Tag Archives: pollution

Air pollution takes 5.5 million lives prematurely each year

Contaminated air is responsible for taking more than 5.5 million lives prematurely each year, with more than 50 percent of those deaths occurring in China and India, as indicated by new research presented on Feb 12.

Smog in Santiago. Image from joeskitchen.com
Air pollution causes lung cancer, heart disease and other respiratory diseases. Image from joeskitchen.com

Researchers are giving notice that the premature death toll will increase throughout the next two decades unless we do more to battle the issue.

The research was carried out by scientists from Canada, the United States, India and China who collected approximates of air pollution levels in India and China and evaluated their effect on health.

“Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease,” said Michael Brauer, University of British Columbia professor, on Friday, ”reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population.”

The research concludes that two of the planet’s most populated countries, India and China, have the most contaminated air on the planet.

Specialists state that minuscule matter radiated into the atmosphere in those countries causes 55 percent of deaths caused by air pollution worldwide.

Dan Greenbaum, president of the non profit organization Health Effects Institute in Boston, that examines the health effects from several sources of air contamination, said that “living in areas with higher pollution can cause people to have increased heart and lung disease, and to die prematurely as a result.”

The greatest origin of air pollution is burning coal, in China, although Greenbaum said that they were beginning to try to solve the general issue. In India, meanwhile, individuals burn wood and biomass fuels, cow dung and several other sources.

Greenbaum expressed that “the levels in China are eight to 10 times higher than the healthy standards set by the World Health Organization”. Unless China embraces more rigorous air pollution standards, restricting coal burning and emissions from power plants and factories, the report approximated that over 1 million individuals would have premature deaths by 2030.

Medical specialists say air pollution causes lung cancer, heart disease, and other respiratory illnesses.

The research’s findings on air pollution were exhibited at the conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

Can swimsuits save the ocean?

California scientists have created an absorbent nano-sponge material that can be sewn into swimwear and wet suits to soak up water pollution in oceans.

Mihri Ozkan, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Riverside, and her husband Cengiz Ozkan, who is a materials engineer, have been working on the sponge-like material for around four years. Originially, they desired to create an innovative way to clean up ocean oil spills. Their groundbreaking design is called the Sponge Suit.

The husband-and-wife engineering team that invented the material won an international wearable technology competition through a site called Reshape and will be recognized this week in Rome at the Maker Faire.

Can swimsuits save the ocean? Graphic from LorrindaBenavidesArt
Can swimsuits save the ocean? Graphic from LorrindaBenavidesArt

The swimsuit is padded with a sucrose-based material that repels water but sucks up harmful contaminants. This material could also be sewn into wet suits, letting surfers help clean the ocean as well.

The swimsuit’s net-like white shell surface is made of a flexible 3-D printed plastic that holds up a sugar-based material that mimics a sponge. The material is porous and can absorb contaminants up to 25 times its weight. When the sponge is full, it can be removed from the suit and heated to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit to liquefy the material. The contaminants are removed, and the rest is recycled into a new sponge.

This way of removing contaminants from the sponge is brought into questioning, what energy source will be used to generate the 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit, plus the effort to separate the contaminants from the liquefied sponge. Can it be done without having a negative effect on the environment as well?

If you’re worried about the contaminants being so close to your skin. Mihri Ozkan has a solution for that. “The sponge material is made from sugar, and it is an environmentally safe material,” said Mihri Ozkan. “Any contaminant collected by the sponge will be trapped inside the nanoporous architecture of the sponge, and nothing will touch your skin.”

The design weighs less than two ounces and is very thin. Mihri Ozkan believes that the sponge material is cost-efficient at only about 15 cents per gram, the Sponge Suit would cost over 8 dollars of material. The material is lab-tested, and the Ozkan’s have videos of their sponge material cleaning light and heavy oil-like contaminants from water.

It’s doubtful that even if all 7.125 billion humans on earth would put a microscopic dent in the pollution of the ocean. The integrity of the idea is there, but there must be a better way to execute the solution to the problem at hand.

A lot of cities use common sewer drains. Whenever it rains, sewage bypasses the treatment plant and goes right into the ocean. Why not use this advanced sponge technology at the drains? Would that be more effective? Or even placing the sponge material behind all power boats, sailboats, cruise ships, tankers, etc. Would that do more than just surfers and swimmers that occasionally go in to the ocean every now and then?

Although the swimwear may not function as well as intended, the innovation is there and, if properly executed, could greatly impact the cleanliness of the ocean.


Volkswagen ‘clean diesel’ scheme

Volkswagen admitted to methodically cheating on U.S. air emissions tests for years, to make nearly half a million diesel cars seem cleaner-burning than they are, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday in citing violations that could add up to $18 billion in fines. The company said it has also been alerted from the Justice Department, which the EPA said could pursue legal action.

The automaker enlisted a strategy advertising the efficiency of their fun-to-drive, powerful, “clean diesel” vehicles. Diesel versions of their most popular cars comprise more than a quarter of the brand’s sales in the U.S. and are a vital part of the company’s strategy for meeting tougher U.S. fuel economy standards going to effect in coming years. VW chose to specialize in diesel technology instead of electrics or hybrids.

“They were counting heavily on diesels to meet the fuel-economy numbers,” Matt DeLorenzo said, managing editor for news at Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, California. “This brings that whole strategy into question.”

“Volkswagen admitted to methodically cheating on U.S. air pollution tests for years, to make nearly half a million diesel cars seem cleaner-burning than they are.

VW employed a sophisticated algorithm, installed in the emissions-control modules that could detect when a vehicle was undergoing official emissions testing and turn on full pollution controls. The EPA referred this algorithm a “defeat device.” During normal driving, the cars pollute 10 to 40 times the legal standard for NOx, a component in urban smog, the agency estimated.

Financial liability for the company is unclear. The EPA could fine the company $37,500 per violation of the law and harm to the environment, which could equate to over $18 billion in fines.

Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn resigned after the scandal, after almost a decade in charge, Winterkorn stepped down. He expressed that he accepted the consequences of the mushrooming scandal that has wiped $22 billion off the company’s market value.

In order to “fix” the issue, Volkswagen has said that most of the affected cars will just need a software update, presumably to the engine always runs during the EPA testing, and always meets emission standards. That’s bad for drivers, because to be NOx emission standards, the cars in test mode sacrificed some fuel economy and performance.

Volkswagen announced on Sunday that it was suspending the sales of cars in the United States that had the defeat device.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Should RU be a smoke free campus?

There’s nothing like walking through a cloud of second-hand cigarette smoke early in the morning. Really, there’s nothing else like it. Many on campus who don’t smoke cigarettes are constantly exposed to quick puffs of smoke blown in their faces as they try and walk to classes. It can sometimes be hard to voice an opinion about it though, seeing that smoking is allowed on campus. This can quickly become a controversial issue.

There’s a need to protect those students and employees at RU from exposure to secondhand smoke. Even e-cigarettes cause discomfort for those with allergic reactions and asthma. Some would like to create an expectation that their living and working environment is smoke-free.

Young woman smoking e-cigarette - Stock Image
“There’s nothing like walking through a cloud of second-hand cigarette smoke early in the morning.”

According to tobaccofreecampus.org, Oct. 1 of this year makes over 1,000 campuses smoke-free. The goal of this group’s initiative is to make 100 percent of campuses tobacco-free. The only way to do this is to change the way that we think about tobacco products and cigarettes. Obviously, it’s old news that they’re bad for you. However, that doesn’t stop the sellers from depicting them as fun, sexy, or dangerous.

While navigating Tobacco Free Campus’s website, you can choose to join the challenge and see what regional opportunities there are to help out with this smoke-free initiative. On the home page at the top of the website, you’re greeted by this statement: “Looking to make your campus tobacco-free? Already tobacco-free but need to improve compliance? You’ve come to the right place.”

If this so-called initiative were to take effect at RU, would electronic cigarettes be taken in to account as well? They have about as many problems to go with them as regular cigarettes. They can harm and cause unpleasantness for those around them. Not to mention, they release smelly chemicals like aerosol and other chemicals that can trigger asthma attacks to those that are around them.

The mayo clinic has said this about E-cigs: “Electronic cigarettes and nicotine inhalers both deliver nicotine to your body without tobacco. But that’s where the similarity ends. The two are quite different when it comes to how they’re used and how much doctors know about their safety. Nicotine inhalers are a proven safe and effective way to help people stop smoking. In contrast, very little is known about the health effects of electronic cigarettes … Also, no convincing evidence shows that e-cigarettes are useful in helping people to eventually stop smoking.”