Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Outdoor Air Pollution’s Relationship to Indoor Air Pollution and Negative Health Effects

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “indoor pollution levels appear to be controlled primarily by outdoor concentrations” (link provided below).

The “Environmental Health Perspective” discusses the nature of ambient air pollution in the Arabian Peninsula. It is characterized by “dust storms, high levels of desert particulate matter (PM), transportation and industry-related emissions, and meteorology-linked smog formation”. These ambient air pollutants “may infiltrate and contribute to indoor air pollution”.

Markers of infiltration from outdoor air sources include SO2, H2S, NO2, HCHO, and PM). All have been linked with respiratory disease symptoms. HCHO and CO have been associated with neurologic symptoms.

A study of 628 households in the United Arab Emirates has shown that these outdoor air pollutants have indeed infiltrated our households. Participants in households with quantified SO2, NO2, and H2S (measured concentrations above the limit of quantification) were twice as likely to report doctor-diagnosed asthma. Participants in homes with quantified SO2 were more likely to report wheezing symptoms and speech-limiting wheezing. Do you want these pollutants to infiltrate your home? The respiratory effects can be deadly.

A more detailed discussion of the study can be found at:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Vlog in Seoul

The video attached is not myself but it is a good representation of my reactions when I visited. As a visitor to South Korea in 2014, I am witness to the terrible air quality within the city of Seoul. Seoul is the highest populated city that I have ever visited before with my second highest being San Diego. With that said, I was very taken by the air quality as it was so clear upon approach to the city but once inside of it you are really unable to see into the distance. I had the pleasure of flying into the city on an Army base in suburb Seoul and making my approach via bus into the city, which is where I noticed the terrible smog that covered the city.

The video attached includes a visitor to the city and the danger that is included in this terrible air quality. The gentleman in the video goes into a more microscopic look at just how people are acting in this situation and how they handle the air quality. Also, he tells us more about the countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula and just who may be contributing to this poor air quality. This provides a more in depth look into what Koreans are experiencing; a much more personal view on the situation.

The Proactive Fight for Cleaner Air in the Philippines

Currently, the air pollution in Manila, Philippines is 70% over the safe level.
Two problems have been prominent in the fight for cleaner air in the Philippines. First, the most common type of fuel used in many vehicles emits more sulfur content then existing alternatives. Because of this, it has been difficult for the Philippines to reach safe levels of total suspended particles (TSP) in the air. Fortunately, started in January 2016, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been involved in switching the more harmful fuel type to a cleaner type. Second, the great amount of traffic occurring in the country means there are more vehicles on the road for a longer-than-necessary amount of time. This almost counters the benefits of switching to cleaner fuel.

Law enforcement has been active in issuing finds to those that are still using vehicles that they call “smoke belchers.” There has also been discussion on implementing a law retiring old cars that have reached a certain age. Other solutions on the table include better transport systems and volume reduction programs. As this goes on in the background, citizens can become proactive in the fight for cleaner air by exploring alternative options. This includes carpooling, making more eco-friendly choices, and becoming more informed on the issue.

This video promotes Breathe Life, a global campaign to raise awareness on air pollution. 

You can click here to go to their website, type in your city, and find out "what air are you breathing?"

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Hazy Relationship of the Korean Peninsula

An alarming number, more than half of the citizen's in South Korea are regularly breathing dangerously polluted air, which is producing serious health effects for the highly urbanized nation. In 2013, more than 20,000 premature deaths were blamed on the country’s foul air. On an average day, 25 million South Koreans inhale an unsafe amount of microscopic particles of various sizes. These particles get lodged in people’s lungs and other cardiovascular tissues, enter their bloodstreams, and over time they can lead to lower respiratory infections, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.  Even suicides in Korea have been empirically linked to particulate matter and other concentrations of air pollutants like tropospheric ozone.

This is an ongoing problem on the peninsula even as tensions between the South and North continue to rise. It seems as if the true terrorists are ourselves when we are producing these kind of pollutants into the air and hurting future generations. If we are on the brink of another Korean War on the peninsula, air quality is only going to get worse.


Air Pollution Dust Kills in Egypt

With Egypt having one of the worst air pollution, specifically, Cairo is ranked seventh amongst the world of deadliest cities for air pollution. In 2010, a study found there were 6,000 premature deaths linked to outdoor pollution. Researchers at Worldwide, estimate that 5 out of 10,000 people will die prematurely because of outdoor air pollution. In Egypt, that estimate is 4.5 out of 10,000 of the people dying due to air pollution.  

The reason for these deaths is that chronic exposure to these particles is linked to heart disease, lung cancer, and other respiratory conditions. However, we must acknowledge that not all air pollution is caused by men. Researchers estimated that 92% of the deaths caused by pollution in Egypt were linked to airborne desert dust. As the dust is part of the environment and a natural feature of life in a desert there are little ways to prevent this. There is a larger fraction that is caused due to agricultural malpractices and desertification.

So how can the people of Egypt reduce the number of deaths that occur by air pollution when a fraction of those deals with natural environment situations?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Case Study: Vancouver, British Columbia

The Metro Vancouver area includes Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.) and its neighboring municipalities. Although this urban region is home to over half of B.C.’s population, it makes up less than 4% of the province’s land mass. The City of Vancouver’s civic government has incorporated numerous environmental initiatives and used its regional influence to become the world’s greenest city by 2020. To make real environmental progress on important issues like, like air quality, Vancouver has taken an interdisciplinary approach to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by incorporating urban planning, transportation engineering, and waste management. To remain accountable the progress is reported in the form of reports titled Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan (2016-2017 Implementation Update).

Vancouver requires greater energy efficiency in housing construction and applicable new apartments built in the downtown core, aiming to connect to the existing steam energy grid. The city connects clean air ideas on housing and transportation by encouraging density along rapid transit corridors. Further transportation efforts have reduced vehicle trips per person by 32%, in part, through expansion of the Skytrain light-rail transit system. This effort is coupled with an increase of the bike lane network to 311 kms, many of which are separated from vehicle traffic for cyclist safety.

The City of Vancouver has made its fleet more fuel efficient by procuring electric or hybrid cars to conduct city business. In the field of waste reduction, additional GHG reductions include an improved bio-methane capture system at the city-owned landfill, which reportedly captures 74% of the gas produced. The city continues to close this loop by moving to natural gas equipment, such as garbage trucks that can then use this for fuel. Further, regional regulations now require all residential and commercial organic food and plant waste to be separated from the garbage stream for composting. The project results have been astounding, and since 2007 the citizens of Vancouver now send 27% less waste to the landfill or incinerator. The environmental benefits of composting organic material come from a significantly reducing the transportation of materials to a local processor, and eliminating the production of methane gas, which is 25 times more harmful than the Carbon Dioxide used in composting.

Even though Vancouver continues to grow as a city, it is nearly halfway to reaching its goal to reduce GHG emissions by 33% of 2007 levels. These achievements are despite the Conservative Party withdrawing Canada from its Kyoto Protocol obligations in 2012. The steps Vancouver has taken are politically difficult and financially costly to implement, however, highlight the impact of the determined citizens can make.
Source: Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan (2016-2017 Implementation Update)

Olympic sized problem: Rio Air Pollution

As an athlete competing at the Olympics, having optimum weather conditions is obviously important. But when the air quality itself places athletes on a weak foundation to be competitive, the location might come into question as a poor choice to host the games. This is exactly what happened with the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Beijing is the only other host of the Olympics to have dirtier air conditions than Rio since the 1980 Olympic games.

Although the most popular topic of conversation originally surrounded Rio's water pollution, critics snapped back stating that athletes can avoid drinking Rio water, but they can't avoid breathing Rio air. Although those in charge of organizing the Rio Olympics argued that the data being evaluated in regards to the air pollution could not be looked at and judged solely, others argued back saying that the severity of the pollution was grounds enough for concern. Although the Olympic games in Rio were still held, it wasn't without concern from athletes and coaches.

To learn more about how measuring air quality works, check the link below