Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why Does Canada’s Largest City Not Meet National Air Quality Standards?

The impacts of precursor reduction and meteorology on ground-level ozone in the Greater Toronto Area (11 page pdf, S. C. Pugliese, J. G. Murphy, J. A. Geddes, J. M. Wang, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Aug. 22, 2014)

Also discussed here: Despite significant reduction in smog-producing toxins, the Greater Toronto Area still violates Canada's standards for ozone air pollution (Kim Luke, Science Daily, Aug. 22, 2014)

Today we review recent measurements of pollutants included in the Canada Wide Air Quality Standards as they apply to the City of Toronto which has the largest population (of people as well as pollution emitting vehicles) and urban area of all cities in Canada. Resultrs indicate that despite a reduction in emissions of NO2 and PM2.5 of 27 to 50% over the last 4 years, Ozone (O3) exceeded the standards in 2012 at all eight monitoring stations. The authors speculate that this was due to the meteorology of that year which showed a large number of sunny days and light winds which contributed to the production of O3 (from NO2 emissions 63% of which come from from vehicles and O2). They also recommend that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) 
  be included in the standards.

 ozone days-toronto 

Key Quotes:

“While the Greater Toronto Area has significantly reduced some of the toxins that contribute to smog, the city continues to violate the Canada-wide standards for ozone air pollution”

“since 2000, all sites experienced a decrease in NO2 of 28–62% and in measured VOC reactivity of at least 53–71 %....The city’s NOx emissions are dominated by the transportation sector (63 %), with diesel trucks accounting for a disproportionately large percentage (36 %)”

“These reductions are in line with the city's 2007 commitment to reducing smog precursors, and can be attributed to the implementation of pollution control measures like the Drive Clean program, and the closure of coal-fired power plants in the region”

“it was found that the Canada-wide Standard for ozone continues to be exceeded at all monitoring stations.”

“In Toronto, ground-level ozone is responsible for 13–29% of the incidences of premature mortality and hospitalizations associated with air pollution (with PM2.5 and NO2 being responsible for the remainder)”

"We are able to show that high ozone in 2012 was due to the relatively high number of sunny days that allowed ozone to be produced quickly, and low winds, that allowed the pollution to accumulate locally,"

“The importance of including OVOCs in O3 production analyses has been demonstrated, as short-term measurements indicate that they account for a significant fraction of OH reactivity”

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What are the Health Impacts for People Living Near Biodegradable Waste Sites?

Respiratory and sensory irritation symptoms among residents exposed to low-to-moderate air pollution from biodegradable wastes (Abstract, Victoria Blanes-Vidal, Jesper Bælum, Joel Schwartz, Per Løfstrøm and Lars P Christensen, Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, Aug. 21, 2014)

Also discussed here: Respiratory, Sensory and General Health Symptoms among Populations Exposed to Air Pollution from Biodegradable Wastes (1 page pdf, Victoria Blanes-Vidal, Jesper Bælum, Joel Schwartz, Esmaeil S. Nadimi, Per Løfstrøm, Lars P. Christensen, Poster Paper, International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, Aug. 21, 2014)

Today we review research from Denmark which examined the direct and indirect impacts for people in residences near biodegradable waste sites. Results indicate increased frequency of respiratory and sensory irritation symptoms directly related to dose and exposure.

  bio waste  

Key Quotes:

 “A large number of potentially hazardous pollutants are emitted during handling, storage, treatment and disposal of agricultural, animal and municipal biodegradable wastes”

“Environmental exposures play an important role in the genesis of respiratory, sensory and general health symptoms among residents exposed to low-to-moderate air pollution from biodegradable wastes”

 “In some cases, the health effects of air pollution seem to be indirect, relayed through stress-related mechanisms. However, we found evidence of direct effects for some of the symptoms as well”

“Residential NH3 exposure was associated with increased frequency of four symptoms, including “eyes itching, dryness or irritation” and “cough”.. Odor annoyance mediated the effect of exposure on cough and three sensory irritation symptoms.”

“Significant associations were also found between individual NH3 exposures and ‘‘chest wheezing or whistling’’ and ‘‘runny nose’’”

“This study provides support for the existence of indirect associations between residential exposures to low-to-moderate air pollution from wastes and symptoms, as well as direct dose-response associations for some of the symptoms.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sharpening the Spatial Resolution of Exposure to Particulate Matter

Spatio-temporal modeling of particulate air pollution in the conterminous United States using geographic and meteorological predictors (34 page pdf, Jeff D Yanosky, Christopher J Paciorek, Francine Laden, Jaime E Hart, Robin C Puett, Duanping Liao and Helen H Suh, Environmental Health, Aug. 5, 2014)

Today we review a paper describing how a statistical model can be used to provide the necessary spatial detail on the exposure to particulate matter. Knowing this is especially important near major roads in urban areas where there is a high volume of diesel powered vehicles which emit PM2.5 and where the distance from the emission sources to where people live or work is critical. The authors show examples of the mapping for cities such as New York as well as across the USA.

 high resolution PM in NYC 

Key Quotes:

 “epidemiologic studies of the chronic health effects of PM air pollution have used crude methods to assess particulate exposures, estimating subject’s chronic exposure either by imputing ambient concentrations from the nearest monitor or by using area-wide averages [2], thus ignoring within-city spatial gradients in air pollutant levels and restricting these studies to areas with nearby monitoring data. “

 “Our models provide estimates of monthly-average outdoor concentrations of PM2.5, PM10, and PM2.5–10 with high spatial resolution and low bias. For PM2.5 and PM10, the models performed well in urban and rural areas and across seasons”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What is E-Waste and What Health Risks does it Bring?

E-Waste: Health Impacts in Developing Countries (EHS Journal, Jul. 19, 2014)

Today we review a paper that describes the size and health threat of the annual disposal of 40M tones of e-waste, nearly 50% of which comes from EU and USA/Canada, with most of the disposal and processing taking place in Asian countries such as India, China and Pakistan. E-waste is considered more dangerous than most other municipal waste because of the harmful metals that when incinerated produce high health risk dioxins and furans. Government and public health regulations are called for in the manufacturing and recycling of electronic devices, as well as in the safe handling of the waste management.


Key Quotes:

“E-Waste is the term used to describe old or discarded electronics and appliances, for example, cathode ray tube (CRT) tele­visions and computer monitors, desktop computers, laptop computers, liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors, cell phones, keyboards, computer mice, print­ers, and copiers”

“the burning of E-Waste to recover precious metals releases organic compounds and, potentially, dioxins and furans. Arsenic and asbestos may act as catalysts during burning, increasing the formation of dioxins, which are carcinogenic in nature.”

 “Approximately 40 million metric tons of E-Waste are produced globally every year, with developed economies such as the European Union and the United States accounting for 22.5% and 24%, respectively (UNEP 2009). Nearly 13% of the world’s E-Waste is managed and recycled by developing countries”

“Informal recycling markets established in China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, and the Philippines handle from 50% to 80% of the E-Waste managed by the developing countries”

 “E-Waste is more hazardous than many other municipal wastes because electronic gadgets can contain thousands of components made of potentially harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, beryllium, antimony, polyvinyl chlorides (PVC), brominated flame retardants, and phthalates. Long term exposure to these compounds affects the nervous system, kidneys, bones, and reproductive and endocrine systems.”

 “Both developed and developing countries share joint responsibility in regu­lating electronic device manufacturing and E-Waste trans-boundary movement. In countries where primitive recycling processes exist, human health — especially children’s health — should drive regulation and management of recycling activities.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Does Pollution from afar have a greater Health Impact than locally produced Traffic-Related Pollution?

English: Smokestacks from a wartime production...
The effect of secondary inorganic aerosols, soot and the geographical origin of air mass on acute myocardial infarction hospitalisations in Gothenburg, Sweden during 1985-2010: a case-crossover study (29 page pdf, Janine Wichmann, Karin Sjöberg, Lin Tang, Marie Haeger-Eugensson, Annika Rosengren, Eva M Andersson, Lars Barregard and Gerd Sallsten, Environmental Health, Jul. 29, 2014) 

Key Quotes: 

 “Acute myocardial infarction (AMI) is the most important manifestation of ischemic heart disease. The major risk factors for CVD [cardio-vascular disease] are age, sex, smoking, low physical activity, increased waist circumference, diabetes and hypertension …Evidence is increasing on the effects of nontraditional risk factors, such as air pollution and weather (e.g. temperature) on CVD mortality and morbidity, specifically as short-term risk factors” 

“The REVIHAAP report concluded that there is currently no threshold level (i.e. no safe level) for PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground-level ozone (O3) and that the concentration-response functions are mostly linear” 

“Locally generated PM (PMrest) is associated with an increase in AMI hospitalisations during 1990–2000 in the cold period, whilst days with limited local dispersion within Gothenburg were important during 2001–2010, also in the cold period. Altogether this indicates the significance of local emissions from e.g. traffic within Gothenburg.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What Determines Maximum Car Use Levels in Different Countries?

The Future of Driving In Developing Countries (138 page pdf, Liisa Ecola, Charlene Rohr, Johanna Zmud, Tobias Kuhnimhof, Peter Phleps, RAND Corporation's Institute for Mobility Research, Jul. 2014)

Also discussed here: New Study Predicts Vehicle Travel Saturation Levels (Planetizen, Jul. 27, 2014)

Today we review a RAND report that examines and predicts car use in developed (Germany, Australia, Japan) and developing countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), using eight factors that contribute to car use (demographics, income, geography, fuel price, alternatives, vehicle infrastructure and degree of car culture). Results indicate the most significant predictors of car use are car infrastructure and spatial dispersion leading to sprawl, not as one might expect, fuel price, availability of public transit or income, noting that Japan with the same income has ¼ the car use of the USA. The question is whether large industrial countries just beginning to embrace car use, such as China, will follow the USA or Japan (the authors predict the latter). Interestingly, in response to climate change concerns, the authors note that public policies aimed at reducing carbon fuel use and new technologies may well alter predictions made with the assumptions made with this model.
  car saturation 

Key Quotes:

“The report …identifies various factors that affect motor vehicle ownership and use, including demographics (the portion of residents who work), incomes (which is the primary factor considered in previous studies), geography (density and travel distances), vehicle infrastructure (road and parking facility quality and price), fuel price, vehicle ownership policies (such as vehicle taxes and registration fees), quality of alternatives to driving, domestic oil and vehicle production industries political influence, and the favorability of car culture (whether popular culture and consumer attitudes favor automobile travel over other modes)”

 “although motor vehicle ownership and use tend to increase as incomes increase from very low to moderate, at high incomes they tend to saturate, and the level of saturation depends significantly on public policies… at the same average level of income, people in Japan travel about one-third the number of kilometers (per capita) that people in the United States do.. 4,000 annual kilometers in Japan, 7,000 annual kilometers in Germany, 10,000 annual kilometers in Australia, and 15,000 kilometers in the United States.”

“one country might move quickly into personal vehicle ownership and thus higher rates of driving when rising income levels make vehicles affordable to a large number of households. Another country might experience more gradual growth in travel by personal vehicle over many decades. A third country might be slower to adopt personal vehicle ownership because existing travel modes already meet mobility needs or because policies limit vehicle purchases or vehicular travel.”

“Lack of Alternatives to Driving.. Australia’s largest cities are served by rail systems, including the world’s largest streetcar network, in Melbourne…Fifteen percent of Australians report having no access to transit, while 33 percent have “easily available” access. Germany has a large supply of public transport infrastructure, including rail lines dating back to the early 1900s.. In the late 1960s, the West German government instituted a fuel tax, in part to fund larger public transport projects…alternatives to driving in the United States varies not only by city but also within urbanized areas. Essentially all cities, even small ones, operate bus systems, but many of these systems provide very limited services and function as social services provided to elderly, disabled, or low-income patrons. Most large and medium-sized cities have rail systems but, in large portions of those urbanized areas, service is infrequent or nonexistent.”

“The presence of oil is considered an indirect factor, in that the government of a country with plentiful oil may encourage consumption to help a major industry (as in the United States). It may also encourage a country with little or no domestic production to promote energy-efficient transportation modes (as in Germany or Japan).”

“Among the nine factors identified as influencing mobility in developed countries, two factors—car infrastructure and spatial dispersion—were identified as most significant. Lower average urban densities stimulate greater auto use, a relationship we see clearly in the much higher motorization rates of Australia and the United States during their motorization periods.”

“the need to control GHG emissions or seismic changes in travel patterns as a result of new technologies, may become more important than the factors we have considered here”