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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Researchers estimate 1.30 million premature deaths in China in 2013 due to PM2.5 exposure

August 18, 2017

Using new PM2.5 exposure methods, researchers in China have estimated 1.30 million premature deaths in China in 2013 due to PM2.5. Their findings, presented in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, are consistent with other estimates (1.37 million and 1.36 million) calculated using different PM2.5 exposure methods.

Causes of premature death included adult ischemic heart disease (IHD) (0.30 million); cerebrovascular disease (CEV) (0.73 million); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (0.14 million); and lung cancer (LC) (0.13 million) in 2013. The source-oriented modeling determined that industry and residential sources were the two leading sources of increased mortality, contributing to 0.40 (30.5%) and 0.28 (21.7%) million deaths, respectively. Transportation contributed to 5.7% of the premature deaths. Power generation contributed 10.3%.

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Metabolomics study finds exposure to PM2.5 leads to increases in stress hormones

August 15, 2017

Exposure to high levels of PM2.5 air pollution increased stress hormone levels and negative metabolic changes in otherwise healthy, young adults according to the findings of a recent study conducted in China. Air purifiers appear to lessen the negative effects. The research is published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

The researchers focused on PM2.5—a component of air pollution emitted from vehicles, factories, power plants, fires and smoking—because many studies have suggested this type of major air pollutant might lead to cardiovascular and metabolic health consequences, according to Haidong Kan, M.D., Ph.D., study author and professor of environmental health sciences at Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

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Study finds in-car rush-hour exposure to some particulate pollution twice as high as previously thought

July 23, 2017

A new study, part of the Atlanta Commuter Exposures (ACE) Study, has assessed on-roadway in-cabin particulate pollution (PM2.5) collected from scripted rush hour commutes on highways and on non-highway side streets. Reported in the journal Atmospheric Environment, the study found that levels of some forms of harmful particulate matter inside car cabins are twice as high as previously believed.

Most traffic pollution sensors are placed on the ground alongside the road and take continuous samples for a 24-hour period. Exhaust composition, however, changes rapidly enough for drivers to experience different conditions inside their vehicles than these roadside sensors. Long-term sampling also misses nuanced variabilities caused by road congestion and environmental conditions.

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Researchers characterize aggregate indoor and outdoor PM2.5 exposure

July 20, 2017

In an initial step toward developing a comprehensive global impact assessment framework for PM2.5 emissions, an international team of researchers from the US and Europe has characterized the primary PM2.5 intake fraction—the long-term population intake mass per unit mass emitted into different indoor and outdoor environments.

Intake fractions from residential and occupational indoor sources ranged from 470 ppm to 62,000 ppm—mainly as a function of air exchange rate and occupancy. Indoor exposure typically contributes 80−90% to overall exposure from outdoor sources. In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers suggested that their framework facilitates improvements in air pollution reduction strategies and life cycle impact assessments.

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EPA proposes maintaining current NOx standards

July 18, 2017

Based on its review of scientific evidence, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes retaining the current national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for oxides of nitrogen (NOx). EPA proposes that the current NAAQS don’t need to be changed because they provide the appropriate public health protection, with an adequate margin of safety, including for older adults, children and people with asthma.

There are currently two primary standards for NOx. NO2 is the component of oxides of nitrogen of greatest concern for health and is the indicator for the primary NAAQS. The two primary NO2 standards are: a 1-hour standard established in 2010 at a level of 100 parts per billion (ppb) and based on the 98th percentile of the annual distribution of daily maximum 1-hour NO2 concentrations, averaged over 3 years; and an annual standard, originally set in 1971, at a level of 53 ppb and based on annual average NO2 concentrations.

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China study connects ozone pollution to cardiovascular health

July 17, 2017

Exposure to ozone, long associated with impaired lung function, is also connected to health changes that can cause cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke, according to a new study of Chinese adults. The findings associated ozone exposure with markers of platelet activation and increased blood pressure. Ozone concentrations were lower than the levels capable of influencing pulmonary function, which is the main basis for current regulatory standards.

The study, by a team from Duke University, Tsinghua University, Duke Kunshan University and Peking University, appears in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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São Paulo study finds concentration of ultrafine particulates rose by 1/3 in switch from ethanol to gasoline

The concentration of ultrafine particles less than 50 nanometers in diameter rose by one-third in the air of São Paulo, Brazil, when higher ethanol prices induced drivers to switch from ethanol to gasoline, according to a new study by a Northwestern University chemist, a National University of Singapore economist and two University of São Paulo physicists.

The research team also found when São Paulo drivers—some two million of them—switched back to ethanol because prices had gone down, the concentration of ultrafine particles also went down. This lockstep movement illustrates a very tight correlation between fuel choice and nanoparticles in the air. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Making tip extraction for fume removal work for robotic welding applications

By Mike Hattingh, RoboVent

What’s the best way to control weld fumes from robotic welding? Overhead hoods and full work cell enclosures have long been the standard solution. But new tip extraction technologies are now offering another alternative for many manufacturers who rely on robotic welding.

Overhead hoods are a straightforward solution for many robotic welding applications. Hoods keep toxic weld fumes out of the ambient facility air and make them easier to collect. They work well for smaller parts that are easily enclosed and do not require cranes to move.

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Study finds PM from biodiesel blends may be 50-80% less toxic per unit PM mass than from petroleum diesel

July 15, 2017

In a study published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, a team from the University of Vermont reports that particulate matter from the combustion of biodiesel blends may be 50–80% less toxic per unit PM mass emitted than PM from petroleum diesel, depending on feedstock.

There is growing consensus that PM toxicity is linked to the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) on PM and the subsequent oxidative stress induced in cells. However, the relative toxicity of biodiesel emissions compared to petroleum diesel remains unclear. In the study, the team examined the relationships between biodiesel fuel blend, exhaust particle oxidative potential (OP), and PM composition.

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HEI study finds no heart effects of ozone exposure in healthy older adults; lungs affected at relatively low exposures

July 07, 2017

The largest systematic study ever conducted of human volunteers exposed to ozone air pollution has found no evidence of effects on the heart in its healthy, older participants, but did find effects on the volunteers’ ability to breathe, even at low ambient levels.

HEI Research Report 192, Multicenter Ozone Study in oldEr Subjects (MOSES): Part 1. Effects of Exposure to Low Concentrations of Ozone on Respiratory and Cardiovascular Outcomes—published by the Health Effects Institute—measured a large number of cardiovascular and respiratory endpoints in 87 healthy, older participants who were exposed to 0, 70, or 120 parts per billion ozone for 3 hours while exercising moderately.

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China study finds associations between PM2.5 constituents and blood inflammation and coagulation

June 30, 2017

In a new study, a team from China has investigated the effects of various constituents of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) on blood inflammation and coagulation. The researchers found robust associations of the constituents—organic carbon (OC), elemental carbon (EC), nitrate (NO3), and ammonium (NH4+)—with at least 1 of 8 inflammatory markers.

On average, an interquartile range increase in the four PM constituents corresponded to increments of 50%, 37%, 25%, and 26% in inflammatory biomarkers, respectively. Only sulfate (SO42–) or NH4+ was robustly associated with coagulation markers (corresponding increments: 23% and 20%). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Study of 60M US seniors strengthens link between air pollution and premature death

June 29, 2017

A new study of 60 million Americans—about 97% of people age 65 and older in the United States—finds that long-term exposure to airborne fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone increases the risk of premature death, even when that exposure is at levels below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) currently established by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers found that men, blacks, and low-income populations had higher risk estimates from PM2.5 exposure compared with the national average, with blacks having mortality risks three times higher than the national average.

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CMU study finds SOA levels in cities like LA will remain high despite cleaner cars; nonlinear relationship between SOA and NOx

June 22, 2017

The findings of a study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, with colleagues at UC Berkeley, suggest that changing atmospheric NOx levels over the next two decades will likely significantly reduce the effectiveness of stricter new gasoline vehicle emissions standards in reducing concentrations of secondary organic aerosol (SOA). The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Secondary organic aerosol is a major component of atmospheric fine particles, which negatively affect the human body and the earth’s climate. SOA production depends on both precursor concentrations (e.g., intermediate volatility organic compound (IVOC) emissions from vehicles) and atmospheric chemistry (SOA yields due to the photo-oxidation of exhaust). The study, led by CMU Professor Allen Robinson (earlier post), found a strongly nonlinear relationship between SOA formation and the ratio of non-methane organic gas to oxides of nitrogen (NOx) (NMOG:NOx). As an example, changing the NMOG:NOx from 4 to 10 ppbC/ppbNOx increased the SOA yield from dilute gasoline vehicle exhaust by a factor of 8.

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CIEH criticizes UK gov for shifting air quality problem to local authorities, CAZ strategy; wants vehicle crackdown, more ZEVs, ULEVs

June 15, 2017

The UK’s Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has criticized the Government’s air quality plans for unfairly shifting the burden to solve the problem to local authorities, while abdicating themselves of responsibility.

The membership body for environmental health professionals released details of its submission to the Government’s consultation on plans to improve air quality in the UK. CIEH’s chief complaint is the Government has failed to recognize poor air quality is a national issue. CIEH asserts that solving air pollution in the UK requires action from central government rather than offloading responsibility onto local authorities, who are being set-up for failure if the proposed plans are to go ahead.

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Researchers use Google Street View cars for high-resolution air pollution mapping

June 07, 2017

Engineering researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and colleagues have demonstrated a measurement approach to for urban air pollution mapping at 4–5 orders of magnitude greater spatial precision than possible with current central-site ambient monitoring.

The team equipped two Google Street View vehicles with the fast-response Aclima Ei measurement and data acquisition platform and repeatedly sampled every street in a 30-km2 area of Oakland, CA, over the course of a year, developing the largest urban air quality data set of its type. The resulting maps of annual daytime NO, NO2, and black carbon at 30 m-scale revealed stable, persistent pollution patterns with “surprisingly” sharp small-scale variability attributable to local sources, up to 5–8× within individual city blocks. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Study finds air quality models significantly underestimate traffic as source of NOx in Europe

June 01, 2017

Traffic contributes more to NOx emissions in Europe than previously thought, according to a new study by a team at the University of Innsbruck. Using urban eddy covariance measurements, the researchers found that traffic-related NOx emissions in current operational air quality models can be significantly underestimated by up to a factor of 4 across countries with a sizeable fraction of diesel-powered cars in their fleet. An open-access paper on their work appears in Scientific Reports.

Large metropolitan areas throughout Europe consistently breach maximum permissible values of NOx; furthermore, this phenomenon appears to be spreading, with many smaller scale cities and towns—including their surrounding rural areas—seeing frequent NO2 concentration violations, the researchers noted.

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Study links PM2.5 pollution to heart damage

May 26, 2017

Research presented at the annual CMR (cardiovascular magnetic resonance) imaging conference of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI) links PM2.5 pollution to heart damage. Among the sources of urban PM2.5 are diesel and gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines (earlier post).

There is strong evidence that particulate matter (PM) from road vehicles is associated with increased risk of heart attack, heart failure, and death, said lead author Dr. Nay Aung, a cardiologist and Wellcome Trust research fellow, William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London, UK. “This appears to be driven by an inflammatory response—inhalation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) causes localized inflammation of the lungs followed by a more systemic inflammation affecting the whole body.

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Swiss team concludes that particulate filters should be mandatory for GDI engines

May 24, 2017

Based on a three-year study of toxic and environmentally relevant pollutants from gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines, Swiss researchers have concluded that some GDI engines emit just as many soot particles as unfiltered diesel cars did in the past. Further, the GDI particles carry numerous carcinogenic substances. Based on this current data, they recommend that particulate filters be mandatory for GDI engines.

In the spring 2014, the GasOMeP project (Gasoline Vehicle Emission Control for Organic, Metallic and Particulate Non-Legislative Pollutants) got underway. The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Bern University of Applied Sciences, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, several industrial partners and Empa were all involved. The project was funded by the ETH Domain’s Competence Center for Energy and Mobility (CCEM) and coordinated by Empa chemist Norbert Heeb, who has made a name for himself in the last 25 years by analyzing diesel emissions and studying filter systems.

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Researchers show mechanism by which diesel exhaust particles trigger respiratory “flare-ups”

May 23, 2017

Researchers at Imperial College London, working with colleagues from King’s College London and University of British Columbia, have demonstrated a mechanism by which diesel exhaust particles directly affect the lungs to initiate symptoms such as a tightening of the airways and cough. These triggered respiratory reflexes can potentially worsen underlying conditions, such as asthma.

Previous research has shown a strong association between urban air pollution and respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, but the underlying mechanism has been unclear. In the study, published as an open-access paper in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the team showed that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the exhaust particles directly stimulate nerves in the lungs, causing a reflex response in the airways.

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New international study finds lab testing of diesel NOx emissions underestimates real-world levels by up to 50%

May 15, 2017

A new international study has found that laboratory tests of nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel vehicles significantly underestimate the real-world emissions by as much as 50%. A paper on the work is published in the journal Nature.

The research, led by the International Council on Clean Transportation and Environmental Health Analytics, LLC., in collaboration with scientists at the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI); University of Colorado; and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, assessed 30 studies of vehicle emissions under real-world driving conditions in 11 major vehicle markets representing 80% of new diesel vehicle sales in 2015. Those markets include Australia; Brazil; Canada; China; the European Union; India; Japan; Mexico; Russia; South Korea; and the United States.

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Optimizing Fume Control for Robotic Welding

May 05, 2017

By Craig Widtfeldt, RoboVent

The automotive industry has made tremendous progress towards greener, more sustainable manufacturing processes. But how green are robotic welding cells?

Robotic welding, by its nature, produces large volumes of toxic fumes that are dangerous to both human health and the environment. Manufacturers engaged in robotic welding of automotive parts must have an effective air quality system in place to meet OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations. If these systems are not well designed, manufacturers may be wasting energy and putting their plant out of environmental compliance. Here are five steps to make the air quality systems more energy efficient and sustainable.

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New study shows that inhaled nanoparticles can travel into the blood and accumulate

April 26, 2017

A study by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands has found that nanoparticles, such as those found in air pollution, can travel into the blood and accumulate in diseased blood vessels. The study, published in the journal ACS Nano, suggests that air pollution nanoparticles are able to get into the bloodstream to cause heart disease.

This research shows for the first time that inhaled nanoparticles can gain access to the blood in healthy individuals and people at risk of stroke. These nanoparticles tend to build-up in diseased blood vessels where they could worsen coronary heart disease—the cause of a heart attack.

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California ARB petitions US EPA for “Tier 5” stricter locomotive emissions standards

April 14, 2017

In an effort to accelerate the movement to zero- or near-zero emission locomotives, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has petitioned the US EPA take action to adopt more stringent emission standards for locomotives. These new standards are to include standards for newly manufactured locomotives (which ARB refers to as “Tier 5”), and a new standard for Tier 4 locomotives upon remanufacture.

ARB is also requesting new remanufacturing standards equal to or more stringent than current Tier 4 emission levels for Tier 2 and 3 locomotive engines. ARB Chair Mary Nichols said the moves are needed to clean up the air in “high-risk” communities in and around the nation’s railyards.

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For Greener Manufacturing, Think IAQ

April 03, 2017

by Craig Widtfeldt, RoboVent

The next generation of cars will be cleaner and greener than ever—but a lot of the manufacturing processes that go into them are still pretty dirty. From the frame to the muffler, automotive manufacturing still involves welding, cutting, grinding and machining. These processes can create problems for indoor air quality (IAQ) and hurt your sustainability metrics.

The Problem with Particulates. Welding, cutting, grinding and machining all create particulates with varying levels of toxicity. These particulates have serious health impacts if not controlled in the factory environment. If they are vented to the outdoors, there are also environmental issues to consider. Controlling toxic particulates from manufacturing processes is one of the most important things auto manufacturers can do to improve their sustainability and protect their workers.

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Study finds vehicles more important source of urban atmospheric ammonia than farms

March 31, 2017

Vehicle tailpipes are a more important source of ammonia’s contribution to urban air pollution than is agriculture, according to a study by researchers from the US and China. The paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Atmospheric ammonia (NH3) reacts with nitric and sulfuric acids to form nitrate and sulfate aerosols, a key component of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). About 80% of airborne ammonia comes from farming practices such as fertilization, so it seems a likely suspect for the ammonia in haze particles to come from plumes of large farms and then be transported to urban centers. Instead, the research team found that ammonia emissions from cities are much larger than recognized, occur at the very times when unhealthy particulate matter is at its worst, and when agricultural emissions are at daily or seasonal lows.

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National Academies report finds EPA’s controlled human exposure studies of air pollution are warranted

March 29, 2017

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carries out controlled human inhalation exposure (CHIE) studies in which volunteer participants agree to be intentionally exposed by inhalation to specific pollutants at restricted concentrations over short periods to obtain important information about the effects of outdoor air pollution on human health.

A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds these studies are warranted and recommends that they continue under two conditions: when they provide additional knowledge that informs policy decisions and regulation of pollutants that cannot be obtained by other means; and when it is reasonably predictable that the risks for study participants will not exceed biomarker or physiologic responses that are of short duration and reversible.

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WHO attributes more than 1 in 4 deaths annually of children under 5 years to unhealthy environment

March 06, 2017

In 2015, 5.9 million children under age five died. The major causes of child deaths globally are pneumonia, prematurity, intrapartum-related complications, neonatal sepsis, congenital anomalies, diarrhea, injuries and malaria. Most of these diseases and conditions are at least partially caused by the environment, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

WHO estimated in 2012 that 26% of childhood deaths and 25% of the total disease burden in children under five could be prevented through the reduction of environmental risks such as air pollution, unsafe water, sanitation and inadequate hygiene or chemicals.

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Georgia Tech study finds link between sulfate, metallic particles from vehicles and adverse health impacts

March 03, 2017

Metals from brakes and other automotive systems are emitted into the air as fine particles, lingering over busy roadways. Now, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have shown how these vehicle-emitted metals—such as copper, iron and manganese—interact with acidic sulfate-rich particles already in the air to produce an aerosol that, when inhaled, is more likely to cause oxidative stress and impact respiratory health. Their study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The study, which was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the US Environmental Protection Agency, showed how the metals are emitted mainly in an insoluble form but slowly become soluble after mixing with sulfate. In other words, the sulfate plays a key role in making metals soluble before they are inhaled, which could explain the association of sulfate with adverse health impacts, the researchers said.

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Study finds black carbon pollution directly affects bacteria; altering effectiveness of antibiotics, increasing the potential for infection

Researchers from the University of Leicester (UK) have shown for the first time that black carbon, a major component of air pollution, directly affects bacteria that cause respiratory infections—Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus—thereby increasing the potential for infection and changing the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment. S. pneumoniae is the leading bacterial cause of pneumonia, and S. aureus is a significant cause of respiratory and skin and tissue disease.

The interdisciplinary study, published in the journal Environmental Microbiology, has important implications for the treatment of infectious diseases, which are known to be increased in areas with high levels of air pollution. The study looked into how air pollution—specifically black carbon—affects the bacteria living in the respiratory tract—the nose, throat and lungs. Black carbon, a major component of particulate matter, is produced through the burning of fossil fuels such as diesel, biofuels, and biomass.

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Study links PM2.5 pollution with millions of preterm births globally

February 19, 2017

A new study, led by a team from The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of York, has found that in 2010, about 2.7 million preterm births globally—or 18% of all pre-term births—were associated with outdoor exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5).The open-access study is published in the journal Environment International.

There are many known risk factors for preterm birth—from the mother’s age, to illness, to poverty and other social factors. Recent research has suggested that exposure to air pollution could also be a risk factor. The researchers combined national, population-weighted, annual average ambient PM2.5 concentration, preterm birth rate and number of livebirths to calculate the number of PM2.5-associated preterm births in 2010 for 183 countries.

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Study finds “markedly” high levels of diesel exhaust present in commuter trains powered by locomotives in pull-mode

February 09, 2017

Diesel-powered commuter trains may expose their passengers to elevated levels of certain black carbon and ultrafine particles, especially in the coach directly behind the locomotive, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto. A paper on the study is published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Professor Greg Evans (ChemE), director of the Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research (SOCAAR) and Dr. Cheol-Heon Jeong, a senior research associate at SOCAAR, measured the ultrafine particle (UFP), black carbon (BC) and lung deposited surface area (LDSA) concentrations during 42 trips on diesel-powered commuter trains. When the passenger coaches were pulled by a locomotive, the geometric mean concentrations of UFP, LDSA, and BC were 18, 10, and 6 times higher than the exposure levels when the locomotive pushed the coaches, respectively. UFP, LDSA, and BC concentrations in pull-trains were 5, 3, and 4 times higher than concentrations measured while walking on city sidewalks, respectively.

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Study links air pollution to heightened risk of Type 2 diabetes in overweight and obese Latino children

February 08, 2017

Latino children who live in areas with higher levels of air pollution have a heightened risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) and published in the journal Diabetes. The study, the researchers said, is the first to follow children for years to find a connection between air pollution and diabetes risk in children.

Scientists tracked children’s health and respective levels of residential air pollution for about 3.5 years before associating chronic unhealthy air exposure to a breakdown in beta cells—special pancreatic cells that secrete insulin and maintain the appropriate sugar level in the bloodstream. By the time the children turned 18, their insulin-creating pancreatic cells were 13% less efficient than normal, making these individuals more prone to eventually developing Type 2 diabetes, the researchers said.

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Takata to plead guilty, pay $1B in criminal penalties for airbag scheme; 3 Takata execs indicted

January 14, 2017

Tokyo-based Takata Corporation, one of the world’s largest suppliers of automotive safety-related equipment, agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and pay a total of $1 billion in criminal penalties stemming from the company’s fraudulent conduct in relation to sales of defective airbag inflators. An indictment was also unsealed charging three Takata executives with wire fraud and conspiracy in relation to the same conduct.

According to the company’s admissions, in the late 1990s, Takata began developing airbag inflators that relied upon ammonium nitrate as their primary propellant. From at least in or around 2000, Takata knew that certain ammonium nitrate-based inflators were not performing to the specifications required by the auto manufacturers. Takata also knew that certain inflators had sustained failures, including ruptures, during testing.

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Study finds living near major traffic linked to higher risk of dementia

January 09, 2017

People who live close to high-traffic roadways face a higher risk of developing dementia than those who live further away, according to a new study from Public Health Ontario (PHO) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, found that people who lived within 50 meters of high-traffic roads had a 7% higher likelihood of developing dementia compared to those who lived more than 300 meters away from busy roads. The increase in the risk of developing dementia went down to 4% if people lived 50-100 meters from major traffic, and to 2% if they lived within 101-200 meters. At more than 200 meters, there was no elevated risk of dementia.

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Hyundai “Mobility Vision” concept for integration of car and home; Health + Mobility Cockpit

January 06, 2017

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 in Las Vegas, Hyundai Motor revealed its Mobility Vision concept that, in the future, will connect autonomous cars to living and working environments. Hyundai says that its Smart House technology blurs the line between mobility and living and working space, integrating the car into the daily lives of users.

The Smart House concept shown at CES places connected car technologies at the center of the home. The CES display suggests how the car could shed the image of a conventional vehicle, integrating itself with the living space when docked, before becoming a mobile living space when customers need to move around.

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Coal-tar-based pavement sealant a major source of PAH contamination in Milwaukee streams

December 29, 2016

Runoff from pavement with coal-tar-based sealant is the primary source of toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to streambed sediments in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to a US Geological Survey and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District open-access study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

Pavement sealant is a black, shiny liquid sprayed or painted on asphalt parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to improve appearance and protect the underlying asphalt. Pavement sealants that contain coal tar, a known human carcinogen, have extremely high levels of PAHs. Some PAHs are toxic to fish and other aquatic life and several are probable human carcinogens.

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New Mercedes-Benz lab procedure shows MB car filters trap even finest allergenic particles

December 20, 2016

A new testing procedure developed by Mercedes-Benz, for which a patent application has been filed, has shown that even the minutest of allergenic particles are trapped by the charcoal fine particle filters in the vehicle. The results were confirmed by a medical study conducted by ECARF Institute GmbH in an innovative, mobile pollen chamber in the grounds of the Charité university hospital in Berlin.

Allergies are now the commonest form of chronic illness in industrialized countries. In Europe, around 30% of the population is affected. Airborne pollen, emissions given off by materials, or skin contact with them, can lead to a strong immune reaction with symptoms such as swelling of the nasal passages and bronchial tubes or swollen, itching eyes.

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Imaging study: air pollution impairs function of blood vessels in lungs

December 10, 2016

Air pollution impairs the function of blood vessels in the lungs, according to a study of more than 16,000 patients presented at EuroEcho-Imaging 2016. EuroEcho-Imaging is the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI), representing members around the world with an interest in all modalities of cardiovascular imaging.

The study examined the effect of air pollution on pulmonary haemodynamics (blood flow) in a population and in individuals. The population study assessed whether common levels of outdoor air pollution influence the echocardiography (ultrasound used to investigate the action of the hear) parameters conventionally used to evaluate the pulmonary circulation and right ventricular function.

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NHTSA sets Quiet Car safety standard for new HEVs and EVs to protect pedestrians

November 15, 2016

The US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is adding a sound requirement for all newly manufactured hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles to help protect pedestrians. The new standard, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, responds to Congress’ mandate in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 (PSEA) that hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound requirements to provide an audible alert for blind and visually-impaired pedestrians.

The new federal safety standard will help pedestrians who are blind, have low vision, and other pedestrians detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are traveling at low speeds, which will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped.

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New statistical method to detect ozone pollution hot spots and monitor instrument failure; combining PCA and MEWMA

November 13, 2016

A new statistical method developed by researchers at KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia) can detect abnormal ozone levels within large bodies of monitored data. The monitoring methods can quickly and accurately detect ozone anomalies—localized spikes in ozone concentration indicated by sensor data.

The method could be used as an automatic tool, and could act as an early warning system for dangerous pollution levels and potential technical problems, said Assistant Professor Ying Sun from the University’s Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Science and Engineering Division.

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Harvard study finds human health risks from Canadian hydroelectric projects

November 10, 2016

In a new study, Harvard University researchers found more than 90% of potential new Canadian hydroelectric projects are likely to increase concentrations of the neurotoxin methylmercury (MeHg) in food webs near indigenous communities. The research is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The research forecasts potential human health impacts of hydroelectric projects and identifies areas where mitigation efforts, such as removing the top layer of soil before flooding, would be most helpful. The works uses factors such as soil carbon and reservoir design to forecast methylmercury increases for 22 hydroelectric reservoirs under consideration or construction in Canada.

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Study finds pollution emitted near equator has biggest impact on global ozone

November 09, 2016

Since the 1980s, air pollution has increased worldwide, but it has increased at a much faster pace in regions close to the equator. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado, Boulder and their colleagues have now shown that this changing global emissions map is creating more total tropospheric ozone worldwide compared to the amount of pollution being emitted, signaling an effect that could be difficult to reign in without strategic policy planning.

In the study, published in Nature Geoscience, the team used a global chemical transport model to simulate changes in tropospheric ozone concentrations from 1980 to 2010, and to separate the influences of changes in the spatial distribution of global anthropogenic emissions of short-lived pollutants, the magnitude of these emissions, and the global atmospheric methane concentration. They found that the increase in ozone burden due to the spatial distribution change slightly exceeds the combined influences of the increased emission magnitude and global methane.

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UNICEF: 300M children worldwide breathing air exceeding WHO pollution guidelines by 6x or more

October 31, 2016

Almost one in seven of the world’s children, 300 million, live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution—six or more times higher than international guidelines set by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO)—according to a new UNICEF report.

The report, “Clear the Air for Children”, uses satellite imagery to show that some 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution, caused by factors such as vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust and burning of waste, exceeds WHO minimum air quality guidelines. The findings come a week ahead of the COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, where UNICEF is calling on world leaders to take urgent action to cut air pollution in their countries.

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IMO sets 2020 date for ships to comply with low sulfur fuel oil requirement; 5000 ppm

October 29, 2016

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the regulatory authority for international shipping, decided to implement a global sulfur cap of 0.50% m/m (mass/mass) (5,000 ppm) on fuel oil starting 1 January 2020 during its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), meeting for its 70th session in London.

The cap represents a significant cut from the 3.5% m/m (35,000 ppm) global limit currently in place and demonstrates a clear commitment by IMO to ensuring shipping meets its environmental obligations.

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Lung Association report highlights health and climate costs of petroleum-based transportation and the benefits of shifting to ZEVs

October 27, 2016

A new report produced by the American Lung Association concludes that over-reliance on petroleum-based fuels for transportation costs the 10 ZEV states in the US (California and nine other states that have adopted the California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program) an estimated $37 billion in health expenses and climate costs every year—with California costs alone hitting $15 billion.

Of that $37 billion, health costs added up to $24 billion in 2015; the $24 billion represents the monetized sum of harmful emissions responsible for an estimated 220,000 work-loss days, more than 109,000 asthma exacerbations, hundreds of thousands of other respiratory impacts, and 2,580 premature deaths.

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PM2.5 pollution linked to blood vessel damage in healthy young non-smoking adults

October 26, 2016

Fine particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5) may be associated with blood vessel damage and inflammation among young, healthy adults, according to new research in Circulation Research, an American Heart Association journal.

Air pollution is known to contribute to cardiovascular disease and related deaths. In 2004, the American Heart Association released a scientific statement, updated in 2010, warning of the risk and recommending that people talk to their doctor about avoiding exposure to air pollution specific to their area. What remained unclear, however, was how air pollution actually affects the blood vessels to increase the risk of disease.

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Large-scale study finds long-term exposure to air pollution linked to high blood pressure

October 25, 2016

Long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to a greater incidence of high blood pressure, according to the largest study to investigate the effects of both air pollution and traffic noise by following more than 41,000 people in five different countries for five to nine years.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that among adults up to one extra person per 100 people of the same age group living in the most polluted areas of cities would develop high blood pressure (hypertension) compared to those living in the less polluted areas. This risk is similar to the effect of being overweight with a body mass index (BMI) between 25-30 compared to people with normal weight (BMI 18.5-25). High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for premature illness and death.

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Study finds ethanol blending appears to reduce significantly genotoxic emissions from gasoline direct injection vehicles

October 24, 2016

A research team from Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) and the University of Applied Sciences Bern, Laboratory for Exhaust Emission Control, reports that ethanol blending appeared to reduce genotoxic emissions from a flex-fuel Euro-5 gasoline direct injection (GDI) vehicle (a Volvo V60 with a 1.6 L engine) under transient and steady driving conditions.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers reported that particle number emissions when operating the vehicle in the hWLTC (hot started worldwide harmonized light-duty vehicle test cycle) with E10 and E85 were lowered by 97% and 96% respectively compared with that of E0. CO emissions dropped by 81% and 87%, while CO2 emissions were reduced by 13 and 17%. Emissions of selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were lowered by 67–96% with E10 and by 82–96% with E85, and the genotoxic potentials dropped by 72% and 83%, respectively.

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ICL study of 39 new Euro-6 diesels finds huge variability in NOx emissions with an average 4.5x the type approval limit

October 21, 2016

A new study by researchers from Imperial College London(ICL) of 39 new Euro 6 diesel passenger cars has foundhuge variability” in the on-road NOx emissions of Euro 6 diesel passenger cars, with results ranging from 1 to 22 times the type approval limit. All but 2 exhibited higher NOx than the limit.

The average NOx emission from the test cars of 0.36 g km-1 equates to 4.5 times the type approval limit; this rose to 5.4 times for urban driving. They attributed the increase in urban cycle NOx emissions in part to more frequent acceleration events. (Urban driving emissions could be reduced by more effective management of traffic flows (e.g., earlier post), easing of congestion and promotion of eco-driving, though further work is required to confirm this, they suggested.)

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CARB approves $363M plan that includes putting more clean vehicles in disadvantaged communities; low-carbon transportation, ZEVs, scrap-and-replace pilot

The California Air Resources Board has adopted a revised funding plan for proceeds from the cap-and-trade program that includes putting more clean vehicles in disadvantaged communities. The investments range from supporting increased numbers of zero-emission heavy-duty trucks and buses to rebates for low- and zero-emission passenger vehicles.

The revised plan for fiscal year 2016-17 keeps much of the original funding plan (approved in June 2016) intact while addressing the smaller budget appropriation of $363 million under AB 1613 and additional direction from the Legislature. Key highlights of the revised plan include:

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Coming HEI study suggests air pollution regulations likely contributors to improvements in air quality and children’s health

October 20, 2016

The Health Effects Institute (HEI) will soon publish a study by Frank Gilliland and his colleagues at the University of Southern California the findings of which suggest that US and California regulations directed at reducing emissions of mobile-source pollutants were likely contributors to improvements in air quality between 1985 and 2012 that were in turn associated with improvements in children’s respiratory health.

The researchers analyzed pollutant monitoring and pulmonary health effects information as well as multiple covariates that they had collected over more than 20 years from participants in several cohorts recruited into the Children’s Health Study (CHS) in Southern California. The children lived in communities that differed in sources and levels of the outdoor pollutants PM, NO2, and ozone.

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California Governor signs new super-pollutants legislation into law; black carbon, fluorinated gases and methane

September 20, 2016

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed SB 1383, establishing the nation’s toughest restrictions on super pollutants including black carbon, fluorinated gases and methane. The law is in addition to California’s existing raft of climate legislation.

SB 1383 reduces the emission of super pollutants (also known as short-lived climate pollutants) and promotes renewable gas by requiring a 50% reduction in black carbon and 40% reduction in methane and hydrofluorocarbon from 2013 levels by 2030. Sources of these super pollutants include petroleum-based transportation fuels, agriculture, waste disposal and synthetic gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and aerosol products.

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Air pollution exposure found to be risk factor for type 2 diabetes

September 08, 2016

Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of developing insulin resistance as a pre-diabetic state of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study by scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München, in collaboration with colleagues of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD). The researchers reported these results in the journal Diabetes.

Whether diabetes becomes manifest and when this occurs is not only due to lifestyle or genetic factors, but also due to traffic-related air pollution, said Professor Annette Peters, director of the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München and head of the research area of epidemiology of the DZD.

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Volkswagen Truck & Bus enters into strategic alliance with Navistar, takes 16.6% stake; entry into N. America

September 06, 2016

Volkswagen Truck & Bus has formed a wide-ranging strategic alliance with Navistar International Corporation, which includes an equity investment in Navistar by Volkswagen Truck & Bus and framework agreements for strategic technology and supply collaboration and a procurement joint venture.

Volkswagen Truck & Bus will purchase from Navistar newly issued common shares representing, pro forma for such issuance, a 16.6% stake (19.9% of pre-transaction outstanding common stock) in Navistar for a price per share of $15.76 and an aggregate purchase price of approximately $256 million (or approximately €229 million at current exchange rates). To underscore the long-term nature of the alliance, Volkswagen Truck & Bus has agreed to hold these shares for a minimum of three years.

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Researchers find magnetite nanoparticles similar to those from traffic pollution in brain; possible link with Alzheimer’s

Researchers from the UK, Mexico and the US have found abundant magnetite nanoparticles in the brain tissue from 37 individuals aged three- to 92-years-old who lived in Mexico City and Manchester, UK. This strongly magnetic mineral has been implicated in the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) in the human brain, which are associated with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease (e.g., Hautot et al. 2003). Their paper is being published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Professor Barbara Maher, from Lancaster Environment Centre, and colleagues (from Oxford, Glasgow, Manchester and Mexico City) used spectroscopic analysis to identify the particles as magnetite. Unlike angular magnetite particles that are believed to form naturally within the brain (i.e., biogenic), most of the observed particles were spherical, with diameters up to 150 nm, some with fused surfaces, all characteristic of high-temperature formation—such as from vehicle (particularly diesel) engines or open fires.

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KCL study finds London air pollution from traffic improving, but continues to exceed limits in many parts of city

September 05, 2016

New research by scientists at King’s College London suggests that air pollution from London’s roads is improving overall but more work may be needed to tackle some sources of traffic pollution, which continue to breach limits in many parts of the city.

The study, published as an open-access paper in the journal Environmental Pollution, examined trends in air pollution over a ten-year period spanning 2005 to 2014, using data collected from 65 roads. Researchers looked at changes in a number of pollutants including nitrogen dioxide (NO2 ), particulate matter as fine (PM2.5) and coarser (PM10) particles, carbon dioxide (CO2) and black carbon.

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MIT-led study suggests mobile-phone data provide a deeper picture of pollution exposure in urban settings

September 03, 2016

A study led by MIT researchers, focused on New York City, suggests that using mobile-phone data to track people’s movement provides an even deeper picture of exposure to pollution in urban settings than by studying air-quality levels in fixed places. Their open-access paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Previous environmental epidemiological studies quantifying the health impacts of population exposure to have not considered spatially- and temporally-varying populations. The new study—the first of its kind—measured population activity patterns representing several million people to evaluate population-weighted exposure to air pollution on a city-wide scale. Mobile and wireless devices yield information about where and when people are present; the researchers were able to determine collective activity patterns using counts of connections to the cellular network.

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Study finds in-cabin particulate pollution up to 40% higher in traffic jams or at red lights

August 26, 2016

A new study by a team at the University of Surrey has found that particulate pollution levels inside cars are up to 40% higher when the vehicle is stuck in a traffic jam or stopped at a red traffic light compared to free-flowing traffic conditions.

The study, published as an open access paper in the RSC journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, assessed in-cabin exposure to fine and coarse PM under five different ventilation settings and compared in-cabin exposure at signalized traffic intersections (TIs) with pedestrian exposure. The study also found that car windows closed with the fan/heating off in traffic is the best ventilation setting in traffic—leading up to a 76% reduction in in-car pollutants. Also, the safest setting is the air being circulated internally only by the fan without drawing in polluted air from outdoors.

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MIT team calculates lead emissions from avgas fuel in US contribute to ~$1B in annual damages due to IQ losses

August 24, 2016

Researchers at MIT have produced the first assessment of the annual costs of IQ losses from aircraft lead emissions in the US. Their study, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that that atmospheric lead pollution attributable to leaded aviation gas (avgas) contributes to US$1.06 billion (the mean from a range of $0.01–$11.6 billion) in annual damages from lifetime earnings reductions, and that dynamic economy-wide methods result in damage estimates that are 54% larger.

Because the marginal costs of atmospheric lead pollution are dependent on background concentration, the researchers also expect the costs of piston-driven aircraft lead emissions to increase over time as regulations on other emissions sources are tightened.

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