Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

January 31, 2019 by  
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Officials in Bangkok have closed schools for the rest of the week amid growing concerns of toxic smog . The Ministry of Education in Thailand announced the closing of around 450 schools in Bangkok and the surrounding area this week as the government tries to deal with a massive pollution problem. The air quality in the city of Bangkok has dipped to unacceptable levels. The amount of dust particles — also referred to as PM2.5 — deemed dangerous to health has far exceeded acceptable standards. This fine particulate matter is hazardous to health , because it is tiny enough to enter the body and do considerable damage to organs. Related: Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition According to The Guardian , the massive amount of pollution is caused by poor construction standards, car exhaust, factory fumes and crop burning. The pollution is so large in scale that it is unable to escape the city, leaving people trapped in a toxic environment. To combat the situation, residents in Bangkok have been wearing respirator masks to avoid inhaling the fine particles. The government, which has been under considerable criticism for not actively fighting pollution , has attempted to make it rain in the city by seeding clouds. The rain helps fight pollution by trapping the toxic particles. Officials have also sprayed water in strategic locations to help decrease the amount of dangerous particles in the air . Residents have been avoiding burning incense, which is a popular activity over the Chinese New Year. Despite their efforts, authorities were forced to close down 437 schools in Bangkok. They also declared a “control area” around the city that is over 580 square miles in size. Officials hope that closing schools will help alleviate some of the traffic and reduce vehicle emissions. “The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” Aswin Kwanmuang, the governor of Bangkok, shared. School authorities plan to look at the situation next week to determine if the closing should be extended. The air quality index in Bangkok was measured at 171 this week, which is the highest it has been in more than a year. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

Time to put the flame out scented candles can cause disease and poor air quality

November 27, 2018 by  
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Candle season is in full effect as winter days quickly approach. Candles are a great accent to incorporate into home decorations and also to photograph as the little flickering flames in the jar illuminate dark evenings at home. Scented candles are nice to look at and even nicer to breathe in, but your favorite candle can cause more damage than you imagine. In the age of social media influencers and luxury brands promoting their one-of-a-kind scents, it’s no wonder why  candle sales are soaring . But there is a dark truth hidden behind the feel-good aromas and warm coziness that candles convey — disease and  pollution . The majority of manufactured candles are made from paraffin wax, which is a byproduct in the petroleum refining chain. In a sense, it’s the bottom of the barrel or the worst of the worst. When certain candles are burned, they release toluene and benzene, both of which are known carcinogens . Related: Handmade fruit candles look realistic enough to eat In a study by Southern Carolina State University , researchers compared petroleum-based and vegetable-sourced candles to determine their emissions. Researchers let candles burn for up to six hours in a small box and collected and analyzed air quality . The study concluded that candles that are paraffin-based (the most popular kind) emitted toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene. “The paraffin candles we tested released unwanted chemicals into the air. For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies and even asthma,” said Ruhullah Massoudi, a chemistry professor at Southern Carolina State University. “None of the vegetable-based candles produced toxic chemicals.” Fragrance is also dangerous, because “over the past 50 years, 80 to 90 percent of fragrances have been synthesized from petroleum and some of the commonly found harmful chemicals in fragranced products include acetone, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate and limonene,” according to a 2009 study,  Fragrance in the Workplace is the New Second-Hand Smoke by the University of Maryland. A 2001 EPA  report mentions that burning candles indoors can cause air pollution and “may result in indoor air concentrations of lead above EPA-recommended thresholds.” The lead found in the soot comes from the metal-core wicks that help keep the wick upright. If you must keep a candle or two in your home, the safest option is to purchase unscented organic soy or beeswax candles. Essential oil diffusers are also a great way to keep your home smelling fresh this holiday season or year-round. Via Treehugger Images via Tatlin

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Time to put the flame out scented candles can cause disease and poor air quality

This scarf protects against air pollution, allergens and viral infections

October 1, 2018 by  
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Air pollution is a major problem around the world, but one company is helping people stay safe no matter where they live. Bioscarf has created a stylish accessory that doubles as a safety mask for people living in places with high concentrations of pollution. These handy scarves help fight against air pollutants, allergens and viral infections, like the cold and flu. Bioscarf offers its product in a handful of colors, including white, black, green and a camouflage print. Each scarf is made from high-quality polyester and carries the company’s logo. They are roughly 7 feet long and just under a foot wide, making them ideal for burying your face into when cold winds breeze by you. While these scarves are fashionable , they also protect against allergens and viral infections. This includes the cold and influenza, both of which are common infections that become a problem every year in larger urban areas. Related: Scientists find air pollution leads to significant decline in cognition The scarves work by filtering out more than 94 percent of contaminants in the air , keeping you just as healthy as a traditional safety mask. According to the company, testing showed that the Bioscarf filtered nearly 100 percent of airborne particulates with a size 0.1 or larger, including pneumonia, step throat, influenza, tuberculosis, animal dander, pollen and cigarette smoke. Co-founder Hazel Solle was inspired to create the scarf after a vacation to China with her family. Her husband, Carlton, got sick overseas, and a doctor told them it was likely because of the air pollution. The doctor recommended they wear masks, inspiring the couple to think of a better solution. Hazel also recalled growing up in Costa Rica and making tiny scarves out of leftover materials for her dolls. The idea hit her that scarves could double as fashion pieces and air pollution masks. In addition to its scarf lineup, the company also has a special program where it donates a scarf to charity for each one it sells — a great incentive for consumers who want to help those in need. “Experts say that over 2 billion kids around the world are breathing toxic air and nobody is talking about it,” Hazel said.“It’s time to not only raise awareness about this issue, but to more importantly give many of the people at risk who don’t have the means to protect themselves something to help them combat air pollution on a daily basis.” + Bioscarf

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This scarf protects against air pollution, allergens and viral infections

Henning Larsen unveils green, mountain-inspired buildings for Shanghai

September 14, 2018 by  
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Henning Larsen Architects has unveiled designs for the first phase of the “The Springs,” a mixed-use development currently underway in Shanghai that aims to embrace green living. Inspired by a style of traditional Chinese landscape painting called ‘shan shui,’ the Danish architecture firm crafted the buildings in the image of the dramatic, mountainous landscapes found throughout rural China. Trees and gardens will grow on top and around the stepped towers to create an immersive urban oasis of green. Developed for real estate company Tishman Speyer , The Springs is located on a 66-acre plot in Shanghai’s Yangpu district and will incorporate a mix of residential, commercial and retail. With a proposed 40 percent green ratio and a 33-acre wetland eco-park next door, the planned development embraces green living in both its surroundings and its design. At its core, Henning Larsen designed a series of terraced high-rises layered with greenery and clustered around a green public square to create a sheltered microclimate for improving air quality , reducing noise pollution and promoting natural light. “We wanted to create a protected environment in this city center that contributes to the potential for this development to become a new focus that generates and attracts public life in uptown Shanghai,” said Claude Bøjer Godefroy, design director and partner at Henning Larsen. “We understand sustainability in broad terms. It is important to offer people an environmentally friendly surrounding while at the same time developing a building that stages human interaction.” Related: MAD Architects-designed residences rise like mountains in a UNESCO Heritage site According to Tishman Speyer, The Springs will feature LEED Gold certification for the Core & Shell of the first phase. Public health will be promoted through a pedestrian-friendly design that boasts abundant open space and excellent transportation infrastructure.The Springs development broke ground July 12, 2018 and is slated for completion in 2020. + Henning Larsen Architects Images via Henning Larsen Architects

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Google Street View cars will map air pollution in cities worldwide

September 13, 2018 by  
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Air quality sensors are coming to a Google Street View car near you. The tech giant just announced plans to introduce sensors from a San Francisco company called Aclima that test air quality in cities and towns all across the globe. The Google Street View cars take photographs and incorporate them into Google Maps. Aclima is installing the air quality sensors in Google vehicles based in Mexico City, Houston and Sydney. The sensors will detect amounts of carbon dioxide , nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide wherever the cars go. The goal is to map out where pollution is becoming a problem and inform users about which areas of towns and cities have the poorest air quality. Related: Google hits its incredible 100% renewable energy goal A few months ago, Aclima installed some air quality sensors in London to test whether or not they would work with Google’s vehicles. All of the company’s hard work paid off and directly led to the partnership and expansion. This is not the first time Aclima has worked with Google and its Street View division. In 2015, Aclima helped Google determine the air quality on the company’s campus in California . Aclima has also used the cars to test air quality around the Bay Area. Since collaborating with Aclima three years ago, Google’s cars have traveled about 100,000 miles in California. So far, the sensors have generated more than a billion points of data, a lot of which can be used to plan future urban development projects. For example, developers can use the data to pinpoint where pollution problems exist and build neighborhoods in places where the air quality is higher. Google plans to have the sensors installed in its fleet by the end of this fall. Google Earth Outreach manager Karin Bettman said, “These measurements can provide cities with new neighborhood-level insights to help accelerate efforts in their transition to smarter, healthier cities .” + Aclima + Google Via Tech Crunch , Fast Company Image via Aclima

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Google Street View cars will map air pollution in cities worldwide

Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

September 10, 2018 by  
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An oil company based out of Texas has confessed to a faulty pipeline leaking 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into an Indiana river. Buckeye Pipe Line, based out of Houston, admitted that it detected a pressure loss in its fuel line last week. A break in the line poured thousands of gallons of fuel into a river near Decatur, Indiana, a town with slightly less than 10,000 people. Buckeye Pipe Line closed its line as soon as it detected the leak. Unfortunately, the leak still dumped thousands of gallons of jet fuel into St. Marys River, which runs about 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Officials in Decatur installed booms in the river to help stop the spread of the fuel while workers skimmed it from the surface of the water with vacuums. Related: TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes in West Virginia The mayor of Decatur, Kenneth L. Meyer, believes removing the fuel will take weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) is monitoring the situation and checking fuel levels in businesses and homes close to the spill site. The EPA is also checking the quality of water at different spots further downstream to determine how far the spill has traveled. Residents of Decatur first learned about the spill late Friday night after the local police issued a warning. The Decatur Police Department told citizens to stay away from the river until the cleanup was over. Buckeye Pipe Line is not planning on re-opening the line until the pressure issue is dealt with and everything is safe to run. Although 8,000 gallons of jet fuel ended up in the river, the EPA does not believe the town’s water supply will be affected by the spill. Residents might, however, notice a change in air quality . Meanwhile, this spill offers environmentalists further evidence of the dangers of new oil and gas pipelines. Via Associated Press and EcoWatch Image via  Ray Bodden

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Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

A historic farmhouse is transformed into a modern home with a green roof

September 10, 2018 by  
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The building elements of a century-old farmhouse in Park City, Utah have been salvaged and transformed into a beautiful and contemporary new residence that pays homage to its historic rural past. Located on a nearly 80-year-old forested plot of spruce and cottonwood trees, the former farmhouse was beyond repair and needed to be demolished. Wanting to save the spirit of the structure, the owners turned to Salt Lake City- and Los Angeles-based design studio Sparano + Mooney Architecture to design a modern abode that would occupy the former building’s footprint and make use of as many recycled materials as possible. Named the Reddish Residence, the two-story home spreads out over 4,000 square feet. A natural materials palette of timber and stone tie the building to the landscape, while elements like recycled wood and metal reference the farmhouse vernacular. Inspired by the petrified wood — fossilized remains of trees or plants that turn into stone — found on the site, the architects used building materials that also visually morph over time. Consequently, the Reddish Residence exterior includes weathering steel and reclaimed cedar that’s treated with the Shou Sugi Ban  technique for a charred, blackened finish. Further tying the modern house into its surroundings are the abundance of landscaping, a green roof atop the charred cedar-clad addition and large full-height glazing. In contrast to the mostly muted exterior palette, the interior is full of colors, patterns and textures set on a backdrop of mainly white-painted walls and concrete floors. The existing metal silo was preserved and renovated to house the home office. The rooftop is also topped with solar panels. Related: Minimalism adds a modern twist to this traditional farmhouse “This architecture takes a contemporary approach to form,” the architects said. “The house responds to the site by acting as a moderator between interior spaces and the landscape. Arcades, overhangs, courtyards and site walls articulate that relationship. An arcade marked by a gesture to the street bisects an entry courtyard. This path forms a strong entry sequence that welcomes and guides the visitor through a choreographed threshold and provides a series of expanding glimpses of the site. The design offers both ideal southern orientation and full access to the mountain and meadow views.” + Sparano + Mooney Architecture Images by Scot Zimmerman

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Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition

August 28, 2018 by  
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It turns out pollution affects more than just the environment. New research shows there might be a correlation between significant air pollution and cognitive decline in humans. Scientists hope their research will lead to changes in how countries deal with excessive air pollution, especially in heavily populated urban areas. Over the course of several years, more than 25,000 people hailing from 162 different counties in China were studied. The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and are calling for China to reform its pollution policies. The researchers believe China can significantly increase the population’s education level by adhering to the U.S. EPA guidelines. So, how did researchers link pollution with cognitive decline? The scientists performed verbal and math exams on all of the subjects in 2010 and again in 2014. The data from the exams were then compared between the years, and the team linked these changes to  air pollution . The researchers found that the older subjects performed worse on the tests, which led the team to believe that pollution has a bigger effect on brains as people age. The study also showed that individuals with little education were more affected by pollution, possibly because they typically work outdoors. Although the researchers were confident in linking pollution and cognitive decline, they are not sure why it is happening. Xi Chen, study co-author and professor of health policy at Yale, believes that pollution could be harming white matter in the brain , a region that controls communication within this important organ. James Hendrix, the head of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Global Science Initiative, disagrees. Hendrix does not believe the researchers have any evidence to suggest that pollution is damaging white matter. He also argues that associating air pollution with cognitive deterioration is difficult, because there are too many other factors at play. Either way, it’s clear that air pollution is negatively impacting our health and our planet. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via NPR Images via Fredrik Rubensson and  Nicolò Lazzati

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Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition

Eating seaweed could reduce cows’ methane production

July 5, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of California, Davis have found a surprising food source that could help reduce cows’ methane production: seaweed. A recent study from the university suggests bovines who eat an experimental mix of special food and a specific strain of seaweed produce less greenhouse gas than their peers. According to Pennsylvania State University , agriculture contributes up to seven percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. Each day, ruminal animals (like cows) belch up to 264 gallons of carbon dioxide and methane. As much as 20 percent of agricultural methane emissions comes from animal burps alone. Related: How seaweed eating super cows will save the world To reduce those emissions, UC Davis researchers experimented with new feed combinations for cows. The cows’ hay is mixed with up to one percent of a naturally occurring red algae , Asparagopsis armata. To encourage the cows to eat the new food, molasses is added as a natural sweetener and to mask the salty taste and smell. To measure effectiveness, researchers take the livestock to a special “breathalyzer” chamber three times daily, where cows’ breath is measured for gas content in exchange for a cookie. The cows who ate the seaweed-mixed feed saw a significant reduction in methane production . Across three two-week experiments, cows who ate the highest mix of algae saw their methane production drop by half. The research team called the findings a “dramatic reduction in methane emissions.” But did it change the dairy cows’ milk? Although the seaweed-eating cows produced slightly less milk, the feed didn’t change the milk’s taste. A blind taste-test conducted with 25 people discovered “no off-notes” in the dairy products . Any hints of saltiness or fish did not transfer over to the cows’ milk production. Before seaweed can become a major part of agricultural feed, the industry must overcome several hurdles. This includes changing the seaweed flavor to be palatable to cows and growing enough algae for agricultural purposes. In addition, growing feed must be economically viable for farmers. Using feed to reduce cow emissions is part of a bigger plan to cut greenhouse gases in California. State Senate Bill 1383 mandated that farms must reduce their methane production by 40 percent over the next 12 years. Via NPR

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Eating seaweed could reduce cows’ methane production

UN creates a new global climate change coalition

June 1, 2018 by  
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Earth has a “30-year window of opportunity” to tackle climate change, according to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) secretary-general Petteri Taalas. He called for greater urgency in carrying out the Paris Agreement as the leaders of the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) together with WMO launched a brand-new climate change coalition. Every year 12.6 million people perish due to environmental risks — air pollution in particular — and the group aims to lower that number. Average temperatures in 2017 were 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to the UN, while global average concentrations of carbon dioxide were greater than 400 parts per million (ppm). Taalas said climate change is impacting developing countries — the cost of natural disasters reached a new record in 2017. The three UN organizations already work together, but under the new coalition will strengthen action on guarding health from climate change- and environment -related risks. Taalas, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and UNEP executive director Erik Solheim came together to form the coalition and spoke to delegates at the World Health Assembly about opportunities and challenges to come. Related: 95% of the world’s population breathes unsafe air Air pollution is one such challenge. Around seven million people die prematurely each year from diseases related to air pollution, such as respiratory illness, cancer, heart disease, or strokes. According to the UN, in many of the world’s major cities, air pollution is higher than WHO air quality standards. Pollutants which threaten human health also contribute to climate change and damage the environment — examples are waste incineration or black carbon from diesel engines. The UN said lowering what they called short-lived climate pollutant emissions coming from agriculture, traffic, industry, or cookstoves, for example, “could help trim the rate of global warming by about 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.” Solheim said, “If we speed up on renewable energy solutions, fewer people will die from air pollution. Let’s create a pollution-free environment.” One of the coalition’s first outcomes will be a Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health , which will take place at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland from October 30 to November 1. + United Nations Climate Change Images via Depositphotos

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