Environment: Mercury deposition increasing in West and Midwest

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Mercury emissions from power plants are a global issue.

Asia’s power plants affect U.S. environment

Staff Report

Mercury levels in precipitation are increasing in the central U.S. but steadily dropping along the East Coast, scientists reported in a new study.

The findings suggest that mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants in Asia are on the rise, while they are decreasing in North America, according to Peter Weiss-Penzias, an environmental toxicologist at UC Santa Cruz who was the lead author of the study.

Mercury is a toxic element released into the environment through a variety of human activities, including the burning of coal, as well as by natural processes. Rainfall washes mercury out of the atmosphere and into soils and surface waters. Bacteria convert elemental mercury into a more toxic form, methyl mercury, which becomes increasingly concentrated in organisms higher up the food chain. Mercury concentrations in some predatory fish are high enough to raise health concerns. Continue reading

Distant wildfire smoke may raise ozone levels

Summer 2012 wildfires Colorado

Wildfire smoke may interact with other pollutants to raise ozone levels. @bobberwyn photo.

Across the U.S., ozone levels were higher on smoky days than on smoke-free days

Staff Report

Wildfire smoke on its own can trigger health warnings for direct exposure, and new research from Colorado State University suggests that there may be a more widespread impact after they linked smoke with elevated levels of ozone.

In globally warming world, where the number and size of wildfires keeps growing, the findings have significant implications for public health. Continue reading

New NASA-developed technologies could cut jet emissions by 75 percent

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Emerging technologies could cut the airline industry’s carbon footprint. @bberwyn photo.

New designs, materials could also deliver huge cost savings for airlines

Staff Report

Airlines could cut costs and air pollution by adopting some of NASA’s latest green aviation technologies.

The nation’s airlines could realize more than $250 billion dollars in savings in the near future thanks to green-related technologies developed and refined by NASA’s aeronautics researchers during the past six years. Continue reading

Environment: More trouble for VW

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The EPA is making new allegations against VW for clean air violations.

EPA says automaker skirted clean air regs with additional diesel vehicles

By Bob Berwyn

There’s more trouble ahead for VW, as the EPA this week issued a second formal notice to the German automaker alleging further Clean Air Act violations.

The latest notice from the EPA is also being issued to Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America. Along with the vehicles identified last month, the EPA now says that VW, Porsche and Audi also installed illegal air pollution “defeat devices” in additional cars, including the diesel versions of: the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5. Continue reading

Study: Diesel fumes not so good for bees

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UK scientists say diesel exhaust fumes prevent bees from finding food. @bberwyn photo.

Scientists say nitrous oxide cuts the availability of flower scents

Staff Report

It’s pretty tough to smell the flowers when the air is polluted by exhaust fumes from heavy traffic, and a new study shows that may go double for bees.

In polluted environments, diesel fumes may be reducing the availability of almost half the most common flower odors that bees use to find their food, according to researchers in the UK. Continue reading

Environment: Texas study says kids exposed to highway pollution have lower grades

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How bad is highway pollution in your town?

El Paso research shows strong link between school performance and air pollution

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new children’s health study by researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso reinforces existing evidence that exposure to toxic air pollution from cars and trucks has a big effect on school performance.

The UTEP study found that fourth and fifth graders who are exposed to toxic air pollutants at home are more likely to have lower GPAs. The findings are based on an analysis of academic performance and sociodemographic data for 1,895 fourth and fifth grade children in the El Paso Independent School District. Continue reading

Environment: Independence Day fireworks cause short-term spike in harmful air pollution

July 4 fireworks.

July 4 fireworks can result in short-term spikes of fine particulate pollution. @bberwyn photo.

Research tracks surge in PM2.5 pollution around the Fourth of July

Staff Report

FRISCO — The fallout from Independence Day fireworks can cause air pollution to spike by as much as 370 percent for a few hours, scientists said this week after studying several years worth of data from more than 300 air quality monitors around the country.

Specifically, the researchers looked at the surge in fine particulate matter — particles that are two and one half microns in diameter (PM2.5) on July 4. The data came from 315 measuring sites spanning 15 years, for the first time quantifying the increase in pollution. Continue reading

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