Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Most car pollution comes from 25% of cars

Stop-and-go traffic
increases emissions.
When it comes to polluting the environment, not all cars (or drivers) are created equal.

A recent study conducted by University of Toronto researchers found that just 25 percent of cars they measured produced about 90 percent of the total traffic-related air pollution.

Pollutants like carbon dioxide (CO2) are known to have a negative impact on climate change, but cars also emit a wide array of pollutants associated with lung cancer, respiratory diseases, and heart disease. The researchers focused on measuring these types of pollutants, and found that just a quarter of cars produced the majority of particulates and carbon monoxide in the area.

Jonathan Wang, one of the authors of the study and a chemical engineering PhD student at the University of Toronto, said the chief polluters were older cars in need of a tune-up.

“We found it was a large amount of transport trucks, but a good proportion was just cars – a mixture of both,” Wang said. “We suspect they were older vehicles.”

The researchers took real-time measurements of the exhaust of about 100,000 cars driving past air-sampling probes on one of Toronto’s busiest roads. The study was borne out of concern that vehicle fleet emissions spread farther than previously known.

In addition to total particulates and carbon monoxide, the researchers found that a quarter of cars measured produced over 76 percent of pollutants like benzene, toluene, and other known carcinogens.

Besides driving an older vehicle (anything older than seven years), Wang said driving behavior could also have a huge impact on pollution.

“Cruising at normal speeds is better than heavy braking and heavy acceleration,” he said. “Stop-and-go traffic can increase emissions for vehicles.”

The report shows that drivers have pretty good control over local car pollution, Wang said. Modifying your driving behavior, maintaining your vehicle with regular oil changes and air filter replacements, and choosing a newer car with good gas mileage could all impact air quality.

So if you want to buy a car that doesn’t ruin the world, here’s where to start:

• Buy newer
• Do your research
• Consider multiple pollutants
• Get a car record

This article has been edited for length. Source: Boston.com

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Toxic pollutants in fracking county air

New study finds fracking releases cancer-causing chemicals into the air many times higher than the EPA considers safe

The fracking process releases toxic chemicals into the air.
Emissions generated by fracking operations may be exposing people to some toxic pollutants at levels higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for long-term exposure, according to scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati.

The researchers took air samples in Carroll County, the home of 480 permitted wells––the most in any of Ohio's 88 counties.

The team found chemicals released during oil and gas extraction that can raise people's risk of cancer and respiratory ailments.

Researchers caution they don't want to create undue alarm with their findings, but they say they hope the results will highlight the urgent need to conduct more in-depth studies of fracking emissions and the potential effects on human health.

"What we see here suggests that more needs to be known about the risks people face when exposed," said study co-leader Erin Haynes, a University of Cincinnati scientist.

Based on the data collected, researchers calculated the cancer risk posed by airborne contaminants in the Carroll County study areas.

For the worst-case scenario––exposure 24 hours a day over 25 years––they found that a person anywhere in the study area would be exposed at a risk level exceeding the threshold the EPA deems acceptable.

The lifetime cancer risk in the study area estimated for maximum residential exposure was 2.9 in 10,000, which is nearly three times the EPA's acceptable risk level of 1 in 10,000, according to the study.

Anderson cautioned that the study numbers are worst-case estimates and can't predict the risk to any individual.

The EPA did not respond to questions about the findings.

The study focused on pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). These are organic compounds containing carbon and hydrogen, found in fossil fuels.

The study mirrored other research conducted in heavily fracked areas of the country, including Texas and Pennsylvania, that have focused on volatile organic compounds. These chemicals, including benzene and toluene, also are carbon-based chemicals in the same chain as those studied in Ohio––and they present similar dangers to human health.

With fracking on the rise across the country, the study authors and other scientists say there are simply too many unknowns about the potential health effects associated with the toxic chemicals released from oil and gas operations.

'Growing Concerns and a Lot of Questions'

The study got its start when a group of citizens approached Haynes, a public health expert at the University of Cincinnati, seeking information about health risks from natural gas extraction near their homes.

None of those people said they were sickened by breathing the air, but they wanted to know more about the potential consequences, Anderson said.

"There was some concern with all of the wells that were starting to go in around their homes," Anderson said. "People want to know; wanted to get answers about how all the [fracking] activity might be affecting them."

Anderson and her associates teamed with Haynes to design a study that relied on volunteers to collect air samples in Carroll County, which is home to about 30,000 people.

After volunteers were recruited through a community meeting and word-of-mouth, air samplers were placed on the properties of 23 volunteers; they lived or worked at sites ranging from immediate proximity to a gas well to a little more than three miles away.

The aluminum box monitors contained specially treated material that absorbed contaminants. The volunteers were trained in proper handling of the samplers and documenting data.

At the conclusion of the study, the samplers were sealed in airtight bags and returned to Anderson's lab at OSU for analysis.

The samplers picked up high levels of pollution associated with fracking in the areas studied, according to the report. Levels taken within one-tenth of a mile of a well were highest; they decreased by about 30 percent in samples taken a little more than three miles from a well.

Source: Inside Climate News 
This article has been edited for length.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Workplace safety apps on the rise

New apps help with occupational health and safety tasks.
As the world keeps changing, so does the world of occupational health and safety.

While technology continues to evolve, workplace safety needs to adapt as well.
That’s why cell-phone apps designed for occupational health and safety functions have become important in the marketplace.

New programs for smartphones and tablets can assist with all kinds of tasks, ranging from safety inspections and incident reports to emergency alerts and contacting remote colleagues when alone and in danger.

“Lives are at stake,” says Matthew Ross, media manager with ProntoForms Corporation, a mobile-solution company based in Kanata, Ontario. “People absolutely need to be able to process these types of info as fast as possible.”

ProntoForms has created an app that sends and receives forms and vital work information quickly.

“With the push of a button, the info is sent to wherever you like,” Ross explains. “You can send to a variety of cloud services.”

Such forms could include inspection checklists, safety lists, data on hazardous materials, action reports and even statements from accident witnesses, he adds.

“We’ve got such incredible positive feedback from clients because the processing is so much faster.”

Apart from increased safety, a side benefit of the ProntoForms app is a sharp reduction in paperwork.

“People are looking to help make their lives easier and make their jobs easier,” says Jason Grouette, business manager of the personal safety division for 3M Canada in London, Ontario.

3M Canada provides a practical new app that assists employees assigned to buy safety equipment for their companies, including distributors, health and safety managers and some end users.

Simply called Safety, the app gives the user instant access to more than 2,400 workplace safety products available from 3M.

Honeywell Safety Products in Morristown, New Jersey offers a similar product, the Media App, which gives users access to product information and learning resources on personal protective equipment available from Honeywell.

So why have workplace safety apps become more prevalent?

“We are in a different world that we were a decade ago,” says Grouette. “People have an expectation of finding answers very quickly and addressing problems quickly.”

“It’s driven by a bunch of things,” explains Ross. “The technology on Smartphones and tablets has gotten stronger and more powerful. So it has enabled us to include better features, time-savings, cost savings, high-productivity features. Another thing is the BYOD trend – bring-your-own-device trend – in businesses, so companies are more comfortable with employees using their own devices.”

Ross points out that the construction and oil and gas industries tend to supply ProntoForms’ biggest customers for health and safety products. But restaurant chains also use the ProntoForms app for information about cleanliness and other oh&s issues, he adds.

“The speed of data collection and processing is something that is invaluable in the industry.”

Grouette lists oil and gas, mining and manufacturing as sectors that benefit highly from 3M’s products, including the Safety app.

Many safety apps, including some of the aforementioned ones, are available to employers and workers for free.

Source: OHS Canada

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