Half of Americans live in unsafe air pollution

The 15th annual “State of the Air” report shows that a pollutant that recently was found to cause lung cancer, still remains as a significant health problem. Ozone is the most common air pollutant in the country, and also happens to be one of the hardest to reduce. This report shows that levels of smog in 2014 are much worse than they were in 2013. 

Twenty-two of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities had more high ozone days on average this year than the year before, and thirteen of those 25 cities with the worst year-round particle pollution reached their lowest levels ever.

As previously stated, Los Angeles has the worst ozone pollution levels in the country. But, over the last 15 years, it has erased more than one third of its unhealthy ozone level days. Salt Lake City, Utah and San Diego, CA also a less amount of unhealthy ozone days.

Bangor, Maine, Fort Myers, FL, and Salinas, CA were named some of the cleanest cities because they had zero days of unhealthy levels of ozone.

Below are some tips that the American Lung Association has given to help improve the air that people breathe.

  • Clean up power plants: The EPA needs to reduce carbon pollution, the ALA says: Ozone and particle pollution that blows across state lines must be controlled. In the next year, the Obama administration has pledged to set standards for carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.
  • Strengthen the outdated ozone standards: The EPA needs to set a strong, health-based standard to limit ozone pollution, the association urges. Strong standards will drive the needed cleanup of ozone across the nation.
  • Clean up new wood-burning devices: The EPA needs to issue strong standards to clean up new wood stoves, outdoor wood boilers and other residential wood-burning devices.
  • Fund the work to provide healthy air: Congress needs to adequately fund the work of the EPA and the states to monitor and protect the nation from air pollution, ALA adds.
  • Protect the Clean Air Act: Congress needs to ensure that the protections under the Clean Air Act remain strong and enforced.

India’s air pollution is much worse than China’s

Last week, the World Health Organization released new data on air pollution in 1,600 cities worldwide. In this new report, six of the top ten most polluted cities were in India. Delhi, India tops the list as number one. Out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 13 are in India.

China recently in 2013, introduced a new plan to Curb Air Pollution by setting limits on coal use and vehicles. In this new plan, concentrations of fine particulate matter must be reduced by 25 percent in the Beijing-Tianjian-Hebei area in the north, 20 percent in the Yangtze River Delta in the east and 15 percent in the Pearl River Delta in the south, compared with 2012 levels.

Below is a map of each country colored, displaying the post polluted according to the country’s most polluted city.

Screen_shot_2014-05-12_at_11.43.10_am

Cross-State Air Pollution Rule

 On July 6th, 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency had officially finalized a rule that protects the health of millions of Americans by aiding states to reduce air pollution and reach clean air standards. The Cross-State Air Pollution rule (CSAPR) regulates emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power plants, which can travel hundreds of miles. These new regulations are trying to get power plants in 27 states, to take more responsibility for air pollution by installing pollution control technology. A major action this rule will do is prevent smog and soot pollution from traveling hundreds of miles and contaminating the air that people breathe. “These new standards will promote the transition to cleaner and more efficient U.S. electric power system, ” President Obama stated about this new rule. 

The results of the CSAPR provides healthier and cleaner air for millions of Americans. This new rule will not only prevent 468,000 premature deaths, but it will prevent nonfatal heart attacks and cases of asthma. An estimated 240 million Americans will have an easier time breathing, 19,000 hospital emergency department visits will be reduced, 420,000 upper and lower respiratory symptoms will cease, and 1.8 million in days when people miss work or school from pollution-related illnesses will be achieved.  

The CSAPR is mainly aimed at 26 states to reduce smokestack pollution because of the impact of the downwind. Pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from coal fired power plants combine with other pollutants in other states, and this creates smog and acid rain which makes it difficult for other states to reach the air quality standards that are set by the EPA. One example is the Pittsburg area, whose air pollution largely contributes from Ohio’s power plants. Including Ohio, there are 19 sources of out of state pollution that contribute to pollution in Pennsylvania. But, Pennsylvania has 12 contributations to pollution in other states as well. 

Through the participation of each state, a reduction in the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in power plants, we can save a lot of lives, hospital visits, and health issues. Potentially, this rule could lead to even more impacting rules in the fight for cleaner air, if the results are satisfying and beneficial. 

Why California is the worst polluted city

California has had a history of being badly polluted, and over the years it has improved. The American Lung Association released its annual “State Of The Air” list that includes the most polluted cities in the country. 6 of them are in California.

The two biggest air pollutants are transportation sources, such as cars and trucks, and sources such as oil refineries and industrial facilities.

The American Lung Association decided to take a look and review two of these pollutants – smog and fine particulate matter. Ground level ozone is formed from the burning of fossil fuels. This can cause burning in the eyes, difficulty breathing, coughing, and it can worsen asthma. Particulate matter is formed just like ozone, from fossil fuels at power plants and by cars and trucks. These small particles are smaller than the strand of human hair but they can lodge deep into the lungs and cause effects such as premature death in people with heart or lung disease, asthma aggravation, and decreased lung function. These impacts are starting to be seen all over California, especially the Souther part.

LA is known for its outrageous traffic, and while being stuck in hours and hours of a taffic jam, all the vehicles contribute to the air pollution problem. Los Angeles has simply too many cars for a region. A major increase in public transit, and influencing the increase of hybrid and zero emission cars would help decrease the major pollution problem.

LA’s major importing system is also part of the problem. Over 80 percent of all U.S imports from Asia are imported through LA’s ports, and nearly 40 percent of these imports are moved by diesel trucks. As explained in a previous post, diesel trucks ARE NOT good for the air at all.

In conclusion, Los Angeleles’ cars and trucks, fossil fuel by vehicles, power plants, and industry are the problem. Althought it is higly unlikely we can get rid of the pollution completely, there are things that we can do to reduce the pollution as much as possible.

Reducing dairy and meat can reduce the rising globe temperature

Although reducing the fuel emission source and production source of emissions, the agricultural alone would produce more than half of the green house gases – which dont even include the energy, industrt, or transportation involvments.

Fredrik Hedenus, the study’s lead scientist, explains why the agricultural sector must be adjusted: “Fuels are the main emissions source. That has to be reduced first. But what we show is, even if you remove all those in the energy and transport sector, and don’t do anything about the food system, the food system itself may be an obstacle to meet this two-degree target.”

Forcing people to become a vegetarian isn’t the goal, but trying to influence the amount of meat people have in their diet is. Meatless mondays, or being a vegetarian for 5 days of the week is often very common.

How can becoming a vegetarian help reduce the global rising temperature? The United Nations calculated that the combined climate change emissions of animals bred for their meat were about 18% of the global total, which is more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together. Producing one pound of animal meat vs. one pound of soy protein takes 13 times as much fossil fuels. Eating meat also has effects on nature – it eats up a lot of land space, it has led to deforestation in order to keep up with our demand of meat, and we have to use more water to proudce the meat.

Little things that you do can really help out the environment – try Meatless Mondays for a start!

Green houses gas emissions over the past decade are the worst in human history

As a population, we understand the environmental problems that occur but we aren’t motivated enough to act upon it. The world is not doing enough to fight the pollution problem since green house gas emissions over the past decade are the highest in human history. According to the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if we don’t do any further action, temperatures will increase 4 to 5 degrees celcius, which could have devasting effects on the planet. The IPCC states that it isn’t too late to change the 4 to 5 degrees to 2 degrees, which experts conclude as the minimun temperature needed to avoid major devastations. In order to reach the 2 degree shift, we would have to reduce emissions from 40 to 70 percent.

The effects of increase of 4 degrees celcius would be a loss of 20 to 30 percent of our wildlife and we would have to face more extreme weather (as if we don’t already get enough!). The odd thing is that despite all the efforts that have been made to reduce pollution, greenhouse gas emissions have grew more in 2000 to 2010 than each of the previous decades before then.

All of this can be a scary thing, but if we dont take impactive action, devastating results will occur. Energy systems need to convert from fossil fuels to renewable smart energy – wind and solar power are a major investment that could really help! Slowly, this has been starting to pick up, but it needs to start going faster. Here is a great bar graph that shows the solar power growth over the decades.

solar power growth

China is the #1 solar producer in the world, #2 followed by Japan, and 3rd being the USA. Solar production is a good way to keep jobs and keep the economy growing.

On the bright side, closures of gas power plants have been escalating lately! Recently, IKEA has invested in a wind farm that will produce 380,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy yearly.

How does ozone affect plants?

Not only does ozone have an effect on humans, but plants as well. Smog is the main component of ozone, and it actually affects the microscopic breathing pores on plants leaves.

Sensitive plants that encounter with ozone can result in very harmful effects. Ozone can interfere with the ability for a plant to produce and store food and it can also damage the visibility of plants. In most cases, it slows down the photosythesis which results in slower plant growth and can impair the water use effiicieny. When a plant is exposed to ozone over a long amount of time, it can prevent the plant from being able to fight diseases, competition, extreme weather, and insects. To know if a plant is affected by ozone, you can usually tell by their outer appearance. Plants can have tiny tan spots, small dark areas, and reddening.