On October 1, 2017, a new ozone standard took effect in the US amid widely differing opinions. In late 2014, the EPA had proposed lowering the ozone standard to a between 65 to 70 from the current standard of 75 ppb (set in 2008 under the Bush administration). Public discussion was heated with many groups urging the EPA to maintain the existing standard. On October 1, 2015, under a court-ordered deadline, the EPA finalized the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) standard at 70 ppb.Read More
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Several Air Force bases in the United States have recently unveiled their new Reduced Oxygen Breathing Devices (ROBD). The ROBD simulates altitude exposure and can be utilized for both research and training purposes. The U. S. Armed Forces use the ROBD 2 to train aircrew to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypoxia and to perform the appropriate emergency procedures. Congratulations to these sites on their new facilities!Read More
This week, the US House of Representative's Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee discussed H.R. 806, known as the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017. HR 806 was introduced on February 1, 2017 by Pete Olson, the Representative for Texas's 22nd congressional district and cosponsored by Mr. Flores, Mr. Latta, Mr. Bishop of Georgia, Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Cuellar, Mr. Scalise, Mr. Costa, Mr. Cramer, Mr. Long, Mr. Jenkins of West Virginia, Mr. Burgess, Mr. Renacci, Mr. Hensarling, Mr. McKinley, Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Bucshon, Mr. Johnson of Ohio, Mr. Weber of Texas, and Mr. Babin.Read More
This week, the US House of Representative's Appropriations Subcommittee held hearings to discuss President Trump’s 2018 budget request for the EPA. Newly appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruit testified before the subcommittee regarding the proposed 30% cut to the EPA budget and the impact this might have both in terms of funding for various projects as well as the workforce reduction. The hearing lasted about two hours, with Representatives from both parties asking Administrator Pruitt questions about the cut. The main focus was the impact such cuts would have on the local and regional air, water and land pollution protection/cleanup programs that exist within their districts.Read More
As we end the summer, this year is expected to be the hottest on record for the second year in a row. Climate change is on the forefront of President Obama's mind in his final months in office. Last week, he delivered paperwork commiting the US to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gas pollution to about a quarter below the levels from 2005 by 2025. Likewise, China , the leading producer of greenhouse gas, has committed to a halt in emissions by 2030. A large part of this decrease has been attributed to the reduction in coal consumption.Read More
On June 2, following an announcement by President Obama, the US EPA presented the Clean Power Plan, "a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plant" with the stated goal of maintaining "an affordable, reliable energy system" while reducing pollutants that are harmful to people as well as the environment."
Throughout the US, power plant emissions account for roughly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, there are no national guidelines to limit carbon pollution levels, though the levels of other toxins, including arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particles, are restricted. In the US, CO2 emissions account for 82% of all green house gas emisions, according to data reported by the EPA from 1990-2012.
Although the mandate is set at the federal level, the guidelines give states the ability to establish their own internal goals and to design a program based on their specific needs and capabilities. These plans must be submitted to the EPA by June 2016. Each state's plan must have enforceable limits, and must include how the levels will be reported and monitored. There must also be a method for corrective actions for those who fall short. The EPA will require biannual reporting of the state's progress.
Once the plan is accepted, states have to reach interim goals by 2020 and have until 2030 to meet the final goal of a 30% decrease in carbon emissions from the levels reported in 2005. To put that in perspective, that is equal to the emissions from powering 65 million homes, roughly half of the homes in America.
In addition to the 30% reduction in carbon emissions, the Clean Power Plan will also result in the reduction of particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent. Consumers should also benefit from a roughly 8 percent decrease in their electric bills due to increased energy efficiency and reduced demand in the electricity system.
Recently, the US EPA released their final proposal to update the new source performance standards (NSPS) for new woodstoves and heaters, and to add NSPS for the first time for pellet stoves, furnaces, hydronic heaters, and masonry heaters. The measures, if approved, would take effect in 2015. The report states, "Emissions from wood stoves occur near ground level in residential communities across the country, and setting these new requirements for cleaner stoves into the future will result in substantial reductions in exposure and improved public health."
Wood heaters release smoke which increases the levels of various pollutants into the air. These include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide and particles (soot), all of which cause serious health concerns. Those at greatest threat are children, the elderly and those with breathing conditions such as allergies, asthma, emphysema or other lung diseases.
The proposal states that the tighter regulation will mean heaters burn 80% cleaner than those on the market today. Consumers will see cost savings due to lower fuel consumption and in projected health cost savings. The total benefits are estimated to be $1.8 to $2.4 billion annually.The proposal is open for comment for 90 days and a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26, 2014. To read the proposal, visit the EPA's website.
While these regulations aim to improve air quality in the US, scientists in India are striving to improve the conditions in India. In 2012, India was ranked as having the worst air quality of the countries studied and in 2013 they ranked second to last. Outdoor air pollution led to approx. 165,000 deaths in 2008 (up from ~141,000 in 2004) while internal air pollution claimed ~500,000 in 2004 according to World Health Organization figures.
The largest single source of these pollutants is the traditional cooking stoves, known as chullas. One can find a chulla, which burns wood, remains of crops or dung, in more than 100 million Indian households. A high level of smoke is generated due to poor fuel consumption. The stoves use a great deal of fuel and the required cook times are long. Since the cooking is done in the home, the poor indoor air quality effects women and children, who spend more time in the home, the most. Scientists compared daily use of the traditional chulla to smoking 40 cigarettes a day.
In addition, the environmental impact is high due both to the high consumption of wood as a fuel and the output of toxic smoke.
Development of a move efficient stove aims to help. These stoves, sold under the name Annapurna. In Hinduism, Annapurna is the goddess of food and cooking, and in Sanskrit, the name Anna means “food” and purna means “filled completely.”
The Annapurna stoves have better combustion, require less fuel and cook more quickly, all leading to reduced pollution. These stoves can run on electricity or can be set up to use a solar charged battery. The efficiency of the stove comes from the addition of a small fan that draws air into the combustion chamber. The manufacturer had the stove tested by accredited laboratories and saw a 50% decrease in fuel needs, a 70% decrease in smoke and a 50% decrease in cooking time. Small changes such as this will make a large impact in the effort to improve air quality throughout India.
To see a news story about this technology, check out this video from The Time of India.
The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (US EPA) recently released a series of 30 sec and 1 minute public service videos on climate change. The videos discuss small changes people can make to their daily lives that have an impact on emissions. Citizens are encouraged to reduce the amount of energy they use to both cut their own utility costs and protect their health. The cumultive effect of these small changes to the economy and environment are stressed. The series was developed in support of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, released in June. In his plan, the President stressed the importance of reducing carbon pollution while simultaneously prepareing for the impacts of changes to the climate.
What do you think? Do you give thought to how your actions may impact the climate? What things do you do at work and home to minimize your carbon "footprint."
You can watch the videos here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBhfkkujnoRAgTFtLreccWDfpxBIspCGv
Here in CT, we are entering the months where unhealthy air quality emerges with the heat levels this summer. The American Lung Association has released an new advertising campaign featuring TV, online and billboard ads announcing the new State of the Air® smartphone application. The app, available for iPhone and Android, allows users to view EPA collected data on the air quality at their current location or at any other location of choice. Read this post to learn more about this data. The app is being praises as a user-friendly resource for people for low air quality affects most profoundly, those living with lung disease (such as asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes and the elderly and children.
ALA of the Northeast President and CEO, Jeff Seyler, was quoted to say, “We are excited to be able to provide this innovative tool so those with lung disease, and without, can effectively monitor their local air quality and limit their exposure to dangerous levels of pollution.”
The State of the Air app provides both the current and next-day air quality forecasts. Users can set alerts to notify them when the local air quality fails to a code orange, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Along with the quality information, the app provides tips on what activities are to be avoided depending on the current conditions.
The television and online messages are aimed at young people. They feature Alvin Grimes, an air collector, who collects air samples in glass jars. The promos tie into the ALA tagline "What are your lungs collecting?" "Alvin" has his own, twitter account and facebook page where he shares tips and information on air and air pollution. The TV spots can be viewed on his youtube page (one example below).
To learn more about Ozone and how it is generated at ground level, check out this story and its follow-up piece!
Image and Video - courtesy of the American Lung Association