By Bernice Yeung, California Watch
Nine of the ten regions with the most ozone pollution are in California. High ozone has now been linked to health problems. (eutrophication&hypoxia/Flickr)
Smog has been linked to heart problems and even death, and new research by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency begins to explain why.
Researchers found that healthy young adults who have been exposed to ozone – which is a major component of smog – experience physiological changes that could be linked to heart ailments in vulnerable populations, such as elderly people with cardiovascular disease. Additionally, the study “provides a plausible explanation for the link between acute ozone exposure and death,” lead author Robert B. Devlin said in a statement.
The study has special implications for Californians, who are exposed to some of the highest ozone levels in the country.
Of the 10 regions in the country with the most ozone pollution, nine are in California, with Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside topping the list, according to the American Lung Association.
By Susanne Rust, California Watch
(Mark H. Anbinder: Flickr)
It’s well established that dirty, sooty air is no good for your lungs and probably not great for your skin. But new research indicates it can damage your brain, too.
A study in the journal of the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that air pollution accelerates cognitive decline in women.
And with a new federal report showing Southern Californians are at the highest risk of death due to air pollution, this study adds to the growing body of grim evidence showing air pollution and healthy bodies don’t mix.
“We keep learning about more adverse effects (from pollution) than we thought possible,” said Jean Ospital, health effects officer with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, who was not involved with the current research.
“I’m not sure I find these results surprising,” he said, “but I’m also not sure I would have expected them if you’d asked me 10 years ago.” Continue reading
Diesel trucks in West Oakland. (Photo: Xan West)
West Oakland residents have long been plagued by polluted air that comes from living near a huge port and three freeways. Rates of asthma and other illnesses are high. In early 2010, the Port of Oakland implemented a program to replace and retrofit the diesel trucks that rumble in and out of the neighborhood to comply with new state laws to reduce pollution.
Researchers at U.C. Berkeley measured emissions before the program started and again in mid-2010, just months after it went into effect.
The researchers found a dramatic change, just in those few months. The Berkeley Transportation Letter reports that “after the first phase of the emission control program took effect in early 2010, black smoke emissions were reduced by about half. NOx emissions also dropped by 40 percent.” NOx (nitrogen oxide) is a key contributor to smog.
Read the entire story here.
(Ordinary Grace: Flickr)
California has embarked on a landmark effort to reduce greenhouse gasses. As part of that work, local jurisdictions are busy spotlighting zones for housing infill and transit-oriented development. Infill sounds good, right? Let’s avoid further suburban sprawl and direct people to mass transit, reducing greenhouse gasses.
Not so fast.
Here’s the problem: the state Air Resources Board has evaluated air pollution risk and identified swaths of urban areas that create public health hazards because of diesel truck traffic or other pollution.
Call it the irony of unintended consequences. The housing development areas overlap with the communities with high air pollution in too many places in the Bay Area. It looks like we’re on a road to reduce greenhouse gases while increasing public health risks.
That’s where a study today from the Pacific Institute is critically important. It has lots of colorful maps and detailed information that provide tools to cities and counties to consider when planning new housing.
Here’s a starting point in San Francisco County. The blue priority development area is almost completely encircled by an area the Air Resources Board says has health risk from toxic air pollution.
San Francisco map shows "Priority Development Area" located almost completely inside an area of concur to the state Air Resources Board. (Map: Pacific Institute)
Children's park located under a freeway in Fresno. (Photo: Sasha Khokha)
Yesterday morning, KQED brought you Sasha Khokha’s report questioning how well the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is protecting public health on poor air quality days.
About 10 hours later, the Valley Air District issued an air quality alert using significantly stronger language than it had used previously.
A little background: Khokha reported that the Valley Air District’s public service announcements had focused on what people could do to reduce emissions, but had not alerted the public how to protect their health on poor air quality days.
For example, the District issued a PSA on September 29, 2011, a day when the air quality was in the “unhealthy for all” category. Among other things, the District recommended people walk or bicycle instead of drive their cars. Now, this is great for reducing emissions, but anyone who followed this advice could have harmed their lungs. Not exactly a great public health message.
This post originally appeared on KQED’s Climate Watch blog on October 21, 2011.
Tourists snap pictures of a murky sunset in San Diego. (Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images)
A major study released recently in Fresno details the direct link between higher levels of air pollution and asthma-related ER and hospital admissions. So, what’s that got to do with climate change? Plenty.
“There’s a division in the public’s mind between global warming and health effects of pollution,” says Dimitri Stanich of the California Air Resources Board.
In reality, there’s significant overlap. Some components of air pollution shown to have harmful warming effects on the planet are also harming people, especially children, right now.
Let’s start with ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is different from the ozone layer, which lies about 15 miles above the earth (not exactly ground level). The ozone layer shields us from most of the sun’s harmful rays. Ozone is good in the atmosphere but bad, in many ways, at or near ground level.
Some components of air pollution shown to have harmful warming effects on the planet are also harming people right now. Ground-level ozone is not part of air pollution itself. Instead, it is formed by a complex chemical reaction starting with the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) component of air pollution. That chemical reaction is especially strong when the air is calm and the sun is shining (California’s Central Valley in the summer, anyone?). This stuff is terrible for your lungs.