After many months of maintenance work, the Clean Air Board’s air quality monitor is back on line. Go to the Sentinel webpage to check current readings for particulate matter.
“Looking Forward to Clean Air”
CAB will look at new developments under the federal Clean Air Act and under state regulations. Arleen Shulman, former air resources planning chief at the state Department of Environmental Protection will speak to the board.
This meeting will be held at the Second Presbyterian Church, 528 Garland Drive, Carlisle, PA 17013, on March 7, at 7 pm. Join us for a discussion of this important topic.
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Burning Fuel Particles Do More Damage to Climate Than Thought, Study Says
The tiny black particles released into the atmosphere by burning fuels are far more powerful agents of global warming than had previously been estimated, some of the world’s most prominent atmospheric scientists reported in a study issued on Tuesday.
The particles, which are known as black carbon and are the major component of soot, are the second most important contributor to global warming, according to the recent study.
The Clean Air Board applauded the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to set a stronger national air quality standard on fine particulate matter (PM2.5), also known as soot - one of the nation’s most lethal air pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set limits on these airborne microscopic particles, following the findings by independent scientists that this pollutant causes premature death at levels well below what was considered safe.
The EPA tightened the limit, called the national ambient air quality standards, for the annual average level of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) to 12 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) from the outdated standard set in 1997 of 15 µg/m3. “We have been waiting for this update of the national standard for a long time.” said Thomas Au, Clean Air Board president. “The public health studies supports strengthening the annual standard. Letting the public know where the air is dirty and dangerous is the first step to improving our health.”
For more info: <a href="http://www.epa.gov/air/particlepollution/2012/decfsstandards.pdf
EPA is right to revise small-particle pollution standards
Published: Friday, June 29, 2012, 5:00 AM
By Tami Davis Biddle and Thomas Y. Au
When we look back on photos, film and other imagery from the mid-20th century, we are often struck by the prevalence of cigarettes. Americans smoked; many smoked heavily. Smoking cigarettes was not only considered acceptable, it was considered appealing, attractive and cool. Then we learned better.
In the second decade of the 21st century a similar ground-swell of awareness is developing about the air around us. This groundswell, too, has developed gradually and is just now beginning to gain a head of steam. Once again it pertains directly to our health, and once again it pertains directly to the air we put into our bodies. This time, however, the focus is on air pollution and “fine particulate matter,” which is invisible and small enough to penetrate readily into human body tissue.
From the 1990s, scientific evidence has been piling up regarding the wide array of negative health effects of air pollution. And that evidence has pointed a particularly telling finger toward fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5 for short. It is well-established that exposure to air pollution increases the incidence of respiratory illness, including bronchitis and asthma.
Recent studies, including one run by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, have drawn direct links as well between high levels of combustion-generated pollutants and high rates of infant mortality, low birth weight and cancer. In recent years, a direct link has been established between air pollution and cardiovascular illness. This link has been confirmed repeatedly in studies by scientists around the world. This problem is of concern in central Pennsylvania, where small-particle pollution is high.
If all this wasn’t enough to give us pause, researchers have begun to find strong linkages between PM 2.5 and two other dreaded health problems: stroke and cognitive degeneration. A recent study run by Gregory Wellenius of the Brown University Center for Environmental Health and Technology revealed that on days when concentrations of traffic pollutants go up, so, too, does the risk of stroke.
The increased stroke risk was highest within 12 to 14 hours of exposure to PM 2.5 and was most strongly associated with traffic-related pollution. Regarding the latter finding, the authors noted that “Experimental studies in humans and animals have shown that exposure to concentrated ambient PM 2.5 can induce increases in blood pressure and heart rate and reductions in heart rate variability within this time frame.”
What is perhaps most striking about this study is that PM 2.5 exposure increases the risk of ischemic stroke at levels below those currently considered safe under U.S. regulations. This observation prompted Dr. Rajiv Bhatia of the San Francisco Department of Public Health to suggest that ambient air quality standards should be reviewed. Bhatia argued that improved human control of PM 2.5 is “technically feasible, but will require increased efforts to assess exposure at the community level, more stringent and creative regulatory initiatives, and political support.”
In a study with equally daunting ramifications, Jennifer Weuve of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found women with higher levels of long-term exposure to course and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) had significantly faster declines in cognition than those with less exposure to pollutants. Weuve and her colleagues found evidence that fine particulate can penetrate the brain through the nasal passages. Her study followed 19,409 women in the U.S. between ages 70 and 81 for about a decade, looking at cognitive changes every two years.
All of these studies have significant ramifications for national health policy and regulatory policy in the United States, suggesting stronger efforts to control fine-particle pollution might be needed to protect the general population. These studies should be in the forefront of the public debate as the Environmental Protection Agency considers whether to raise the standards for fine particulate.
Tami Davis Biddle and Thomas Y. Au are members of the Clean Air Board of central Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection declares an Air Quality Action Day for Wednesday, June 20 and conditions are likely to persist through Thursday, June 21. Ozone levels will be deemed “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” and particle pollution levels will also be elevated and enhanced due to weather conditions.
Days when ozone levels are expected to be high:
* Conserve electricity and set your air conditioner at a higher temperature.
* Choose a cleaner commute—share a ride to work or use public transportation. Bicycle or walk to errands when possible.
* Refuel cars and trucks after dusk.
* Combine errands and reduce trips.
* Limit engine idling.
* Use household, workshop, and garden chemicals in ways that keep evaporation to a minimum, or try to delay using them when poor air quality is forecast.
Days when particle pollution levels are expected to be high:
* Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
* Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
* Avoid burning leaves, trash and other materials.