Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beijing Air Pollution Makes International News


China Lets Media Report on Air Pollution Crisis - New York Times

Record Beijing air pollution forces warning from China officials to keep kids indoors - CBS News

This Unbelievable Photo Shows Beijing's Off-The-Charts Air Pollution - Mashable

Chinese media urges action on air pollution - Reuters

Chinese air pollution hits record levels – in pictures - Guardian

China hit by extreme air pollution - LA Times

Beijing's Air Quality Catastrophe - The Atlantic Cities

Beijing's 'Airpocalypse' Spurs Pollution Controls, Public Pressure - NPR

Chinese Pollution Leads to Rare Criticism in State Media - Hollywood Reporter

Friday, January 11, 2013

Biofuel Effect on Air Quality and Crops


Fighting climate change by producing more biofuels could actually worsen a little-known type of air pollution and cause almost 1,400 premature deaths a year in Europe by 2020, according to a new study.

The report said trees grown to produce biofuel - seen as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal - release a chemical into the air that, when mixed with other pollutants, could also reduce farmers' crop yields.

"Growing biofuels is thought to be a good thing because it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," said Nick Hewitt, who worked on the study with colleagues from Lancaster University, UK. "What we're saying is 'yes, that's great, but biofuels could also have a detrimental effect on air quality'."

The report, in the journal Nature Climate Change, looked into the impact of a European Union scheme to slow climate change by producing more biofuels.

Hewitt told Reuters there would be a similar impact wherever biofuels were produced in large quantities in areas suffering air pollution, including the United States and China.

Poplar, willow or eucalyptus trees, all used as fast-growing sources of renewable wood fuel, emit high levels of the chemical isoprene as they grow, the study said. Isoprene forms toxic ozone when mixed with other air pollutants in sunlight.

"Large-scale production of biofuels in Europe would have small but significant effects on human mortality and crop yields," said Hewitt. "As far as we know, no one has looked at the air quality of growing biofuel crops before."

The report estimated that ozone from wood-based energy to meet the European Union's 2020 goal would cause nearly 1,400 premature deaths a year, costing society $7.1bn. The European plan would also would reduce the annual value of wheat and maize production by $1.5bn since ozone impairs crop growth, the study added.

Siting new biofuel plantations far away from polluted population centres would help limit ozone formation, the study suggested. Genetic engineering might be used to reduce isoprene emissions, it said.

Ozone can cause lung problems and is blamed for killing about 22,000 people a year in Europe. Overall air pollution, mainly from fossil fuels, causes about 500,000 premature deaths in Europe a year, according to the European Environment Agency.

The study did not compare the potential damage caused by biofuels to the impact on human health from producing coal, oil or natural gas as part of policies to slow global warming. "We're not in a position to make that comparison," Hewitt said.

He noted that the main reason to shift to biofuels was to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, mainly from fossil fuels, that UN studies project will become ever more damaging this century.

The United Nations' World Health Organisation estimates global warming has caused more than 140,000 deaths annually worldwide since the 1970s.

The biggest impact was recorded in developing nations where the floods, droughts and other disasters blamed on climate change left millions suffering from diarrhoea, malnutrition, malaria and dengue fever.

Burning biofuels is viewed as neutral for climate change because plants soak up carbon when they grow and release it when they burn or rot. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, add carbon to the atmosphere from underground stores millions of years old.

Biofuels are often blamed for causing food price spikes by competing for cropland. Responding to such criticisms, the European commission said in 2012 it aimed to limit crop-based biofuels - such as from maize or sugar - to 5% of transport fuels.

Source: Guardian

Friday, January 4, 2013

Air Pollution, Traffic, and Childhood Asthma


As part of an international collaborative study on the impact of Traffic-Related Air Pollution on Childhood Asthma (TRAPCA), the health effects associated with long-term exposure to particles with a 50% cut-off aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 ┬Ám (PM2.5), PM2.5 absorbance, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were analysed.

The German part of the TRAPCA study used data from subpopulations of two ongoing birth cohort studies (German Infant Nutrition Intervention Programme (GINI) and Influences of Lifestyle Related Factors on the Human Immune System and Development of Allergies in Children (LISA)) based in the city of Munich. Geographic information systems (GIS)-based exposure modelling was used to estimate traffic-related air pollutants at the birth addresses of 1,756 infants. Logistic regression was used to analyse possible health effects and potential confounding factors were adjusted for.

To read the entire study, please see This Link