bad Air Means Bad News for Seniors' Brainpower(ScienceDaily, Nov. 16, 2012)

And here: Does Air Pollution Hurt Memory of Older Adults?(WebMD, Nov. 16, 2012)

And here: Air pollution in towns and cities ‘ages brains of over-50s by three years’(MailOnline, Nov. 16, 2012)

And here: Exposure to particulate air pollution and cognitive decline in older women(Abstract, Weuve J, Puett RC, Schwartz J, Yanosky JD, Laden F, Grodstein F. , Arch Intern Med, Feb. 13, 2012) urban air pollution

 Today’s feature review article takes a new look at the impact of air pollution on how well people over 50 think after analyzing tests assessing word recall, knowledge, language, and orientation. The results indicate that an increase of 10 micrograms/cubic meter of fine particulate matter (roughly the difference between living in a typical built-up cities to living in rural areas) translates into an additional aging of 3 years. This comes in addition to the other well documented effects of air pollution on health which shorten life expectancy (by 7-8 months in the UK for example). This prompts one to consider if the rise in dementia and Alzheimer’s might also be associated this in urban areas, along with the large increase in the population of seniors in many countries.  

Key Quotes:

“Air pollution has been linked to increased cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and even premature death, in older populations, and there is emerging evidence that exposure to particulate air pollution may have adverse effects on brain health and functioning as well.”

 “Fine air particulate matter exposures ranged from 4.1 to 20.7 micrograms per cubic meter, and every ten point increase was associated with a 0.36 point drop in cognitive function score. In comparison, this effect was roughly equal to that of aging three years”

“those living in areas with high levels of fine air particulate matter scored poorer on the cognitive function tests. The association even remained after accounting for several factors, including age, race/ethnicity, education, smoking behavior, and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions”

 “Long-term exposure to PM(2.5-10) and PM(2.5) at levels typically experienced by many individuals in the United States is associated with significantly worse cognitive decline in older women.. the effect of a 10-μg/m(3) increment in long-term PM exposure is cognitively equivalent to aging by approximately 2 years.”
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is it Time for Traffic Lights at Intersections to Go?

Traffic lights giving way to roundabouts(The Local, Mar. 11, 2011)

Also discussed here: The long wait at the many unnecessary traffic lights in Germany may soon be over(World Streets, Nov. 15, 2012)

And here: Roundabouts & Emissions- Monmouth County, New Jersey(16 slide PowerPoint)

And here: Modern Roundabouts, Global Warming, and Emissions Reductions: Status of Research, and Opportunities for North America (16 page Word document, Tony Redington, New Hampshire Office of Environmental Protection)

And here: Comparing costs of roundabouts and traffic signals(travis baker, Road Warrior, Sep. 25, 2012)

And here: Roundabouts - Frequently asked questions (FAQs)(Wisconsin Department of Transportation)

More and more evidence shows that when an intersection with traffic signals is replaced with a modern roundabout, vehicle emissions drop and safety for both pedestrians and those in vehicles increase significantly. Today we review news from Germany that a country-wide switch is being considered along with some modeling assessments from Vermont in the USA that indicate that roundabouts could play a critical and inexpensive role in meeting greenhouse gas targets (assuming that the national government ever adopt stringent ones). On sheer economics, there is no contest. Roundabouts have an initial installation cost less than that for traffic lights (roughly $250 K) and an ongoing operational cost that is almost negligible (the cost of electricity alone is approximately $1,000/year for traffic lights at each intersection).

 Key Quotes:

  “traffic lights provide a false illusion of safety, pointing to the dangers of impatient drivers and children who cross the street despite there being a red light”

“Today, an estimated 100,000 intersections in Germany are controlled by traffic lights. But the trend toward roundabouts is undeniable…Between 30 and 50 percent of the traffic lights could be replaced”

“Cologne…has replaced 200 traffic lights with roundabouts and zebra stripes in the past several years, a move which could save the city almost €4 million in energy and maintenance costs..A further 90 traffic light eliminations are still expected”

 “[in Vermont, USA] hypothetical installation of roundabouts in place of signals at 100 busy intersections.. would decrease total annual motor fuel use by approximately 8% of 1997 statewide consumption.. “

 “The immediate GHG reduction from the replacement of 25 traffic signals at busy intersections to roundabouts would represent about 24% GHGs reduction necessary for Burlington to return to 10% below the 1990 generation levels by 2005”

 “roundabouts typically achieve:
  • A 37 percent reduction in overall collisions
  • A 75 percent reduction in injury collisions
  • A 90 percent reduction in fatality collisions
  • A 40 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions”
“Anything but a roundabout generates serious injuries at a 900% greater rate (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety study of US roundies 2001). A fatality occurs once a year per 135 signals, about six die at signals today while the French roundabout rate (over 30,000 roundabouts there) would drop that would drop that to about one....Plus roundabouts do everything else better–less delay for all users, less energy use, less pollution, sharply increased walker safety, and less scenic blight, etc. (Tony Redington, Blog: Dec. 23,2011)
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Building Resilience into Cities for Natural Disasters

Discussed here: Planning for Disaster (Cities Matter, Nov. 14, 2012) 

And here:Urban environmental challenges and climate change action in New York City(Abstract, William Solecki, Environment and Urbanization. Oct 2012) 

And here: On Sandy and Humanity’s ‘Blah, Blah, Blah Bang’ Disaster Plans(Andrew C. Revkin, Dot Earth, New Yrok Times, Oct. 31, 2012) 

Reduction of flood and associated extreme weat... 

Today we review a paper that looks at lessons learned from recent disasters in New York City (storm surge) and Wellington, New Zealand (earthquake) where each city suffered because of damage to their urban infrastructures and exceeding the limits that had been built into them. Although controversial among urban planners, the conclusion drawn is both to upgrade building codes to meet the greater range of possibilities being brought by climate change and to decentralize as much as possible to create more independent and self-sufficient communities rather than a centralized core vulnerable to disruption. Urban intensification can reduce sprawl and costs of services, particularly public transit and emergency services. However, there needs to be consideration given as well to the degree of vulnerability to infrastructural failure that this could entail. This is true not only for the more severe and more frequent impacts that come with climate change but also to meet the challenges of the variability of today’s climate.  

Key Quotes: 

“Climate change presents cities with significant challenges such as adaptation to dynamic climate risks and protection of critical infrastructure systems and residents’ livelihoods”

 “Even as a mature, mega-city in a developed country, lessons from the New York City experience can be transferred to a variety of other urban contexts” 

 “much of the disaster that unfolded as it came ashore was the result of human actions and decisions — ranging from where we’ve chosen to build or subsidize development to how seriously our governments take the need to build with the worst in mind”

 “Authorities in New York and New Jersey simply allowed heavy development of at-risk coastal areas to continue largely unabated in recent decades, even as the potential for a massive storm surge in the region became increasingly clear” “Economic and community costs are driven in large part by failures in critical infrastructure, particularly the supply of water, sanitation services, electricity, gas, roads and public transport.”

 “Among planning responses is the push for more rigorous building codes, although given the built-up nature of the city these will only have a marginal effect and will reduce the impact of extreme events only over the long term…The New Zealand response following the Canterbury quake has been for councils to identify buildings of insufficient structural integrity to withstand a significant earthquake and require them to be strengthened or abandoned” 

“A penchant among planners and politicians for centralised, high density, water-edge development focuses expansion (and public and private capital) in places where critical infrastructure converges and where, because of its age, infrastructure is usually most vulnerable, where network capacities are already strained, and outages or congestion are not uncommon. It concentrates risk in areas that, because of their waterside location, are almost inevitably hazardous, often on or beneath ground that is naturally unstable or prone to liquefaction.”

 “It is time develop plans that limit the capacity for extreme events to turn into disasters, and to consider a future built around decentralised urbanism, distributed infrastructure, and resilient communities.
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Friday, November 23, 2012

What is Important for Getting People out of their Cars?

USEmobility Survey of Users who have changed their Mobility-Mix (12 page pdf, USEmobility, Nov. 6, 2012)
Also discussed here: Half of travellers are willing to change(Allianz pro Schiene Nov. 6, 2012)
And here: (4.5 min video, USEmobility, Jan. 2, 2012)

And here: When it comes to choosing their means of transport . . .(World Streets, Nov. 13, 2012)

Today we review a report that surveyed 5 European countries to find out who makes the switch from one mode of travel to another. Surprisingly, the home of European car manufacturers and fast roads, Germany, was at the top in terms of people who have recently changed their choices or are willing to. This was not driven by such factors as travel comfort, cleanliness and, most of all, reliability or punctuality (not that these are unimportant) but rather by such things as reachability of bus stops, costs and how long a journey takes. Also that sector of the population that is growing fastest in Europe as well as in North America, our seniors, show more flexibility in choosing between their car or public transit to make trips.  

Key Quotes:

 “Almost 50 percent of those surveyed in six European countries say that they have changed their own mobility mix in the last few years"

"We now know that half of all travellers are not simply committed to using their cars or public transport for ever more.. We also know which factors play a role when people switch from the car to public transport and vice versa"

"The so-called swing-users..are increasingly using multiple modes for their journeys, with two thirds of travellers choosing a mix of different modes for their daily journeys, whereas one third changed to one single transport mode… already half of all people belong to the group of swing users”

 “Older people often own a car but nevertheless show greater flexibility when deciding for or against public transport, depending on the situation."

“the cause for shifts in the mobility-mix is characterised by changes in users' personal and private circumstances. Over half of participants stated that personal reasons were the motivation for their reorientation. Such changes in life circumstances relevant to the choice of transport mode do happen frequently. On average, almost three such relevant changes occurred within the last five years”
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monitoring and Mapping Roadside Emissions in London

Air Pollution Monitoring and Mining Based on Sensor Grid in London (23 page pdf, Yajie Ma, Mark Richards, Moustafa Ghanem, Yike Guo and John Hassard, Sensors, Jun1. 2008)

Also discussed here: (8.5 min video, Institute of Physics, Imperial College London, Mar. 16, 2012)

And here: A Wireless Sensor Network Air Pollution Monitoring System - arXiv (Kavi K. Khedo, Rajiv Perseedoss and Avinash Mungur, International Journal of Wireless & Mobile Networks, May 2010)

Today we review research from London, UK, aimed at monitoring vehicle emissions using a relatively low cost approach that makes use of the spectral discrimination of absorption of UV wavelength by various pollutants to estimate roadside pollution levels. This type of instrument (named “GUSTO”) may be combined in a network to produce pollution maps that show how and where high and low levels are produced during the day- and how these in turn may affect health of vulnerable populations such as at schools.  

Key Quotes:

 Road traffic makes a significant contribution to the following emissions of pollutants: benzene(C6H6), 1,3~butadiene, carbon monoxide(CO), lead, nitrogen dioxide(NO2), Ozone(O3), particulate matter(PM10 and PM2.5) and sulphur dioxide(SO2)”  

we present a distributed infrastructure based on wireless sensors network and Grid computing technology for air pollution monitoring and mining, which aims to develop low-cost and ubiquitous sensor networks to collect real-time, large scale and comprehensive environmental data from road traffic emissions for air pollution monitoring in urban environment.”

 a hierarchical network architecture formed by the mobile sensors and stationary sensors is designed, which makes full use of the roadside devices to fix the stationary sensors as well as the public vehicles to carry the mobile sensors; a ultra violet sensor unit GUSTO which can realize up to 1Hz data collection frequency with high accuracy and low unit cost; a sensor grid framework to provide the processing, integrating, and analyzing heterogeneous sensor data in both centralized and distributed ways”

“GUSTO is an acronym for Generic Ultraviolet Sensors Technologies and Observations based on open-path DUVASTM (Differential= Ultraviolet Absorption Spectroscopy) technology and measures and transmits the volume mixing ratios (at ppb levels) of key urban pollutants in real-time.”

 the GUSTO sensor technology itself that measures pollutants accurately at pbb (part per billion levels) at very short intervals (~2 seconds).”

 at 9am, the Red cloud that covers the main roads and the area around the main roads is characterized by high volumes of NO and SO2…At 15:30 in the afternoon, the Blue clouds cover the school areas, which are in high volumes of NO2 and O3 with low volume of NO. While Yellow cloud featured by high volume of SO2 covers the factory area…At 17:00 in the afternoon, it seems to be the worst pollution distribution time within a day. Besides the transport emission around the roads and the factory emission, some other locations such as the hospitals contribute some kind of pollutants, including the sulphide and nitride.”  

provided an overview of the urban air pollution analysis within MoDisNet project, describing the network framework, the GUSTO sensor technology, the mobile sensor grid architecture and the distributed data mining algorithm.” And here:
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