Tag: air quality

Air pollution seen as another factor in honeybee decline

Ozone degrades scent molecules

bee
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”

Colorado just can’t get a grip on its smog problem

State  fails to meet EPA standard set to protect public health; ozone problems to worsen with global warming

s
State regulators have left children, the elderly and asthmatics vulnerable to potentially deadly levels of ozone. Photo courtesy NREL.

By Bob Berwyn

The modest steps taken by Colorado to try and improve air quality along the Front Range aren’t enough, according to the EPA. This week, the federal agency said the state has failed to meet air quality standards set to protect public health.

In a Federal Register Notice, the EPA designated the Denver-Boulder-Greeley-Fort Collins-Loveland corridor as a nonattainment area because it didn’t meet the federal limits for ground-level ozone, the key ingredient of smog. Under the Clean Air Act, the state was required to bring the Front Range into compliance with smog limits by July of 2015.  Colorado failed to meet this deadline. Continue reading “Colorado just can’t get a grip on its smog problem”

Environment: Can a lawsuit shut down one of the West’s biggest and dirtiest coal-burning power plants?

asf
So much coal, so much pollution!

Legal challenge seeks to hasten the end of the fossil fuel era in the Southwest

Staff Report

A coalition of environmental and community groups is challenging the federal government’s decision to extend operations at the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant for another 25 years. In a new lawsuit, the activists say the approval lacked an assessment of clean energy alternatives.

Specifically, the legal challenge says the federal government’s claim that the power plant won’t harm endangered species violates the Endangered Species Act, and that the final decision violates the National Environmental Policy Act. Continue reading “Environment: Can a lawsuit shut down one of the West’s biggest and dirtiest coal-burning power plants?”

Climate: EPA set to limit heat-trapping coolant chemicals

asdf
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”

EU air quality regulations save thousands of lives each year

Cutting pollution improves public health

s
s

Staff Report

People everywhere like to complain about excessive government regulation, and the European Union is no exception. But it’s clear, from a new University of Leeds study, that air quality rules in the EU have saved thousands of lives in recent decades.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, shows that EU policies have led to a 35 percent reduction of fine particles in the atmosphere over the period 1970 to 2010, which has improved public health across Europe, preventing about 80,000 premature deaths each year. Continue reading “EU air quality regulations save thousands of lives each year”

Environment: EPA faces ozone lawsuit

Toxic haze kills millions worldwide

s
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”

Study tracks big drop in global mercury emissions

Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Mercury from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado pollutes lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. @bberwyn photo.

Local, regional controls help improve global picture

Staff Report

Global mercury emissions dropped by nearly a third between 1990 and 2010, according to a new study that tried to identify patterns and trends in mercury pollution.

Rapid economic development in Asia means higher mercury emissions, but reductions in North America were enough to offset the increases, according to scientists from China, Germany, Canada and the U.S.

Mercury is a metallic element that poses environmental health risks to both wildlife and humans when converted to methylmercury in ecosystems.  It can be converted into gaseous emissions during various industrial activities, as well as natural processes like volcanic eruptions. Continue reading “Study tracks big drop in global mercury emissions”