Tag: air pollution

Air pollution seen as another factor in honeybee decline

Ozone degrades scent molecules

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Air pollution makes it harder for bees and other insects to find flowers. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

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”

Does industrial pollution from Asia cause oxygen-starved dead zones in the Pacific Ocean?

New research offers clues on global pollution pathways

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A new study shows  industrial pollution from Asia affects the health of tropical oceans. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

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.

The study found that the pollution raises levels of iron and nitrogen  in the ocean off the coast of East Asia. Ocean currents then carried the nutrients to tropical regions, where it feeds photosynthesizing phytoplankton. As those organisms feed on the nutrients, it has a negative effect on the dissolved oxygen levels deeper in the ocean. Continue reading “Does industrial pollution from Asia cause oxygen-starved dead zones in the Pacific Ocean?”

Highway air pollution still a big public health threat

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Air quality near major roads is still harming the lung function of children. @bberwyn photo.

Kids living close to highways suffer from reduced lung function

Staff Report

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”

Climate: EPA set to limit heat-trapping coolant chemicals

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Industrial cooling requires extensive use of heat-trapping pollutants. @bberwyn photo.

New regs could avoid the equivalent of 11 million tons of CO2 emissions

Staff Report

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.”

At stake is reducing emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used air-conditioning, refrigeration, and other equipment. Continue reading “Climate: EPA set to limit heat-trapping coolant chemicals”

Air pollution kills 5.5 million people each year

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Beijing is obscured by smog in this January 2013 image from NASA Earth Observatory.

Scientists warn that mortality will increase even more without a serious push to cut toxic emissions in China and India

Staff Report

According to the results of a new international study, more than 5.5 million people die prematurely each year because of indoor and outdoor air pollution. Most of the deaths are in India and China, and the toll is expected to climb in the coming years without aggressive efforts to cut pollution.

The toxins come from power plants, factories, vehicle exhaust and from burning wood and coal for heating — all of which release tiny particles that are harmful.

“Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease,” said Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, Canada. “Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population,” Brauer said, discussing the study findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Continue reading “Air pollution kills 5.5 million people each year”

Environment: EPA faces ozone lawsuit

Toxic haze kills millions worldwide

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Toxic air pollution kills millions of people each year. Photo courtesy National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Staff Report

There’s little question that air pollution is one of the biggest killers on the planet. Some recent estimates place the number of global deaths attributed to airborne toxins anywhere between 3.3 to 7 million per year, and that number is expected to go up by 15 to 20 percent in the next few decades.

And while countries with developing economies like China and India have the biggest problems, the U.S. is not immune from poisonous pollutants, especially invisible ozone. In some parts of the country, ozone pollution is getting worse, not better. The EPA has tried to tackle ozone pollution by setting new standards, but faced resistance from industrial polluters.

As a result, watchdog groups say the agency has fallen short, and the Center for Biological Diversity says it will sue the EPA because 17 states and the District of Columbia have failed to reduce ozone pollution, which poses serious threats to public health, wildlife and ecosystems. Essentially, environmental activists say the EPA has failed to meet standards set under the Clean Air Act. Continue reading “Environment: EPA faces ozone lawsuit”

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 “Environment: Mercury deposition increasing in West and Midwest”