Fri, 14 September 2007
Ozone can be both very harmful, and a life-sustaining feature of our planet's composition. Stratospheric ozone, a layer far above ground level, perpetually protects us from the sun's harmful UV rays. But ground-level ozone, a byproduct of pollution from tailpipes and smokestacks that reacts in sunlight to form what we know better as smog, creates a dangerous and even deadly situation. Ground-level ozone smog has significant health impacts ranging from inducing or worsening asthma to contributing to premature deaths. Medical research tells us clearly that ozone pollution must be decreased in order to protect public health today, and in the world of tomorrow.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the health impacts of ground-level ozone on human beings; the agency was given the responsibility under the federal Clean Air Act to take steps to reduce and prevent pollution that hurts human health. Ozone pollution standards currently in effect have not done enough to protect us, and the EPA is now considering whether to tighten up the rules, and if so, by how much. Early indications are that the EPA's proposals are falling short of scientific recommendations on the issue. A series of five public hearings are being held by the EPA to discuss the challenge of reducing ozone in our air, and a public comment period on the proposed rule is open until October 9th, 2007.
In this podcast, PennFuture's Christine Knapp, who testified on behalf of PennFuture at the Philadelphia hearing, speaks with several individuals who took time to publicly comment on the need for a more protective ozone standard. Join us in listening as Natalie McCloskey, volunteer for the American Lung Association, Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association, and Ben Dunham, Associate Legal Counsel for EarthJustice share their perspectives on the many problematic impacts of ozone on our lives.
To read more about the EPA's findings on the impact of ozone, view their ozone section of their web site. To find out more information about how PennFuture is working to protect health and improve air quality, please visit our Web Site. There you can also make a tax-deductible contribution. We encourage you to join us in discussion of these issues by e-mailing us at podcast (at) pennfuture (dot) org, or commenting through the link below.
Thu, 1 March 2007
Did you know that while we spend only about 6 percent of our time each day commuting, it is during that short period of time that we get about half our daily dose of diesel exhaust? This may not sound like a big deal, but diesel exhaust is a nasty brew of all sorts of harmful pollution, delivered in the form of tiny particles that needlessly lead to health problems and shorten life spans.
Fine particle pollution, including diesel, can cause lung cancer, stroke, heart attack, infant death, and triggers asthma attacks. It can even cause people's allergies to get worse.
The Clean Air Task Force just released a new report documenting that diesel exhaust levels are four to eight times worse inside commuter cars, buses, and trains as compared to the outside air. This is due to long-haul trucks with diesel engines on the road in front of you, or the diesel engine in the bus or train you ride.
The report has a major up side, however. For diesel engines where a simple filter was installed, or other modern pollution controls were applied, pollution levels for commuters were next to nothing.
These simple, effective controls are available, but we need increased funding and other incentives and requirements to make retrofitting existing diesel vehicles with pollution controls a high priority.
There are already major efforts underway across the country, but we need your help to get it done. PennFuture is one of the many organizations participating in the State Diesel Initiative. The Group Against Smog and Pollution and Clean Water Action have led the way in southwestern Pennsylvania to curb diesel idling and to make diesel retrofitting in school buses and other vehicles possible. The Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania has been on the front lines of cleaning the air not only in their part of the state, but in petitioning the Environmental Quality Board in Pennsylvania to enact a statewide anti-idling rule for large diesel vehicles. In the Philadelphia area, PennFuture is coordinating the Next Great City initiative, where one of the 10 recommended actions is reducing asthma caused by soot from city vehicles-- by installing diesel particulate filters. The initiative is backed by more than 70 organizations. This is just a sampling of some of the work going on.
PennFuture firmly supports sustainable funding for and the expansion and use of all forms of public transportation. The benefits of transit are enormous, in terms of improved overall air quality and otherwise. But we are also working to ensure that diesel engines get cleaned up so that commuting is healthier and safer for everyone on or living near the road, track, or port.
Category:Air Quality -- posted at: 8:02 AM
Wed, 21 February 2007
In our last podcast, we shared excerpts from a recent presentation in Pittsburgh by Yellowstone National Park's environmental manager Jim Evanoff, detailing many of the amazing greening and sustainability initiatives being undertaken there.
This week, a study has been released showing that air quality in the park is markedly improved. Guess those initiatives are working!
Category:Air Quality -- posted at: 6:45 AM
Tue, 8 August 2006
Between May and September each year, Pennsylvania's Air Quality Partnership is responsible for increasing the public's awareness about air quality and health effects associated with days where our air quality is poor. Generally speaking, there is cause for concern on hot days when pollution in the air from coal-fired power plants, vehicles, and other sources like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off-gassing from buildings in populous areas undergoes a chemical reaction in the presence of sunlight, and creates low-lying ozone or smog. Fine particles, or soot, from power plant, industrial, and vehicle emissions also cause serious health problems.
To keep the public informed, Air Quality Action Days are forecast when conditions are expected to become dangerous. Days are coded green, yellow, orange, and red (from best to worst), and purple and maroon are reserved for the most unhealthy or even downright hazardous days for all groups of people. On Code Green days, there are generally very few health effects likely from the quality of air, but on Code Red days, everyone should limit their physical activity outdoors, and sensitive groups of people (those with asthma or underlying lung or heart conditions) are advised to stay indoors altogether.
It's no secret that we've had an especially hot July in 2006. In fact, nationwide, July was the hottest year on record, taking over the spot from July 1936 during the Dust Bowl. Not only were July days scorchers, so too were July nights. All over the nation, entire regions were experiencing back to back Code Orange days. In areas of the Midwest and into Pittsburgh, there were periods of entire days where soot pollution hit the Code Red level. Along the East Coast in mid-July, air was so bad, it was indexed at Code Purple.
But what does this mean for real people? In Pennsylvania in 2005, the American Lung Association recognized over 10 million people who are considered to be at-risk for health impacts on poor air quality days. This includes people under 18 and over 65, people with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Nearly one million Pennsylvanians suffer from asthma alone, and asthma rates are on the rise. Emergency room visits and ozone action days go hand-in-hand; there is a direct correlation between the need for respiratory treatments at the hospital and bad smog pollution. We also know that pollution from power plants and diesel leads to increased numbers of premature deaths in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
In this podcast, PennFuture's D.J. Trischler sets out during an ozone action day in Pittsburgh to talk with people who are most directly affected. He interviews Rick Ober who suffers from adult asthma, and who tries not to go outdoors at all on especially hot days, when air quality alerts are at their worst. D.J.'s grandfather, Ronald Trischler, describes how living with pulmonary fibrosis has altered his life, forcing him into early retirement. Mr. Trischler depends on a liquid oxygen tank. On ozone action days, he uses more oxygen than usual, and takes up to a half an hour just to get out of bed each day. He has noticed the frequency of hot summer days and bad air quality increasing over the past 10 years. Lastly, D.J. talks with UPMC Presbyterian Hospital respiratory therapist Matt Pladik about his experiences inside the medical community. Pladik notes that on poor air quality days, therapists working in the emergency room are kept busy with patients requiring breathing treatments, and he attributes the rise in asthma rates he's seeing professionally to environmental causes.
To learn more about Pennsylvania's Air Quality Partnership, visit the site here. You can sign up to receive the daily air quality forecast by e-mail, and see the number of problem days throughout the state to date. To get involved in taking actions to help improve Pennsylvania's air quality, contact us at podcast (at) pennfuture (dot) org. PennFuture is working throughout the state to support the implementation of the Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles Program, combat power plant pollution, and to reduce harmful diesel emissions, just to name a few.
Fri, 10 March 2006
On March 8, 2006 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held one of only a few public hearings in the nation in Philadelphia on its recent proposed air quality standards for fine particles, commonly known as "soot." The other two hearings were held in Chicago and San Francisco. Hundreds of people from all walks of life and different perspectives attended the hearing, the large majority testifying on the need for stronger standards that are more protective of health than those proposed by the Bush administration.
In this podcast, PennFuture's Christine Knapp attends the hearing and speaks with Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic and Natalie McCloskie, a mother from New Jersey whose family deals each day with asthma, both among the more than 60 people who testified at the hearing.
We also hear a press conference held outside the hearing, organized by PennEnvironment, featuring Energy & Clean Air Advocate Nathan Willcox; Natalie McCloskie and her son who suffers from asthma; Maryland State Delegate and Chair of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators James Hubbard; Dr. George Thurston from the NYU School of Medicine; Rev. Sandra L. Strauss, Director of Public Advocacy for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches; Wick Havens, Chief of the Division of Air Resources Management at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Air Quality, representing STAPPA and ALAPCO, a national association of state and local air pollution control officials; and Paul G. Billings, Vice President of National Policy & Advocacy for the American Lung Association.
PennEnvironment released a study in January 2006 called "Plagued by Pollution," detailing how soot from coal-fired power plants and diesel engines cause serious health problems including asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and premature death even at levels of particulates in the air lower than the currently-proposed EPA standards.
PennFuture supports the need for tighter health-based standards on soot pollution. We represent citizens in Masontown, Pennsylvania and are working to reduce soot pollution from the Hatfield's Ferry coal-fired power plant in Greene County.