Archive | Air Pollution

Texas Farmers, Pecan Growers Blame Vegetation Death on Power Plant

Environmentalists, scientists, plant specialists, and farmers say that sulfur dioxide from a Texas coal-fired power plant is causing extensive swaths of vegetation death in the region.

Pecan growers have reported plant devastation near the Fayette Power Project, a 30-year-old facility in Ellinger, Texas. They say the power plant, which is operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority, emits sulfur dioxide that has caused thousands of trees to die and nut production to steadily plummet.

“There was an environmental catastrophe,” local horticulturalist Jim Berry told MSNBC.

“It wasn’t just the pecan groves,” he said. “It was the entire ecosystem that was under duress.”

Sulfur dioxide has been known to kill plants in other parts of the country, AP reports.

The Lower Colorado River Authority claims that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the plant is responsible for the dying trees, blaming the damage on recent droughts instead.

The Environmental Protection Agency toured some of the farms and is currently reviewing data, AP reports.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Industrial Pollution, Plants, Algae, & Fungi (Botany)0 Comments

EPA Takes Over Texas Carbon Emission Permits

The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday announced its plans to take over carbon dioxide permitting of any new power plants and refineries in Texas, citing the state’s refusal to comply with emissions regulations going into effect Jan. 2.

Texas industries have openly opposed the Obama administration’s Clean Air Act, a program designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. They claim that the cuts will threaten productivity, and that the economy, in turn, will take a hit.

The EPA said Thursday that it was reassuming the state’s Clean Air Act Permits because “officials in Texas have made clear . . . they have no intention of implementing this portion of the federal air permitting program,” The Associated Press reported.

“EPA prefers that the state of Texas and all states remain the permitting authority for (greenhouse gas) sources,” the agency said in a statement. “In the same way that EPA has worked with other states and local agencies, the agency stands ready to do the same with (Texas).”

The EPA constructed a framework for carbon emissions regulations in seven other states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon and Wyoming.

The agency also devised a timetable for establishing the cuts for all U.S. facilities and power plants. It plans to propose performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions beginning in July for powerplants and for oil refineries by December. The standards will be finalized in May 2012 for powerplants and November 2012 for refineries.

Gov. Rick Perry spokeswoman spoke out against the EPA’s decision to directly issue air permits in Texas.

“The EPA’s misguided plan paints a huge target on the backs of Texas agriculture and energy producers by implementing unnecessary, burdensome mandates on our state’s energy sector, threatening hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs and imposing increased living costs on Texas families,” Cesinger said, according to the San Antonio Express.

An estimated 167 new or expanding projects would be subject to the EPA takeover. Texas lays claim to more oil refineries, chemical plants, and coal-fired power plants than any other state and produces the most greenhouse gas emissions and industrial pollution in the country, AP reports.

The new carbon emissions standards were adopted after a 2007 Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases should be classified as pollutants under the Clean Air Act and EPA research in 2009 revealed that the gases have a harmful effect on human health.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Coal, Courts & Litigation, Drilling for Oil, Energy Industry, Global Warming, Laws & Regulations, Oil & Petroleum, Ozone, Policies, Pollution Prevention0 Comments

Study: Aircraft Noise Bad for the Heart

BERN, Switzerland, Oct. 12 (UPI) — People living under airport flight paths and exposed to aircraft noise are at higher risk for heart attacks, a Swiss study says.

Other studies have linked negative health effects to living near flight paths and noisy roads, but the study could confirm whether sound, and not other factors like air pollution, is the main culprit Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

“It’s been a problem that when you look at road traffic noise there are both high levels of noise and high levels of air pollution,” researcher Matthias Egger of the University of Bern said. “By looking at airports we were in a position to disentangle these effects.”

Egger and his team, using data from an ongoing mortality study called the Swiss National Cohort, studied 15,532 heart attack deaths among 4.6 million Swiss residents between late 2000 and the end of 2005.

Government records allowed researchers to determine the distance of individuals’ residences from airports and major roads, as well as relative levels of air pollution.

After factoring out air pollution and other data including education and income levels, they found both the level and duration of aircraft noise increased the risk of a heart attack.

People whose daily average exposure was at least 60 decibels had a 30 per cent greater risk of having a heart attack compared with those exposed to less than 45 decibels, the study found.

“Noise probably does have effects on health and it is important that we gain a better understanding of these,” Egger said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Breast Cancer, Air Pollution May Be Linked

MONTREAL, Oct. 9 (UPI) — Air pollution from motor vehicle traffic may put women at higher risk for breast cancer, Canadian researchers said.

Researchers at Montreal’s Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre, McGill University and Universite de Montreal found a link between post-menopausal breast cancer and exposure to nitrogen dioxide — a “marker” for traffic-related air pollution.

The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found the risk of breast cancer increased by about 25 percent with every increase of nitrogen dioxide of 5 parts per billion.

“Another way of saying this is that women living in the areas with the highest levels of pollution were almost twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those living in the least polluted areas,” study co-author Dr. Mark Goldberg of the Research Institute said in a statement.

Goldberg and colleagues had created two air pollution “maps” showing levels of nitrogen dioxide — a by-product of vehicular traffic — in different parts of Montreal in 1996 and 10 years earlier in 1986. They then charted the home addresses of women diagnosed with breast cancer in a 1996-97 study onto the air pollution maps.

The incidence of breast cancer was clearly higher in areas with higher levels of air pollution, the study said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Air Pollution, Maps, Other0 Comments

New World Map of Air Pollution Created

GREENBELT, Md., Sept. 23 (UPI) — Canadian scientists say a new satellite-based map offers a global view of air pollution particles suspected in millions of deaths annually.

In many developing countries, the absence of surface-based air pollution sensors makes it difficult to get even a rough estimate of the abundance of a subcategory of airborne particles epidemiologists think contribute to millions of premature deaths each year, researchers at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center say.

The problematic particles, called fine particulate matter or PM2.5, are 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, about a 10th the width of a human hair. These small particles can get past the body’s normal defenses and penetrate deep into the lungs.

Researchers Aaron van Donkelaar and Randall Martin at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia used data from two NASA satellites, combined with computer models, to create a world map of the distribution of PM2.5 particles.

Their map, which shows the average PM2.5 results between 2001 and 2006, offers the most comprehensive view of the health-sapping particles to date. It has provided the first PM2.5 satellite estimates in a number of developing countries that have had no estimates of air pollution levels until now, they say.

The map shows high levels of PM2.5 in a broad area stretching from the Sahara Desert in Northern Africa to Eastern Asia. When compared with maps of population density, it suggests more than 80 percent of the world’s population breathe polluted air exceeding the World Health Organization’s recommended level of 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

“We still have plenty of work to do to refine this map, but it’s a real step forward,” Martin said. “We hope this data will be useful in areas that don’t have access to robust ground-based measurements.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Pollution Linked to Sleep Problems

BOSTON, June 16 (UPI) — U.S. researchers have linked air pollution and sleep-disordered breathing — a known cause of heart disease.

Antonella Zanobetti, Dr. Susan Redline, Dr. Diane Gold of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues used data from the Sleep Heart Health Study, which included more than 6,000 participants from 1995 to 1998, as well as federal air pollution monitoring data from Framingham, Mass.; Minneapolis; New York; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; Sacramento; and Tucson.

The researchers said sleep-disordered breathing affects as many as 17 percent of U.S. adults.

Over all seasons, the study found short-term elevations in temperature were linked with increased in Respiratory Disturbance Index, which was used to gauge the severity of sleep-disordered breathing.

“Particles may influence sleep through effects on the central nervous system, as well as the upper airways,” Zanobetti said in a statement. “Poor sleep may disproportionately afflict poor urban populations. Our findings suggest that one mechanism for poor sleep and sleep health disparities may relate to environmental pollution levels.”

The study appears online ahead of the print edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Study: Air Pollution Affects Heart Health

HERSHEY, Pa., May 19 (UPI) — Air pollution increases stress on the heart and increases the risk of heart disease, U.S. researchers said.

Duanping Liao, a professor of public health sciences, at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine said a body’s ability to regulate the heartbeat so the heart can pump the right amount of blood into the circulation system relies on the stability of the heart’s electrical activity — electrophysiology.

“Air pollution is associated with cardiopulmonary mortality and morbidity, and it is generally accepted that impaired heart electrophysiology is one of the underlying mechanisms,” Liao said in a statement.

“This impairment is exhibited through fluctuations in the heart rate from beat to beat over an established period of time, known as heart rate variability. It is also exhibited through a longer period for the electric activity to return to the baseline, known as ventricular repolarization.”

Liao’s team tracked 106 non-smokers age 45 and older from central Pennsylvania, who wore air-quality and heart-rate monitors for 24 hours.

The study found heart electrophysiology was affected up to six hours after elevated PM2.5 — combustion-related small particles — exposure.

The findings were published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology and in Environmental Health Prospective.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Air Pollution Linked to Blood Pressure

DUISBURG-ESSEN, Germany, May 18 (UPI) — People who live in cities where particulate air pollution is high may have an increased risk of high blood pressure, German researchers say.

Senior study Dr. Barbara Hoffman of the University of Duisburg-Essen says earlier studies have shown acute increases in particulate air pollution, such as day-to-day fluctuations, can raise blood pressure. Hoffman and colleagues used data from the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, an ongoing of study of heart disease of almost 5,000 people from 2000 to 2003.

“Our results show that living in areas with higher levels of particle air pollution is associated with higher blood pressure,” Hoffman says in a statement.

The study finds average arterial blood pressure rose by 1.7 mmHg for an increase of 2.4 µg/m³ in the exposure level to fine particulate matter — under 2.5 ?m — emitted by traffic, heating, industry and power plants.

“Both, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, are higher in people who live in more polluted areas, even if we take important factors that also influence blood pressure like age, gender, smoking, weight, etc. into account,” Hoffman says in a statement. “Blood pressure increases were stronger in women than in men.”

The findings are scheduled to be presented at the ATS International Conference in New Orleans.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Air Pollution, Other, Smoking0 Comments

Pollutants Affect in Vitro Fertilization

HERSHEY, Pa., April 12 (UPI) — U.S. medical fertility scientists say they’ve found exposure to nitrogen dioxide and other air pollutants can affect the success of in vitro fertilization.

The team said it examined the outcomes of the first pregnancy attempts of 7,403 women undergoing IVF at Penn State University’s Hershey Medical Center, Shady Grove Fertility of Rockville, Md.; and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. They conducted their observations over a seven-year period from 2000 to 2007.

“Numerous studies have consistently shown a relationship between air pollution and human health, ranging from mortality, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions,” said Penn State Professor Duanping Liao. “In the process of searching for the mechanisms responsible for the … associations, we, and others, have reported significant links between air pollution and inflammation and increased blood-clotting. These intermediate factors are also associated with reproductive health.”

The researchers said their findings may be useful in studying the adverse effects of air pollution on human reproduction in general.

“Since IVF is a well-controlled and highly timed process, we have a much better handle on the assessment of the time of exposures to elevated air pollutants in relationship to fertilization, pregnancy and delivery,” Liao said. The findings may provide an ideal situation to investigate the potential health effects of air quality on human reproduction, he said.

The study appears in the journal Human Reproduction.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Other0 Comments

Study: Asian Pollution Encircles Earth

BOULDER, Colo., March 25 (UPI) — A U.S.-led team of scientists says it has determined monsoons are lifting Asian pollutants into the stratosphere, where they encircle the Earth.

Investigators at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said their finding provides additional evidence of the global nature of air pollution.

Using satellite observations and computer models, the research team said it determined vigorous summertime circulation patterns associated with Asian monsoons rapidly transport air upward from the Earth’s surface. The vertical movements provide a pathway for black carbon, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants to ascend into the stratosphere, about 20-25 miles above the Earth’s surface.

“The monsoon is one of the most powerful atmospheric circulation systems on the planet, and it happens to form right over a heavily polluted region,” says NCAR scientist William Randel, the study’s lead author.

Once in the stratosphere, the pollutants circulate around the globe for several years, Randel said, noting the finding also suggests the impact of Asian air pollution might increase due to growing industrial activity in China and other rapidly developing nations.

The research that included scientists from Canada and the United Kingdom appears in the online journal Science Express.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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