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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.]

Johns Hopkins study links exposure to coarse particulate matter to increased risk of asthma in children

December 15, 2017

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University report that coarse particulate matter—created by physical processes such as tire and break wear, agricultural tilling, salt spray and dust created in manufacturing—appears to put children at greater risk for asthma, independent of exposure to fine particulate pollution. A paper on the work will be published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Coarse particulate matter (PM10-2.5) measures from 2.5 to 10 micrometers; fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) measure 2.5 micrometers or smaller. The authors noted that there is substantial evidence that PM2.5 impacts respiratory and cardiovascular health, and this is why the Environmental Protection Agency monitors and regulates fine particulate pollution.

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Chicago Area Clean Cities names American Lung Association 2017 Clean Fuels Champion

December 08, 2017

The American Lung Association has been named the 2017 Clean Fuels Champion by Chicago Area Clean Cities (CACC), a nonprofit coalition dedicated to promoting clean-energy and clean-air solutions for transportation in the Chicago area impacting nearly 9 million people. The Clean Fuels Champion was awarded last night at the coalition’s Annual Meeting.

The American Lung Association oversees the Clean Air Choice program throughout the United States promoting alternative renewable fuels such as biodiesel and E85, partnering with fleets to replace legacy diesel engines, and by supporting the clean-air advantages of electric and hybrid vehicles.

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EEA finds only mixed progress for Europe’s transport sector in meeting environment, climate goals; GHG emissions up 25% since 1990

December 06, 2017

Europe’s transport sector is making only mixed progress in meeting its environment, health and climate policy targets, according to the latest European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment which tracks the short and long-term environmental performance of this key economic sector across the European Union.

The EEA Briefing “Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM)” gives the annual progress assessment based on a series of indicators which track the progress of the transport sector in meeting related policy targets and objectives. Issues covered in the briefing include emissions, air pollution, noise and renewable energy and the impact of transport on ecosystems and biodiversity. A follow-up TERM report focusing on the environmental impacts arising from aviation and shipping will be published next month.

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Two new studies of road air pollution in London find detrimental effects on over-60s and unborn babies

Exposure to air pollution on city streets is enough to counter the beneficial health effects of exercise in adults over 60, according to new research led by Imperial College London and Duke University. These findings, published in as open-access paper in The Lancet, show that short term exposure to air pollution in built-up areas such as London’s busy Oxford Street can prevent the positive effects on the heart and lungs that can be gained from walking.

Further, findings of a study led by Imperial College London researchers of more than half a million infants in the city suggests that pregnant mothers exposed to air pollution from London’s busy roads are more likely to give birth to babies that are underweight or smaller than they should be. This open-access paper is published in The BMJ.

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Toronto study: bursty noise levels from public transport or biking could induce hearing loss

November 25, 2017

The noise levels to which commuters are exposed while using public transport or while biking could induce hearing loss if experienced repeatedly and over long periods of time, according to a study by researchers at the University of Toronto. Their open-access paper is published in the Journal of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.

Efforts to control noise should focus on materials and equipment that provide a quieter environment, the researchers suggest. Hearing protection while using public transport should also be promoted.

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Ford pilots Ekso exoskeleton technology to help lessen chance of worker fatigue, injury

November 10, 2017

Ford is working with California-based Ekso Bionics to test the use of exoskeleton technology for Ford assembly workers. Some Ford assembly line workers lift their arms during overhead work tasks some 4,600 times per day, or about 1 million times per year. At this rate, the possibility of fatigue or injury on the body increases significantly. The new upper body exoskeletal tool is designed to help to lessen the chance of injury under these conditions.

Called EksoVest, the wearable, non-powered technology elevates and supports a worker’s arms while performing overhead tasks. It can be fitted to support workers ranging from 5 feet tall to 6 feet 4 inches tall, and provides adjustable lift assistance of five pounds to 15 pounds per arm when its springs are activated. It’s comfortable to wear because it’s lightweight, it isn’t bulky, and it allows workers to move their arms freely.

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Satellite method provides insight into ozone-NOx-VOCs sensitivity for different locations

November 07, 2017

Ozone pollution near Earth’s surface is one of the main ingredients of summertime smog. It is also not directly measurable from space due to the abundance of ozone higher in the atmosphere, which obscures measurements of surface ozone. New NASA-funded research has devised a way to use satellite measurements of the precursor gases that contribute to ozone formation to differentiate among three different sets of conditions that lead to its production.

These observations may also assist air quality managers in assessing the most effective approaches to emission reduction programs that will improve air quality. A study describing the research is published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

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Tsinghua study finds China’s actions have cut PM2.5 concentrations 21.5% from 2013-2015; PM2.5-related mortality down 9.1%

Air pollution in China, especially in mega-metropolitan areas, is a matter of concern due to its impact on public health; outdoor PM2.5 exposure contributed to approximately 1.22 million deaths in China in 2013. China’s measures to improve its air quality are working, but more stringent policies should be put in place to safeguard public health, according to a new open-access study by researchers at Tsinghua University published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The study used satellite-derived aerosol optical depth measurements, ground based observations, and air quality simulations to evaluate the air quality and health benefits associated with China’s stringent policies implemented during 2013-2015.

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Study attributes significant amount of kidney disease globally to PM2.5 pollution

November 05, 2017

The global toll of chronic kidney disease (CKD) attributable to PM2.5 pollution is significant, according to an analysis presented at ASN (American Society of Nephrology) Kidney Week. Benjamin Bowe, MPH, (Clinical Epidemiology Center at the VA Saint Louis Health Care System) and his colleagues previously described an association between increased levels of fine particulate matter and risk of developing CKD. (Earlier post.)

In this latest research, the investigators used the Global Burden of Disease study methodologies to estimate the burden of CKD attributable to fine particulate matter: more than 10.7 million cases per year.

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Ports of LA, Long Beach approve 2017 Clean Air Action Plan; targeted GHG reductions; zero-emissions on-road drayage by 2035

November 03, 2017

The governing boards of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach unanimously approved the 2017 Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) Update, ushering in a new era of aggressive clean air strategies for moving cargo through the nation’s busiest container port complex. The document provides high-level guidance for accelerating progress toward a zero-emission future while protecting and strengthening the ports’ competitive position in the global economy.

Building on the clean air gains achieved since the ports adopted the CAAP in 2006, the 2017 CAAP is a comprehensive plan for pursuing the ultimate goal of eliminating all harmful air emissions from port-related sources: ships, trucks, cargo handling equipment, locomotives and harbor craft. The estimated cost of implementing the 2017 CAAP ranges from $7 billion to $14 billion.

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Large scale epidemiological study associates PM2.5, NO2 pollution with kidney, bladder and colorectal cancer death

October 31, 2017

Air pollution is classified as carcinogenic to humans given its association with lung cancer, but there is little evidence for its association with cancer at other body sites. However, in a new large-scale prospective study led by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by the “la Caixa” Foundation, and the American Cancer Society, researchers observed an association between some air pollutants and mortality from kidney, bladder and colorectal cancer.

The open-access study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, included more than 600,000 adults in the US who participated in the Cancer Prevention Study II and who were followed for 22 years (from 1982 to 2004). The scientific team examined associations of mortality from cancer at 29 sites with long-term residential exposure to three ambient pollutants: PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3).

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Pollutant emitted by biomass burning found to cause DNA damage and lung cell death; the role of retene

October 25, 2017

A new study by a team from Brazil, with colleagues in the US, has shown that particulate pollution biomass burning in the Amazon induced inflammation, oxidative stress and severe DNA damage in human lung cells. After 72 hours of exposure, more than 30% of the cultured cells are dead, the researchers found.

The main culprit appears to be retene, a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). The open-access study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Mayors of 12 major cities pledge to procure only zero-emission buses from 2025; major areas to be zero-emission by 2030

October 23, 2017

The mayors of London, Paris, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Quito, Vancouver, Mexico City, Milan, Seattle, Auckland and Cape Town have pledged to procure only zero-emission buses from 2025 and ensure that a major area of their city is zero emission by 2030.

The signatories of the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration “envision a future where walking, cycling, and shared transport are how the majority of citizens move around our cities.” The cities therefore commit to:

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London’s £10 daily “T-charge” for most polluting vehicles now in effect; partnership with Turing Institute

London’s £10 daily “T-Charge” (toxicity), aimed at the oldest, most polluting vehicles on London roads, is now in effect. The T Charge applies mainly to diesel and gasoline vehicles registered before 2006. The T-Charge (officially known as the Emissions Surcharge) operates on top of (and during the same operating times as) the Congestion Charge (Monday to Friday 7am-6pm), so it will cost £21.50 to drive in the zone if a vehicle is affected. Drivers can check the status of their vehicles online.

The minimum emissions standards for avoiding the T-Charge are Euro 4/IV for both gasoline and diesel vehicles and Euro 3 for motorized tricycles and quadricycles. A small number of vehicles manufactured before the Euro 4/Euro IV standard became mandatory will have NOx and PM emissions that meet Euro 4/Euro IV or better. These are designated as early adopters and are not subject to the T-Charge.

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Lancet Commission report estimates pollution responsible for 9 million premature deaths globally in 2015; 16% of deaths

October 21, 2017

Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today, according to the newly released report detailing the adverse effects of pollution on global health by the The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.

Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide—three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. In the most severely affected countries, pollution-related disease is responsible for more than one death in four. The open-access report is published in The Lancet.

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California calls for improved air quality monitoring at refineries in the state

September 29, 2017

California state and local air quality officials released a draft report outlining a range of recommended actions to improve air monitoring at the state’s oil refineries, and strategies to better inform surrounding communities during incidents at refineries that result in increases in pollution or toxic releases.

The draft report, the latest product of an initiative set in place by Governor Brown in 2013 to address refinery safety and emissions, is jointly authored by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA), which represents all 35 of the state’s local air districts. CARB staff will work with the air districts and local response agencies to present this draft report to community members at a series of public safety meetings throughout the State to be scheduled for early fall.

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New study suggests PM air pollution damages the kidneys

September 22, 2017

Studies have shown that air pollution can have negative effects on cardiovascular health and life expectancy. Now new research indicates that it is also harmful to the kidneys. The study, which appears in an open access paper in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), shows that the effects on the kidneys are seen at low levels of particulate matter and increase linearly with rising levels of pollution.

Information on the relationship between air pollution and kidney disease is very scarce. To investigate, a team led by Ziyad Al-Aly, MD (Director of Clinical Epidemiology at the VA Saint Louis Health Care System) linked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs databases to examine information on 2,482,737 US veterans who were followed for a median of 8.5 years. Air pollution levels were also assessed using space-borne sensors from NASA satellites.

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California ARB study finds commuters’ exposures to air pollution greatly depends on mode of travel; light rail, personal vehicles the lowest

September 01, 2017

The mode of travel you take on your daily work commute can make a big difference in your exposure to air pollution, according to a new study by researchers at the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

The study, published recently in Atmospheric Environment, investigated commuter exposure to PM2.5, black carbon (BC), and ultrafine particles (UFP) in six common transport microenvironments in Sacramento, California. The researchers found that electricity-powered light rail trains offer the least polluted travel environment followed by personal vehicles, while commute trips by older technology diesel-powered trains experienced the highest average air pollution levels in Sacramento.

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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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