5 countries now on notice face potential legal action
By Bob Berwyn
Five large EU countries are on warning after repeatedly failing to meet air pollution standards for nitrogen oxide, a precursor to smog and a serious health risk in and of itself. If Member States fail to act within two months, the Commission may decide to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Studies have shown that more than 400,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor air quality, while millions more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Persistently high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) caused almost 70 000 premature deaths in Europe in 2013, which was almost three times the number of deaths by road traffic accidents in the same year.
Because of the persistent breaches, the European Commission this week sent final warning to Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, urging those countries to improve air quality and safeguard public health.
New study tracks increase in summertime haze in Colorado wilderness
Longer and hotter droughts and wildfires are polluting the once clear blue skies of the high country in the West, according to new research from the University of Utah.
The study, published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found a link between the severity of drought in the Intermountain West and summertime air quality. Climate projections suggest that drought and wildfire risk will continue to increase in coming decades.
Court settlement includes mitigation and buy-back program
Volkswagen isn’t the only company to try and circumvent clean air rules. This week, Harley-Davidson agreed to pay a $12 million civil penalty for installing illegal devices that increase air pollution from their motorcycles.
Under the court-approved settlement, the company also agreed to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution by replacing older wood stoves with cleaner heating units, and to stop selling and to buy back and destroy the so-called super-tuners.
According to court documents, Harley-Davidson manufactured and sold about 340,000 of the devices, that, once installed, caused motorcycles to emit higher amounts of certain air pollutants than what the company certified to EPA. Aftermarket defeat devices like these super tuners alter a motor vehicle’s emissions controls and are prohibited under the Clean Air Act for use on vehicles that have been certified to meet EPA emissions standards.Continue reading “Harley-Davidson to pay $15 million for cheating on clean air rules”→
Air pollution is changing plant odors, which confuses bees and makes them less efficient at foraging and pollinating plants, Penn State researchers said in a new study that shows how ozone breaks down plant-emitted scent molecules.
The chemical interactions decrease both the scent molecules’ life spans and the distances they travel, the scientists reported in the new study. They found that plant-emitted hydrocarbons break down through chemical interactions with certain air pollutants such as ozone. This breakdown process results in the creation of more air pollutants, including hydroxyl and nitrate radicals, which further increase the breakdown rate of plant odors. Continue reading “Air pollution seen as another factor in honeybee decline”→
New research offers clues on global pollution pathways
Polluted dust from Asia is cutting oxygen levels in the tropical Pacific Ocean, researchers said this week, releasing a new study that traces a chain reaction that starts with land-based industrial pollution in China and other Asian countries.
“There’s a growing awareness that oxygen levels in the ocean may be changing over time,” said Taka Ito, an associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “One reason for that is the warming environment – warm water holds less gas. But in the tropical Pacific, the oxygen level has been falling at a much faster rate than the temperature change can explain,” Ito said.
Kids living close to highways suffer from reduced lung function
Despite increased efforts to control pollution from vehicles and industrial sources, young children are still being exposed to harmful levels of particulates that impair lung function.
A long-term health study shows that, by age eight, the lung function of children living within 100 meters of a major roadway was on average 6 percent lower than that of children living 400 meters or more away.
The study was one of the first to examine childhood exposure to air pollution after big improvements to urban air quality in the 1990s, explained lead author Dr. Mary B. Rice. The findings are published the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care, a journal of the American Thoracic Society. Continue reading “Highway air pollution still a big public health threat”→
New regs could avoid the equivalent of 11 million tons of CO2 emissions
The EPA wants to end the use of some industrial coolants that are up to 10,000 times more potent heat-trapping substances than CO2. At the same time, the agency is expanding the list of chemicals that are acceptable as safer and “more climate-friendly alternatives.”