Sandstorms and pollution create hazardous air quality in Beijing

March 16, 2021 by  
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On Monday, citizens of Beijing woke up to an orange sky, with the air quality recorded as hazardous. As the commuters woke up to carry on with their daily activities, they came face to face with a thick cloud of dust across the capital. The air quality index in the city was measured at 999. Metrological authorities issued a high alert warning that stayed in place from 7:30 a.m. until midday. Another warning had been issued earlier, which required citizens to be generally watchful of dust and sand from Monday until Tuesday morning. Related: Pollution Pods let visitors taste pollution from around the world Beijing experiences dusty air at this time of the year following sandstorms across the Gobi desert. Winds blowing across the desert usually worsen air quality , but not to the levels witnessed this week, according to long-term residents. State media reported that 341 individuals were missing in nearby Mongolia, which was also affected by the sandstorms. The levels of PM2.5 recorded were over 600 micrograms in most parts of the city. Such particles are harmful to human health because they can penetrate the lungs and even get into the bloodstream. The recommended level of average daily concentration of PM2.5 is only 25 micrograms, according to the World Health Organization. In comparison to other cities, Beijing’s 999 real-time air quality index (AQI) was significantly higher than other major cities at the same time. The real-time AQI in Tokyo was 42, Sydney at 17, New York at 26 and Hong Kong at 66. Residents of the city expressed their fears over the situation. People shared social media screenshots of other air quality indexes, with some readings over 9,000, which is technically beyond the scale. Austin Ramzy, a New York Times reporter based in Beijing, tweeted, “I can recall PM10 over 1000 from sandstorms a few times when I lived in Beijing, but this is nuts,” with a screenshot of an index reading 6,450 PM10 and 462 PM2.5. The dust storms have been linked to large-scale deforestation . Recently, the Chinese government has been trying to reforest in a bid to restore air quality in the city, which has one of the worst air quality ratings in the world. Via The Guardian Image via Erdenebayar Bayansan

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Sandstorms and pollution create hazardous air quality in Beijing

Carbfix turns emissions into stone

March 16, 2021 by  
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An  Icelandic  startup has an intriguing solution to the emissions problem: turn carbon into stone. While it sounds like an evil power out of a fairy tale, and maybe there is a little bit of magic to Carbfix’s approach, we’ll assume its proprietary technology is scientific. Here’s how it works. As most of us know, trees and plants bind carbon from the atmosphere. But, so do rocks. Carbfix’s technology just makes the process of the carbon getting into the rocks a lot faster. The startup dissolves carbon in water, which interacts with reactive rock formations, “to form stable minerals providing a permanent and safe carbon sink,” according to the  Carbfix  website. Carbfix injects this solution into the subsurface, adds a little proprietary technology, and voila, within two years the carbon has turned to stone. Related: “Carbon-absorbing” vertical forest skyscraper nears completion in Taipei Here’s what’s going on under the surface. The carbonated water is acidic and reacts with underground  rocks . Over time, iron, calcium and other elements are released into the water, combine with dissolved carbon dioxide and form carbonates underground. Since they’re stable for thousands of years, we can consider the carbon permanently stored. “This is a technology that can be scaled — it’s cheap and economic and environmentally friendly,” said Carbfix CEO Edda Sif Pind Aradottir, as reported by Bloomberg. “Basically, we are just doing what  nature  has been doing for millions of years, so we are helping nature help itself.” Carbon  emissions are the top reason for global warming and a major factor in extreme weather events and ocean acidification. Carbfix aims to cut climate change off at the knees and help the world reach the Paris agreement goals. The project first started in 2006. The following year, it was formalized by four founding partners: the University of Iceland, Reykjavik Energy, Earth Institute at Columbia University and CNRS in Toulouse. Additional research institutes and universities have also worked on the project in the last decade. In 2019, Carbfix became a subsidiary of Reykjavik Energy, then in 2020 it began operating as a separate entity. Its mission is to store one billion tons of CO2 by 2030. + Carbfix Via EcoWatch Lead image via Pixabay

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This "super plant" can actually absorb air pollution

February 19, 2021 by  
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Scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have found that Cotoneaster franchetii could help absorb pollution on heavily trafficked roads. In a study that compared how different plants tame pollution, RHS scientists found this species of cotoneaster to be the most effective. The plant was compared to other shrubs, including western red cedar and hawthorn. According to the researchers, cotoneaster turned out to be a “super plant” that could act as a carbon sink for fossil fuel pollution. However, the study established that the plant was really only helpful in areas with high traffic. In comparison to the other plants in the study, cotoneaster was found to be 20% more effective in absorbing pollution. In quiet regions with limited pollution, the plant was found to be less effective. Related: The Ray integrates plants and pollinators along I-85 “On major city roads with heavy traffic, we’ve found that the species with more complex, denser canopies, rough and hairy leaves such as cotoneaster were the most effective,” said Tijana Blanusa, lead researcher. “We know that in just seven days, a one-meter length of well-managed dense hedge will mop up the same amount of pollution that a car emits over a 500 mile drive.” Air pollution is a big concern in the modern world. RHS conducted a survey that involved over 2,000 participants to find out their take on pollution matters. The survey revealed that 33% of respondents have been affected by pollution but only 6% had taken steps to combat the situation in their own gardens. But researchers are hopeful that sharing how powerful cotoneaster and similar plants are could help the public participate in improving air quality through gardening . “We are continually identifying new ‘super plants’ with unique qualities, which, when combined with other vegetation, provide enhanced benefits while providing much-needed habitats for wildlife,” said Alistair Griffiths, director of science and collections at RHS. “We’ve found, for example, that ivy wall cover excels at cooling buildings, and hawthorn and privet help ease intense summer rainfalls and reduce localized flooding . If planted in gardens and green spaces where these environmental issues are most prevalent, we could make a big difference in mitigating against and adapting to climate change.” + Royal Horticultural Society Via The Guardian Image via Père Igor

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This "super plant" can actually absorb air pollution

Volunteers brave winter storm to save cold-stunned sea turtles

February 19, 2021 by  
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While the brutal winter storms across the U.S. are difficult for humans, they also put wildlife at risk, particularly cold-blooded reptiles, like sea turtles . Fortunately, instead of staying home and trying to keep warm during massive power outages, volunteers in coastal Texas are braving stormy waters and cold weather by boat or on foot to haul in cold-stunned sea turtles. Sea Turtle, Inc. is overseeing this massive rescue, which has saved over 4,500 sea turtles since last Sunday. The conservation nonprofit is getting creative to house all these turtles. About 500 are in bins in the organization’s own facility. The other 4,000 are currently residing at the South Padre Island Convention Center. Instead of the center’s usual business trade show or convention crowd, it is hosting sea turtles in a wall-to-wall array of kiddie pools, boxes and tarps. Perhaps the most impressive turtle rescued so far weighs 400 pounds and is about 150 years old. Related: Climate change pushes US weather to extremes “The love and support of people who just want to help things that can’t help themselves is overwhelming,” said Wendy Knight, executive director of Sea Turtle, Inc. In addition to individual volunteers , local government-built turtle storage platforms and SpaceX, which has a nearby launch site, provided something really special. “Like a ray from heaven, yesterday at 7:30 p.m. the site director and operations manager for SpaceX Boca Chica and two electricians and engineers from SpaceX showed up on our property with the largest generator I’ve ever seen,” Knight told NPR on Wednesday. With no end yet to the cold weather , the turtles will probably stay in the convention center at least until the weekend. If more turtles are rescued, a third storage facility will be necessary. Cold-blooded animals like turtles are especially vulnerable to weather extremes, as they are unable to regulate their body temperatures. Cold stun happens when water temperatures drop below 50°F. Suddenly, sea turtles find themselves unable to move and may become stranded or injured; they could even drown. Texas has five species of sea turtles, all of which are considered either threatened or endangered. + Sea Turtle, Inc. Via NPR Image via Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

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Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions

February 10, 2021 by  
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New research has revealed that fossil fuel pollution caused approximately 8.7 million deaths in 2018. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research , was a collaboration by scientists at Harvard University, the University of Leicester, the University of Birmingham and University College London. Experts found that countries that burn fossil fuels heavily for manufacturing and transport are the most affected. Countries such as the U.S. and many developed countries in Europe recorded 1 of every 10 deaths due to air pollution. The total was also higher than global deaths caused by tobacco and malaria combined. “We were initially very hesitant when we obtained the results because they are astounding, but we are discovering more and more about the impact of this pollution,” said Eloise Marais, study author and geographer at University College London. “It’s pervasive. The more we look for impacts, the more we find.” Related: Air pollution could increase risk of irreversible blindness The researchers have also established that the rate of deaths due to pollution is significantly lower in Africa and South America. They found that there are direct links between air pollution from burning fossil fuels and ailments such as heart disease, loss of eyesight and respiratory ailments.  According to Karn Vohra, a graduate student at the University of Birmingham and one of the researchers, the focus was on discovering the impact of pollution on specific populations. They looked at specific regions and used 3D modeling of pollution data to get more precise results. “Rather than rely on averages spread across large regions, we wanted to map where the pollution is and where people live, so we could know more exactly what people are breathing,” Vohra explained. This is not the first study to link loss of life or disease with air pollution. According to a recent academic  publication , the average global life expectancy would increase by more than a year without fossil fuels . A 2019 study by Lancet estimated that 4.2 million people die annually due to air pollution. The new findings place the figure much higher than previous studies, and some experts believe that the impact might even be worse than that presented by the latest report. + Environmental Research Via The Guardian and CNN Image via Juniper Photon

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GM airs funny electric vehicle commercial during Super Bowl

February 10, 2021 by  
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While people rooted for the Kansas City Chiefs or Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday, General Motors waged a war with greater implications. The foe? Norway . General Motors’ war isn’t directed at the Norwegian people but at beating them for global leadership in electric vehicles sales. For a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, the auto company recruited actors and comedians Will Ferrell, Kenan Thompson and Awkwafina (Nora Lum) to play three Americans ready to fight Norway for EV supremacy. The commercial is part of GM’s “Everyone In” ad campaign designed to bring electric vehicles into the mainstream and increase North American sales. Related: GM pledges carbon neutrality by 2040, expands electric fleet So far, the Chevy Bolt has been General Motors’ EV offering. But in the last few months, the company has introduced the new Cadillac Lyriq SUV and the GMC Hummer EV. Hummer fans may be able to buy an electric model by the end of 2021. The Lyriq will likely go into production late next year. Both of these vehicles are featured in the Super Bowl commercial. General Motors has promised 30 models at a variety of price points coming out over the next four years and plans to sell only electric vehicles by 2035. “We feel like this transition is one that will protect all of our futures,” said Dane Parker, GM’s chief sustainability officer. “And it will help us create a future that will benefit not only the planet but the people.” So why take on Norway? More than half of cars sold in the Scandinavian country are electric, compared to about 4% in the U.S. General Motors was careful to prepare Norwegian leaders in advance of airing the commercial. The officials must have had a sense of humor about it, because part of the commercial was even filmed in Norway. Ultimately, the Super Bowl ad pokes fun at Americans, not Norwegians. Especially the ending, which mocks Americans’ notoriously bad grasp of geography when Will Ferrell winds up in Sweden while Awkwafina and Thompson find themselves on a snowy road in Finland. + General Motors Via Motor Biscuit and CNET Images via General Motors

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CleanAirZone debuts a bio-based air purifier at CES 2021

February 8, 2021 by  
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At the virtual CES 2021, air purification R&D company CleanAirZone showcased its Bio-Based Air Purifier, a new product that it claims can even eliminate coronaviruses, including COVID-19, with natural biotics and enzymes derived from nature. The green technology uses the company’s proprietary BioCAZ solution to capture and neutralize a variety of indoor air contaminants without the need for filters. According to the firm, the product has been tested against an extensive list of viruses and does not produce harmful wastes or byproducts in the process. Marketed as the “only biotechnology capable of capturing and digesting 99.99% of contamination in the air,” the CleanAirZone system uses the same types of bacteria that have been used to clean the atmosphere for billions of years. The filter-free system first captures and stores pollutants within a grounded area inside the device using an electrical charge that attracts ultrafine particles of 0.00006u, after which the contaminants are “digested” by natural enzymes in the BioCAZ solution dissolved in water. The process of oxidation neutralizes the compounds without any harmful byproducts.  Related: IKEA’s new air purifying curtain will decrease indoor pollutants Designed for home and office use, the CleanAirZone Air Purifier has a minimalist appearance. The base Model 85 provides healthy air in spaces up to 700 square feet, while a proposed Model 300 purifies spaces up to 2,000 square feet. The cylindrical machine measures nearly 30 inches in height and a diameter of 15 inches and plugs into a standard 110/220 outlet at a consumption rate of 0.6 kW per day. Preserving the right level of solution in the machine — 6 ounces of BioCAZ Solution every four months — is the only maintenance needed. According to the company, the “living bio-system” purification technology has been tested by Assured Bio Labs in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to be highly effective against coronaviruses , mold spores, smoke-derived VOCs and other tested viruses and bacteria. The company currently has 300 Model 85 prototypes for pilot customers and has not yet revealed an official launch date. + CleanAirZone Images via CleanAirZone

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CleanAirZone debuts a bio-based air purifier at CES 2021

Wadden Sea World Heritage Center promises great views and research opportunities

February 8, 2021 by  
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The Wadden Sea, known for being the largest unbroken system of tidal flats and wetlands on Earth, stretches from Denmark and Germany through the Netherlands. Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these coastal wetlands merge with Lauwersmeer National Park to create a rare landscape met by the Dutch village of Lauwersoog. What started out as a favorite casting-off point for local fishermen has since become a popular tourist destination for visitors wanting to experience the iconic landscape. It is also where Danish firm Dorte Mandrup is rounding out its third project on the Wadden Sea, the Wadden Sea World Heritage Center. “The new Wadden Sea World Heritage Center pays homage to the historic maritime activity in Lauwersoog,” Dorte Mandrup explained. “At the same time, it presents a contemporary expression that enriches the diversity of the buildings in the area.” Along with this project located in the Netherlands , Dorte Mandrup is also the designer of the Wadden Sea Center in Denmark and the Trilateral Wadden Sea World Heritage Partnership Center in Germany. Related: Flowing marine research center inspired by tsunami waves Home to more than 10,000 species of plants and animals , including a range of endangered migratory birds, the ecosystems found inside this region are completely unique. It is also one of the only natural habitats in the Netherlands for native seals. “Drawing inspiration from the endless cycle of the tide, the gradual spiral-like incline — like the continuous rising and falling of the water surface — offers a stunning 360-degree view of the sea, the Lauwersmeer and the surrounding landscape as visitors ascend through the building,” the firm said. “It almost gives you the feeling of being one with the sea.”  Visiting guests will have a chance to enjoy the views and learn about the Wadden Sea environment at the center, which will also serve as a research hub for students and scientists. One of the most important conservation projects that will take place at the center will be the study and rehabilitation of local rescued seals. The seals will have a home on the second floor of the building, where a large underwater tank gives visitors the chance to view the animals from above and below. Water-based research will culminate in an outdoor field station and water garden that also serves as a viewing platform and recreation area for both researchers and visitors. Part research base, part museum, the Wadden Sea World Heritage Center will provide an important and delicate intersection for understanding and appreciation between humans and nature. + Dorte Mandrup Via ArchDaily Images via The Wadden Sea World Heritage Center and Dorte Mandrup

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Air pollution could increase risk of irreversible blindness

January 27, 2021 by  
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A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology has revealed that exposure to air pollution increases the risk of blindness in older adults. The study found that small increases in air pollution contribute to the occurrence of age-related muscular degeneration (AMD), a condition that causes irreversible blindness. The study, conducted in the U.K. with data of more than 115,000 participants, shows that tiny pollution particles increase the risk of AMD by 8%, while changes in large particle pollution increase the risk by 12%. “There is an enormously high flow of blood [to the retina] and we think that as a consequence of that the distribution of pollutants is greater to the eye than to other places,” said Paul Foster, professor at the University College London and a researcher behind the study. “Proportionately, air pollution is going to become a bigger risk factor as other risk factors are brought under control.” Related: How clean is your indoor air? Today, AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in developed countries. The disease mainly affects people above the age of 50 but may also affect younger individuals. Over 200 million people around the world have been diagnosed with AMD. In the U.K. alone, about 5% of people over the age of 65 have AMD. Although air pollution is not among the biggest risk factors for this condition, worsening air quality might make things worse in the future. Currently, the biggest risk factors include poor physical health , particularly smoking. “It’s important to keep things in context — people shouldn’t be looking outside their door and thinking: ‘I can’t go out because it is polluted out there,’” Foster said. “The study gives people information that they can use to alter their lifestyle choices. For example, it may be another reason why we might consider going for an electric car , instead of buying a diesel.” The researchers are planning to conduct another study that will determine the impact of indoor air pollution on eye health. + British Journal of Ophthalmology Via The Guardian Image via Cristi Goia

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International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies

September 7, 2020 by  
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The biggest problem with fossil fuels is their contribution to … The post International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies appeared first on Earth 911.

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