The Air Page




Air Pollution Will Be A Bigger Global Killer Than Contaminated Water

smog over a cityUrban air pollution is set to become the biggest environmental cause of premature death in the coming decades, overtaking even such mass killers as poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water, according to a new report.

Both developed and developing countries will be hit, and by 2050, there could be 3.6 million premature deaths a year from exposure to particulate matter, most of them in China and India. But rich countries will suffer worse effects from exposure to ground-level ozone, because of their ageing populations – older people are more susceptible.

The warning comes in a new report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is a study of the global environmental outlook until 2050. The report found four key areas that are of most concern – climate change, loss of biodiversity, water and the health impacts of pollution. MORE

On the environment Canada is a rogue state

By Murray Dobbin

The Harper government’s priority is not the health of Canadians or the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Its single-minded purpose seems to be to promote the oil industry and protect it from any criticismThere are so many areas of conventional democratic governance being challenged or eliminated by the Harper wrecking crew it is hard to keep up. Those searching for a line in the sand that even this government won’t cross still haven’t found it. So far, it seems, there is nothing in the broad field of democratic governance (save the military and prisons) that is sacrosanct.

Minimally, all governments take seriously the protection of their citizens; otherwise there is scarcely any point in having one. Yet a recent CBC report reveals that that the Harper government has virtually eliminated monitoring of the ozone layer over Canada. The government has shut down four of five very sophisticated monitoring stations leaving only a single station—at UBC in Vancouver—still gathering information about this critical aspect of our environment.

In doing so, Canada is once again demonstrating that it is becoming a rogue state. The monitoring of the ozone layer—which protects the earth from harmful radiation—is an international task requiring the co-operation of many countries. Canada, because of it enormous territory and its large share of the Arctic where the ozone layer is most threatened—is absolutely key to global monitoring. Last week, according to CBC TV’s Environmental Unit, “...five scientists from high-profile U.S. universities and NASA released a scathing critique of Canada’s cuts to its ozone monitoring, saying it is jeopardizing the world’s ability to watch for holes in the ozone layer and pollutants high in the atmosphere.” MORE

Hearts and air pollution: Five deadly air pollutants on five continents

heart attackAround the world, breathing a variety of air pollutants—in some cases for a single day—increases the chance that people will suffer heart attacks, according to a new analysis published Tuesday.

For the first time, scientists analyzed previous studies from five continents to verify and quantify the links between air pollution and heart health. They found that short-term exposure—less than seven days—to all major air pollutants except ozone was associated with an increase in heart attacks.

The team from France and the U.S. reported in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. that the magnitude of the risk “is relatively small” compared to other factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes. But they stressed that so many people worldwide are breathing fine particulates, carbon monoxide and other pollutants that the numbers of people at risk are substantial.

Dr. Jesus Araujo of UCLA said there is now “more than enough evidence” that air pollution kills. “We don’t have to be exposed for weeks or months or years,” Araujo said. MORE


MIT: China's pollution costs $112B in annual health care


Construction company execs jailed 16 years for 2,000 asbestos deaths in Italy

gavelROME—An Italian court Monday convicted two men of negligence in some 2,000 asbestos-related deaths blamed on contamination from a construction company, sentencing each of them to 16 years in prison and ordering them to pay millions in what officials called a historic case.

Italian Health Minister Renato Balduzzi hailed the verdict by the three-judge Turin court as “without exaggeration, truly historic,” noting that it came after a long battle for justice.

“It’s a great day, but that doesn’t mean the battle against asbestos is over,” he told Sky TG24 TV, stressing that it is a worldwide problem.

Prosecutors said Jean-Louis de Cartier of Belgium and Stephan Schmidheiny of Switzerland, both key shareholders in the Swiss construction firm Eternit, failed to stop asbestos fibres left over from production of roof coverings and pipes at its northern Italian factories from spreading across the region. MORE


Contractor sentenced to 60 days in jail for safety infractions

VANCOUVER—A Lower Mainland demolition contractor who repeatedly exposed unprotected employees, many of them teenagers, to deadly asbestos has been sent to prison for 60 days, a rare example of a jail term for workplace safety infractions.

Asbestos victims oppose company's push for liability shield in state law

Does bill protect against unfair legal claims? Or serve a narrow interest?

blind justiceA national effort by an $8 billion can manufacturer to shield itself from costly asbestos lawsuits has reached the Minnesota Legislature, triggering criticism from victims' advocates, who say the campaign puts a single corporation's interests over people who have been harmed by the deadly material.

Philadelphia-based Crown Holdings Inc., which has three manufacturing plants in southern Minnesota, is seeking to change state law to prevent more asbestos claims stemming from a 1960s merger.

The company, also known as Crown Cork and Seal, says it has been unfairly harmed by decades of asbestos legal fights that have cost it $700 million in claims and lawyer fees and $1 billion in higher borrowing costs. "We're trying to protect our company from an unfair situation," said William Gallagher, Crown's general counsel. "Blanket successor liability as posed to us is very unfair."

Victims and plaintiffs' attorneys in Minnesota say the proposal, which could get a Senate vote as early as Thursday, is the company's attempt to change the rules to skirt its legal obligations. They say it would not only harm victims in Minnesota but set a dangerous precedent for other corporations. MORE


UK—Asbestos: New blow to victims of a shameful legacy

Campaigners react with fury as coalition cites cost as reason for ruling deadly material out of national school building audit. Jonathan Owen reports

asbestos victimThe Government has deliberately excluded asbestos from an unprecedented review of the condition of the country's schools because it knows that tackling the risks to schoolchildren and teachers could cost hundreds of millions, critics claim.

Campaigners reacted with fury last night as it emerged a year-long survey of England's 23,000 schools will examine every aspect of buildings—from classroom decoration to whether fire alarms and toilets are in working order—but will specifically exclude asbestos, the most serious threat of all to staff and pupils.

An internal Department for Education email, seen by The Independent on Sunday, makes it clear that pressure to include asbestos in the assessment of the state of schools, which begins in April and will be used to inform future funding, had to be resisted due to "cost implications and the fact that asbestos management should already be carried out under existing legal requirements". The memo, dated September 2011, suggests that the survey programme "might well be able to provide some prompts and checks on that wider process, however".

The costs—and risks—of removing asbestos mean that authorities have to strike a delicate balance in managing it, and current policy is against removal for its own sake.

Critics claim the Government's attitude to the deadly disease is highlighted by comments that Nick Gibb, the Schools minister, is said to have made to asbestos campaigners three years ago. Referring to the potential costs of dealing with asbestos, at a meeting in the Commons, he is alleged to have remarked: "You are telling me that I will have to cripple the education budget to save the lives of a few thousand middle-aged people." MORE

Report: Air pollution kills thousands in Bangladesh capital

pollutionDhaka, Bangladesh (AHN)—Air pollution in the Bangladesh capital annually kills thousands of urban poor and millions more suffer from respiratory diseases, a burden on the country’s inadequate health budget, says a newly-released report.

The recently completed Country Environment Assessment, conducted jointly by the government and the World Bank identified air pollution as the leading cause of mortality and morbidity related environmental issues.

Authorities in Bangladesh claim if air pollution in its overcrowded capital could be reduced by only 20 percent, an estimated 1,200 to 3,500 lives could be saved each year.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) claims that another 80 to 230 million cases of respiratory diseases could be averted each year.

Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE), a project of the government with the support of the World Bank to reduce the capital’s smog, squarely blames scores of brick industries at the fringe of the city and clogging of limited roads by large number of vehicles for 16 hours a day during weekdays. MORE

Opposition to Quebec asbestos reaches “critical mass”

McGill University announced Thursday it has launched a preliminary review into the work of professor emeritus John Corbett McDonaldIf you were a private investor looking to sink some money into a promising venture, the expansion of an asbestos mine in Quebec may not sound like a great bet these days.

Quebec’s asbestos industry has been taking a heavy pounding of late, with two damning documentaries airing on CBC and Radio-Canada, renewed calls from politicians in Quebec City and Ottawa to outlaw the cancer-causing mineral, and a review launched into some industry-funded research at McGill this week.

On Friday, the opposition Québec Solidaire called on the provincial and federal governments to stop financing the asbestos industry and to ban export of the mineral.

Parti Québécois mining critic Martine Ouellette told Canadian Press she wants a parliamentary commission to look at the issue.

The calls are partly in response to a documentary aired on Radio-Canada Thursday evening “that reveals the true face of a lobby that in the past has had no scruples at all about manipulating the facts to the detriment of human health to defend its financial interests,” according to the Québec Solidaire statement.

McGill University announced Thursday it has launched a preliminary review into the work of professor emeritus John Corbett McDonald, after the university received a letter last week signed by dozens of academics, physicians and researchers accusing some McGill researchers of being controlled by the asbestos industry.

On Friday, an official complaint was lodged with Mc-Gill by many of those same academics. MORE


red dotVerdict looms in world's biggest asbestos trial



McGill asbestos study flawed, epidemiologist says

Government plans to approve asbestos sales to developing world


The Jeffrey asbestos mine, where production has stopped, on Oct. 7, 2011 in Asbestos, Que. The mine could reopen with a loan guarantee from the Quebec government.A major 40-year study on asbestos safety completed by a group of scientists at McGill University is flawed, lacks transparency and contains manipulated data says Dr. David Egilman, a professor at Brown University, health activist and longtime industry critic.

The study, which followed the health of 11,000 miners and mill workers in Quebec between 1966 and the late 1990s, is used by the Chrysotile Institute—a lobby arm funded by, overseen and closely associated with both Liberal and Conservative governments— to promote the use of asbestos overseas.

According to Egilman, as the dangers of asbestos became better known in the 1960s, the industry decided to do its own research and hired Dr. John Corbett McDonald at McGill University's School of Occupational Health. Industry documents obtained by CBC News showed it wanted to conduct research similar to that in the tobacco industry, which stated that "Industry is always well advised to look after its own problems."

“Doubt is their product. They just need to have a little doubt in the dialogue. OK? And doubt allows you to go in and say, OK, maybe they’re right, maybe we’re right, but nobody’s sure,” says Egilman, who has been investigating the dangers of asbestos for over two decades.MORE

India`s Air the World’s Unhealthiest, Study Says

haze in IndiaIndia’s has the worst air pollution in the entire world, beating China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, according to a study released during this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

Of 132 countries whose environments were surveyed, India ranks dead last in the ‘Air (effects on human health)’ ranking. The annual study, the Environmental Performance Index, is conducted and written by environmental research centers at Yale and Columbia universities with assistance from dozens of outside scientists. The study uses satellite data to measure air pollution concentrations.

India’s high levels of fine particulate matter (a subject we’ve been looking at on India Ink, albeit just in Delhi) are one of the major factors contributing to the country’s abysmal air quality. Levels of so-called PM 2.5, for the 2.5 micron size of the particulates, are nearly five times the threshold where they become unsafe for human beings.

Particulate matter is one of the leading causes of acute lower respiratory infections and cancer. The World Health Organization found that Acute Respiratory Infections were one of the most common causes of deaths in children under 5 in India, and contributed to 13% of in-patient deaths in paediatric wards in India. MORE

Smoking leading killer in Japan, accounting for 129,000 deaths in 2007

smoking japanese manAn estimated 129,000 adult Japanese died in 2007 of health complications caused by smoking, the nation's biggest lifestyle killer, according to studies by the University of Tokyo and other research organizations.

The number of deaths that year from strokes or other health problems caused by high blood pressure came to an estimated 104,000.

"If Japan is to retain its reputation for longevity, its first step must be to implement powerful and effective measures against smoking," said Nayu Ikeda, project assistant professor at the University of Tokyo's Department of Global Health Policy. "People must also learn to routinely check their blood pressure. That is also very important."

Ikeda was joined by Kenji Shibuya, a professor of health policy at the university's Department of Global Health Policy, and other researchers in analyzing adult deaths in Japan in 2007 caused by 16 risk factors. MORE

The Indoor Pollution Threat You May Not Have Known Existed

Practical steps you can take today to minimize you and your family's exposure to your home's chemicals

clean indoor air pollution with plantsAmericans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, but have you ever thought about the purity of the air that you are breathing as you sit inside your home, office or even a restaurant?

Indoor air quality is considered to be the fourth greatest pollution threat to Americans by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Even if you can never see, and can't always smell, the chemicals inside your home, they are there.  It comes from cleaning products, drycleaning chemicals, plastic products like computer keyboards, furniture, paint, carpeting and more....

The air in our new nursery contained 300 different chemicals—compared to just two right outside the same house.  The EPA confirms that indoor air is usually more polluted than outdoor air. Yet, none of the products used in the “GMA” testing were in violation of any law. Fortunately for consumers, there are easy, practical steps you can take today to minimize you and your family's exposure to your home's chemicals. MORE

Captured by Nasa space satellite: Thick blanket of pollution covering much of China

The Nasa image from space of China on January 10 shows a haze covering thousands of square miles

An image showing the shocking extent of pollution in China has been released by the space agency Nasa.

The image was taken on January 10 and captures a haze taking over most of the North China Plain.

Visibility on the day was down to just over 200 yards and the airport in Beijing had to cancel 43 flights with a further 80 take-offs being delayed. MORE


red dotTexas takes top spot in nation's greenhouse gas emission


UC system banning smoking from all campuses

no smokingThe University of California is banning cigarettes and all other tobacco products from its campuses over the next two years, in a move designed to both protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke and prevent young people from developing the bad habit.

Students and staff alike will be prohibited from smoking anywhere on a UC campus - including outdoor spaces, parking lots and private residences. There won't be any designated smoking areas.

The main impetus for the policy is to reduce people's exposure to secondhand smoke, UC officials said. But a major benefit, they hope, will be an overall reduction in smoking among those who work or study on the campuses. MORE


Study: Simple measures could reduce global warming, save lives

old wood stoveSimple, inexpensive measures to cut emissions of two common pollutants will slow global warming, save millions of lives and boost crop production around the world, an international team of scientists reported Thursday.

The climate-change debate has centered on carbon dioxide, a gas that wafts in the atmosphere for decades, trapping heat. But in recent years, scientists have pointed to two other, shorter-term pollutants—methane and soot, also known as black carbon—that drive climate change.

Slashing emissions of these twin threats would be a “win-win-win” for climate, human health and agriculture, said NASA climate scientist Drew Shindell, who led the study appearing in the journal Science. “Even if you don't believe climate change is a problem, these things are worth doing.”

Previous studies have noted the benefits of reducing methane and soot. But the new study looked at the specific effect of about 400 actions policymakers could take. Of those, just 14 interventions—such as eliminating wood-burning stoves, dampening emissions from diesel vehicles and capturing methane released from coal mines—would offer big benefits. MORE


Toxic releases rose 16 percent in 2010, EPA says

16 % rise in emissionsThe amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment nationwide in 2010 increased 16 percent over the year before, reversing a downward trend in overall toxic releases since 2006, according to a report released Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The spike was driven largely by metal mining, but other sectors—including the chemical industry—also contributed to the rise in emissions, according to the new analysis from the annual federal Toxics Release Inventory.

Air releases of dioxin, which is linked to cancer as well as neurological and reproductive problems, rose 10 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to the report. Other releases, such as landfill disposal, increased 18 percent.

Dioxins are formed as a byproduct of some processes with intense heat, such as smelting and recycling metals. The 2010 increase stemmed largely from the hazardous-waste-management and mining industries, according to the EPA.MORE

Canada's asbestos industry on its last legs

The “miracle fibre” that helped drive Quebec's economy for more than a century now represents an industry near death, despite government efforts to keep it afloat.

In its heyday in the mid-1960s, Canada's asbestos industry employed thousands and produced about 40 per cent of the world's supply of the silky-white product known for its resistance to fire, rust and rot. It was used widely in construction throughout North America, including at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

Now, it's known more for being ripped out of walls as a danger to public health. Many developed nations have banned it outright, and critics warn it's impossible to ensure its safe use in developing countries. These concerns over a known carcinogen have put the industry on its last legs.

Production at one mine has been halted until it can get refinancing, and another miner—Thetford Mines, Que.-based LAB Chrysotile –filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, leaving no active operations in Canada. MORE

Asbestos Canada's latest sin

Sealing, oilsands round out our evils

India ranks as the world’s largest importer of asbestos, most of which goes into making corrugated roofing sheets for slum dwellings, like these in Mumbai.QUEBEC—After the oilsands and the seal hunt, asbestos has become Canada's new sin, tarred as an evil at home and abroad.

In just three years, asbestos went from being one of the country's great exports, supported by all political parties at the House of Commons, to being vilified by politicians of all stripes, including some Conservatives.

“We've reached a tipping point in our attitude toward asbestos and so has the world. Canada's boy-scout image is being tarnished,” said New Democrat MP Pat Martin, who has been fighting to ban asbestos mining since he was first elected in 1997.

“In many circles, we've become an international pariah. Clubbing baby seals, dumping asbestos in the Third World and tarsands are probably the three biggest embarrassments for Canada on the international stage,” Martin said.

Canada's reputation took a hit earlier this year when the government blocked international efforts to label the chrysotile asbestos—the kind mined in Canada—as a hazardous material under the UN Rotterdam Convention. MORE


EPA Caps Toxic Air Pollution From Power Plants After Years of Industry Opposition

coal-fired energy pollutionMore than 20 years after Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Wednesday new national standards that will limit the amount of mercury, cyanide, acid gas and other toxics emitted by America's coal- and oil-burning power plants.

Power plant operators have three years to install specific pollution control technologies needed to meet the new standards, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). About 40 percent of America's power plants will need to install new technology and some older plants are expected to simply shut down.

The EPA estimates that, by 2016, the new standards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also prevent 130,000 cases of childhood asthma and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis in children each year.

Power plants are the biggest source of toxic air pollution in the country, accounting for more than 50 percent of mercury emissions and 75 percent of acid gas emissions, according to the EPA. Dozens of other dangerous pollutants also billow out of power plant stacks and disproportionately affect the health of people living in lower-income communities.  MORE


U.S. fights EU on airline carbon emissions

The U.S. is resisting new EU rules to reduce carbon emissions from planes. On Wednesday, the European Union's highest court fended off a challenge from the U.S. and established greenhouse gas emissions controls for all airlines flying anywhere in Europe. Airlines now will be required to pay or trade for gas emission allowances, beginning Jan. 1, although the first year is largely free of charge. 

Could the U.S. be far behind in creating a similar cap-and-trade system? The EU fight doesn't make it look good.

“A number of U.S. airlines and then the U.S. airline industry association [now known as Airlines for America] fought it in the European courts, which is why we had this decision [Wednesday],” said Martin Wagner, managing attorney for the International Program at Earthjustice. The group joined a coalition of environmental groups in support of the EU position at the high court in Luxembourg. India and China registered objections to the EU regs. MORE

Increasing Atmospheric Concentrations of New Flame Retardants Found

Samples found at Point Petre in Ontario, Canada

flame retardant symbolCompounds used in new flame-retardant products are showing up in the environment at increasing concentrations, according to a recent study by researchers at Indiana University Bloomington.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, reports on concentrations of two compounds measured in atmospheric samples collected in the Great Lakes region between 2008 and 2010. Authors are doctoral student Yuning Ma, Assistant Research Scientist Marta Venier and Distinguished Professor Ronald A. Hites, all of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The chemicals -- 2-ethylhexyl tetrabromobenzoate, also known as TBB; and bis(2-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate, or TBPH -- are used to reduce flammability in such products as electronic devices, textiles, plastics, coatings and polyurethane foams.MORE


red dotNew Flame Retardant Levels Rising Rapidly

Air Pollution: Air concentrations of the brominated chemicals doubled every 13 months in recent years in Cleveland and Chicago

red dotPotentially Toxic Flame Retardants Detected in Baby Products


The Hidden Toll of Traffic Jams

Scientists Increasingly Link Vehicle Exhaust With Brain-Cell Damage, Higher Rates of Autism

traffic exhaustCongested cities are fast becoming test tubes for scientists studying the impact of traffic fumes on the brain.

As roadways choke on traffic, researchers suspect that the tailpipe exhaust from cars and trucks—especially tiny carbon particles already implicated in heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments—may also injure brain cells and synapses key to learning and memory.

New public-health studies and laboratory experiments suggest that, at every stage of life, traffic fumes exact a measurable toll on mental capacity, intelligence and emotional stability. "There are more and more scientists trying to find whether and why exposure to traffic exhaust can damage the human brain," says medical epidemiologist Jiu-Chiuan Chen at the University of Southern California who is analyzing the effects of traffic pollution on the brain health of 7,500 women in 22 states. "The human data are very new." MORE

Carbon dioxide emissions show record jump

Latest research on carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels shows they have increased by half in the last 20 years

bibycle riders in pollutionCarbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have increased by half in the last 20 years, giving the world much less chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, according to new data.

The research was published as lead negotiators were arriving at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, where prospects of a new global treaty on climate change appeared to have stalled, with deep divisions between developed and developing countries.

Last year, emissions from burning fossil fuels rose by 5.9%, bringing the total rise since 1990, the baseline year for calculating emissions under the Kyoto protocol, to 49%, an average rate of increase of about 3.1% a year.

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, and an author of the research, said the data showed that little had been achieved in the past two decades in reducing the risks from climate change. MORE


'Slime' could offer greenhouse-gas solution

Dr.Patrick McGinn, Research Officer NRC Institute for Marine Biosciences, looks over algae next to the Tubular Photobioreactor at their facility in Ketch Harbour,NS, November 17, 2011. Research is being conducted in using algae to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.At a federal lab here on the windy shores of Nova Scotia, the hunt is on for super slime.

Algae plucked from creeks and ponds as far away as Alberta's oil patch and southern Ontario's industrial corridor are turning flasks of water bright green as scientists search for promising candidates. The faster the organisms suck up carbon dioxide, the better, as John McDougall, president of the National Research Council, envisions big things for the lowly microbes.

McDougall is a longtime and unabashed promoter of using algae to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and has lobbied for years to get government to invest in a pilot project.

Now, McDougall, who was appointed president of the National Research Council in 2010, is focusing some of the council's considerable resources on making the algae grow-op a reality. MORE

BC's Quest for Carbon Neutrality: Reports from Canada's Climate Policy Frontier

BC's quest for carbon neutralityThis Tyee Solutions Society series sets out to consider just what B.C.'s four-year-old Climate Action Plan has and hasn't accomplished so far, including what informed observers say deserves rethinking. Veteran journalists Chris Pollon and Tom Barrett take the measure of Carbon Plan support -- or not -- in today's political context; look in on how B.C.'s unique-in-North-America carbon tax is working out; pull back the curtain on the mysterious world of carbon "offsets"; and more

The series, The Quest for Carbon Neutrality, is found HERE


Canada's asbestos industry suspends work for first time in 130 years

Export asbestos? Tell Harper to just say no.

MONTREAL—Canada's once-mighty asbestos sector has ground to a halt for the first time in 130 years, as production of the controversial fibre has stalled in both of the country's mines.

A shutdown this month marked a historic milestone for the Canadian asbestos industry, which at one time dominated world production and led to the construction of entire towns in Canada.

Proponents of the industry insist it's way too early write the obituary on Canadian asbestos; they're hoping to start digging again as soon as the spring.

But for now, amid all the noisy political debates and a dramatic anti-asbestos news conference Thursday on Parliament Hill, Canadian production has quietly and suddenly stopped. MORE

Canada's chronic asbestos problem

For Stephen Harper the opportunity to make money is more important than concerns about human health.Most of the world, including the medical community, agrees that asbestos is desperately dangerous. The World Health Organization reports that more than 100,000 people die every year from lung cancer and other respiratory diseases due to asbestos exposure. And many more will die, because 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in their workplaces today and every day.

No surprise, then, that the stuff is effectively banned in Canada. And a surprise, to observers, that Canada exports it to other countries, most notoriously India, where public-health regimes are less vigorous than in Canada.

But that fact is no more mysterious than two forces that are as well known in India as they are in Canada. One is the power of supply and demand. The other is the vacuum of political indifference. MORE

No let up in greenhouse gas rise

Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to yet another high in 2010, according to the UN's weather agency.

WMO Secretary-General Michel JarraudLevels of carbon dioxide (CO2)—he major contributor to climate change—rose by 2.3 parts per million between 2009 and 2010.

That exceeds the average for the past decade of 2.0 parts per million, the World Meteorological Organization says.

The latest round of UN climate talks begin in South Africa in two weeks.

"The atmospheric burden of greenhouse gases due to human activities has yet again reached record levels since pre-industrial time," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

The gas that is of greatest concern to policy makers looking to stem human-induced climate change is CO2


red accentUN reports record greenhouse gas levels

red accentUN: Greenhouse gas levels hit record in 2010



Extreme weather on the rise, but Ottawa cuts imperil research: scientists

Elizabeth May says the funding is "not even a drop in the bucket" compared to costs that are already being racked up by governments dealing with extreme weather.OTTAWA - A United Nations-led assessment of the environment is warning that extreme weather is on the rise around the world, and critics warn federal government cuts are eroding Canada's ability to cope.

Scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say flooding, droughts, storms and devastating heat waves are becoming more and more frequent, hitting the health and the pocketbooks of Canadians.

"We see a vulnerability in ways most of us never think about," said Gordon McBean of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at the University of Western Ontario, and an author of the panel report.

Municipal governments are paying millions for road repairs due to flooding, while insurance companies are paying out hundreds of millions in claims for home repairs and wet basements, he said.

The scientists say governments in Canada and around the world should be taking precautions to deal with the consequences.But federal funding cuts mean a central organization that supports research on the effects of changing weather is poised to close its doors in four-months' time. MORE

Richest 20% of Canadians have biggest carbon footprint

GHG emissions reduction policies should be geared to income: study

Green House Gas per person in Canada

OTTAWA—The richest 20% of Canadian income earners are responsible for almost double (1.8 times) the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of those in the lowest income group, says a new study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The study, Who Occupies the Sky? The Distribution of GHGs in Canada, by Marc Lee, finds household carbon footprints increase with income and concludes that GHG reduction policies must take inequality into consideration.

“It is important to develop an approach to reduce emissions that does not have an unequal impact on families with lower incomes, who have lower emissions to begin with,” says Lee, a CCPA Senior Economist. “Those with higher incomes are able to reduce the emissions —by reducing air travel and investing in home energy efficiency—more easily than low-income families, without affecting their basic needs.”

The study notes that inequality in carbon emissions is more extreme at the very top of the income distribution. Per capita emissions would be even higher for the richest Canadians and correspondingly lower for those with the lowest incomes. MORE

US: Re-election Strategy Is Tied to a Shift on Smog

“This was the worst thing a Democratic president had ever done on our issues,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. “Period.” WASHINGTON—The summons from the president came without warning the Thursday before Labor Day. As she was driven the four blocks to the White House, Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, suspected that the news would not be good. What she did not see coming was a rare public rebuke the president was about to deliver by rejecting her proposal to tighten the national standard for smog.

The half-hour meeting in the Oval Office was not a negotiation; the president had decided against ratcheting up the ozone rule because of the cost and the uncertainty it would impose on industry and local governments. He clearly understood the scientific, legal and political implications. He told Ms. Jackson that she would have an opportunity to revisit the Clean Air Act standard in 2013—if they were still in office. We are just not going to do this now, he said.

The White House announced the decision the next morning, infuriating environmental and public health advocates. They called it a bald surrender to business pressure, an act of political pandering and, most galling, a cold-blooded betrayal of a loyal constituency. MORE

World's 10 Worst Toxic Pollution Problems

Mercury, lead, chromium and other toxic compounds, used in many industrial processes, rob years of healthy life from millions each year. Simple fixes could go far in solving the issue

ELEMENTAL MERCURY:The price of gold affects more than global finances; it also drives the world's most toxic pollution problem, according to new research from the Blacksmith Institute, an environmental health group based in New York City. Miners in countries from across Africa and Southeast Asia use mercury to separate the precious metal from the surrounding rock and silt. To then separate the resulting amalgam of gold and mercury, heat must be applied to vaporize the mercury. Typically, heating occurs over an open gas flame, releasing the potent neurotoxic element into the atmosphere. What's more, the estimated 10 million to 20 million workers who mine for gold this way will all too often inhale the mercury, putting their health at profound risk.

"Small-scale gold mining contributes to one third of the mercury released into the environment today," says physicist Stephan Robinson of Green Cross Switzerland—Blacksmith's partner in the research and ranking—or nearly as much as coal burning by power plants. "This is continuing to increase because of rising gold prices."

The researchers estimate that more than 3.5 million people suffer from mercury-related health effects as a result of such artisanal gold mining, making it the world's worst toxic pollution problem in terms of number of people affected. MORE

Acid rain and the ozone hole

Solving the big environmental calamities requires measuring, monitoring.

Even as the situation worsens, the Harper Government has cancelled the ozone measuring program and muzzled its scientists.Last August, the Harper government announced plans to disable most functions of the ozone measuring network in Canada. Tom Duck, a Dalhousie atmospheric scientist commented, "This is kind of like taking the batteries out of your smoke detector."

Everybody's talking about the weather these days. But contrary to Mark Twain's quip, collectively we have done something about it—or at least about looming hazards such as acid rain and ozone depletion.

In spite of this, the Harper government announced plans in August to disable most functions of the ozone measuring network in Canada. And it gets worse. The Harper government does not permit interviews with the scientists involved and has sent letters warning of "discontinuance of job function" to those employed in this and related programs.

Ozone depletion is only one of the areas where the Harper government is employing a veil of silence. The organization that tracks mercury and other toxins and monitors various indicators in Lake Superior, is still waiting for its annual funding pittance. MORE


Air Pollution To Blame For Massive Cyclones In Asia

typhoonPollution from soot and aerosol emissions may be to blame for the increased destructive power of cyclones in the Middle East and South Asia, according to a recent study.

Unlike tornadoes, which usually form over land and move quickly along narrow paths of destruction, cyclones are known for developing over water, and can last for hours or even days.

Traditionally, prevailing wind-shear patterns prevent cyclones in the Arabian Sea from becoming major storms. A paper appearing in the Nov. 3 issue of the journal Nature, however, suggests the weakening of the winds aloft has enabled the formation of stronger cyclones in recent years—including storms in 2007 and 2010 that were the first recorded storms ever to enter the Gulf of Oman.

Scientists behind the study say pollution from sources such as biomass burning and diesel vehicles have interfered with natural wind patterns, reducing wind shear and enabling cyclones to grow twice as intense. MORE

Air pollution tied to lung cancer in non-smokers

air pollution in Toronto(Reuters Health) - People who have never smoked, but who live in areas with higher air pollution levels, are roughly 20 percent more likely to die from lung cancer than people who live with cleaner air, researchers conclude in a new study.

"It's another argument for why the regulatory levels (for air pollutants) be as low as possible," said Francine Laden, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in the research. MORE



air pollution and climate change

Air pollution and climate change tackling both problems in tandem

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe says scientists and policy makers should no longer treat air pollutionand climate change as distinct problems, because the two are very closely related.

Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere. Indoor air pollution and urban air quality are listed as two of the world's worst pollution problems. The World Health Organization states that 2.4 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution, with 1.5 million of these deaths attributable to indoor air pollution.

atmospheric co2 chart showing atmosphere at 392  ppm co2

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that people spend 90% of their time indoors, but that indoor air quality can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Indoor air pollution can threaten the health -- and the lives -- of everyone in your family.

The extensive use of asbestos in industrial and domestic environments in the past has left a potentially very dangerous material in many localities. Shamefully, the Harper Government still promotes exports of asbestos to the third world. You can help to stop this abuse HERE.

Biological sources of air pollution are also found indoors, as gases and airborne particulates. Pets produce dander, people produce dust from minute skin flakes and decomposed hair, dust mites in bedding, carpeting and furniture produce enzymes and micrometre-sized fecal droppings, inhabitants emit methane, mold forms in walls and generates mycotoxins and spores, air conditioning systems can incubate Legionnaires' disease and mold, and houseplants, soil and surrounding gardens can produce pollen, dust, and mold. Indoors, the lack of air circulation allows these airborne pollutants to accumulate more than they would otherwise occur in nature.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fatalities are often caused by faulty vents and chimneys, or by the burning of charcoal indoors. Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning can result even from poorly adjusted pilot lights. Traps are built into all domestic plumbing to keep sewer gas, hydrogen sulfide, out of interiors. Clothing emits tetrachloroethylene, or other dry cleaning fluids, for days after dry cleaning.

Don't underestimate the impact of this small particle

Soot, also known as black carbon, is the second-leading cause of global warming after carbon dioxide, and it's totally preventable. We already have the technology to avoid producing it; it's just a matter of using it.

We need tighter standards on diesel fuel at home, and we need to finance technology transfer abroad. Addressing black carbon is a climate change solution that Canada can and should lead. There is an opportunity to help HERE

Documents detail Mulroney-era efforts to block U.S. asbestos ban

Video: Harper defends support for asbestos industry

“Harper Governments position is the height of hypocrasy,” says Pat MartinAnti-asbestos lobbyists say former Canadian politicians, ambassadors and bureaucrats abandoned their morals when they successfully lobbied two decades ago to prevent the carcinogenic material from being banned in the United States.

Laurie Kazan-Allen of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, a group based in Britain, told a news conference Tuesday that, “as a consequence of the legal and political actions mounted by Canadian interest, a further 300,000 tons of Canadian asbestos was used in the United States and vast amounts of asbestos-containing products were incorporated into the United States infrastructure.”

Winnipeg MP Pat Martin, who also attended the news conference, agreed that it was morally wrong to promote and export asbestos.

“It's the height of hypocrisy that we're removing all of the asbestos from the Parliament buildings because no MP should be exposed to a single fibre,” the New Democrat said, “but we are dumping as much as 200,000 tons per year into developing and underdeveloped countries where health and safety protocols are minimal or non-existent.” MORE

Premature smog deaths in Prince Edward County

The Ontario Medical Association estimates that there were 25 smog related deaths in Prince Edward County in 2008. Smog-Wise health tips from the OMA are found HERE..

Drive Clean

Ontario's Drive Clean is an automobile emissions control program in Ontario, Canada. It applies only to vehicles in the program coverage areas, which are largely the lower half of Ontario, from Windsor in Southwestern Ontario to Ottawa in Eastern Ontario.

Ontario's Emissions—Four Key Pollutants

Knowing how smog is formed is key to reducing it. In order to reduce the incidence of smog, it is essential to lower emissions of the four key smog-causing pollutants: NOx— SO2—VOCs—PM HERE

Air Issues, challenges, and opportunities

clean air: a citizen's guideDownload this guide.

Use these 25 indoor air quality tips from the American Lung Association to help reduce the risk factors for asthma and other lung illness in your home. HERE

Use these opportunities to reduce your car emissions HERE

Learn about smog and how to protect yourself and your family HERE

Would this work in Prince Edward County?

There's ...the argument that slowing car traffic down is a good thing. In some European cities, planners are finding that making life more difficult for drivers while providing incentives for people to take transit, walk, or cycle creates numerous benefits, from reducing pollution and smog-related health problems to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and making cities safer and friendlier. MORE

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