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. รข€¨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?”