[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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 found “huge 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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Study quantifies impact of oil and gas emissions on Denver’s ozone problem
August 12, 2016
The first peer-reviewed study to directly quantify how emissions from oil and natural gas (O&NG) activities influence summertime tropospheric ozone (O3) pollution in the Colorado Front Range confirms that chemical vapors from oil and gas activities are a significant contributor to the region’s chronic ozone problem.
Summertime ozone pollution levels in the northern Front Range periodically spike above 70 parts per billion (ppb), which is considered unhealthy—on average, 17 ppb of that ozone is produced locally. The new research, published in an open-access paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, shows that oil and gas emissions contribute an average of 3 ppb of the locally produced ozone daily, and potentially more than that on high-ozone days.
Study: more stringent O3 and PM2.5 air pollution standards could save thousands of lives, greatly improve public health
August 11, 2016
Reducing outdoor concentrations of two air pollutants, ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), to levels below those set by the US Environmental Protection Agency would likely save thousands of lives each year, result in far fewer serious illnesses and reduce missed days of school and work, according to a new analysis conducted by the American Thoracic Society and the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University.
In “Estimated Excess Morbidity and Mortality Caused by Air Pollution above ATS Recommended Standards, 2011-2013,” published online in the August edition of Annals of the American Thoracic Society, researchers report on the annual health benefits of meeting more protective standards recommended by the ATS for O3 and PM2.5. They found that meeting a 0.060 parts per million (ppm) 8-hour standard for O3, rather than the EPA’s 0.070 ppm standard, and an 11 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) annual standard for PM2.5, rather than the EPA’s 12 µg/m3 standard, would each year:
Air pollution may shorten survival of patients with lung cancer
August 05, 2016
Air pollution may shorten the survival of patients with lung cancer, suggests a population-based study by a team from the University of Southern California published in the journal Thorax. The trends were most noticeable for early stage disease, particularly adenocarcinoma—the most common type of non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for 80% of lung cancer cases—the findings show.
Air pollution has been linked to a higher incidence of lung cancer and death, but little is known about its potential impact on an individual’s chances of survival after diagnosis.
Researchers urge Chinese government to encourage bikes, buses and rail over cars and commercial vehicles due to emissions and health concerns
August 01, 2016
Based on the results of their analysis of the potential air quality and health impacts of travel demand in China under business-as-usual and alternative transport scenarios, a team of researchers in China is urging policymakers to encourage the replacement of private cars for short trips with bicycles or public buses and the replacement of commercial vehicles with rail transport.
In their paper, published in the journal Energy Policy, Ling-Yun HE and Lu-Yi QIU, observe that regulatory policies imposed on vehicle usage as well as on car ownership can not solve the growing emissions problem.
Audi AG developing automotive driver health as new business area; leveraging digitalization, connected vehicles
Audi AG has become a founding partner in Berlin’s “Flying Health Incubator”, a center supporting startups that develop digital innovations in the healthcare sector. The investment highlights Audi’s interest in developing “automotive health”—enhancing the customer’s health and fitness while driving—as a new business area. With the Audi Fit Driver offering, the brand is already testing innovative services and functionalities in this field.
In the Flying Health Incubator, Audi AG is entering into dialog with decision-makers from the startup scene and from the healthcare industry. Together, the partners will strive to identify trends, technical solutions and business models in the digital health market at an early stage.
New study finds that ship emissions from HFO and diesel adversely affect pulmonary macrophages
July 20, 2016
A study by European researchers has found that ship emissions from the combustion of heavy fuel oil (HFO) and diesel fuel (DF) have adverse effects on pulmonary macrophages, from increased cell death to altered metabolic profile, depending upon the aerosol component. Their open access paper is published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Macrophages are white blood cells and are part of the immune system. Often referred to as scavenger cells, they absorb and engulf microorganisms. In addition, the cells destroy tumor cells, remove cell debris, present antigens and promote wound healing. There are four types of pulmonary macrophages: alveolar; interstitial; intravascular; and the dendritic. The alveolar macrophages are the only macrophages in the body which are exposed to air. Located at the interphase between air and lung tissue, they represent the first line of defense against inhaled airborne elements.
CMU study: even partially-automated crash avoidance delivers financial and safety benefits
July 19, 2016
A new cost-benefit analysis by researchers at Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering shows that the public could derive economic and social benefits today if partially-automated collision avoidance features were deployed in all cars.
In a paper published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, they evaluated the benefits and costs of fleet-wide deployment of three such technologies: blind spot monitoring; lane departure warning; and forward collision warning crash avoidance systems within the US light-duty vehicle fleet.
CDC: US has highest motor vehicle crash death rate among high-income countries; could be cut in half with proven strategies
July 07, 2016
About 90 people die each day from motor vehicle crashes in the United States, resulting in the highest death rate among 19 high-income comparison countries, according to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There were more than 32,000 crash deaths in the US in 2013, with more than $380 million in direct medical costs.
Athough the US has made progress in road safety—reducing crash deaths by 31% from 2000 to 2013—other high-income countries reduced crash deaths by an average of 56% during the same period. Lower death rates in comparison countries, as well as the high prevalence of risk factors in the US, suggest that more progress can be made in saving lives, according to the CDC. Compared with other high-income countries, the US had the:
NHTSA projects 7.7% increase in US traffic fatalities for 2015 year-on-year; significant increase in motorcyclist and non-occupant deaths
July 02, 2016
A just-released National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistical projection of traffic fatalities for 2015 estimates that 35,200 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes—an increase of about 7.7% as compared to the 32,675 fatalities reported in 2014. If the 35,200 figure turns out to be accurate, this will mark the highest level of fatalities since 2008, which saw 37,423 fatalities.
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) preliminary data shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2015 increased by about 107.2 billion miles—about a 3.5% increase. The fatality rate for 2015 increased to 1.12 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from 1.08 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2014—about a 3.7% increase. Fourth quarter of 2015 represents the fifth consecutive quarter with year-to-year increases in fatalities as well as the fatality rate.
PM2.5 linked to increased rates of kidney disease in China
July 01, 2016
While fine particulate air pollution is known to cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, a new study indicates that it also likely causes damage to the kidneys. Specifically, the study found that the likelihood of developing membranous nephropathy, an immune disorder of the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure, increased 13% annually from 2004 to 2014 in China. Regions with high levels of fine particulate air pollution had the highest rates of membranous nephropathy.
The findings, which appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), call for attention on the role of air pollution in the development of kidney disease in urban areas.
IEA: 7% increase in total energy investment could cut premature deaths from air pollution in half by 2040
June 27, 2016
A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that energy policy choices backed by a 7% increase in total energy investment through 2040 could cut premature deaths from air pollution roughly in half by 2040. Under such a scenario, premature deaths from outdoor air pollution would decline by 1.7 million in 2040 compared with the report’s main scenario, and those from household pollution would fall by 1.6 million annually.
The IEA World Energy Outlook (WEO) special report on Energy and Air Pollution highlights the links between energy, air pollution and health. The report, the IEA’s first in-depth analysis of air quality, identifies contributions the energy sector can make to curb poor air quality—the fourth-largest threat to human health, after high blood pressure, poor diets, and smoking.
10-year study shows how air pollution fosters heart disease; accelerated plaque build-up in arteries
May 25, 2016
Long-term exposure to particulate air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, but the biological process has not been understood. A major, decade-long study of thousands of Americans has now found that people living in areas with more outdoor pollution—even at lower levels common in the United States—accumulate deposits in the arteries that supply the heart faster than do people living in less polluted areas. The study is published in The Lancet.
Previous epidemiological studies have shown associations between particle matter and heart disease. It has been unclear, however, how exposure to particulate matter leads to diseases of the cardiovascular system. Earlier studies had been shorter and had depended for their analysis on existing datasets collected for other purposes.
WHO: Air pollution levels rising in many of the world’s poorest cities
May 12, 2016
More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) limits, according to the organization. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.
According to the latest urban air quality database, 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100 000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56%.
The importance of considering non-exhaust traffic emissions; the role of EVs
May 02, 2016
Regulatory regimes seeking to reduce emissions from transport have largely focused on tailpipe emissions—i.e., the criteria pollutants and CO2 that emerge with the exhaust from the tailpipe. However, there is more than 15 years of research showing that the contribution of non-exhaust primary particles to the total traffic generated primary particles is significant in urban areas. Non-exhaust PM factors include tire wear, brake wear, road surface wear and resuspension of road dust. Further, a 2013 review by Denier van der Gon et al., 2013 found that the ratio of non-exhaust to exhaust particles is strongly increasing in the last two decades, due to exhaust emission reductions.
While battery electric vehicles have the obvious advantage of zero tail-pipe emissions, they are not equally advantaged when it comes to non-exhaust emissions. Accordingly, there have been a number of recent studies working to assess the impact of non-exhaust emissions from EVs and suggesting a regulatory or policy response (e.g., earlier post).
Study: long-term exposure to PM2.5 associated with numerous types of cancer
April 29, 2016
Long-term exposure to ambient PM2.5, a mixture of environmental pollutants, was associated with increased risk of mortality for many types of cancer in an elderly Hong Kong population, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Long-term exposure to particulate matter has been associated with mortality mainly from cardiopulmonary causes and lung cancer, said the study’s co-lead author, Thuan Quoc Thach, PhD, a scientific officer at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong. However, there have been few studies showing an association with mortality from other cancers. Thach and co-lead author Neil Thomas suspected that PM2.5 could have an equivalent effect on cancers elsewhere in the body.
Study: Even small amounts of PM2.5 may have long-term health effects on developing fetus
Even small amounts of PM2.5 pollution appear to raise the risk of a condition in pregnant women linked to premature births and lifelong neurological and respiratory disorders in their children, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
Fine particles from car exhaust, power plants and other industrial sources are breathed into the lungs, but the scientists have now found evidence of the effects of that pollution in the pregnant women’s placentas. They found that the greater the maternal exposure to air pollution, the more likely the pregnant women suffered from intrauterine inflammation, which can increase the risk of a number of health problems for her child from the fetal stage well into childhood.