Your shampoo and deodorant cause a daily pollution ‘rush hour’

May 1, 2018 by  
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You may not realize it, but your shampoo, deodorant, or lotion could be contributing nearly as much urban air pollution  as your daily commute. A new study discovered emissions from siloxane, a common ingredient in those personal care products , are similar to those from vehicles in rush-hour traffic. Are you leaving air pollution-contributing chemicals in your wake? Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) led a study published online this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that revealed people’s personal care items could be polluting the air. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: Demystifying “Natural” and “Organic” Labels on Personal Care Products The scientists were measuring VOCs from a mobile laboratory and the Earth System Research Laboratory roof, tracking concentrations of traffic-related compounds like benzene at rush hour. They saw a peak in the data and one scientist suggested siloxane. He was right. Siloxane emissions correlated with benzene emissions, so the team guessed siloxane might be found in vehicle exhaust. But tailpipe emission testing and roadside measurements revealed that wasn’t the case. Siloxane, a volatile organic compound (VOC), is added to lotions or shampoos to impart a silky feel. The VOC evaporates rapidly after being applied, and according to CIRES , “In the air, sunlight can trigger those VOCs to react with nitrogen oxides and other compounds to form ozone and particulate matter.” The scientists figured out both chemicals could be connected to commuting . In the morning, after people had applied personal care products and headed outside, siloxane emissions peaked, as did benzene emissions as people traveled in cars or buses. The emissions of both chemicals decreased in the day and then peaked once again at the evening commute, although the evening peak was lower for siloxane emissions as many personal care products had evaporated to a great extent. “We estimate for the city of Boulder, it’s about 3 to 5 kilograms per day of siloxane (D5), and benzene (from motor vehicles), we estimate is about 15 kilograms,” CIRES scientist and lead author Matthew Coggon said . “So it’s about three to five times lower (than vehicles) in terms of total mass. But the emissions that you see in the morning…they’re fairly close, which is the stunning piece. You driving your car, you’re emitting as much siloxane as your vehicle is emitting benzene. That’s the general gist.” “We all have a personal plume, from our cars and our personal care products,” Coggon added. “In this changing landscape, emissions from personal care products are becoming important.” + CIRES + Environmental Science and Technology Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 ) and Kathy Bogan/CIRES

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Your shampoo and deodorant cause a daily pollution ‘rush hour’

Pollution Pods let visitors taste pollution from around the world

April 26, 2018 by  
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Air pollution is a silent killer responsible for millions of death worldwide. In a bid to highlight the environmental problem, British artist Michael Pinsky set up five interconnected geodesic domes, dubbed the “pollution pods,” that let passersby sample air quality from five cities around the world including Beijing, São Paulo, Brazil; London; New Delhi; and Norway’s Tautra Island. Created in collaboration with Danish air filtering company Airlabs, the temporary installation popped up for Earth Day outside London’s Somerset House. Pinsky simulated each city’s atmospheric conditions using safe chemicals that emulate the relative presence of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide . Visitors pass through increasingly polluted cells starting with the pristine Norwegian island of Tautra, followed by “Living Diesel” London , smoggy New Delhi, hazy Beijing, and finally smoky São Paulo, after which visitors get respite by exiting through the Tautra pod. Related: Blue LED Rings On Famous London Monuments Show Just How Far Sea Levels Could Rise The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim originally commissioned Pinsky for the installation as part of the Climart project in Norway . The project was brought over to London temporarily and was on display until yesterday, April 25. Pollution Pods aims to bring greater attention to the issue of air pollution and inspire behavioral change; visitors are also offered a leaflet detailing ways to reduce exposure to air pollution in London. + Michael Pinsky Via NY Times Images via Somerset House , by Peter Macdiarmid

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Pollution Pods let visitors taste pollution from around the world

MIT study shows that China’s climate policy could "more than pay for itself"

April 23, 2018 by  
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Is China turning the tide on pollution ? The country stands to benefit not just environmentally, but financially as well. A new MIT study found if China reduces carbon dioxide emissions by four percent a year, the nation could net around $339 billion in health savings by the year 2030. That figure could be around four times what it would cost the country to achieve climate goals – in other words, according to MIT, “the country’s climate policy would more than pay for itself.” Fulfilling its international pledge to cut carbon emissions makes sense for China in many ways. Not only could the nation contribute significantly to the global battle against climate change (as it’s the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases) – but the health impacts for Chinese citizens could be huge. Improving air quality could avoid a considerable amount of deaths from air pollution in every province — and MIT put a dollar figure on the benefit to society: $339 billion. Related: China reports meeting its 2020 carbon intensity goals three years early MIT associate professor Noelle Eckley Selin co-authored the study published today in Nature Climate Change . In a statement, she said: “The country could actually come out net positive, just based on the health co-benefits associated with air quality improvements, relative to the cost of a climate policy. This is a motivating factor for countries to engage in global climate policy.” How did the team reach their figure? They developed a modeling approach called the Regional Emissions Air Quality Climate and Health framework, combining an energy -economic model and atmospheric chemistry model. They used the energy-economic model “to simulate how a given climate policy changes a province’s economic activity, energy use, and emissions of carbon dioxide and air pollutants.” They ran simulations under four scenarios: one with no policy and three with policies aiming to cut emissions through 2030 by three, four, and five percent a year. They then plugged in results into the atmospheric chemistry model and estimated particulate matter concentrations for provinces to help calculate the pollution communities are inhaling. Epidemiological literature helped them figure out how many deaths could be avoided. They calculated the economic value of the deaths, which they compared against the total cost of implementing a policy scenario. Their findings? In a no-policy scenario, by 2030 there would be over 2.3 million premature, pollution-related deaths. In the three, four, or five percent emissions reductions scenarios, China could respectively avoid 36,000, 94,000, and 160,000 premature deaths. The savings “gained as a result of health co-benefits equals $138.4 billion, $339.6 billion, and $534.8 billion, respectively,” according to MIT. + MIT Images via Diego Jimenez , Frak Lopez , and Manon Boyer on Unsplash

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MIT study shows that China’s climate policy could "more than pay for itself"

95% of the world’s population breathes unsafe air

April 17, 2018 by  
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Are you breathing clean air ? A new air pollution study suggests you might not be. It found that almost 95 percent of people in the world live in areas with higher fine particle levels than the World Health Organization ‘s air quality guidelines. According to The Guardian , poor communities are taking the brunt of the burden. The Health Effects Institute recently published the State of Global Air/2018 report. They drew upon satellite data and improved monitoring to discover that the majority of us could be breathing unhealthy air. According to the report , “An estimated 95 percent of people live in areas where ambient (outdoor) fine particulate matter concentrations (small dust or soot particles in the air) exceed the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guideline of 10 µg/m3. Almost 60 percent live in areas where fine particulate matter exceeds even the least stringent WHO interim air quality target of 35 µg/m3.” Related: New map reveals world’s most toxic countries The 2018 report also delves into household air pollution. More than one third of the world’s population is exposed to polluted air from the burning of solid fuels for heating or cooking indoors. Reportedly, “For them, fine particulate matter levels in the home can exceed the air quality guidelines by as much as 20 times.” Air pollution has been connected to sickness and early death — just last year, exposure to polluted air played a role in over six million deaths around the world, according to experts. Half of the deaths were in India and China . And the gap between the most and least polluted countries is increasing: it’s now 11-fold compared to six-fold in 1990, Health Effects Institute vice president Bob O’Keefe told The Guardian. But, he said even though countries may have a ways to go on cleaning the air, there are reasons for hope — such as India’s focus on electrification. O’Keefe said China “seems to be now moving aggressively,” as they put stronger controls in place and work to cut coal . You can explore the data from the State of Global Air/2018 on the report’s website . + State of Global Air/2018 Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2 )

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95% of the world’s population breathes unsafe air

Rome is banning all oil-burning cars by 2024

March 1, 2018 by  
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Rome is jumping on the diesel-banning bandwagon – the city just announced plans to ban oil-burning cars within the city by 2024. That’s huge news, because roughly two-thirds of new cars sold last year in Italy were diesel, and Rome has struggled with poor air quality. The news comes on the heels of a court case in Germany that enabled cities to ban diesel vehicles . Rome is one of the most congested cities in Europe due to a constant stream of tourists on decidedly un-modern streets. Rome also lacks any major industries, which means that a majority of the air pollution plaguing the city is caused by vehicles. That pollution doesn’t just harm the health of people in the city, but it also causes serious damage to the ancient buildings and monuments. Related: German cities get the green light to ban diesel vehicles Rome has tried to limit pollution before. In the past the city has experimented with limiting older cars and limiting cars with even or odd plate numbers on alternating days. Neither tactic has done much to help, because many people just flout or skirt the laws. The decision was announced by mayor Virginia Raggi on Facebook . Via AutoBlog Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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Rome is banning all oil-burning cars by 2024

EPA ends "always-in" clean air policy opposed by fossil fuel companies

January 26, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withdrawing a key  Clean Air Act provision. They’re reversing the “once-in always-in” policy for major sources of pollution , which requires sources like  power plants , to always be classified as a major source. Under the new change, if a source “limits its potential to emit below major source thresholds,” per the EPA , it can be reclassified as an area source. What’s the impact of all this? According to a statement from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) clean air director John Walke, “This is among the most dangerous actions that the Trump EPA has taken yet against public health .” The EPA , in their own words, is “reducing regulatory burdens.” They’re withdrawing a policy “for the classification of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under section 112 of the Clean Air Act.” According to Reuters, the “once-in always-in” policy was established in 1995. The agency said it had acted as a disincentive for sources to put pollution abatement and prevention attempts in place, “or to pursue technological innovations that would reduce hazardous air pollution emissions .” Reuters reported the petroleum industry, utilities, and others sought the withdrawal. Related: EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants A major source emits or could emit 10 tons a year of any risky air pollutant, according to the EPA, or 25 tons or more of a combination of air pollutants a year. Area sources are those with emissions under that threshold, and according to Reuters, are subject to pollution control standards that aren’t as strict as those for major sources. The NRDC doesn’t agree with the move. Walke said it would “allow the greatest increase in hazardous air pollutants in our nation’s history.” “This move drastically weakens protective limits on air pollutants like arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxins that cause cancer, brain damage, infertility, developmental problems, and even death,” he said in a statement. “And those harmed most would be nearby communities already suffering a legacy of pollution.” + Environmental Protection Agency Via Reuters and the Natural Resources Defense Council Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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EPA ends "always-in" clean air policy opposed by fossil fuel companies

This startup is turning air pollution into art

December 1, 2017 by  
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Air pollution is a huge problem in many parts of the world – including in Mumbai , where Anirudh Sharma grew up. Sharma noticed one day that his t-shirts were being covered in a dirty soot and decided to do something about it. So he started Graviky Labs and created technology that captures particulate matter at the source. That matter is then turned into ink that artists around the world can use to bring attention to air pollution. Sharma was studying in the MIT Media Lab when he decided that he wanted to do something about the air pollution in his hometown. Mumbai is particularly infamous for their air pollution , which can cause lung damage, cancer and shorten lifespans. His goal was to create “less pollution, more art.” Related: Daan Roosegaarde introduces smog-sucking, air-cleaning bikes KAALINK is a small device that fits on car exhaust or diesel generators to capture air pollution using static electricity. After a few weeks, the cartridges are then emptied and sent to Graviky Labs to be turned into Air-Ink. Unlike other soot-capturing systems, KAALINK doesn’t need water to trap pollution. That makes it an even greener option. Artists from around the world have used Air-Ink to create pieces that you can see for yourself on Graviky Lab’s Facebook page . A Kickstarter campaign this summer also sold T-shirts, postcards, shoes, and helmets decorated in Air-Ink. + Graviky Labs Via MIT Labs

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This startup is turning air pollution into art

Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

November 16, 2017 by  
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A radioactive cloud of pollution sounds like a plot point out of a B movie – but that’s what multiple European monitoring stations recently detected. Official monitors in Germany and France detected ruthenium 106, a nuclide, in late September, and some people suggested it originated in Kazakhstan or southern Russia . Multiple European monitoring stations confirmed the presence of ruthenium 106, according to France’s Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , in the atmosphere of the majority of countries in Europe. The cause for alarm appears to have drifted away for now: the institute said since October 13, they have not detected ruthenium 106 in France. They said in a recent statement , “The concentration levels of ruthenium 106 in the air that have been recorded in Europe and especially in France are of no consequence for human health and for the environment .” Related: UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers But there is some question over how much ruthenium 106 leaked in the first place. The institute said the amounts at the source would have been significant. If such an accident had occurred in France, authorities would have had to implement measures to protect populations for a few kilometers around the point of release. Where did the ruthenium 106 come from? Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection said on October 11 , “Recent analyses as to the source of the radioactive substance suggest a high probability of a radioactive release in the Southern Ural, although other areas in the South of Russia still cannot be ruled out.” Just a few days earlier, on October 8, they’d said in a statement “Russia must be assumed to be the region of origin” and called on Russian authorities to provide information. The German and French agencies did not think the ruthenium 106 came from a nuclear reactor accident, as other nuclides probably would have been detected in such an event. France’s institute said the source could have been “nuclear fuel-cycle facilities or radioactive source production.” French agency senior official Jean-Christophe Gariel said he talked to counterparts in Russia last week, and “they told us that our results were coherent and correct, but that they were not aware of any event that could have caused that.” Via The New York Times , the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Depositphotos and Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety

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Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants

October 6, 2017 by  
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Big Brown, a coal -fired Texas power plant, spews out sulfur dioxide at rates as much as 50 times higher than coal plants fitted with newer technology. Under President Barack Obama , the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aimed to clean up Big Brown and six other Texas plants in three to five years. But President Donald Trump’s EPA, headed by Scott Pruitt , just released a final rule that will enable these polluting plants to keep on pumping lung irritants into the air. Big Brown and the other six plants together generate more sulfur dioxide pollution than power stations from over 25 states combined, according to Sierra Club senior attorney Elena Saxonhouse. She wrote the former EPA had slated the stations for cleanup, “setting emission limits for sulfur dioxide consistent with modern scrubbers,” equipment that can yank out sulfur dioxide before it billows out of a plant’s smokestacks. The two boilers at Big Brown and nine other coal-fired boilers don’t have scrubbers at all. Four other boilers also part of the proposal do have scrubbers, but they’re from the 1970’s and don’t work as well as modern technology. Related: Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites But it seems Pruitt doesn’t care about harmful pollutants. He tossed out the proposed rule for a final rule Sierra Club described as a do-nothing plan, where Big Brown and the other plants can go on polluting as normal. Saxonhouse wrote in an article for Sierra Club, “Pruitt’s decision to scrap the proposed clean air protections fits a pattern of backward-looking decisions in this Administration , which has tied itself in knots trying to prop up the coal industry .” The cleanup plan would have implemented the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze program. The proposed upgrades would have removed over 180,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution a year. One analysis found the proposal could have saved over 600 lives every single year. But the final rule means the coal plants can keep polluting, potentially leading to harmful health impacts for humans. According to Saxonhouse, “In making this about-face, EPA had to shove aside reams of technical and scientific data prepared by the previous administration, and ignore the legal framework of the Regional Haze program. And EPA failed to take any public comment on the new plan, despite the fact that thousands of citizens had written in to support the strong proposal.” Via Sierra Club Images via Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons and Roy Luck on Flickr

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Transforming Urban Deliveries

October 4, 2017 by  
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Economic growth and the expansion of e-commerce means there is a growing number of commercial vehicles on city streets contributing to congestion and air pollution. Several new technologies and business models have the potential to mitigate these negative effects while also making urban deliveries more affordable. The attractiveness of these technologies will vary by city and be heavily influenced by population density and economic conditions.

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