When will planners start considering the public health impacts of urban traffic congestion?

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Traffic haze settles on a busy street in Buenos Aires. Simple traffic control measures like synchronizing stoplights and using flyovers could reduce human exposure to toxic auto exhaust pollution. bberwyn photo.

New traffic pollution data screams out for better transit planning and improved emissions control technology for motor vehicles

Staff Report

FRISCO — Pollution from auto exhaust can quickly build to dangerous levels at stoplights, where drivers are exposed to about 25 percent of their total exposure during a typical commute.

More and more research is proving that the nanoparticles from exhaust contribute significantly to respiratory and heart disease, so University of Surrey scientists decided to study the exposure. Drivers spend just 2 percent of their journey time passing through traffic intersections managed by lights, this short duration contributes to about 25 percent of total exposure to these harmful particles.

Signalized traffic intersections were found to be high pollution hot-spots due to the frequent changes in driving conditions. With drivers decelerating and stopping at lights, then revving up to move quickly when lights go green, peak particle concentration was found to be 29 times higher than that during free flowing traffic conditions. Continue reading

Environment: Study finds air pollution-autism links

New environmental justice deal signifies progress, experts say.

Exposure to fine particulate air pollution during late pregnancy increases risk of autism.

Findings could open the door for preventive measures

Staff Report

FRISCO — Harvard public health researchers say evidence is growing that exposure to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy may double the risk of having a child with autism. The study was the first to explore the link between airborne particulate matter and autism. Continue reading

Environment: Federal appeals court focusing on toxic ozone smog in Utah’s Uinta Basin

EPA challenged on decision to designate polluted region as unclassifiable

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards.

Western U.S. Counties Violating Current and Proposed Ozone Air Quality Standards. Map courtesy Jeremy Nichols/ClimateWest blog.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Environmental advocates and the EPA are facing off in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. today over air quality in Utah’s remote Uinta Basin, where ozone levels often exceed standards set to protect human health.

In a weird twist to the case, the fossil fuel industry is claiming that its own air pollution data is of poor quality and unreliable, and shouldn’t be used by the EPA to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area, despite the fact that the area regularly sees some of the highest ozone pollution levels in the country.

At issue in the oral arguments is the EPA’s refusal to designate the Uinta Basin as a nonattainment area despite monitoring showing serious air quality degradation in northeastern Utah. The EPA’s decision to designate the area as unclassifiable is a clear violation of the Clean Air Act, according to WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups involved in the case. Continue reading

Air pollution: There is no ‘safe’ level

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New York smog and ozone.

Outdoor air pollution causes 3.7 million deaths each year

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by an Australian researcher underscores the fact that, when it comes to air pollution, there are no safe levels.

The research by Adrian Barnett, of the Queensland University of Technology, shows that the Australian government’s standards for key outdoor air pollutants are misleading, as many authorities wrongly assume them to be ‘safe’ thresholds for health.

But Barnett’s modeling shows that, if levels of those pollutants were all to rise to just below the government-set limit, it would result in 6,000 additional deaths and more then 20,000 hospital visits. Continue reading

Climate: Pollution causing drop in monsoon rains

A classic monsoonal flow of moisture, moving clockwise around a

A classic North American monsoonal flow of moisture, moving clockwise around an area of high pressure.

‘Human activity has played a significant role in altering the seasonal monsoon rainfall on which billions of people depend’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A 10 percent drop in overall monsoon rainfall in the northern hemisphere during past 50 years is outside the range of natural climate variability, Scottish researchers said after a detailed analysis of weather data.

After accounting for all the variables, the scientists said that emissions produced by human activity caused the drop. Tiny air particles from man-made sources — known as anthropogenic aerosols — were the cause. Continue reading

Winter ozone formation in Utah linked with atmospheric inversions and persistent snow cover

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Oil and gas drillers must to more to protect the airsheds they operate in.

Air quality worsening in rural areas affected by fracking

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dangerously high levels of winter ozone pollution in parts of Utah can be traced directly to chemicals released into the air by oil and gas exploration. The volatile organic compounds, common byproducts of fossil fuel exploitation, get trapped under atmospheric inversion layers and sunlight reflected by snow sparks the chemical process that forms the corrosive gas.

For example, in 2013, ozone in Ouray, Utah, exceeded the national air quality standards 49 times during the winter season. By contrast, in the densely populated, urban area of Riverside, California, the standards were exceeded about half that amount that same year, but during the summer. Continue reading

Climate: EPA eyes limits on airline carbon pollution

U.S. airlines have long lobbied against any measures aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, but they probably won't be able to dodge new EPA pollution regulations developed under the authority of the Clean Air Act.

U.S. airlines have long lobbied against any measures aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, but they won’t be able to dodge new EPA pollution regulations developed under the authority of the Clean Air Act.

Agency targets spring 2016 to make initial findings

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — U.S. airlines may soon be required to at least start thinking about cutting their carbon footprint.

Aviation accounts for about 11 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. transportation sector and is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution, rising between 3 percent to 5 percent a year. Carbon emissions from global aviation will quadruple by mid-century without action. Continue reading

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