Thursday, February 25, 2016

Preterm Births and Exposure to Urban Air Pollution

Exposure to airborne particulate matter during pregnancy is associated with preterm birth: a population-based cohort study ( 8 page pdf, Emily DeFranco, William Moravec, Fan Xu, Eric Hall, Monir Hossain, Erin N. Haynes, Louis Muglia and Aimin Chen, Environmental Health, Jan. 15 2016)

Also discussed here: Exposure to high levels of air pollution associated with higher risk of preterm birth (ScienceDaily. Jan. 26, 206)

Today we review research into the link between preterm births and exposure during pregnancy to Particuate Matter (PM2.5) in an urban environment. Results indicate a 19% overall increased risk with the greatest risk during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy (prior to the 37th week) Dropping PM2.5 levels to below the EPA standard of 15μg/m3 could result in a 17% improvement in the frequency of preterm births.

  preterm births  

Key Quotes:

“The study… identified a 19 percent increased risk, with the greatest risk when high exposure occurred during the third trimester of pregnancy.”

"Although the risk increase is modest, the potential impact is robust, as all pregnant women are potentially at risk,"

"We estimate that decreasing the amount of particulate matter in the air below the EPA's standard threshold could decrease preterm birth in women exposed to high levels of small particulates by about 17 percent, which corresponds to a 2.22 percent decrease in the preterm birth rate in the population as a whole."

Preterm birth rates were higher among mothers exposed to high levels of airborne particle pollution above the EPA standard, as well as among mothers 40 or older, black mothers, and women with no prenatal care or with lower education level.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How Much Coal, Gas and Coal Must be Kept Unused to Limit Global Warming to 2 deg C?

The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C (Abstract, Christophe McGlade & Paul Ekins, Nature. Jan.8, 2016)

Also discussed here: Keep It in the Ground (36 page pdf, Sierra Club, Greenpeace,, Jan. 2016)

And here: Meeting two degree climate target means 80 per cent of world’s coal is “unburnable”, study says (Carbon Brief, Jan. 7, 2015)

Today we review a report commissioned by several environmental activist groups that examines the extent to which the remaining coal, gas and oil reserves would threaten the UN’s target to keep warming from greenhouse gases to below 2 deg C. The major threats come from the USA from fracking and oil, Australia from coal and from Canada with tar sands as well as from Russia, the Mid-East and China. Globally 1/3 of the oil reserves, ½ of the gas reserves and 80% of the coal reserves must remain unused between now and 2050 in order to reach the goal.

 keep in the gorund  

Key Quotes:

“It has been estimated that to have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2)”

“Carbon Tracker estimates current known global fossil fuel reserves at 2795 Gt CO2, while other research suggests the figure is closer to 2900 Gt CO2.”

 “in order to stave off catastrophic climate change, the overwhelming majority of the large coal reserves in China, Russia and the United States as well as more than 260 billion barrels of oil reserves and 60 percent of gas reserves in the Middle East must all remain unused.”

Coal mining expansion in Australia could add a total of 36 Gt of CO2 equivalent to the atmosphere between 2013 and 2050. There are more than 60 coal mining projects in New South Wales and Queensland, with a targeted coal output of approximately 450 to 500 million metric tons per year, excluding projects that have been abandoned or shelved”

“By 2020, Canada’s tar sands projects are expected to add 420 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, a rate equivalent to the entire annual emissions of Saudi Arabia. … production of oil from the tar sands in Alberta is forecast to triple from 1.5 to 4.5 million barrels a day by 2035, adding 706 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year to worldwide emissions.”

“Between 2013 and 2050, the United States is expected to emit a cumulative total of 34 Gt of CO2 equivalent emissions from shale gas and tight oil expansion.”

“India’s current per capita CO2 emissions are low, at only 1.7 tons per person, compared to China, at 6.9 tons and the United States at 17 tons.”

Thursday, February 18, 2016

How Does Global Climate Warming Look Locally?

Regional estimates of the transient climate response to cumulative CO2 emissions (Abstract, Martin Leduc, H. Damon Matthews & Ramón de Elía, Nature Climate Change, Jan.4, 016)

Also discussed here: Impact of human activity on local climate mapped (Science Daily, Jan. 20, 2016)

Today we review research that examines the projected climate warming using 12 model runs from cumulative carbon emissions from pre-industrial levels to four times those emissions on different regions of the world. Not unexpectedly, temperatures increase the most in polar regions (more than 5 deg C per trillion tons of emissions) than in low latitude areas and more over land (1.3 deg C) than over oceans (less than 1 deg C). The influence of ice albedo and ocean circulation caused warming that was linear than in land areas far from ice. This approach offers much in the assessment of future climate impacts on a regional or locals scale.

local climate chnage  

Key Quotes:

"a map that shows how the climate changes in response to cumulative carbon emissions around the world. They found that temperature increases in most parts of the world respond linearly to cumulative emissions…the results of simulations in which CO2 emissions caused the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to increase by 1 per cent each year until it reached four times the levels recorded prior to the Industrial Revolution. “

"Globally, the researchers saw an average temperature increase of 1.7 ±0.4°C per trillion tonnes of carbon in CO2 emissions”

"As these numbers show, equatorial regions warm the slowest, while the Arctic warms the fastest. Of course, this is what we've already seen happen -- rapid changes in the Arctic are outpacing the rest of the planet,"

"This provides a simple and powerful link between total global emissions of carbon dioxide and local climate warming. This approach can be used to show how much human emissions are to blame for local changes."

"To date, humans have emitted almost 600 billion tonnes of carbon. This means that land areas on average have already warmed by 1.3°C because of these emissions. At current emission rates, we will have emitted enough CO¬2 to warm land areas by 2°C within 3 decades."

 “high-latitude ocean regions deviate more strongly from linearity as compared to land and lower-latitude oceans. This suggests that ice-albedo and ocean circulation feedbacks are important contributors to the overall negative deviation from linearity of the global temperature response to high levels of cumulative emissions.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How Big is the Global Stranded Carbon Assets Problem?

The tragedy of the horizon (John Lorinc, Corporate Knights, Jan. 19, 2016)

Also discussed here: The $2 trillion stranded assets danger zone: How fossil fuel firms risk destroying investor returns (32 page pdf, Carbon Tracker, Nov. 2015)

Today we review a speech by the former Governor of the Ban of Canada (currently Governor for the Bank of England) given just before the Climate Conference in Paris and a report by Carbon Tracker which defined what oil, gas and coal resources must be left in the ground if the atmospheric CO2 has to be kept below 450 ppm which is equivalent to keeping the rise of global temperatures to less than 2 deg C. The best estimates are that between a fifth to one third of existing carbon reserves must be kept in the ground with most attention to coal then oil then natural gas. The Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) “solution” (which is hyped by politicians, especially in Canada, adverse to restricting oil production) is not seen as having a significant role until 2050 or later- when action between now and 2050 is the critical period to reduce CO2 emissions, confirmed by the conclusions and agreement at Paris. Put in banking terms, the total value of stranded assets could be over $100 trillion. The other reality is that when the market discovers that there is no future for carbon fuels beyond the short term, the prices and intrinsic value of equities in these markets will be “re-priced”- which is what gets the attention of people like Carney.

 stranded carbon history  

Key Quotes:

 “According to the London-based group, the only way to limit global temperature increases to 2 C is to leave vast fossil fuel reserves in the ground – a scenario that could have cascading implications for not just the global energy sector but the investors and governments banking on future profits from those assets.”

 “Carney challenged his audience to ponder the “tragedy of the horizon.” The long-term economic reality, he said, is that only about a fifth to a third of proven fossil fuel reserves can be burned if temperatures are to stay within two degrees of pre-industrial levels.”

“If that estimate is even approximately correct, it would render the vast majority of reserves ‘stranded’ – oil, gas and coal that will be literally unburnable without expensive carbon capture technology, which itself alters fossil fuel economics.”

“It is clear that oil represents around two-thirds of the financial risk but a fifth of the carbon risk, whilst coal carries around half of the carbon risk, but only a tenth of the financial risk. Gas is low in terms of the carbon risk, but still carries around a quarter of the financial risk”

 “The IEA’s 450 scenario indicates around 24 GtCO² being captured by CCS (carbon capture and storage] by 2035, which we have allowed for in our demand projections. This is equivalent to extending the complete IEA 450 scenario carbon budget by 4% to 2035. CCS may yet have a significant contribution to make – but not until post-2050.”

 “oil, gas and coal sectors have proposed $1.9 trillion in capital investments to access known reserves through 2035. If tapped, the emissions would exhaust the remaining carbon “budget” for the century – i.e., the total amount of fossil fuel that could be burned before the temperature noses above that 2 C threshold. But those investments are directed to extracting only about a fifth of all identified fossil fuel reserves.” “

“We estimate that the total value of stranded assets could be over $100 trillion based on current market prices,”

““Of course Poloz [current Governor of Bank of Canada] should be honest with Canadians about the fact that emissions may be priced soon globally, and when that happens many assets in Canada, in particular those invested in the extraction of oil from bituminous sand, will be stranded, And I’m not sure he should be discussing it, but he should be aware that asset valuations can shift suddenly as perceptions change”

 “markets will re-price these assets once investors know whether those future oil fields in Alaska or other hotspots will ever be able to produce.”

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What Toxic Metals Come out of the Catalytic Converters on Car Mufflers?

Analysis of model Pd- and Pt-containing contaminants in aqueous media using ESI-MS and the fragment partitioning approach (Abstract, Leonid V. Romashov, Gleb D. Rukhovichb and Valentine P. Ananikov, RSC Advances, Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, Dec. 7, 2015)

Also discussed here: What happens with the environment when your car moves? (ScienceDaily. Jan.13 2016)

Today we review research from Russia into the inadvertent release of toxic metals from catalytic converters (or autocatalyst as it is termed here) which convert exhaust gases such as NOx, CO and other dangerous compounds to CO2, water and nitrogen. However, contact with water leaches the precious metals such as paladium, platinum and rhodium into toxic clusters – how toxic must be evaluated in the future but may put into question the role of the converters. muffler metals

Key Quotes:

“Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and other dangerous compounds are contained in the exhaustive gas mixture”

“every modern car is equipped with autocatalyst, which converts exhaustive gases to non-toxic water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The operation of autocatalyst is based on the catalytic reaction, which takes place on the surface of precious metals, namely palladium, platinum and rhodium.”

“contact with water facilitates simple platinum and palladium salts to aggregate into various clusters -- chemical species, which contain more than one metal atom. It is an important observation, since toxicity of clusters can significantly exceed toxicity of simple salts. Therefore, eco-toxicological danger of environmental pollution by heavy metals should become a crucial topic nowadays.”

“The unavoidable release of transition metal species to the environment and their contact with water give rise to the poisoning of ecosystems by heavy metal compounds”

“The study has revealed a critical danger of metal contamination due to easy formation of transition metal clusters, which may be much more toxic than corresponding monometallic complexes.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Does Exposure to Noise near Airports Cause Heart Attacks?

Residential exposure to aircraft noise and hospital admissions for cardiovascular diseases: multi-airport retrospective study (11 page pdf, Andrew W Correia, Junenette L Peters,Jonathan I Levy,Steven Melly, Francesca Dominici, the BMJ, Oct. 8, 2013)

Today we review research into the risk of heart disease for seniors over 65 living near each of 89 airports across the USA and exposed to noise above 45 db. Results indicate that there is a significantly higher rate of hospitalization from exposure to the higher level of airport noise (above 55 db) airport noise  

Key Quotes:

“Noise has been associated with hypertension, myocardial infarction, and ischemic heart disease”

“few studies of the relation between aircraft noise and cardiovascular disease have been conducted to date…in this study.. evaluate the association between airport related noise and the risk of hospital admission for cardiovascular disease in the population aged 65 years or more residing near airports in the contiguous states”

“we found no evidence of an increase in the cardiovascular disease hospitalization rate when noise increases from low(less than 45 db) to medium , but statistically significant evidence of an increase in the cardiovascular disease hospitalization rate when noise increases from medium to high(55db).”

 “although an exposure-response relation exists between noise and cardiovascular admission rates, there may also be a threshold for the effect of noise exposure on cardiovascular disease hospitalizations. Results from our models using a categorized exposure variable showed consistent statistically significant associations in only the highest exposure group (>55 dB).”

 “air pollution is less correlated with aircraft noise than it is with road traffic noise

 “we found that aircraft noise, particularly characterized by the 90th centile of noise exposure among census blocks within zip codes, is statistically significantly associated with higher relative rate of hospitalization for cardiovascular disease among older people residing near airports”

“Long term exposure to aircraft noise is positively associated with hospitalization for cardiovascular disease”

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What is the Risk of a Stroke after a One Day Exposure to Air Pollution?

Short term exposure to air pollution and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis (10 page pdf, Anoop S V Shah, Kuan Ken Lee, David A McAllister, Amanda Hunter, Harish Nair, William Whiteley, Jeremy P Langrish, David E Newby, Nicholas L Mills, British Medical Journal, Feb. 5, 2015)

Today we look at a literature review into the risk of strokes, the second most common cause of death, from a short term exposure to air pollution. Results indicate that one or two day exposure to air pollution, particularly PM2.5 and NO2, have a clear association with strokes or mortality from stroke. Many studies of health impacts from air pollution come from research in developed countries although the worst air pollution tends to occur in developing countries which as a consequence suffer the greatest health impacts, as demonstrated in this study.

  aq and strokes  

Key Quotes:

Outdoor air pollution is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease throughout the world, with particulate air pollution alone responsible for over three million deaths each year”

“Stroke remains the second most common cause of death and third most important cause of disability worldwide.” “There was a positive association between all gaseous and particulate air pollutants and admission to hospital for stroke or mortality from stroke, with the weakest association seen for ozone”

“The association between PM2.5 and stroke was evident on the day of the event (lag 0) and was present for up to two days (lag 2) before the event.”

 “The association between gaseous pollutants and stroke was related to lag in exposure (days), with the strongest associations evident for pollutant concentrations on the day of the event”

“the association between PM10 and acute cardiovascular events is primarily driven by the PM2.5 fraction. This fraction is enriched with ultrafine particles derived from the combustion of fossil fuels, which toxicology studies have suggested are the most potent component of particulate matter.”

 “Gaseous and particulate air pollutants have a marked and close temporal association with admissions to hospital for stroke or mortality from stroke“

 “Only a few studies originated from low or middle income countries and yet these countries experience the highest levels of air pollution and bear a disproportionate burden of global stroke mortality and morbidity.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Reduce Carbon Gas Emissions using Diesel Vehicles or Eliminate Particulates - a choice between Mitigating Climate Change or Health Impacts

Beyond a One-Time Scandal: Europe’s Ongoing Diesel Pollution Problem (4 page pdf, Charles W. Schmidt, Environ Health Perspect, Jan. 2, 2016)

Today we review a recent assessment of the role of diesel vehicles in causing PM2.5 and NO2 and greater mortality as a result while also being the technology of choice, particularly in Europe with over 50% of vehicles with it, to reduce C02 emissions and mitigate climate change. The comparison with the US and Canada is striking where less than 3% of vehicles are diesel and CO2 emissions have soared from gasoline powered vehicles and less attention to emission reduction than in the EU. Clearly an optimum choice or balance needs to be made that looks at both the immediate health impacts of diesel and the equally important need to reduce carbon emissions.

diesel pm eu

Key Quotes: 

“Depending on individual driving habits and road conditions, real-world NOx emissions from affected 2.0-L engines could soar to 40 times the U.S. standard of 70 mg/mile.. Similarly, emissions from the 3.0-L engines found in sport utility vehicles and larger cars could reach 9 times the standard.”

“Diesel vehicles make up just 3% of the cars and pickup trucks driven in the United States.. By contrast, more than half of Europe’s passenger fleet is diesel-powered.”

“NOx, which diesel engines produce at high levels, is a collective term for gases including nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). NO has relatively minor health impacts at environmental levels. NO2, however, produces health effects ranging from mild cough and mucous membrane irritation to severe exacerbation of lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma”

“8–12% of Europe’s population is exposed to levels of NO2 that exceed the World Health Organization’s air quality guideline of 40 µg/m…The highest levels were measured near highways, where diesel vehicles contribute about 80% of traffic-related NOx emissions.”

“Generally speaking, the country with the continent’s worst air pollution problem is Italy, where exposures to PM2.5, O3, and NO2 contributed to an estimated 59,500, 21,600, and 3,300 premature deaths, respectively, in 2012.”

“Urban NO2 exposures can have dire consequences, contributing to an estimated 75,000 premature deaths throughout the European continent in 2012. Ground-level O3 exposures, meanwhile, contributed to an estimated 17,000 premature deaths, and 432,000 premature deaths were attributed to PM2.5” “Europe’s rise in diesel cars is rooted in well-intentioned efforts by national governments to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.”

“while test-cycle NOx emissions have decreased by 80% since 1992, the real-driving NOx emissions from diesel cars have actually increased by 20% over the same period.”

“In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, EU countries (and officials in the United States and elsewhere) have pledged to shift quickly from laboratory-based to roadside emissions testing”