Thursday, June 30, 2016

How Does Stress Add to Health Impacts of Air Pollution?

A Framework for Examining Social Stress and Susceptibility to Air Pollution in Respiratory Health (8 page pdf Jane E. Clougherty, Laura D. Kubzansky, Environmental Health Perspectives, Sep. 2009)

Also discussed here:EPA Workshop on Interactions between Social Stressors and Environmental Hazards (Abstracts, Environmental Protection Agency, Sep. 19, 2012)

And here: London parents see toxic air as 'the biggest health threat to their children (Nicholas Cecil , Evening Standard, Mar. 21, 2016)

Today we examine a literature review into the links between psychological stresses and air pollution. Historically studies have shown that asthma is exacerbated when a person is also exposed to traffic related air pollution. Some air pollutants affect oxidative stress and cell production. Stress also may affect the permeability of bodily membranes to allow greater chemical uptake by organs including the brain. Roadway noise causes higher stress and depression as well as a higher heart rate for those who live near traffic.

  stress and aq in london  

Key Quotes:

“Limited but growing epidemiologic evidence indicates that psychological stress may also alter susceptibility to physical exposures, such as air pollution. This work examined social environmental interactions in respiratory and cardiovascular disease, such as stress-related modification of traffic-related air pollution effects on asthma etiology ..or exacerbation”

 “some air pollutants and psycho-social stress may independently affect common physiologic processes such as oxidative stress …or inflammatory cell ..production”

 “Some evidence suggests that stress may alter permeability of bodily membranes to chemical exposures,such that stress may alter systemic transport and chemical uptake into organs including the brain..facilitating combined and synergistic effects of stressors and pollution on many bodily systems.”

“Evidence suggests that roadway noise, a spatial stressor correlated with pollution, increases heart rate among adults and children ..and living in high-traffic areas predicts higher stress, lower self-reported health, and depressive symptoms .. effects distinct from those of pollution”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How Does Early Action to Cut Carbon Emissions Reduce Impacts from Climate Change?

Differential climate impacts for policy-relevant limits to global warming: the case of 1.5 _C and 2 _C (25 page pdf,Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, Tabea K. Lissner, Erich M. Fischer, Jan Wohland, Mahé Perrette, Antonius Golly, Joeri Rogelj, Katelin Childers, Jacob Schewe, Katja Frieler, Matthias Mengel, William Hare, and Michiel Schaeffer, Earth System Dynamics, Apr. 21, 2016)

Also discussed here: 1.5°C vs 2°C: Why half a degree matters (Newsletter, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Apr. 21, 2016)

Today we review research using scenarios with global climate models that show the difference in impacts from limiting global warming to 1.5 deg C or to 2.0 deg C by taking action to reduce carbon emissions and how quickly this is done. Many authoritative sources from COP 21 in Paris indicated that unless cuts of the order of 50% are taken within a decade (2025) that the 1.5 deg goal will be breached and unless the cuts reach 100% by 2050 that the 2 deg goal is probably unachievable. The paper examines the consequences of taking action too slowly or to a less than acceptable degree.

The impacts affect the length of heat waves (lasting 2 months more for 1.5C or 3 months for 2C), water availability, sea level rise, coral reefs and reduced crop yields. Perhaps the largest impact, sea level rise, has the largest implications because the processes involved in melting ice sheets are so large and slow moving. Once the Greenland ice sheet begins to breakdown, sea level rises of 5-7 m are inevitable over centuries with warming over 2C and will accelerate beyond 2100, while early action to limit warming to 1.5C would limit the sea level rise to 40 cm. Clearly policy makers at both the international and national/subnational levels need to step up to the challenge and soon. 2 deg climate impacts  

Key Quotes:

 “At the Paris Climate Summit the world decided to try to limit warming to below 1.5°C, in part because many considered climate impacts at 2°C to be too risky. Our new study provides essential new information about the risks under these two warming levels, and will feed into the ongoing international climate talks, helping policymakers deciding on the priority and urgency of climate action,”

“The additional 0.5°C would mean a 10-cm-higher global sea-level rise by 2100, longer heat waves, and greater risk of killing off tropical coral reefs.”

“On a global scale, the researchers anticipate sea level to rise about 50 cm by 2100 in a 2°C warmer world, 10 cm more than for 1.5°C warming. More importantly, however, is the rate at which sea level continues to rise in 2100. In a 1.5°C warmer world, this rate is about 30% lower than in a 2°C world, reducing our commitment to long-term sea-level rise. “

 “Substantial increases of 3 _C and more in TXx [hot extremes] over large parts of the Northern Hemisphere, central South America and South Africa as well as increases in warm-spell durations (WSDI) of 3 months and more are projected under a warming of 2 _C…The regional assessments indicate that the tropical regions in Africa, South America and South-East Asia are projected to experience the strongest increase in land area covered by heat extremes relative to the regional natural variability,”

“For a warming of 2 _C, reductions in water availability of up to 30% are projected in several – mainly subtropical – regions, in particular affecting the Mediterranean, South Africa, Central and southern South America and South Australia”

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What Are the Health Impacts from Urban Building Demolitions?

Ambient exposure to coarse and fine particle emissions from building demolition (Abstract, Farhad Azarmi & Prashant Kumar , Atmospheric Environment, Apr. 22, 2016)

Today we review research into the dispersion of fine particles, including Aluminum(Al), silicate(Si) Zinc (Zn) and Magnesium (Mg), from a building demolition in London, UK, using a dispersion model that took into account windspeed and direction, decay over time and distance from the site. Demolition of buildings is expected to increase significantly, as a result of a 60% greater urban population over the next two decades, in addition to newer urban design forms and technologies.

The exposure to the particles noted above are linked to lung and kidney (renal) diseases, greater mortality and cardiovascular and Alzheimer diseases. Results indicate that concentrations of particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5 and PM 10) downwind of the demolition site is 4 to 11 times (respectively) greater than background levels, Males near or in the site inhale more dust than females and thus have a higher health risk. One could expect similar impacts from the digging of roads and construction of tunnels and ditches for Light and Heavy Rail Transit in large cities, currently in progress and planned for cities such as Toronto and Ottawa.

 demolition pm graph  

Key Quotes:

“Construction and demolition waste contribute up to about 33% of the total waste from all the streams; about half of which is demolition waste”

“This increased rate of building demolition could be linked to growing population of the urban areas and the need for improvements to meet new urban design guidelines and adopt building technologies ….the global urban population is expected to increase by about 60% in 2035 from the 2013 levels”

 “the RDD [respiratory deposited doses] of coarse and fine particles were found to be 58- and 5-times in the excavator vehicle cabin, respectively, which happens to be the highest exposure among all the assessed categories.”

“Exposure to Si have been linked with variety of adverse effects such as lung ..and renal … diseases; both of which have been found to result in increased rate of mortality... In addition, inhaling higher doses of Al have been associated with the cardiovascular … and Alzheimer’s .. diseases, besides leading to increased morbidity, particularly in older people.”

 “Since Si, Al and other elements such as Mg and Zn ..are integral part of inhaled particles, there is clearly an increased health risks at demolition sites.”

“The mass concentrations of average PM10, PM2.5 and PM1 were found to be about 11-, 3- and 4-times above the local background levels during fixed-site measurements at the downwind of the demolition site. The coarse particles (PM2.5e10) contributed majority(89%) of the total PMCs.”

 “The male subjects inhale more doses of particles than female subjects, because of their higher body tidal volume and breathing frequency and that the rate of deposited particles could considerably increase during heavy exercises by workers for the same emission source.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What is the Risk of Cancer from Exposure to Particulate Matter?

Cancer Mortality Risks from Long-term Exposure to Ambient Fine Particle (Abstract, Chit Ming Wong, Hilda Tsang, Hak Kan Lai, G. Neil Thomas, Kin Bong Lam, King Pan Chan, Qishi Zheng, Jon G. Ayres, Siu Yin Lee5, Tai Hing Lam1, and Thuan Quoc Thach1, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, Feb. 22, 2016)

Also discussed here: Exposure to particulate air pollutants associated with numerous cancers (ScienceDaily, Apr. 29, 2016)

Today we review research that looks at the impact of fine particulates on health, specifically on the risk of cancer, based on 10 years of exposure to this pollution for a large sample of older people (older than 65), living in an urban environment (Hong Kong). Results indicate for every 10 µg/m³ increase in exposure, the risk of dying by cancer goes up by 35% for men (mainly in the digestive tract) and for women the risk of mortality because of breast cancer goes up by 80%. The authors caution that more research is needed to look at the link between cancer other air pollutants in combination with particulate matter.    

Key Quotes:

“long-term exposure to environmental pollutants was associated with increased risk of mortality for many types of cancer in an elderly Hong Kong population.”

“For every 10 microgram per cubic meter (µg/m³) of increased exposure to PM2.5, the risk of dying from any cancer rose by 22 percent... with a 42 percent increased risk of mortality from cancer in the upper digestive tract and [for men] a 35 percent increased risk of mortality from accessory digestive organs, which include the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, and pancreas.”

“For women, every 10 µg/m³ increase in exposure to PM2.5 was associated with an 80 percent increased risk of mortality from breast cancer,”

"Long-term exposure to particulate matter has been associated with mortality mainly from cardiopulmonary causes and lung cancer, but there have been few studies showing an association with mortality from other cancers. We suspected that these particulates could have an equivalent effect on cancers elsewhere in the body."

"The limitation to this study is the sole focus on PM2.5. Emerging research is beginning to study the effects of exposure to multiple pollutants on human health. We must be cautious though, as pollution is just one risk factor for cancer, and others, such as diet and exercise, may be more significant and more modifiable risk factors."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Limits to Growth – a critique after 40 years

Limits Revisited - A review of the limits to growth debate (24 page pdf, Tim Jackson and Robin Webster, Apr., 2016)

Today we review a report card on the 1972 Club of Rome report that looked ahead in 12 scenarios for the century ahead to examine the links between and among population, the economy, consumption of resources and pollution of the land, water and air. The indication that oil production would peak in 2015 if no corrective action were taken is strikingly accurate, given the shift now taking place in renewable energy production. On the other hand the report did not take into account the following ecological processes in regulating the environment: climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, interference with global nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, ozone depletion, global freshwater use, land system change, atmospheric aerosol loading and chemical pollution. Of these, four have deteriorated into an uncertain future: biodiversity loss, damage to phosphorous and nitrogen cycles, climate change and land use.

Although there are hopeful signs that economic growth may be decoupling from the environment with respect to reduced carbon emissions though technological innovations, the social burden continues to get worse with more than 3 billion people trying to live on less than $2 per day, as underlined by the encyclical by Pope Francis. An uncontrolled collapse is still possible, not from consuming all remaining natural resources but because of the degraded quality of those resources. As the report concludes: “an early policy response matters”.

 graph limits  

Key Quotes:

 “Limits Revisited outlines the contents of the Club of Rome’s report, traces the history of responses to it and dispels some of the myths surrounding it.”

 “The 1972 report articulated for the first time the dynamic nature of our dependency on physical resources and on ecological systems. It illustrated the processes of ‘overshoot and collapse’ that can occur when these limits are approached and suggested that, without a shift in direction, adverse consequences would become obvious “within the next century””

“The MIT team presented and analysed 12 scenarios, each with a different pattern of world development from 1900 to 2100…Only four scenarios avoided overshoot and collapse. These scenarios combined stabilising the human population with measures to restrict industrial output per person, as well as technological solutions like resource recycling and pollution control… One scenario which didn’t introduce these measures until 2000 managed to reached equilibrium, but not permanently…The diversion of more and more capital to extracting them [natural resources] leaves less for investment in industry, leading to industrial decline starting in about 2015. Around 2030, the world population peaks and begins to decrease as the death rate is driven upwards by lack of food and health services.”

 “A 2015 analysis of the remaining fossil fuel resources in China, USA, Canada and Australia, which includes unconventional resources, suggests that overall oil production is in fact peaking already… World fossil fuel production is likely to peak in around 2025, it suggests, largely as a result of Chinese coal production peaking. In short, unconventional oil seems to buy us several more decades before resource depletion starts to bite.”

“For each process, the team identified a ‘zone of uncertainty’ and a ‘danger zone’. Crossing over these thresholds could mean “non-linear, possibly abrupt and irreversible earth system responses” with disastrous consequences for society.. in 2015 found that four of these planetary boundaries had already been crossed. Biodiversity loss, damage to phosphorous and nitrogen cycles, climate change and land use have all slid into or beyond the ‘uncertainty zone’.”

“»In the last two years, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels and industry flattened and even fell slightly, while GDP increased by 3.4% and 3.1% respectively.… it’s essential to distinguish between what’s called relative decoupling – a decline in the material intensity of economic output – and absolute decoupling – an absolute fall in material use or emissions. Much of what is celebrated as decoupling is relative rather than absolute decoupling.”

 “key issues:
  • the economic implications of declining resource quality;
  • the financial market implications of low-carbon investment strategies;
  • the political implications of the need for precautionary, longterm thinking;
  • the social implications of inequality in the distribution of available resources;
  • the macroeconomic implications of secular stagnation or degrowth.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What are the Best Incentives to Buy an Electric Car?

Incentives for promoting Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) adoption in Norway (12 page pdf, Kristin Ystmark Bjerkan, Tom E. Nørbech, Marianne Elvsaas Nordtømme, Transportation Research Part d 43, ScienceDirect, Jan. 14, 2016)

 Also discussed here: What are the most effective ways of promoting electric cars? (Science for Environment Policy, European Commission, Apr. 22, 2016)

Today we review research on which incentives are the most effective in selling battery electric (BEV) cars based on a survey of Norwegians. The survey analysis considered low and high income levels, the differing impacts of reduced (or subsidized) cost at purchase to ongoing costs and benefits such as exemption from tolls. The typical Norwegian owner of an e-car is male, aged 36-55, high income, university education and living in the capital (Oslo). The single biggest factor was the initial purchase price (with discounts), followed by (exemptions from) congestion or road pricing, followed by free access to bus lanes. This supports the tactics used by governments in countries, such as Canada, in offering significant discounts for new e-car purchases and less emphasis on using exemptions from road tolls (even though road pricing is much less used and there are far fewer electric cars on the road in this country compared to Norway).

 ecar incentives  

Key Quotes:

“Considering that 80% of increases in CO2 emissions the past 45 years have come from road transport … broad scale global introduction of electromobility is considered an important measure for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector”

“Norway has become a global forerunner in the field of electromobility and the BEV market share is far higher than in any other country…. Seventy thousand BEVs are registered in Norway … accounting for approximately 18% of new car sales in 2015.”

 “Exemptions from purchase tax and VAT are critical incentives for more than 80% of the respondents…High purchase price is the strongest barrier toward EV purchase …and several studies find that up-front costs are more heavily emphasized than reductions in variable costs”

“Predominant incentives relate to tax or other economic benefits such as reduced/exempted parking fee or congestion charges, but in some instances also allow access to bus lanes or car pool lanes.”

“experts from five European countries rate 10 policy measures for EV adoption according to effectiveness, efficiency and feasibility. The experts’ cumulative ratings place exemption from road tolling or congestion charging in the middle-bracket in terms of effectiveness, while access to bus lanes is found at the bottom of the list.”

"The study also examines BEV users which respond to three categories of incentives:
(i) reduced fixed costs,
(ii) reduced use costs and
(iii) priority to infrastructure.
Analyses show that there are clear delineations between incentive groups, both in terms of age, gender, and education. Income is a less prominent predictor, which probably results from the competitive price of BEVs in the Norwegian market.”

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Real-Time Monitoring of Indoor Air Quality

Real-time sensors for indoor air monitoring and challenges ahead in deploying them to urban buildings (11 page pdf, Kumar, P, Skouloudis, AN, Bell, M, Viana, M, Carotta, M-C, Biskos, G and Morawska, L, Science of the Total Environment, Apr.6, 2016)

Also discussed here: Is your home harming you? New research highlights deadly effects of indoor pollution (ScienceDaily, Apr. 19, 2016)

And here: Indoor Air Quality Monitoring System for Smart Buildings (5 page pf, Xuxu Chen, Yu Zheng, Yubiao Chen, Qiwei Jin, Weiwei Sun, Eric Chang, Wei-Ying Ma

Today we review research into the need for and specifications for monitors to measure indoor air quality which accounts for more deaths globally (4.8 M deaths) than outdoor air quality (3.7 M) and is much less understood by people. People tend to use a number of products such as fragrances, cleaning products etc without being aware of the health risks. Electronic monitors are now available at low economic costs which allow for real-time monitoring at short intervals in ore to detect short spikes and at several locations within a house or building. Another related finding is that outdoor air pollution is highest near the intersection of major roads and as a result, buildings near this location also have higher levels of indoor air pollution- which has implications for the siting of schools, hospitals and offices.


Key Quotes:

"When we think of the term 'air pollution' we tend to think of car exhausts or factory fumes expelling grey smoke. However, there are actually various sources of pollution that have a negative effect on air quality, many of which are found inside our homes and offices. From cooking residue to paints, varnishes and fungal spores the air we breathe indoors is often more polluted than that outside."

“In 2012 indoor air pollution was linked to 4.3 million deaths globally, compared with 3.7 million for outdoor air pollution….Household air pollution is ranked the 9th largest Global Burden of Disease risk”

 "Our work looks at the use of small, low-energy monitoring sensors that would be able to gather real-time data and tell families or workers when levels of pollutants are too high,"

“Typically, for compliance with ambient air quality regulations, measurements of carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), oxides of nitrogen (NO + NO2), benzene (C6H6) and VOCs, together with PM10 and PM2.5 are conducted”

“Perhaps even more fundamental, however, is the widespread lack of awareness of IAQ: ..not only that people are not aware of risks due to involuntary exposure to air .. but people tend to use fragrances, excessive cleaning products, candles for ambiance, and many other sources of indoor air pollutants, without understanding their contribution to IAQ problems.”

 “outdoor air pollution was at a high where buildings were located at traffic intersections. Even where there was low traffic volume, traffic intersections with densely built up surroundings showed twice the concentration than at open junctions.” “

"This has important implications for town planning and we should consider whether we really want schools, offices or hospitals to be built within these environments.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Do Wind Turbines Really Impact the Health of Nearby Residents?

English: Taken by Neutronic
English: Taken by Neutronic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today we review research conducted in Denmark, the world’s leader in the use of wind turbines to generate electricity with over 39% of its power generated this way in 2014 and over 5,000 wind turbines located on or offshore. The purpose of the study was to assess the relationship between direct and indirect impacts on health of residents living near the turbines (mean distance to the closest turbine to a house was 2 km). Results indicate no significant relationship with turbine proximity and direct health effects, except for a significant indirect association with wind noise and annoyance, which is one of several “confounding” factors that may be caused other noise sources (such as nearby traffic or indoor odours resulting from less ventilation and fresh air with the windows closed to keep out the noise).

Key Quotes: 

“In Denmark, the world leader in total wind capacity per capita, wind power provided a record of 39.1% of Denmark's electricity consumption in 2014.” “Overall there were 5122 active on- and offshore wind turbines in Denmark. Of these, about 4717 were onshore and about 405 were offshore. A total of 219 on-shore wind turbines were sited in the studied rural regions.” 

"Whether or not wind turbines pose a risk to human health is a matter of heated debate. Personal reactions to other environmental exposures occurring in the same settings as wind turbines may be responsible of the reported symptoms” 

 “Symptoms reported by people who live in close proximity to wind turbines have been idiopathic symptoms, such as sleep disturbance, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headache, and lack of concentration, as well as annoyance” 

 “After controlling for personal reactions to noise from sources different from wind turbines and agricultural odor exposure, we did not observe a significant relationship between residential proximity to wind turbines and symptoms and the parameter estimates were attenuated toward zero. Wind turbines-health associations can be confounded by personal reactions to other environmental co-exposures. Isolated associations reported in the literature may be due to confounding bias.” 

“The minimum distance between a residence and the closest wind turbine was 167 m and the maximum distance was 8983 m, while the mean and median of the distances to the closest wind turbine were 2052 m and 1712 m, respectively. The maximum number of wind turbines within 1000 m of each residence” 

“In our study we did find a significant association between residential proximity to wind turbines and wind turbine noise annoyance, but annoyance was not further associated with symptoms” 

 “Our study suggests that isolated associations between wind turbines exposures and health outcomes reported in the literature may be partly due to confounding bias”

Thursday, June 2, 2016

How Will Climate Change Affect the Health of Americans?

Executive Summary:The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States (24 page pdf, Crimmins, A., J. Balbus, J.L. Gamble, C.B. Beard, J.E. Bell, D. Dodgen, R.J. Eisen, N. Fann, M.D. Hawkins, S.C. Herring, L. Jantarasami, D.M. Mills, S. Saha, M.C. Sarofim, J. Trtanj, and L. Ziska, Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, Apr. 12, 2016)

Also discussed here: Full Report:The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States (312 pp,Crimmins, A., J. Balbus, J.L. Gamble, C.B. Beard, J.E. Bell, D. Dodgen, R.J. Eisen, N. Fann, M.D. Hawkins, S.C. Herring, L. Jantarasami, D.M. Mills, S. Saha, M.C. Sarofim, J. Trtanj, and L. Ziska, Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, Apr. 12, 2016)

Today we review a report that provide a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of climate change on health of Americans and an estimate of the risk they pose. These impacts come about in two ways: changing the severity and frequency of health impacts from the current weather and by creating threats to health in places that have not experienced them before. The specific impacts range from many more deaths from extreme heat especially form the elderly and children, to more air pollution from particulates form wildfires and from greater exposure to allergens to impacts from extreme events, such as flooding, drought and wildfires to mental distress and trauma (PTSD) for people experiencing these extreme events.

 cl impacts USA  

Key Quotes:

“we have observed climate-related increases in our exposure to elevated temperatures; more frequent, severe, or longer-lasting extreme events; degraded air quality; diseases transmitted through food, water, and disease vectors (such as ticks and mosquitoes); and stresses to our mental health and well-being.”

“Climate change can therefore affect human health in two main ways: first, by changing the severity or frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate or weather factors; and second, by creating unprecedented or unanticipated health problems or health threats in places where they have not previ­ously occurred.”

 Some Findings:
  •  “an increase of thousands to tens of thousands of premature heat-related deaths in the summer ... and a decrease of premature cold-related deaths in the winter …. are projected each year as a result of climate change by the end of the century.” 
  •  “An increase in population tolerance to extreme heat has been observed over time … Expected future increases in this tolerance will reduce the projected increase in deaths from heat” 
  •  “Older adults and children have a higher risk of dying or becoming ill due to extreme heat” “climate-driven increases in ozone will cause premature deaths, hospital visits, lost school days, and acute respiratory symptoms” 
  • “Climate change is projected to increase the number and severity of naturally occurring wildfires in parts of the United States, increasing emissions of particulate matter and ozone precursors and resulting in additional adverse health outcomes” 
  • “Changes in climate, … are expected to contribute to increases in the levels of some airborne allergens and associated increases in asthma episodes” “Climate change will increase exposure risk in some regions of the United States due to projected increases in the frequency and/or intensity of drought, wildfires, and flooding” 
  • “Many types of extreme events related to climate change cause disruption of infrastructure” 
  • “Climate change will increase exposure risk to coastal flooding” “Longer seasonal activity and expanding geographic range of these ticks [Lyme disease]will increase the risk of human exposure to ticks” 
  •  “Alterations in the distribution, abundance, and infection rate of mosquitoes will influence human exposure to bites from infected mosquitoes” “Increases in water temperatures associated with climate change will alter the seasonal windows of growth and the geographic range of suitable habitat for freshwater toxin-producing harmful algae” 
  • “Rising carbon dioxide concentrations and climate change will alter incidence and distribution of pests, parasites, and microbes” 
  • “Many people exposed to climate-related or weather-related disasters experience stress and serious mental health consequences….these consequences include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and general anxiety 
  • “Increases in extreme heat will increase the risk of disease and death for people with mental illness”