Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Obama on Air Pollution

Obama tightens air pollution limits
Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent, Monday 17 December 2012 06.11 EST

EPA to cut release of soot from power plants and diesel engines, following link to higher rates of heart attacks and lung diseases

The Obama administration has set new limits on a deadly form of air pollution – and risked a backlash from industry early in a second term – by tightening restrictions on soot from smoke stacks and diesel engines.

The new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will reduce the amount of soot released from power plants, diesel engines, refineries, and other industries.

The microscopic particles are linked to early death and higher rates of heart attacks, strokes and lung diseases, such as asthma.

The EPA administration in announcing the new standards on Friday promised sweeping public health benefits. "Families from around the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air," said Jackson, adding that her two sons suffered from asthma.

The rules, finalised in response to a court-ordered deadline, were strenuously opposed by industry groups and by some members of Congress, setting up the stage for heightened confrontation during Obama's second term.

The administration is expected to roll out other pollution controls, which were put on hold in an election year.

The main oil lobby group, the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement: "There is no compelling scientific evidence for the policy decision to develop more stringent standards. The existing standards are working and will continue improving air quality."

James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is the Senate's biggest doubter of climate change, said the new rules were the first wave of "an onslaught of post-election rulemakings that will place considerable burdens on our struggling economy and eventually push us over the 'regulatory cliff'".

Clean air advocates praised the decision as long overdue. The air quality standards were raised only after environmental group Earth Justice sued the EPA to enforce standards recommended by its own scientific advisers.

The American Lung Association, which had supported the suit, said in a statement that the new standard would save lives.

"We know clearly that particle pollution is harmful at levels well below those previously deemed to be safe," the statement said. "By setting a more protective standard, the EPA is stating that we as a nation must protect the health of the public by cleaning up even more of this lethal pollutant."

The new standards will limit annual average soot emissions to 12 micrograms per cubic metre of air by the end of the decade. The level, significantly more stringent than the standard of 15 micrograms set in 1997, was in the middle of a range of 11 to 13 micrograms recommended by EPA scientists.

Microscopic particles lodge in lungs and in the bloodstream and are especially dangerous to children and older people. They have been linked to severe asthma attacks.

Jackson said the new standards would result in health savings of between $4bn and $9bn. They will cost up to $350m to implement.

About 66 counties in the country now exceed the current standards, but the EPA estimates that by 2020 only seven counties – all in California – will have trouble meeting the new air quality standards.

The agency will rely on air quality monitors across the country to check on soot levels – especially along busy roads in urban areas. People living on busy roads are at a higher risk of exposure to soot particles.

Source: Guardian

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dirty Minds

Outside In: Dirty Minds

Pollution is ubiquitous in cities, but few rival Mexico City, one of the most smog-filled places in the world. Air pollution is known to cause asthma and other respiratory ailments, even heart disease. But it was still a leap when neuropathologist and toxicologist Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas suggested that it might affect cognitive function—namely memory and learning.

After all, the brain is walled off from potential harm by the blood-brain barrier—tightly bound cells that restrict the passage of particles from the bloodstream into the cerebrospinal fluid bathing the brain. But Calderón, who works both at the University of Montana and Mexico's National Institute of Pediatrics, has found that the blood-brain barrier is not as impenetrable as once thought.

She recruited healthy children from Mexico City and nearby Polotitlán, where the air is much cleaner. After two years, Calderón was shocked to find that the Mexico City children lagged significantly on tests of memory and learning. MRIs revealed that about half of them had brain lesions similar to those found in Alzheimer's patients."People living in mega-cities do not have an intact blood-brain barrier," she says. "These lesions, they are leaks."

Severe air pollution, Calderón finds, leads to neuroinflammation and damages the brain's white matter. There's evidence that particulate from industrial smokestacks, car and truck exhaust, tobacco smoke, and other sources may be small enough to access the brain directly through neurons in the nose.
Another recent study, at the University of Ohio, found that mice exposed to particulate matter show not only sensory, memory, and learning impairments but also signs of depression.

Although pollution appears to cause measurable harm to the brain, Calderón does not believe that Mexico City's kids are destined to develop a severe neurodegenerative disease. They may be at higher risk, but exercising the mind can mediate damage that is otherwise beyond control.

"There is a lot of plasticity in the brain," Calderón emphasizes. The child whose parents read to him will fare better than the child left to sit in front of the TV all day. "You make new connections, new synapses. But if you are not using your brain, you cannot compensate."

Source: Psychology Today, March 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Asthma-Allergy Connection

An estimated 20 million Americans have asthma, chronically inflamed airways that swell and make breathing difficult. And for at least 6 percent of them, inhaled allergens (such as pollen) can trigger the attacks, says New York City allergist Clifford Bassett, M.D. If you have asthma, getting your seasonal allergies under control should help you. If you don't, doing so could prevent you from developing asthma in the first place.

Soruce: Natural Health, May 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Breathe Healthy

Many of us ask ourselves: What can I do to be healthier? Of course, we can eat well, get sunshine and exercise, and allow time for balance between work and play. But you can also breathe healthier!

Our air purifying systems combine UV light with the industry's thickest tacky filters to remove more airborne particles than other systems. Decreasing the amount of airborne particles you breathe can help your health on a daily basis.

Some of the problems associated with breathing unhealthy include:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Migraine
  • Lung Disease
  • Irritation of eyes, nose, throat
  • Upper respiratory Infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Emphysema
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Allergies
  • Chronic respiratory disease
  • Lung Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Damage to the Brain, Nerves, Liver, or Kidneys

Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cargo Ships and Air Pollution

A recent article in Scientific American shows that simply slowing the speed of cargo ships near ports can decrease the amount of air pollution in port towns like Miami.
Slowing cargo vessels near coastlines by 10 to 15 miles per hour could dramatically cut ships’ air pollution, according to a new study. But only a few U.S. ports have initiated such efforts.
A speed limit of 14 mph, down from the current cruising speeds of 25 to 29 mph, would cut nitrogen oxides – a main ingredient of smog – by 55 percent and soot by almost 70 percent, according to the University of California, Riverside study. It also would reduce carbon dioxide – a potent greenhouse gas and key contributor to climate change – by 60 percent.
With 100,000 ships carrying 90 percent of the world’s cargo, air pollution is a heavy burden for people living near ports, so slowing ships could improve their health, researchers say.
In the study, the ships traveled at speeds already used at the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach and New York-New Jersey as part of voluntary programs.
“Vessel speed reduction does significantly reduce emissions, and that's why we have had a vessel speed reduction program in place at our port for several years,” said Arley Baker, a spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles. “It’s both a feasible and practical way to reduce vessel emissions.”
But setting a speed limit on cargo ships has been an elusive goal for port cities because shipping traffic is regulated internationally.
All ocean-going vessels, when they are within 10 nautical miles of a U.S. port, must slow down, to typically 14 mph. The voluntary programs in Los Angeles/Long Beach and New York-New Jersey slow them farther out, up to 40 miles offshore.
A ship’s fuel consumption and emissions increase exponentially with speed, so burning low-grade oil at traditional cruising speeds emits more air pollution than slower ships, according to the study, led by environmental engineer David Cocker.
"Speed reductions, which are known to reduce emissions, would need to be maintained over a very long-term period in order to produce regional air quality benefits," said James Corbett, a professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware, who has studied the impact of the shipping industry on human health. Corbett was not involved with the new study.
The new study measured the emissions of two container vessels traveling between California's Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the Port of Oakland. Emissions were measured near the ports and in international waters.
In international waters, ships burn heavy fuel oil. As it burns, large amounts of particulate matter, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides are released.
Studies worldwide have linked particulate matter – soot – to deaths from respiratory disease and heart attacks. Particulates specifically from ocean-going vessels have been linked to an increased number of premature deaths, according to a 2007 study by Corbett published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
In addition, the shipping industry is responsible for 3 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency responsible for marine safety and pollution. Shipping emissions are expected to grow 2 to 3 percent every year over the next three decades [PDF] as shipping traffic grows, according to the IMO.
The industry has dodged tax strategies and international treaties, such as the Kyoto Protocol. The International Maritime Organization has failed to set a cap on greenhouse gas emissions at international meetings in previous years. Under theWorld Port Climate Initiative, some of the world’s leading ports have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Some states and local pollution agencies are stepping in. California has banned ships from burning dirty kinds of fuel, and is rolling out other clean port initiatives.
Since 2001, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – the nation’s two busiest shipping ports – have offered financial incentives to shippers that voluntarily reduce their speeds to 14 mph. Baker said it has led to 90 percent compliance.
Smog-causing nitrogen oxides from the Los Angeles port’s ships declined 30 percent between 2005 and 2011, while particulate matter decreased about 70 percent. Carbon dioxide was not reported.
"I think it has been quite effective," said Sam Atwood of the South Coast Regional Air Quality Management District, the local air pollution agency that monitors the side-by-side ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
In August, the Port of New York and New Jersey approved several initiatives to reduce emissions, including a voluntary speed reduction program similar to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Ocean-going vessels that reduce their speed to no more than 10 knots (11.5 mph) starting 20 nautical miles from the entrance to the New York-New Jersey harbor earn financial incentives and recognition.
Smaller ports, such as Port Miami, are considering setting new policies for cargo ship speeds to help clean the air.
Shippers might not want to slow down because “hours lost in transit can cost carriers and their shipping customers dearly," said Aaron Ellis of the American Association of Port Authorities.
An industry group, the U.S. Shippers Association, noted that there are other ways to clean up the industry.
“Speed limits are only one, and not necessarily the most effective, way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Vessel owners should be encouraged to implement as many options as possible to meet and exceed emission reduction standards,” said Beverly Altimore, executive director of the U.S. Shippers Association.
In Southern California, one other solution has been to supply shore-side power so that ships can plug into the electric grid while docked rather than idling their engines, Atwood said.
The authors of the new study warned that emissions reductions near ports could be negated if the ships travel faster than normal cruising speeds outside of the slow zones.
“It is important to note that vessels speeding up to make up for lost time at the slower speeds in the [vessel speed reduction] zone could have an overall increase in CO2 and other emissions,” the researchers wrote.
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NASA on Pollution

NASA Instrument On Commercial Sat To Track U.S. Air Pollution
By Frank Morring, Jr.

Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
November 12, 2012
Reposted from: Aviation Week

A $90 million NASA instrument mounted on a commercial communications satellite in geostationary orbit will monitor air pollutants over North America beginning in 2017, the first step toward what researchers hope will be a global network of pollution monitors in space.

The U.S. space agency selected a proposal from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., from among 14 submitted for the first Earth Venture Instrument award. The Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (Tempo) instrument will ride as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite in a geostationary Earth-orbit (GEO) slot that will give it a view of North America in its entirety.

From that vantage point the instrument will be designed to deliver hourly readouts of the atmosphere in ultraviolet and visible wavelengths during daylight hours. That data will allow principal investigator Kelly Chance and his colleagues to measure tropospheric concentrations of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde and aerosols. Similar measurements from spacecraft in low Earth orbit typically are possible only once a day.

“We expect to see significant advances in air quality research with Tempo,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. “The vantage point of geostationary orbit offers the potential for many new opportunities in other areas of Earth system science.”

Tempo is NASA’s second planned hosted payload, following the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration that is also set for launch in 2017. Both payloads will ride piggyback on as-yet-unselected commercial satellites.

NASA will spend as much as $90 million for the Tempo instrument, plus the cost of integration into the host satellite and a share of the launch. The agency expects there will be “numerous” satellites launched in 2017 that will be suitable for the mission.

Space agencies in Europe and Asia also are considering similar observation efforts after Tempo is launched, which could lead to an international constellation of pollution-monitoring instruments in geostationary orbits, NASA states. The U.S. instrument will be the first funded under the broader Earth System Pathfinder program of small, targeted, scientific missions designed to complement larger-scale Earth-science efforts. The first stand-alone satellite in the program—the $152 million Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System—was awarded earlier this year to the University of Michigan.

Other members of the Tempo team include Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo.; NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Several U.S. universities and research organizations also will participate.

Langley manages the Earth System Science Pathfinder program, which plans to issue two new requests for proposals next year, and to continue making regular awards for airborne, satellite and hosted-payload missions, the agency says.

Reposted from: Aviation Week

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Air Quality and Socio-Economic Status

In an interesting study by New America Media, shows that air quality differs by socio-economic status and the ethnicities effected thereby. Full article is below:

Environmental Health News, News Report, Cheryl Katz, Posted: Nov 04, 2012 
Tiny particles of air pollution contain more hazardous ingredients in non-white and low-income communities than in affluent white ones, a new study shows.

The greater the concentration of Hispanics, Asians, African Americans or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds such as vanadium, nitrates and zinc are in the mix of fine particles they breathe.

Latinos had the highest exposures to the largest number of these ingredients, while whites generally had the lowest.

The findings of the Yale University research add to evidence of a widening racial and economic gap when it comes to air pollution. Communities of color and those with low education and high poverty and unemployment face greater health risks even if their air quality meets federal health standards, according to the article published online in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Fresno are among the metropolitan areas with unhealthful levels of fine particles and large concentrations of poor minorities. More than 50 counties could exceed a new tighter health standard for particulates proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Communities of color and those with low education and high poverty and unemployment may face greater health risks even if their air quality meets federal health standards.A pervasive air pollutant, the fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 is a mixture of emissions from diesel engines, power plants, refineries and other sources of combustion. Often called soot, the microscopic particles penetrate deep into the lungs.

The new study is the first to reveal major racial and economic differences in exposures to specific particle ingredients, some of which are linked to asthma, cardiovascular problems and cancer.
“Numerous studies indicate that some particles are more harmful than others,” said lead author Michelle Bell, a professor of environmental health at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
The particles people breathe include a variety of metals and chemicals, depending on their source. For instance, people living near refineries are exposed to more nickel and vanadium, while those near coal-fired power plants breathe particles with higher sulfate content. Neighborhoods along busy roads have more nitrates from vehicle exhaust.

One such community is Boyle Heights, in East Los Angeles. It is more than 90 percent Hispanic and one of the poorest parts of the city.

Boyle Heights is “surrounded by freeways,” said Susan Nakamura, planning manager for the region’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, “and a lot of those freeways are used for shipping commercial goods.” Four major rail yards emit diesel exhaust nearby, and the area is home to “multiple auto body shops and chrome-platers in close proximity to neighborhoods,” she said. She is especially concerned about the particulate sources near schools.

 A nationwide look 

Bell and colleague Keita Ebisu examined exposures to 14 components of particulates in 215 Census tracts from 2000-2006. The components, including sulfate, a powerful respiratory irritant, and nickel, a possible carcinogen, were chosen because they had been associated with health impacts or accounted for a substantial amount of particulates overall.

Census tracts with a greater proportion of Hispanics had significantly higher levels of 11 substances. Included is more than 1.5 times the whites’ exposure to nickel, nitrate, silicon, vanadium – all linked in some studies to hospitalizations or deaths from cardiovascular and lung disease – and aluminum, which is associated with low birth weights.

 Communities with larger Asian populations had higher levels of seven components. Asians registered far greater exposures than whites to nickel, nitrate and vanadium.

And areas where more African Americans lived showed significant elevations in four compounds, including sulfate and zinc.

People with less than a high-school education, unemployed or living in poverty had more exposure to several components, including silicon and zinc. Also, children and teenagers were more likely than adults to breathe most of the substances.

The demographic differences raise important policy questions, said Rachel Morello-Frosch, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the health risks of air pollution but was not involved in the Yale study.

Census tracts with a larger proportion of Hispanics had significantly higher levels of 11 substances, including more than 1.5 times the whites' exposures to nickel, nitrate, silicon, vanadium and aluminum.She said targeted monitoring may be needed in problem areas. “Then regulatory agencies may want to assess how they can encourage emissions reductions from sources that are having localized impacts,” Morello-Frosch said.

It’s a common scenario in cities nationwide: Due to high housing costs and historical discrimination, low-income and minority neighborhoods are clustered around industrial sites, truck routes, ports and other air pollution hotspots.

In the South Bronx, a largely Hispanic and African-American district of New York City, nearly four in 10 live in poverty. Heavy traffic and a jumble of small industries taint the air with a load of fine particles that frequently exceeds the federal health limit.

Asthma rates are as much as four times higher in the Bronx than the national rates, said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association. “They live near highways, they live near where trucks spew diesel,” Edelman said. “That’s the least desirable housing… much different than a nice, leafy suburb.”

And just south of Pittsburgh, a slice of the Monongahela River Valley known as Liberty-Clairton tops the EPA charts with the nation’s worst fine particle pollution outside of California.

Clairton, a mill town, is “home to the [U.S. Steel] Clairton Coke Works, which is the largest coke-making facility in the nation,” said Rachel Filippini, executive director of the environmental organization Group Against Smog and Pollution. “The process of making coke is a pretty dirty one with lots of particulates and air toxics.”

Tom Hoffman, Western Pennsylvania director of the environmental group Clean Water Action, said childhood asthma is rampant in Clairton, but a lot of families in the hardscrabble town don’t have medical coverage. In some homes, the whole family shares a single inhaler, he said.

Particulates are complicated

The health effects of fine particle pollution are well-documented: Studies worldwide have shown that on days when fine particle concentrations increase in a community, more people die from heart attacks and respiratory problems.

But far less is known about whether specific types of particles translate to greater rates of illness or death.

“Some of these particles are not only composed of different things, but there are different gases and other things that adhere to them on the outside. So they’re complicated in a whole range of ways,” said Janice Nolen, author of the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air Report.

Studies on the components are limited and have given varying results. But some associations are clear.
Sulfate, for instance, can trigger asthma attacks, while vanadium irritates lungs, and nitrate causes inflammation that may lead to heart attacks or strokes. Within cities, some studies have found cardiovascular deaths rise with certain particles, including nitrate, zinc, nickel, carbon, selenium and silicon.

More human research and animal experiments are needed to understand which components are the most harmful and why, said Marie Lynn Miranda, dean of University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative.

"They live near highways, they live near where trucks spew diesel. That's the least desirable housing ... much different than a nice, leafy suburb." -Dr. Norman Edelman, American Lung Association, speaking of Hispanics and African Americans in the South Bronx“The notion of trying to figure out what are the different components and are there specific things in the PM2.5 that cause more of a problem… would have implications for how you regulate health effects,” Miranda said.

The EPA earlier this year proposed a more stringent health standard for fine particulate exposures that will force new regulations in some cities. Its final decision is expected in December. But the agency says too little is known about the specific ingredients of the particles to set individual limits for them.
“While different chemical components of PM may have different effects on health, the available scientific evidence to date supports setting standards that provide protection against exposures to PM from all sources,” the EPA said in a statement to EHN.

More racial disparities

The Yale study is part of a growing body of research on racial and social disparities in air quality. 
African Americans are considerably more likely to live in areas with the worst levels of particulates and ozone, the main ingredient of smog, according to a nationwide study by Miranda and colleagues. Hispanics and low-income residents also are overrepresented in counties with high fine particle pollution.

Also, cancer risks from air toxics such as benzene and formaldehyde are greatest in the nation’s highly segregated metropolitan areas, according to research by UC Berkeley’s Morello-Frosch and Bill Jesdale. The risks increase with degree of segregation in all racial and ethnic groups, but are strongest for Hispanics, they found.

“Our question was: Are places that are more unequal disproportionately exposing communities of color more than other groups?” Morello-Frosch said. “The answer to that is ‘yes.’ Cities that are more segregated, you see higher pollution burdens for residents of color.”

As for why Hispanics seem to be facing some of the greatest air quality disparities, Morello-Frosch speculated that it may partly reflect the “L.A. Effect.”

“Because you have a lot of Latinos living in one of the largest and most polluted cities in the United States,” she said, “you might expect that contributing to the high population burdens of pollution.”
"Are places that are more unequal disproportionately exposing communities of color more than other groups? The answer to that is 'yes'."-Rachel Morello-Frosch, University of California, BerkeleyMany questions about the effects of unequal exposures remain. Stress from social and economic conditions seems to exacerbate the effects of pollution, according to some recent research. In other words, the same amount of pollution may harm poor people more than affluent people, or segregated minorities more than whites.

“So if I’m exposed to air pollution but I otherwise live in a pretty nice neighborhood, I don’t have a very stressful life… how does that differ from, I’m exposed to air pollution and I live in a cruddy house in a cruddy neighborhood and I have a very stressful life?” Miranda asked. “How do the social factors in my life affect my resiliency to environmental exposure?”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Importance of Air Filters

Service Experts reports: Sometimes I'm asked what is the most important thing that homeowner's can do to protect their air conditioning and heating system between their regular Maintenance Tune-ups. It's a simple question with a simple answer; remember to change the heating and air conditioning air filter. Changing furnace and return air filters is crucial to the proper performance of your HVAC system, not to mention your home's air quality. Did you know indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks?* I know it's the last thing on your mind, but this is really important stuff. Changing the air filters is not all that hard for most homeowners, but there are usually two obstacles to actually getting it done:
  1. Knowing just how often to change your furnace or air conditioner filter.
  2. Remembering to change air filters when needed.
1. When To Change Your Air FiltersSimple, when they're dirty. Ok, now here's how to... Wait, not enough info? Ok, well... you can read the rest of this section for the details, or just skip over it if you're good to go.

Ready to dive in? Good, I like that. How often to change your air filters can depend on several factors:
  • the type of air filter you are using
  • the overall air quality of your home
  • pets, pets, pets..
  • occupancy of the home, and
  • the level of air pollution and construction around the home
  • ...and did I mention pets? Oh yes, pets.
We recommend you change your filter every 30 days. 

2. How To Remember To Change The Darn Things

It's simple. We will post a reminder to Facebook at the beginning of every month!

Remember that Air Purifying Systems' filters are made with a tacky material that traps more particles than an average filter. Combined with our UV system, we allow for the freshest possible air in your home.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Clean Air Healthy Heart

Kai Zhang of ABC Environment reports:

A SUDDEN REDUCTION OF air pollution might improve adverse cardiovascular effects in healthy adults, according to a study that tracked pollutants and compared levels to blood markers before, during and after Beijing's 2008 Olympic games.

This is the first major study to examine the biological link between short-term air pollution reductions and cardiovascular diseases in young adults who have no health problems. The study suggests that even healthy people can benefit from a temporary decline in air pollution.

Beijing is a megacity well known for its extreme levels of air pollution. To improve air quality for the 2008 Olympic games, vehicle use was restricted and numerous industrial factories in the city and nearby provinces were closed.

The changes led to a 60 per cent drop in air pollution emissions. At the same time, the levels of two heart markers linked with cardiovascular disease improved in young, healthy adults, the study shows.

When factory work and traffic returned to normal after the games, air pollution emissions rose rapidly and the levels of the heart health markers returned to previous levels.

A few human studies have examined the impacts of reduced air pollution on cardiovascular diseases. This study went further by trying to identify underlying mechanisms. In addition, the researchers looked at young, healthy adults while most of the previous studies focused on either the elderly or children.

Air pollution is a mix of small particles - called particulate matter - and gases - such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide. Vehicles, power plants, industrial factories and natural sources release the pollutants into the air.

Billions of people around the world live in areas with very high levels of air pollution. The worst air quality plagues the large megacities where populations exceed 10 million people.

Breathing air pollution can increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and high blood pressure. Exposure to fine particulate matter - particles less than 2.5 micrometer in diameter (PM2.5) - is especially dangerous.

However, the underlying connections between air pollution and heart diseases are not well understood. The Chinese government's tight controls on emissions from factories and vehicles for the Beijing Olympics offered a rare chance to look at how air pollution might affect predictive markers for heart disease.

For the five-month study from June to November, the researchers recruited 125 resident doctors with an average age of 24 from a centrally located hospital. Half were male, and all were healthy with no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Air pollution emissions were also measured at similar times. Levels of most air pollutants during the games decreased up to 60 per cent compared to their pre-game levels, depending on the type of pollutants. For example PM2.5 dropped 27 per cent, nitrogen dioxide 43 per cent and sulphur dioxide 60 per cent. After the games when pollution controls were removed, emissions rose to higher levels than were measured before the games started.

This study suggests that even young healthy people can benefit from short-term air pollution reduction and supports efforts to quantify and understand the benefits and costs of air pollution control measures.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Toxic Dioxin

Since its use by the US military to raze the Vietnamese forests and grasslands, Agent Orange has wreaked horrific damage to the Vietnamese people. Cancers, disabilities and birth defects all bear witness to its effects. Now a study looking 
into the effects of dioxins on gene expression has revealed that even three generations after exposure, diseases and problems caused by dioxin will be present in rats.

Today dioxins are found as industrial by-products, given off by waste incinerators and other processes. To investigate effects of its exposure, pregnant rats were administered TCDD, a dioxin component of Agent Orange. This dose was low for lab rats but higher than humans would experience in the environment, as well as for a different time period and method of dose delivery. The team found that subsequent generations, all the way to the original rats' "great grandchildren", had problems such as prostate cancer, ovarian diseases and kidney disease.

The way dioxins do this is by changing which genes are turned on and off. The DNA sequences are the same, but whether they are expressed or not changes (the study of inherited changes in gene expression is called epigenetics). While the findings are not directly applicable to humans, it demonstrates that the environment of our ancestors can be responsible for diseases and disorders today.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Dmitry Oshchepkov

Friday, October 5, 2012

Carmageddon and Air Quality

Air quality near the closed 10-mile portion of the 405 Freeway reached levels 83% better than typical weekends, according to a team at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

The 405 Freeway at Sunset Boulevard is shown. UCLA researchers say that last year’s Carmageddon closure of the 405 rid Los Angeles of both traffic and another notorious problem: pollution. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times / July 16, 2011)

The reprieve lasted for only one weekend, but UCLA researchers say that last year's Carmageddon closure of the 405 Freeway rid Los Angeles of both traffic and another notorious problem: pollution.

Air quality near the closed 10-mile portion of the freeway reached levels 83% better than typical weekends, according to research released Friday by a team at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

More striking, the researchers say, air quality also improved 75% in parts of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica, suggesting that whole swaths of residents stayed off the road in those areas. Overall, air quality across the region was 25% better than normal.

"Seeing such a dramatic reduction [in pollutants] in West L.A. was really quite surprising," said Suzanne Paulson, one of the professors leading the research. "It gives a very dramatic view of how clean the air could be."

As soon as traffic returned the following week, the improvements vanished, Paulson said. But area residents have another chance to breathe some fresh air starting Saturday.

More than 14 months after the initial closure, workers will again shut down a portion of the 405 Freeway, this time to demolish the northern end of the Mulholland Drive bridge. The construction is part of a $1-billion project that will include adding a carpool lane.

Paulson and Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, both said they hope the freeway will one day be filled with electric vehicles or other low-emission cars. Atwood said Los Angeles still has the "worst air quality in the country." Research has linked exposure to near-roadway pollutants to an increased risk ofasthma, heart attack, stroke, premature births and other health problems.

Atwood said the study's findings were not all that surprising but illustrate the "significant effect" cars, and especially trucks, have on air quality. He estimated that vehicular traffic is responsible for about half of all air pollution.

City leaders and transit officials have asked residents to stay out of their cars and "eat, shop and play locally" during this weekend's closure. But the average person probably won't be able to tell the difference in air quality even if cars stay home, Paulson said.

The professor and her colleague, Yifang Zhu, don't plan to conduct another study during this weekend's closure, and haven't yet published a paper on last year's findings.

So perhaps the only way for people to gauge the quality of the air they are breathing will be to look to the streets and count the cars.

Source: LA Times

Friday, September 21, 2012

Environmental Success Story

Air pollution success story

Los Angeles, wedged between the ocean to its west and mountains to its east, is built for air pollution. Contaminants from cars, utilities and factories pump out particles and gases that enshroud the city in smog.

California became the first state to regulate air pollution when then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Air Resources Act in 1967. The U.S. caught up with California three years later when another California Republican, President Richard Nixon, signed the Clean Air Act.

California maintains its role as an environmental law laboratory. This fall it will introduce a statewide cap-and-trade program to gradually reduce its climate pollution.

Read more energy & sustainability news.

Source: Bloomberg

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Keeping Allergic Children Healthy

If your child has allergies, asthma or other sensitivities, there’s extra parenting responsibility. Erica Reid, mother to two preteens with food and environmental sensitivities and author of The Thriving Child , shares some of her tips for keeping children safe.

Be an advocate.
Own your children’s health problems, and guide your children to do so, too. “Teach them as early as possible to live with whatever they have,” Reid says. With strong food allergies, Reid’s son, 9, doesn’t eat at friends’ houses. Her son and daughter, 11, know what questions to ask when they order for themselves in restaurants.

'School' others.
Discuss your child’s health needs with teachers. “Inform teachers on the first day of school, and if your child has more than one teacher, don’t rely on that teacher to tell the other,” Reid says. And don’t be fazed by resistance. “Some teachers ... don’t understand when I tell them my son is allergic to cold air. They think I am overreacting.” It’s the responsibility of the parent and the person taking care of the child to ensure health is taken seriously.

Know the triggers.
Always carry your child’s medications and have him wear a medical bracelet that informs others of health problems in case he can’t speak for himself.

Source: USA Weekend

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pregnant? Breathe easy.

Take small steps such as:

  • Trade your scented candles or oils  for fresh flowers.
  • Skip the household aerosol sprays.
  • Quit smoking right away, and don't allow anyone to smoke around you.


  • Pesticides
  • Paint Fumes
  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Improperly Maintained Stoves
  • Kerosene Heaters
  • Solvents

For more Breathe Easy tips, read this article at Eco-Pregnancy and this one.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Air Pollution in the News

Air pollution continues to be a problem reported in the news. Here are some recent stories that caught our attention:

  • Illinois - Air Quality Index over 100 - Examiner
  • Connecticut - dangerous humid winds - Fox News
  • New York - chemical fire - WYNT
  • Kansas - air quality alert issued - KWCH
  • Hong Kong - storm creates smog - Bloomberg

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

BreatheEz System

The trend toward making homes more energy efficient has resulted in many pollutants becoming trapped inside our homes. Now with the BreatheEz, you can have it all: an energy efficient, odor-free healthy home for your family and yourself.
  • 100% completely safe
  • Environmentally friendly—uses no chemicals
  • Improves air quality by destroying airborne pollutants
  • Economical—costs less to use than a 50-watt light bulb
  • Leaves a fresh, clean scent throughout your home
  • Virtually maintenance-free—simply wipe the bulb with an alcohol-soaked cloth twice yearly when unit is not running
  • Installs out of sight in the air handler of your HVAC system in 30 minutes or less
  • Labor and parts guaranteed for two years from date of installation
  • 60-day No-Risk Guarantee

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Power Plants Filters

Recently, power plants have come under scrutiny as their smokestacks emit an obvious source of air pollution. Some lobbyists are calling for there to be custom-made air filters put on each smoke stack, or in the workings of the factory before they reach the smoke stacks, in order to lessen the amount of waste particles emitted by the exhaust.

Read more at:
Seattle Times
Kansas City Star

Thursday, June 7, 2012

BP in Pollution News Again

BP Products North America Inc. has agreed to install $400 million in new air pollution controls at its northwestern Indiana oil refinery and pay an $8 million fine under a deal with the government and environmental groups. Fox News

In a move that promises cleaner air throughout the Chicago area, BP agreed to spend more than $400 million to settle legal complaints about chronic pollution problems at the oil company’s sprawling refinery in northwest Indiana. Boston Herald

Federal regulators had accused BP of violating a 2001 legal agreement over previous pollution problems at the Whiting plant and cited the company for repeatedly exceeding emissions limits on flares that shoot out harmful chemicals during frequent malfunctions.

Changes outlined in the consent decree, filed in U.S. District Court in Hammond, require the oil company to dramatically reduce flaring by capturing most of the pressurized gases, and to operate the flares more efficiently when they are needed. Chicago Tribune

Back in 2008 when we began this lawsuit under the Clean Air Act, BP claimed that its planned multi-billion dollar expansion of the Whiting Refinery to process dirty tar sands crude oil would cut the refinery’s air pollution. But according to our team of engineering and legal experts, BP left out huge sources of pollution within the refinery and used faulty calculations for others. If the company had done its pollution accounting properly, it would have shown major increases in air pollution and triggered the legal obligation to use state-of-the-art controls.

Four years later we’ve come full circle, with the announced settlement requiring BP to better control its pollution by installing $400 million in air pollution controls. These controls will reduce pollution from the refinery by 4,000 tons each year. National Resources Defense Council

Friday, May 25, 2012

Local and Globally, the Pollution Problem

We talk a lot of about air pollution, air purification, clean air, and how our systems help. I'm in the South Florida tri-county area (Miami Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach), but the problem is global, as shown in these news excerpts:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Obesity and Air Pollution

Obesity linked to air pollution in inner cities:
     It's well known that a poor diet and physical inactivity are the main contributors to obesity, now an epidemic that afflicts 17 percent of America's children. But why would the rate be higher--closer to 25 percent greater, according to a new studyconducted by the Columbia University Center for Children's Environmental Health--among children living in inner-city neighborhoods? The statistic seems particularly strange for a city like New York, where most of us walk or take public transportation to get about. Could there be other factors to consider?
     Indeed, the Center's study strongly suggests that a common urban air pollutant, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs for short, could be playing a role. PAHs are released into the air from the burning of coal, diesel, oil and gas, and other organic substances like tobacco. Trucks and buses are the worst polluters, as they use diesel fuel, not gasoline.
     Previous research at the Center indicates that exposure to PAHs poses a number of health hazards. Prenatal exposure to PAH can negatively affect children's IQ and is linked to anxiety, depression, and attention problems in young children. Also PAHs are known carcinogens and have been shown to disrupt the body's endocrine system, which is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, and reproductive processes.
So is it the PAHs' effect on the endocrine system and its control of metabolism that links the pollutant to obesity? Possibly. According to studies on mice, exposure to PAHs causes gains in fat mass in the mice. Corroborating evidence from cell culture studies has shown exposures to PAH prevent normal lipolysis, the process by which fat cells shed lipids and shrink in size.
     These earlier studies correlate well with the findings from the new "street-science" study, which was published earlier this month in the American Journal of Epidemiology. In this new study, researchers recruited 702 nonsmoking pregnant women who all lived in areas in northern Manhattan or the South Bronx. Over the course of two days during their third trimester, the women wore a small backpack equipped to continually sample the surrounding air; at night, each placed it near her bed. What the researchers found was that children of the women exposed to high levels of PAH during pregnancy were nearly twice as likely (1.79 times) to be obese at age 5, and more than twice as likely (2.26 times) to be obese at age 7, compared with the children whose mothers had lower levels of exposure. The 7-year-olds whose mothers were in the highest exposure group had, on average, 2.4 pounds more fat mass than the children of women with the least exposure.
     Interestingly, although obesity is clustered among poorer families and New York City has big pockets of poverty, Andrew G. Rundle, Dr. PH, the study's lead author and a professor of epidemiology at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, found the impact of PAH on risk of obesity was not influenced by household income or neighborhood poverty. His team also ruled out the influence of cigarette smoke in the household, another sources of PAHs.
Rundle offers this explanation for the role PAHs may play: "Obesity is a complex disease withmultiple risk factors... For many people who don't have the resources to buy healthy food or don't have the time to exercise, prenatal exposure to air pollution may tip the scales, making them even more susceptible to obesity."
     Obesity rates are higher among African American and Hispanic children, Rundle notes. "So while NYC has many advantages in terms of walkability and parks," he explains, "It also has many residents traditionally thought to be at higher risk."
     Fortunately, there are ways to reduce PAH exposure in your community. As noted above, certain fuels release more of the pollutant than others, so working with your city or town to require trucks, buses, and building furnaces to either switch to cleaner fuels or be equipped with the latest emission controls could make a big difference. Efforts on the part of community action groups in New York City to take diesel buses off the streets and retrofit oil furnaces so they burn cleaner fuel have improved air quality here.
     Also, you can join the many cities and towns that have passed anti-idling rules prohibiting trucks and buses from idling their engines when they stop for more than a few minutes. Consider including a clause like the one we have in NYC, which not only allows agents of the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Sanitation to issue idling summonses, appearance tickets, and violation notices, but also gives citizens the ability to report truck violations.
     Cleaner air, just like more healthful eating and access to parks and recreation areas, is our ticket to creating a smarter, healthier, more productive life for our children. We can all help to make our neighborhoods safer and healthier for them.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Asthma Triggers

Asthma can first appear any time - even later in life. Experts don't know why some adults develop asthma, but they suspect heredity and environmental factors. Obesity may raise the risk of adult-onset asthma as well.

See video HERE

Here are other triggers, with tips to help protect yourself:

Trigger: Respiratory Infections
Scientists found an increased risk of asthma in poeple ages 21-63 who had been diagnosed with lower respiratory tract infections. Tip: Wash your hands often. This is one of the simplest ways to kill the germs that get you sick. Also, talk to your doctor about getting an annual flu shot.

Trigger: Allergies
Pollen, dust, and dander can set off symptoms. At least 30% of adult cases are caused by allergies. When your immune system mistakes a harmless allergen for a dangerous invader, it releases chemicals to attack it. For some people, this reaction also affects the lungs and airways. Tip: Consider immuno-therapy. Allergy shots gradually reduce your immune system reactions to specific allergens, which in turn decreases asthma symptoms.

Trigger: Your Job
If you wheeze at work, you may have occupational asthma, caused by inhaling potentially harmful job-related substances. Experts believe up to 15% of all asthma cases in the USA may be linked to working conditions. Tip: Avoid irritants.A doctor can help determine what on your job site may be causing your symptoms: If it's a specific irritant, talk to your employer about minimizing exposure.

Source: USA Weekend

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lower Asthma Attacks through Clean Indoor Air

Keeping the air clean inside your home helps everyone breathe easier and lowers the risk for asthma attacks in children – and adults - with this serious breathing problem. Here are some things you can do around the house to minimize asthma triggers in your indoor air:
  • Ban smoking. An estimated 400,000 to one million asthmatic children have asthma worsened by exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the American Lung Association.
  • Ask smokers to change clothes before coming inside. Even exposure to ‘third-hand smoke – the particles that cling to the hair, clothing and skin of a smoker, can make asthma worse for kids.
  • Put plastic covers on the mattress and pillow of the beds in the asthmatic child’s bedroom.
  • Wet dust the child’s room daily with disposable wipes or paper towels.
  • Keep surfaces clear (“like a Marine’s barracks”) for easy cleaning. Put all the objects you cannot wash frequently into the closet - such as stuffed animals, throw pillows and fabric decorations.
  • Don’t let pets – dogs, cats, guinea pigs, ferrets, the mouse your kid brought home for the weekend from the school science class - into the bedroom of the person with asthma, ever. Pet dander can be a potent asthma trigger.
  • Avoid perfumes or other strong smells such as strongly-scented cleaning products.
Source: Philly Health

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fracking Harmful

You may have heard about water pollution from fracking (the production of natural gas from hydraulic fracturing), but air pollution is also on the rise from this process.
     "So much is being said in news about how this is the new clean fuel," she said. "It's not."
     Natural gas production is rapidly increasing across the country -- from Pennsylvania to Colorado. According to many public health experts, the natural and manmade chemicals released during drilling, hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) and reinjection steps are making more and more people sick. Adding to the concern are new findings showing the associated air pollution, and the dangers of exposure to very small doses of certain chemicals. Developing fetuses and young children can be the most vulnerable to these effects.
     "For children, the potential cancer risk is a serious consideration. They are more sensitive, exposed at younger ages and for longer periods of time," said Lisa McKenzie, lead researcher on the study at the Colorado School of Public Health.
     McKenzie said the results also pointed to potentially significant respiratory and neurological effects. For children, this could mean more headaches, sore throats and asthma. "Children are more sensitive to all of these pollutants, whether traditional ozone, dust or particulates caused by hydrocarbons leaking out of the wells or the diesel trucks carrying the materials," added Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, whose goal is to protect public health and the environment.
Source: Huffington Post

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Smog and Stokes

Factors for stroke include: predisposition for weak blood vessels, smoking, and poor air quality. Combine any of these and you have a deadly combination.

For more on how smog increases the risk of stroke, click here to see the Video.

Symptoms of stroke:
  • Numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg — especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, poor coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause
If you notice anyone with sudden onset of those symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention.

The National Stroke Association recommends you do the following to reduce your risk:
  • Eat a healthful diet
  • Don’t smoke
  • Be active and exercise
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol

Also, purify your air. The fine particles in the air are what increase the risk of stroke. Our purifiers increase the ozone, so the particles stick together, becoming larger.

Source: Press Enterprise

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

UV History

According to Good Changes Now, the history of ultraviolet light is as follows:

In 1800, a German astronomer, Fredrich William Herschel, was experimenting with passing sunlight through a glass prism. He observed that temperatures increased the more he went towards the red end of the spectrum. As a scientist he measured beyond the red end of the spectrum, naming it “ultra-red.”
A year later, Johann Wilhelm Ritter, Polish-born physicist, hearing of Herschel’s ultra-red discovery, wanted to know if light existed beyond it. At the University of Jena, Ritter did experiments using silver chloride. This light-sensitive material was used in passing different colors through a glass prism. He found an intense reaction with the silver chloride, and beyond the red end of the spectrum he found the violet light that he termed “chemical rays.” Later this light was referred to as “ultraviolet” light.
In 1877 two English scientists, W. B. Hugo Downes and Thomas Porter Blunt, discovered that sunlight kills bacteria. While doing an experiment with sugar water the part in the sun remained clear while the shaded side grew cloudy with bacteria.
Much later Marshall Ward discovered it was the ultraviolet portion that had the bacteria-killing properties.
Niels Finsen was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1903, for his work using UV light to fight tuberculosis.
The UV-C light sterilization has the ability to kill viruses, germs, and bacteria. The lights are now at a stage that we have sizes that we can use anywhere.

Further, Public Health Reports describes how we are using UV light for germicidal purposes:

Public health concerns such as multi- and extensive drug-resistant tuberculosis, bioterrorism, pandemic influenza, and severe acute respiratory syndrome have intensified efforts to prevent transmission of infections that are completely or partially airborne using environmental controls. One such control, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), has received renewed interest after decades of underutilization and neglect. With renewed interest, however, come renewed questions, especially regarding efficacy and safety. There is a long history of investigations concluding that, if used properly, UVGI can be safe and highly effective in disinfecting the air, thereby preventing transmission of a variety of airborne infections. Despite this long history, many infection control professionals are not familiar with the history of UVGI and how it has, and has not, been used safely and effectively. This article reviews that history of UVGI for air disinfection, starting with its biological basis, moving to its application in the real world, and ending with its current status.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Much Air?

Q. How much air do we breathe each day?
A. 550 liters of pure oxygen. That does not include the amount we also exhale.

Q. What makes us breathe in even more?
A. Exercise, larger lungs (children take in slightly less), certain medical condition.

Q. How can we measure how much air we take in per breath?
A. Breathe into a paper bag. See how much it fills up and deflates.

Source: Discovery Health

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Relief for sinus sufferers

Symptoms Of Sinusitis:
  • symptoms of upper respiratory infection lasting ten days or more
  • facial pressure or pain
  • nasal discharge that is yellow or green
  • post-nasal drip
  • cough

Our BreatheEz Air Purifier improves indoor air quality for allergy, asthma, and sinus sufferers by destroying airborne pollutants caused by mold, mildew, smoke, and other pollutants, leaving a fresh, clean scent.

Suffer no more!

Source: ENT MD

Friday, January 6, 2012

What is pollution?

What is pollution?
Environmental pollution is contamination of air, water and land from man-made waste. Pollution leads to depletion of the ozone layer, global warming and climate change. Air pollution is the release of chemicals and particles into the atmosphere. Water pollution includes surface runoff, leakage into groundwater, liquid spills, wastewater discharge and littering. If toxins are spilled on the ground or if an underground storage tank leaks, soil can become contaminated. Well known contaminants include herbicides and pesticides. Toxic waste is waste material, often in chemical form, which pollutes the natural environment and contaminates groundwater.

Other types of pollution include ocean pollution and noise pollution. Environmental pollution can have a deadly effect on humans and ecosystems. For example, cigarette smoke, including second-hand smoke, causes cancer, emphysema, stroke and heart attack. Drinking water can become contaminated by untreated sewage, rashes and skin problems occur due to oil spills, while excessive noise can cause hearing loss. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in 1970 to put a limit on the amount of pollutants in the air. Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1963, the Noise Control Act in 1972 and the Clean Water Act in 1977. Pollution is a bigger concern in other parts of the world, especially developing countries. Time Magazine reported in 2007 that the most polluted spots in the world included China, India, Peru and Russia.

Source: Baltimore Sun