Thursday, October 30, 2014

How Does Air Pollution Impact the Health of Children?

A sketch displaying the efflux transports at t...
A sketch displaying the efflux transports at the blood-brain barrier. Inspired by a sketch from S. Ohtsuki: New aspects of the blood-brain barrier transporters; its physiological roles in the central nervous system. In: Biol Pharm Bull. 27, 2004, pp. 1489-1496. PMID 15467183 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Air Pollution and Children: Neural and Tight Junction Antibodies and Combustion Metals, the Role of Barrier Breakdown and Brain Immunity in Neurodegeneration (Abstract, Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, Aristo Vojdani, Eleonore Blaurock-Busch, Yvette Busch, Albrecht Friedle, Maricela Franco-Lira, Partha Sarathi-Mukherjee, Su-Bin Park, Ricardo Torres-Jardón, Amedeo D'Angiulli, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Aug. 2014)   

Also discussed here: Air pollution harmful to young brains, study finds (ScienceDaily, 10 Sep. 10, 2014)   And here: Air Pollution Invades Kids' Brain Barriers, May Cause Neurological Diseases (Anthony Rivas, Medical Daily, Sep. 10, 2014   

Today we review research that found that fine particulate air pollutants (typical in exhausts of diesel buses and trucks) can penetrate barriers in the lungs, intestines and brain that, in turn, can affect children’s health and lead to long term permanent damage, including the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease or multiple sclerosis.    

Key Quotes: 

“The study found when air particulate matter and their components such as metals are inhaled or swallowed, they pass through damaged barriers, including respiratory, gastrointestinal and the blood-brain barriers and can result in long-lasting harmful effects.”   

"We asked why a clinically healthy kid is making autoantibodies against their own brain components….That is indicative of damage to barriers that keep antigens and neurotoxins away from the brain. Brain autoantibodies are one of the features in the brains of people who have neuroinflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis."  

 "The barriers are there for a reason…They are there to protect you, but once they are broken the expected results are not good."   

“Air pollution exposure damages epithelial and endothelial barriers and is a robust trigger of tight junction and neural antibodies.”   

 “The major factor determining the impact of neural antibodies is the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. Defining the air pollution linkage of the brain/immune system interactions and damage to physical and immunological barriers with short and long term neural detrimental effects to children's brains ought to be of pressing importance for public health.”  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Get Out of Your Car? - Some Good Reasons

Behind the Wheel: Opportunities for Canadians to drive less, reduce pollution and save money (42 page pdf, Cherise Burda, Katie Laufenberg, Alison Bailie and Graham Haines, Pembina Institute, Oct. 2012)

Today we review a report prepared by the well-respected Pembina Institute which detailed many good ways to both reduce emissions from driving and save money. If all of their suggestions were acted on, the emissions from Canada’s transportation sector would be reduced by 16 million tonnes each year which is equivalent to taking 3.5 million cars off the road.

 ghg for transportation  

Key Quotes:

“Canadians drive over 300 billion kilometres in their cars, trucks and motorcycles, with the average Canadian household driving around 26,460 kilometres per year….consume over 36 billion litres of fuel a year, which equals about 243 million barrels of oil a year”

“car crashes and air pollution from cars cost American society between $535 and $4,214 per person per year”

"riding transit to and from work just one day a week can reduce personal transportation emissions by about 1 to 4%, reduce gas consumption by over 91 litres and save $215 in auto-related costs (gas, maintenance and depreciation) per year.”

“The average Canadian commuter spends about an hour on their round trip to and from work… Telecommuting two to three times a week could reduce costs of driving (based on an average sized car) by roughly $480 per year….between 41% and 47% of jobs [in Canada] are compatible with working at home.”

“drivers using the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane along Highway 404 reduced their travel time on the highway from 26 minutes to nine minutes”

“Moving to a location that allows you to eliminate one household vehicle provides savings equivalent to $200,000 on a 25-year mortgage….living in a city or neighbourhood that has location-efficient attributes (walkable, mixed use and access to transit) can reduce your auto dependence by about 20%. … moving close enough to work to get rid of the car entirely can save roughly $10,000 per year.”

“An average Canadian would spend only $38 per month to fuel up an electric vehicle, compared to $128 per month for a mid-sized gasoline powered car” Conclusions:
• If 50% of Canada’s driving commuters took action to leave the car at home, the combined annual greenhouse gas savings would be in the order of 4 million tonnes …
• If 50% of all Canadian drivers switched to a smaller, more fuel-efficient or electric vehicle, combined greenhouse gas reductions could reach 9 million tones….
• If 50% of all Canadian drivers drove smarter, it could be possible to reduce our emissions by 4 million tonnes ….
• If 50% of Canadian drivers took all these actions our savings could be in the order of 16 million tonnes CO2e. That’s equivalent to taking 3.5 million cars — almost one out of five — off Canada’s roads.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Which Approach to Urban Development reduces Air Pollution the most - Intensification or Greenspace?

Effects of Compact Urban Development on Air Pollution: Empirical Evidence from Korea (15 page pdf, Hee-Sun Cho and Mack Joong Choi, Sustainability, Sep. 5, 2014)

 Today we review research aimed at finding out whether a concentration of the urban population in a city core and reducing the need for traffic emissions is the better option for improved air quality than developing urban areas with lots of greenspaces which offer a way of diluting the air pollution concentration across the urban area. The examination including looking at five major air pollutant measurements in 17 cities in Korea, as well as assessing dilution using air quality dispersion modeling. Results are inconclusive in terms of these two options. More important to improved overall air quality is finding ways to reduce individual emission  sources.

 urban development- korea  

Key Quotes:

 “urban sprawl …leads to loss of green open spaces and an increase in traffic and energy consumption…the compact city concept has been put forward as a form of sustainable urban development. Air pollution is one of the key environmental problems associated with urbanization.”

 “Compact urban development would likely have both positive and negative effects on air quality:
  • "high-density development can result in reduced car dependency, reduced energy consumption, and low emissions via a decrease in distance traveled
  • Higher densities lead to traffic congestion and greater air pollution …Large cities pollute more and generate more environmental damage than medium-sized ones
  • Atmospheric dispersion and dilution of air pollutants are strongly influenced by meteorological conditions and topographical features, and urban structures have a great effect on meteorological parameters such as wind direction, wind speed, turbulence, and atmospheric stability”
“NO2 and CO increased as the net population density increased, implying that compact urban development can result in greater spatial concentration of pollutants. On the other hand, SO2 and CO decreased as the proportion of green areas increased, implying that green areas secured by compact development can promote the dispersion of pollutants and thereby mitigate air pollution…urban compactness did not have a significant effect on PM10 and O3.”

“compact urban development does contribute to a rising proportion of green areas, then such a development is helpful in mitigating air pollution.”

 “there is a need to differentiate in regard to whether emission sources are concentrated at the local or regional level and to develop an integrated management system that minimizes local to citywide emissions and thus regulates total urban emissions.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Does New York City’s PlaNYC 2030 Adequately Address Climate Change Issues?

Official seal of New York City
Official seal of New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today we review a critique of New York’s much heralded action plan, published in 2005, to address the challenges facing that city from climate change. Using eight evaluating“concepts”, the author praises the city’s approach to physical aspects such as land, water and air and to a lesser extent, the proposed use of renewable energy, but criticizes the lack of public participation in the development and execution of the plan, especially at the local community level in an extremely multi-community and multi-ethnic urban area. 

Key Quotes:

  • Utopian Vision- a plan’s visionary and utopian aspects regarding future urban life and the city’s potential role in climate change mitigation.
  • Equity - used to evaluate a plan’s social aspects, including: environmental justice; public participation; and methods of addressing each community’s vulnerability to climate change
  • Uncertainty Management - actions taken to reduce and/or prevent risky events; …or actions taken to recover losses after a risky event
  • Natural Capital - the consumption and…the renewal of natural assets that are used for development, such as land, water, air, and open spaces.
  • Integrative Approach - the integrative framework for city planning and adaptive management under conditions of uncertainty, and the spectrum of collaboration that a plan proposes
  • Ecological Energy - how a plan addresses the energy sector and whether it proposes strategies to reduce energy consumption and to use new, alternative, and clean energy sources.
  • Ecological Economics - Cities that are committed to climate change mitigation and sustainability should stimulate markets for “green” products and services, promote environmentally friendly consumption, and contribute to urban economic development by creating a cleaner environment
  • Eco-Form - evaluates spatial planning, architecture, design, and the ecologically-desired form of the city and its components
“New York City already faces the probability of a “hundred year flood” once every 80 years. This could increase to once every 43 years by the 2020s and to once every 19 years by the 2050s”

“Climate change poses particular threats to the city’s infrastructure, in the form of: Increased summertime strain on materials; increased peak electricity loads in summer and reduced heating in winter; voltage fluctuations, equipment damage and service interruptions; increased demands on HVAC systems; transportation service disruption; increased street, basement and sewer flooding; reduction of water quality; inundation of low-lying areas and wetlands; increased structural damage and impaired operations; and increased need for emergency management procedures”

PlaNYC :
• suggests no mechanism or procedure for facilitating citizen participation in the planning process, and makes no mention of public participation in the City’s communities and neighborhoods.
• is a top-down bureaucratic initiative with little community involvement and “buy-in” and is not well integrated with the rest of city policy making
• does not address the climate change vulnerability matrix, i.e., how climate change could affect each neighborhood, with an emphasis on the specific environmental risks that exist in each neighborhood and that each neighborhood is likely to face in the future.
• PlaNYC does not effectively address issues of equity, such as social justice, diversity, race, and economic segregation. It also fails to address the issues facing vulnerable communities due to climate change.”

 “when planning for climate change, planners must not overlook any one of the eight concepts of assessment. The framework is not a mere collection of unrelated concepts. Rather, they are interconnected, with each concept playing a specific role in the evaluation and influencing the others.”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Was the Club of Rome Correct in Warning of a Global Collapse of Resources and Population?

Is Global Collapse Imminent? An Updated Comparison of The Limits to Growth with Historical Data (22 page pdf, Graham M. Turner, Melbourne Sustainable Society Insti¬tute, Aug. 2014)

Also discussed here: Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse (Graham Turner and Cathy Alexander , theguardian, Sep.2, 2014)

Today we review a study from Australia that compares the business as usual scenario to 2100 presented by the Club of Rome in its Limits to Growth book to the observed trends in population, resource depletion and pollution for the last 40 years. Results indicate a very close match and leads to a fear that the collapse that was indicated in the BAU scenario around 2030 may still take place, given the reluctance of many of the world’s largest resource consumers and polluters (China, USA, Russia, Brazil, Canada, etc) to replace carbon fuel with alternative fuels. Added to that is the very real concern that the transition to renewable energy, along with decreased population rates recommended by the Club of Rome may not be possible before the impending collapse.

 club rome BAU scenarioclob of rome env BAU

Key Quotes: 

“As Limits to Growth concluded in 1972: If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.”

“The dotted line shows the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario out to 2100. Up to 2010, the data is strikingly similar to the book’s forecasts…Resources are being used up at a rapid rate, pollution is rising, industrial output and food per capita is rising. The population is rising quickly.”

“As pollution mounts and industrial input into agriculture falls, food production per capita falls. Health and education services are cut back, and that combines to bring about a rise in the death rate from about 2020. Global population begins to fall from about 2030, by about half a billion people per decade. Living conditions fall to levels similar to the early 1900s.”

“Global pollution measured by CO2 concentration is most consistent with the BAU scenario…but this ten year data update indicates that it is rising at a somewhat slower rate than that mod¬elled.”

Peak oil could be the catalyst for global collapse. Some see new fossil fuel sources like shale oil, tar sands and coal seam gas as saviours, but the issue is how fast these resources can be extracted, for how long, and at what cost.”

“Regardless of what role oil constraints and price increases played in the current GFC[Global Financial Crisis in 2008], a final con¬sideration is whether there is scope of a successful transition to alternative transport fuel(s) and renewable energy more generally. …To transition requires introducing a new transport fuel to compensate for possible oil production depletion rates of four per cent (or higher) while also satisfying any additional demand associated with economic growth. It is unclear that these various conditions required for a transition are possible.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How Does Air Pollution Affect the Health of the Elderly?

Time after Time: Environmental Influences on the Aging Brain (Elizabeth Grossman, Environmental Health Perspectives, Sep. 2, 2014)

Today we review a paper that analyses the impacts of exposure to outdoor air pollution as it relates to the health of the elderly portion of the population - those over 80 are projected to quadruple since 2000. While exercise and intellectual stimuli can keep the brain healthy and may reduce the onset of Alzheimers, exposure to lead or organic pollutants may decrease the defensive mechanisms and increase vascular problems.

 oldage pollution

Key Quotes: 

“the population of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to double between 2010 and 2050, and by midcentury the proportion of the human population made up of people over age 80 is projected to have quadrupled since 2000”

“the brain is capable of generating new neurons and other functional brain cells even during advanced age. There is also evidence that the older brain can respond quickly and positively to external influences such as physical exercise and intellectual stimulation …converging evidence suggests exercise benefits brain function and cognition across the mammalian lifespan, which may translate into reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease in humans.”

"The two most vulnerable periods for the brain…are early in life, when the organ is first developing, and later in life, when the body’s defenses and compensatory mechanisms begin to falter”

“declining defense mechanisms may magnify vulnerability to contemporary environmental exposures”“lead that has accumulated in bones can be mobilized over time as part of the aging process, resulting in exposures that adversely affect adults’ cognitive skills later in life”

“exposure to persistent organic pollutants including dioxins and certain polychlorinated biphenyls, halogenated flame retardants, and pesticides can produce hormonally mediated effects that promote obesity and diabetes, which increase risk for vascular health problems”

“Chemical exposures can produce health effects that set the stage for neurological disease and disorders, while physical and intellectual exercise foster brain flexibility and a healthy cognitive reserve”

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Are LRTs and Subways becoming Obsolete?

English: A Tesla Roadster, Reva i and Ford Th!...
English: A Tesla Roadster, Reva i and Ford Th!nk electric cars parked at a free parking and charging station near Akershus fortress in Oslo, Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By 2040, We Won't Need Subways (Candice Malcolm, Huffington Post Blog from Toronto Sun, Aug. 25, 2014)

Today we review a forward looking article which predicts that subways and Light Train Transit systems will be a fossil of the past when the technological revolution taking place in today and tomorrow’s cities replace them with driverless electric cars which are already a reality in some places. This outlook is not new to anyone who follows developments in urban mobility and makes one wonder about the wisdom of the Mayors in some cities, such as Toronto and Ottawa, where billions of dollars are projected and planned to buy obsolete forms of transportation that will not likely come close to meeting future demands. 

Key Quotes:

“Premier Kathleen Wynne's solution to the transportation infrastructure problem is to spend a whopping $50 billion of taxpayer money over the next 25 years to build an expansive rail network. By 2040, Toronto may finally have the subways that other cities built nearly 200 years earlier”

“examples of ideas and companies that will change transportation as we know it:
  • Ride-sharing…Lyft, the next generation ride-sharing app, has its own drivers and offers rides for a fraction of the price of taxis.
  • Autonomous, or self-driving cars…These cars, now legal in four U.S. states, have logged over a million kilometres on California roads without causing an accident
  • Electric cars…electric cars are greener and cleaner than building new subways, but will require plenty of infrastructure, like charging stations, and more roads and highways”
“These dramatic changes will revolutionize transportation in the coming years, and make a $50 billion subway system irrelevant.”