Particulate Air Pollution By Susan Tang Bio Sci 2B 5/24/06
Air Pollution • Air pollution poses many health risks and different pollutants can lead to respiratory problems, exacerbated allergies, and adverse neurological, reproductive, and developmental effects.
What is Particulate Matter? • Consist of solid and liquid particles in the air from industrial processes, agriculture, construction, road traffic, and natural sources. • Ex: road dust, diesel soot, ash, wood smoke, and sulfate aerosols
Particulates • Range from about 2.5 microns to 100 microns in diameter • Fine particles, those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, generally come from combustion of fossil fuels. • Soot from vehicle exhaust, and fine sulfate and nitrate aerosols that form when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides condense in the atmosphere.
Particulates • Combustion of fossil fuels is the principal source of fine particle emissions • Ex: burning of coal, oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, and wood in transportation, power generation, and space heating • Old coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers, diesel and gas-powered vehicles
Fine Particulate and Health • When particulate matter is breathed in, it can irritate and damage the lungs causing breathing problems. • Particle matter is dangerous to human health, especially fine particles • Fine particles are easily inhaled deeply into the lungs where they can be absorbed into the blood stream and remain embedded for long periods of time. • Can cause and aggravate respiratory disease and infection (asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia), heart disease, stroke, death
Fine Particulates • Vulnerable Population: • Children • Elderly • Pregnant Women • People with heart or lung disease • People with weakened immune systems • People who work or exercise outdoors a lot Lives might be shortened by one to two years on average in more polluted areas.
Research Results • The Environmental Science Engineering Program at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that approximately 4% of the death rate in the US can be attributed to air pollution. • Each year over 30,000 deaths and more than 603,000 asthma attacks are attributable to fine particle pollution from US power plants. (Abt Associates)
The American Cancer Society and Harvard University found that people living in more polluted cities had an increased risk of premature death compared to those in cleaner cities • USC study found that children and teenagers in Southern California communities with higher levels of air pollution were more likely to have diminished lung function.
WHO Results • During major pollution events, World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that daily mortality rates could increase as much as 20 % • Caution: Number may be inflated since those who died during a pollution episode were already sick, and the pollution may have hastened the death by only a few days.
Numerous studies suggest that health effects can occur at particulate levels that are at or below the levels permitted under national and international air quality standards • Scientists have not been able to identify a threshold below which health effects do not occur. • This situation has prompted a vigorous debate about whether current air quality standards are sufficient to protect public health.
Ways to Reduce Air Pollution • Carpooling, recycling, maintaining automobiles, walking and bicycling, public transportation, insulating homes • Limit the use of fireplaces and wood burning stoves. • Support clean air programs and help counter industry pressure to weaken the Clean Air Act.
Works Cited • http://whyfiles.org/030air_pollution/air2.html • http://www.epa.gov/air/oaqps/eog/course422/ce4a.html • http://healthandenergy.com/air_pollution_health_effects.htm • http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution/qbreath.asp • http://pubs.wri.org/pubs_content_text.cfm?ContentID=1308 • http://www.envirohealthaction.org/pollution/health_effects/