Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Canadian History of Air Pollution

Photo credit: Trail Historical Society

Clean air is a common-good resource, freely available to all. As air pollution knows no bounds, Canada, in a sense, created the concept of Trans-Boundary Air Pollution. Air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, methane Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are harmful compounds released into the atmosphere, primarily through industrial manufacturing of goods. Transboundary air pollution occurs when the concentration is released into the atmosphere and crosses borders, impacting neighboring countries.

A dispute involving the Teck Cominco Smelter in Trail, British Columbia (B.C.) made international environmental law history when the case was decided in 1941. After the company significantly increased the size of its smoke stacks, the resulting unintended consequence created toxic air from the metal refinery, which negatively impacted farmers in neighboring Washington State. The outcome is regarded as international environmental laws most foundational decisions, as it helped to form the polluter-pays principle, making a state responsible for the damaging effects it has on another territory. The case’s arbitration also helped solidify the “Good neighborliness” custom to enhance diplomacy.

In 1987, Canada hosted a United Nations conference in Montreal, Quebec to tackle the alarming effects of Ozone depletion. The delegates of the convention adopted an international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer. This accord, now shared between 142 countries, saw the international regulation limiting the production, trade and use of 8 Ozone depleting substances (ODS), such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, and carbon tetrachloride. This agreement has since expanded to cover 96 substances. More importantly, the Montreal Protocol not only united the politicians from nations around the world, but also gained overwhelming public and media support, as well as industry buy-in.
The Montreal protocol is considered a huge success, as 96 harmful ODS have virtually been eliminated. These substances were also contributing to climate change. The ozone layer is now slowly recovering, largely thanks to the work by those behind the Montreal Protocol.

Guruswamy, L.D., (2012). International Environmental Law: In a nutshell, (4th ed.). Saint Paul, MN: West.

United Nations. (2006). Trail smelter case (United States, Canada). Reports of International Arbitral Awards, 3. pp. 1905-1982. 16 April 1938 and 11 March 1941. Washington, DC. Retrieved from:

United Nations Development Program. (2017). Montreal Protocol. Sustainable Development Program, Environmental and Natural Capital. New York, NY. Retrieved from:

Can we do anything?

In addition to traffic, vehicles, population and old cars emissions there are other types of emissions that add to the air pollution in Iran. One of them is the emission caused by heating systems and air conditioners used in buildings, the director of Iran's Department of Environment has invited everyone to participate in a challenge which would help to reduce the amount of emissions casued by these heating systems. Her challenge is to set the temperature to at most 18 degrees Celsius inside the corridors and about 21 degrees inside the rooms. Hopefully this would be a movement everyone participates in and help in cutting the pollution. However, this is just “one” way to help.
The other ways that can help are more usage of public transportation since most people drive their own car to work! Other things that need to be done are more standards, regulations and inspections on cars and especially old ones. We still have very old buses driving around emitting clouds of dark soot out but we can also see the modern clean ones too.
This is how beautiful Tehran can look like 

Is it the gasoline?

What is exactly causing all these pollution in Iran?
Usually a layer of smug covers Tehran, the capitol of Iran and most of the other great cities. The great Alborz mountains go underneath a blanket of soot. Eyes burn and its hard to breathe. There are a couple of major contributing factors to air pollution in Iran. The greatest factor is the traffic. There are more cars in the streets than there is room in the narrow streets. Most of the time, the highways look like parking lots when you look at them from above; not moving for hours in the evening times. Therefore, pumping a ton of exhaust into the air. Iran is under US sanctions and has to produce its own cheap gasoline and produce toxic formulations to keep the millions number of vehicles going. In addition to the low fuel quality, there is not much regulation and inspection going on over the older cars.

The other factor is the population growth. Each family member usually has their own car and when you drive in the streets you can see there's usually only one person in each car.
According to the discussion above, traffic and fuel are the most important elements of air pollution crisis in Iran and politicians keep arguing with each other about whether it is about lack of laws and standards or if it is about implementation of the laws.

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You need to stay home

There have been times when I myself, had to skip school and stay home because of the bad weather, which honestly was something that used to make me happy, I could sleep in and not go to school for couple of days sometimes! But I was just a kid back then.
Children are more sensitive and vulnerable to air pollutants due to their physiological immaturity. It has been said that every year about 600,000 children under the age of five die due to air pollution around the world. UNICEF has also reported that one of every seven children live in the most toxic areas in terms of air pollution.

The air pollution in Iran and especially in Tehran sometimes hits the urgent alarming level and shuts down schools and cancels any sort of outdoor activity such as soccer games! Children and elderly are urged to stay home otherwise they need to wear face masks to the streets. It has been said that the air pollution threatens the lives of 11.5 million children in Iran.
Cities other than Tehran also are suffering from air pollution especially that some border with other countries and get hit by a lot of dust storms and temperature usually rises above 40 degrees Celsius on top of that.

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Air Pollution Solutions

Despite having advanced technology, not everyone has access to the same resources. Sadly, the people who need to be aware are often the ones who aren’t. When it comes to air pollution, there are many ways to help attack the problem and it starts by talking about it.

Informing the public of how bad the air continues to get, would be a start. Although it may seem that the citizens of India should know by now the living conditions they’re enduring – some have become accustom to this way of living. Wearing a face mask can only do so much but prolong the health effects that will begin to show soon, such as (but notlimited to); Lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and an increase risk for acute respiratory infections and exacerbates asthma.
Another way to help fight this dilemma is to educate health professionals through training programs, or other organizations. This way, they are better equipped with knowledge regarding diseases that people are beginning to show.

Most importantly, the government needs to take action so that the citizens feel the urge to do follow. There’s news that, “a $20 million finance initiative to help fund renewable energy in India – though it’s unclear whether that initiative will remain under President-elect Trump, who has pledged to ‘cancel all wasteful climate change spending’” as reported by Think Progress. 

Of course another option, is for the local citizens to start taking action within their own lives. That's very true. How can this be down when residents of India who are already on the low socioeconomic status spectrum have odds stacked against them? 

India: Choking on air

Over the last year, schools in New Delhi have begun to close. Due to the poor quality of air throughout India, smog, dust, and other chemicals continue to add to the already hazardous air. When it comes to air quality, it’s no secret that New Delhi is one of the most lethal cities in the world. This doesn’t take away from the fact that everyone in India is in danger of illnesses, which may lead to premature deaths. This fear has caused government officials to close down an estimated 1,800 schools – meaning that about a million students are missing out on their education. 

Another major issue are the health concerns that are rising. Burning eyes, coughing, and other symptoms are appearing more and more often. This is more frequent among kids, and the elderly. Unfortunately, those who are too poor to relocate are also being affected. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) global urban air quality database, “About 98% of cities in low- and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet norms set out in the WHO air quality guidelines”

A recent study found that annually, “direct and indirect costs of chronic lung disease in India to be between $800-$1400 – India’s median per capita income is only about $600”. What will happen to these citizens' health as the air pollution continues to damage their organs? How will an entire country deal with this financially? Are we next?

Air pollution, inflammation and preterm birth in Mexico City

Preterm birth is one of the leading causes of perinatal mortality and is associated with long-term adverse health consequences for surviving infants. Preterm birth rates are rising worldwide, and no effective means for prevention currently exists. Air pollution exposure may be a significant cause of prematurity, but many published studies lack the individual, clinical data needed to elucidate possible biological mechanisms mediating these epidemiological associations.

We are enrolling a cohort of 800 pregnant women living in Mexico City. These women, who reside in diverse regions of metropolitan Mexico City, are seen monthly over the course of their pregnancy, clinical and behavioral information gathered, and pro-and anti-inflammatory cytokines in monthly cervico-vaginal exudates and blood samples assayed

Preterm birth is a major public health problem of global consequence which may be influenced by exposure to air pollution. Therefore, understanding the mediating inflammatory and infectious pathways, using study designs such as the one described here, would provide further insights on mechanistic pathways linking pollution to adverse birth outcomes and potentially inform prevention efforts. 

Air pollution and preterm birth in Mexico City: summary of data collection
Air pollution and preterm birth in Mexico City: summary of data collection.

Health impacts of power-exporting plants in northern Mexico

In the past two decades, rapid population and economic growth on the U.S.–Mexico border has spurred a dramatic increase in electricity demand. In response, American energy multinationals have built power plants just south of the border that export most of their electricity to the U.S. This development has stirred considerable controversy because these plants effectively skirt U.S. air pollution regulations in a severely degraded international airshed. Yet to our knowledge, this concern has not been subjected to rigorous scrutiny. This paper uses a suite of air dispersion, health impacts, and valuation models to assess the human health damages in the U.S. and Mexico caused by air emissions from two power-exporting plants in Mexicali, Baja California. We find that these emissions have limited but nontrivial health impacts, mostly by exacerbating particulate pollution in the U.S., and we value these damages at more than half a million dollars per year. These findings demonstrate that power-exporting plants can have cross-border health effects and bolster the case for systematically evaluating their environmental impacts.

Location of Integen and Sempra power plants in Mexicali, Baja California and air quality modeling domain (36 km, 12 km, and 4 km grids).

Efforts to increase Serbia's air quality are on the way


The Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) prepares a national State of the Environment (SOE) report every year. This report is integral in the field of environmental protection because its role is to support decision makers as well as to provide environmental information to the scientific community and the general public.The key results found in the SOE say that air quality, air emissions, surface and ground water quality and soil quality are below the safe threshold. Also the protected areas cover just 5.91% of total area, which is insufficient based on national targets of 12%. However in the last 5 years or so, plans have been integrated to help increase quality in every aspect of the environment and for now we can only hope that they continue to work on it. 
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Friday, August 18, 2017

Communities React to Lack of Governmental Support in Mexico City

Until 1997, city politics was dominating by an “overbearing one-party system that discouraged independent grass-roots organizing” (Preston Online), causing many of the citizens to become entirely discouraged with the political system.  Although the government was aware the problem existed, it was made quite clear that the residents would not have much say in say in bringing about change.  Since the residents did not believe they could bring about change in a problem as pervasive as smog, they never made any effort.  “Of course it bothers us,” said Alejandra Perez, a Nezahualcoyotl resident. “But we don’t do anything about it.  No one in power would pay attention to us if we did.”
One reason why the government has not fully dealt with the issue of pollution is that there are many other problems for the residents of Mexico City.  An example of such an issue is a problem that Isabel Bustamante must deal with everyday.  After 30 years in her house, she still has no running water (Preston Online).  The Mexican government has many problems to deal with and pollution is just one of them. 
Many changes the government makes are met with hesitance on the part of the people if they perceive the changes as an inconvenience. Every time the government takes cars off of the streets, there are many complaints from the countless motorists who are forced into using Mexico City’s poor public transportation.  Not all of the people in the city are aware of just how dangerous their predicament is.  “People in this city would rather drive than breathe,” says Alejandro Encinas, the city’s Environment Secretary (Preston Online).  Although this is an exaggeration, a lack of environmental awareness is evident in the actions of many citizens of Mexico City.
            This lack of education stems from the government not making information available to the citizens.  On a day when the city officials had declared a smog emergency, meaning people should not exercise, one citizen, Andres Altamirano was defiant.  He was riding his bicycle and planning to run and play soccer later in the day.  “Just because there’s pollution we’re not going to stop practicing sports,” he said (Guggenheim Online).  Although nothing positive can come out of playing sports for Andres Altamirano on a smog emergency day, it seems as though he, and many of the other people in Mexico City, have basically given up.

Hello Hybrid! Reducing Pollutants in Brazil

Its no secret that Brazil's large population has contributed to the current suffering air quality. But recently, major steps are being made to ensure that this does not become the norm for the future.

Recently, UNICA announced that Hybrid cars will be coming to Brazil. This will allow Brazilians to engage in a more sustainable, more air friendly option for travel. Regulators has reduced the amount of ethanol available in Brazil. Regulators hope that these cuts will lead to a natural, seamless turn to more plug in vehicles being adopted.

The largest concern for many when considering hybrid and sustainable options is the cost. This is the same case for Brazil. Although Brazil is not considered an impoverished country, many individuals do not have disposable income to spend on more expensive options that might reduce emissions. To accommodate the financial climate of Brazil, leaders are attempting to collaborate on making vehicles that might be more cost efficient.

Portuguese design and engineering firm, CEiiA, is working tirelessly to provide a cheaper hybrid option for Portuguese and Brazilian residents. The process may take a while, but CEiiA is hopeful they can bring a more sustainable automobile to South America for under $8,000. While efforts do look hopeful, only time will tell if the automobile efforts strides will turn into a full spring for improved air conditions in Brazil.

To learn more about UNICA and they're plans to introduce more Hybrid option to Brazil, click on the link below!

Click HERE

Air pollution and the Mexican City government

About 75 percent of the air pollution is caused by toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide which is emitted by the vehicles. ... As Mexico is also located at a high altitude, the sunlight is stronger than that on the sea level, causing pollutants to react with each other producing a toxic gas called ozone.

However, after loosening regulations in 2015 by the Mexico City government, air pollution has steadily increased in recent years in Greater Mexico City. This regulatory change was fostered by political reasons and backed by several parties. In April and May 2016 ozone and suspended matter pollution in Mexico City had reached levels that were detrimental to health, though the criterion to signal a pollution alert is lower in 2016 than it was in the 1980s.[6] The city's population continues to grow, to spread out, which lengthens automobile trips, and the number of autos in the city increases yearly.

Connections have been found between air pollution and school absenteeism among children in Mexico City between air pollution and heart rate variability among the elderly in Mexico City, and between urban air pollutants on emergency visits for childhood asthma in Mexico City

Egypt's Breathing Issue

According to a report by the Egyptian Scientific Society for Bronchology published in 2015, pollution in Egypt comes at an annual human cost of 2,400 early deaths, 1,500 cases of acute bronchitis, 329,000 cases of respiratory infection and 8 million asthma attacks. With all of this, you would start to wonder how much Egypt spends on causes due to the air pollution. Many residents get stuck with a medical bill due to simply breathing the air in their home. Residents are choosing to move their families and leave their homes to relocate in order to prevent their families and children from having health issues. This also comes at a cost due to having to move the entire family and it does not come cheap.

Yusri Abdullah is a researcher at the Adalah Centre for Economic Studies. He estimates that air pollution in Cairo comes at an annual cost to the government of approximately $1.3 billion, in addition to medical and other the costs footed by individuals. This is a large number, when instead the costs can be going to solutions. The authorities are not doing enough either to curb the main air pollutants around Cairo or to combat people's lack of awareness of the issue, says Dr. Tareq Safwat, the president of the society. A solution needs to begin by getting the people to become aware of the issue.

To read more about this story click here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Madrid bans half of cars from roads to fight air pollution

With air pollution levels sky rocketing in Spain, the city council has enacted several measures in order to reduce the levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere. The biggest measures are limiting the amount of vehicles driving in the city. Restricting operational hours, number of vehicles per day
based on license plate numbers, where cars are allowed to park, and finally reducing speed limits. There are exceptions to these restrictions, allowing mopeds and hybrid vehicles to continue to operate, as well as vechiles that are transporting three or more people at a time or operated by people of disability. It is also strongly encouraged that people use public transportation as their main mode of getting around, such as buses, taxi, and trains.
These measures were implemented not to restrict traffic but to address the growing health issues that are rising due to the growing levels of pollution in the air. Going hand in hand, the rise in pollution results in the rise in health issues. This increase in health problems has raised concern with the city council, and has been a major factor in the push to reduce the high pollution levels in Spain.

link to article

Spain is the most polluted country in Europe

The European Environment Agency showed that Spain exceeded the threshold placing a limit on the safe pollutant levels in cities. They discovered that levels are particularly higher in regions with considerable emission of gases combined with high levels of solar radiation and high temperatures during the summer seasons. The country of Spain has different weather conditions than other European countries; a specific example provided was the city of Madrid. Being one of the majorly affected areas in Spain, it doesn’t see much rain and has less wind, which causes more pollution to occur because it gets stuck in these cities.
Such cities like Madrid and Barcelona are struggling the most because of this environmental aspect. This added with the emission of burning fossil fuels within the city limit results in an even larger issue. The biggest concern involving exposure to such high ozone concentrations results in breathing problems, asthma, reduced lung function, and lung disease. These cities are doing what they can to reduce this growing epidemic by enacting policies

link to article

Madrid air pollution reaches alarming levels

Air pollution in the city of Madrid has become so bad that locals call the brown cloud that sits above the city “boina” or beret, because the brown cloud looks as if the city is wearing a hat. The city itself is in a bit of desperation due to these high levels of air pollution, that with even the slightest increase in pollution levels, results in more people admitted into the hospitals. This issue has caused officials to look deeper into the ultimate issue, calling it the “last link in the chain” connecting several deaths to air polluted related issues, such as circulatory and respiratory illnesses. In a sense they see this as a silent killer because it is affecting people slowly over
time, rather than people physically dropping dead on the streets. It is still an increasingly large issue to the populations health and the city is addressing the problem as best they can. While it is understandably difficult to completely eliminate the use of motor vehicles within the city limits, Madrid is proposing that people use electric cars, public transportation, or bicycles in order to significantly reduce the levels of air pollution within the city