Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts

Sunday, August 6, 2017

HOW AIR POLLUTION HARMS YOUR BODY

HOW AIR POLLUTION HARMS YOUR BODY 


Air pollution can cause serious health problems. Rarely, it can even kill people — and we’re not exaggerating. That’s why we care so much about the laws that protect us from air pollution.
Read on to learn more about the specific parts of our bodies that are affected by air pollution.
Air pollution can be made of tiny particles or gases, and these get into your body when you breathe. Different types of air pollution do different things inside your body. Air pollution can directly irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, before it even gets into the lungs. It can cause runny nose, itchy eyes, and scratchy throat.

LUNGS

When you breathe in, air moves through your nose or mouth, down your throat into your trachea, and then into your lungs. Pollution can irritate the airways. When that happens, muscles around the bronchi get tight; the lining of the bronchi swell; and the bronchi produce excess mucous. When the airways are constricted, it becomes hard to breathe. That’s what happens during an asthma attack.
Air pollution makes infections worse and makes the lungs more susceptible to getting infections in the first place. Pollution causes your airways to narrow, decreasing airflow, and amps up the production of mucous. It also may prevent the lungs from effectively filtering bacteria and viruses.
Some air pollution causes lung cancer. Diesel exhaust, from trucks and cars, is a known human carcinogen. Some pollutants are gases. They come into the lungs easily, just like oxygen in the air. These gases pass directly from the alveoli in the lungs into the blood stream, just like oxygen does.
EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION
  • Asthma attacks
  • Infections
  • Decreased airflow
  • Excess mucous
  • Lung cancer

HEART

Air pollution gets into your blood and affects your heart. Air pollution can cause changes in the system that controls how your heart beats. This can cause the heartbeat to become irregular (an arrhythmia).
A narrowing in the blood vessels of the heart from cholesterol is called plaque. When the heartbeat becomes irregular, that can cause plaque to break off the wall of the blood vessel and block blood flow. This causes a heart attack.
When air pollution passes from your lungs into your blood, it can also cause inflammation throughout your body. Being in a state of systemic inflammation causes the blood vessels to become narrow. This decreases blood flow. The inflammation can also loosen plaque in the circulatory system or cause a blood clot to form — both of which can trigger a heart attack.
EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Heart attacks
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Blood clots

BRAIN

Air pollution can harm your brain. In the brain, decreasing blood flow, loosening plaque, or triggering a blood clot causes a stroke.
Air pollution can have other impacts on the brain. When pollution gets into the bloodstream, it goes to the brain, too. There, it can cause headaches and anxiety and affect the central nervous system.
Over the long term, some kinds of pollution can lead to reduced IQ, reduced attention, and behavioral problems.
Another possible result of breathing in air pollution is an increased risk of dementia. Although the link between air pollution and dementia is uncertain, it may be a result of tiny particles triggering systemic inflammation. Tiny particles may also harm the brain directly, by entering the sensitive organ through the nose and eyes.
EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION
  • Stroke
  • Headaches and anxiety
  • Reduced IQ
  • Behavioral problems
  • Link to dementia

BABY

Air pollution gets into your baby. Air pollution can increase the risk of preterm birth and low-birth-weight babies.
When air pollution passes from the lungs into the blood, it can cause systemic inflammation throughout the body. This stressor may trigger labor or interfere with normal development of the baby.
When a pregnant woman breathes tiny particles of air pollution, her baby may be more likely to develop autism. Although the link between air pollution and autism is uncertain, it may be a result of systemic inflammation, which in turn may interfere with normal development of the baby’s brain.
EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION
  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Link to autism

CHILDREN AND THE ELDERLY

Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution. Children breathe faster than adults, so they are exposed to more air pollution than adults. They exercise more and spend more time outside than adults, which means that they breathe more outdoor air pollution. Children’s lungs are still developing, and developing lungs are more sensitive to pollution than fully formed lungs.
And the elderly are vulnerable too. As people age, their bodies are less able to compensate for the effects of pollution. The elderly are more likely to have other diseases and conditions, such as heart disease or emphysema, that can be aggravated by air pollution.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Most Important Barack Obama Appointee: EPA Administrator Short List

Written by Jennifer Lance


President-Elect Barack Obama will inherit a host of problems from outgoing President Bush. From an economy in recession to the Iraq War, cleaning up from eight years of the worst US president is a immense task. Obama has already selected many former rivals, such as Hilary Clinton, for his cabinet, but the most important appointee he will make is the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Although the EPA administrator is not a cabinet level position, this may change as Obama faces the crisis of climate change.


Under the Bush administration, the EPA has loss all credibility as an agency that protects Americans from air and water pollution.
According to the Washington Post,

“…over the past eight years, many career employees and rank-and-file scientists have clashed with Bush appointees over a number of those of issues, including whether the federal government should allow California to regulate tailpipe emissions from automobiles…”

Obama has vowed to bring integrity back to the agency by reversing Bush’s executive orders:

“I think the slow chipping away against clean air and clean water has been deeply disturbing. Much of it hasn’t gone through Congress. It was done by fiat. That is something that can be changed by an administration, in part by reinvigorating the EPA, which has been demoralized.”

The importance of who is selected to lead the EPA is so profound, Obama is considering elevating the position to cabinet-level status. In fact, Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, believes,

“The most important challenge facing the new administration is making serious progress on global warming pollution. That includes specific steps such as regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.”
Who will Obama chose for this formidable task? The following is a shortlist of possible EPA candidates being discussed in the mainstream media:

Kathleen McGinty-Former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Head: McGinty served as a top environmental official under President Clinton, and she has promoted renewable energy legislation in Pennsylvania while working with utility companies.
Mary Nichols-California Air Resources Board Leader: Another former Clinton official, Nichols is working on the development of rules to limit heat-trapping emissions from power plants in California. Nichols is Senator Boxer’s top pick for the job.
Ian Bowles-Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Leader: Bowles worked with officials from other Northeast U.S. states to open the first American market for trading greenhouse gas permits.
Kathleen Sibelius-Kansas Governor: Sebelius vetoed the Kansas legislature’s attempt to overrule the denial of a permit to expand a coal-fired power plant.
Lisa Jackson-New Jersey Environmental Commissioner: Jackson is the current co-chair of Barack Obama’s environmental transition team. She has worked at the EPA for 15 years and has focused on hazardous waste clean up and enforcement in New Jersey.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.-Environmental Lawyer: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is probably the most well-known candidate on the shortlist:

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions. Mr. Kennedy was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River.

According to Stop Global Warming, Lisa Jackson is the leading candidate to head Obama’s EPA, but no matter who gets the job, the task of curbing the effects of climate change immediately is monumental. Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, explained, “During the last eight years, we have made precious little progress against air pollution and we’ve missed some opportunities.” We can’t afford to miss any more opportunities.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Recycling Myths: PM Debunks 5 Half Truths about Recycling

Is chucking a soda can in the trash an unforgivable sin? That depends who you ask: You'll find plenty of people on both sides of the great recycling debate, each equally convinced the other side is ill-informed. The truth is that opponents and proponents alike often rely on facts that are outdated, oversimplified or simply untrue. We tackle five of the biggest myths about recycling. For more, check out the December issue of Popular Mechanics.

By Alex Hutchinson


1. We have to recycle because we're running out of landfill space.
That was the rallying cry for recycling advocates back in the 1980s, when the Mobro 4000 garbage barge wandered up and down the East Coast searching for a place to dump its moldering load. It's a bit of a red herring, though. After all, we have pretty much unlimited space to dump garbage—if we're willing. In practice, for every town that refuses permission to build a landfill, there's often another town eager for the revenues that a landfill site can bring.

According to the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), the United States has about 20 years of disposal capacity left in existing landfills. There are, however, places where space is getting tight: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Rhode Island all have less than five years capacity, and the northeastern part of the country in general has the least available landfill space.

These regional variations point to a different motivation for the "recycle to save landfill space" argument. The average tipping fee at landfills in the Northeast region, according to the most recent NSWMA figures, is over $70 a ton, compared to a national average of just $34. In other words, even if the scarcity of landfill space turns out not to be a strong environmental argument for recycling, there can be powerful economic incentives to reduce landfill intake.


2. The trucks that collect recycling burn more energy and produce more pollution than recycling saves.
Collecting recyclables isn't cheap—it eats up about 50 to 60 percent of the budget of a typical curbside recycling program, according to Lori Scozzafava of the Solid Waste Association of North America. And the trucks burn gas and emit pollution as they go. That said, "You're going to collect waste one way or another," points out Jeff Morris, a Washington-based environmental consultant. A recycling program should allow garbage collection to become less frequent (or to use fewer trucks), offsetting the cost and energy involved. Plus, new truck designs can collect both recycling and garbage (at different times), avoiding the huge capital expense of an extra fleet. They can also self-dump specially designed bins, saving time and manpower.

But all that turns out to be pretty much irrelevant to the question of whether recycling makes environmental sense. Scientists have conducted hundreds of "life-cycle analyses" to compare recycling with other options like landfill and incineration, following the entire chain of events from the manufacture of a product (using either virgin or recycled materials) to its disposal. The dominant factor in virtually every case is the enormous amount of energy required to turn raw materials into metals and plastics compared to the energy needed to reprocess products that already exist.

A study by Morris found that it takes 10.4 million Btu to manufacture products from a ton of recyclables, compared to 23.3 million Btu for virgin materials. In contrast, the total energy for collecting, hauling and processing a ton of recyclables adds up to just 0.9 million Btu. The bottom line: We don't need to worry that recycling trucks are doing more harm than good.


3. Thanks to the sky-high prices of raw materials, cities are getting rich by selling recyclables.
In the past year, prices for almost every kind of recyclable have hit record highs, sparking a frenzy of activity in the recycling industry. "If you're wondering where all the used-car salesmen have gone, they're rushing into recycling," says Jerry Powell, an industry veteran who edits Resource Recycling magazine. That translates to profits for many players—in fact, Powell says, "if you can't make money in recycling right now, you should get out of the business."

Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily mean that your local city council is getting a cut of the action. "Some cities are still locked in unfavorable long-term contracts and paying tipping fees," says Ed Skernolis of the National Recycling Council. That means that these cities have to pay to collect and sort their curbside recycling—and then pay someone to take away these now-valuable materials instead of being paid for them.

Given how much the price of recyclables has fluctuated in the past, these contracts made sense for cities when they were signed: Locking in costs allows municipalities to budget properly. But now, global contracts ensure a large fraction of U.S. recycling ships to China, so the recycling market has less volatility as well as higher prices. As municipal recycling contracts come up for renewal, cities like Chicago are finally able to turn their piles of cans, bottles and newspapers into a stable revenue stream.

CONTINUED: Is Your Recycling Sorted by Hand? >>>

Monday, November 3, 2008

Solar Cells Set New Performance

Researchers have announced a solar energy breakthrough that could lead to its more widespread use with their achievement of the highest efficiency ever for one type of solar cells.

The photovoltaic cells, called dye-sensitized solar cells or Gräztel cells, could expand the use of solar energy for homes, businesses and beyond, the researchers say.

Gräztel cells are cheaper to make than standard silicon-based solar cells, but until now they have had serious drawbacks. They have not been efficient enough at converting light into electricity, and their performance dropped after relatively short exposures to sunlight.

The research, conducted by Peng Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues, including Michael Gräztel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, inventor of this type of cell in 1991, involves photovoltaic cells composed of titanium dioxide and powerful light-harvesting dyes.

The team used a new type of ruthenium-based dye to help boost the solar cells' light-harvesting ability. The new cells showed efficiencies as high as 10 percent, a record for this type of solar cell (efficiency is the ratio of useful energy delivered by a system to the energy initially supplied). Most silicon-based solar cells have efficiencies of around 12 percent. But manufacturing silicon is not cheap. The current cost of electricity from silicon-based solar panels for houses or businesses is 25 cents to 40 cents per kilowatt-hour, roughly triple what most people pay their utility company.

Organic solar cells, another up-and-comer, typically convert only 3 percent of incoming sunlight into electricity.

The new cells also showed greater stability at high temperatures than previous formulas, retaining more than 90 percent of their initial output after 1,000 hours in full sunlight. Gräztel cells can also be made into flexible sheets or coatings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

50% Better Fuel Economy and 40% Lower Emissions

UPS is First in Delivery Industry to Test Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicles
Written by Nick Chambers


In partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency, UPS will begin testing a small fleet of hydraulic hybrid delivery trucks in the United States. The new vehicles can achieve 50-70% better fuel economy, a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and pay for their extra expense in less than 3 years.


UPS will field two hydraulic hybrids in Minneapolis, MN, in early 2009 and an additional five hydraulic hybrid trucks will be deployed later in 2009 and early 2010. Although this sounds like a tiny fleet, keep in mind that this is the largest scale commercial test of hydraulic hybrids ever conducted.

The UPS hybrid hydraulic truck is a standard-looking 24,000 pound package car, with an EPA-patented diesel series hydraulic hybrid drive attached to the rear axle.


In a series hydraulic hybrid, the conventional drivetrain is replaced with a hydraulic system that stores energy by compressing gas in a chamber using hydraulic fluid. It works in much the same way that a hybrid electric car does — a small, efficient motor generates power which gets stored for later use — only, the way energy is stored in a hydraulic hybrid is in a pressurized chamber rather than in a battery.

The hydraulic hybrid drivetrain eliminates the need for a conventional transmission and increases fuel economy in three ways:

A large amount of the energy that is otherwise wasted in braking can be recovered to pressurize the hydraulic fluid.
The engine operates much more efficiently — similar to a hybrid electric car, only without the bulky batteries
The engine can easily be shut off and instantaneously restarted during regular driving — such as when the vehicle is slowing down or stopped at a light.
UPS has been developing what it calls its “green fleet” over the last several years and currently has more than 1,600 low carbon emissions vehicles including electric, hybrid-electric, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and propane trucks.

Although this is a small step, I applaud UPS for testing the waters. Hopefully others will join in quickly.

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