Category Archives: Clean air


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5.  Dzershinsk, Russia—population 300,000:  The largest chemical weapons site in Russian history.   Between 1930 and 1998, 300,000 tons of toxic waste was improperly disposed of within the borders of this town.  Some pollutants exceed safe limits of exposure by 17,000,000 times.

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6.  Niger Delta, Nigeria—population 31,000,000–Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 2010:  In the last 50 years, there have been more than 6800 oil spills in the region, totaling from 9,000,000 to 13,000,000 barrels since oil drilling began in Nigeria.  The 700,000-square-kilometer Niger Delta is one of the largest and most significant wetlands in the world, with most of the Delta’s 31,000,000 population depending on the land for their livelihood.

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7.  Lake Karachai, Russia:  Decades-long dumping ground for the Soviet Union’s nuclear waste.  Dubbed one of the most polluted sites on Earth, Lake Karachai is so toxic that standing on its shores for only one hour delivers a lethal dose of radiation.

Despite thousands of concrete blocks dumped into it to prevent the shifting of radioactive sediment, the lake and its area will continue to be toxic for hundreds of year.

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8.  Linfen, China:  A city dubbed China’s Chernobyl where laundry hung out turns black before it dries, though it had been known for its clean spring water and fertile farmland in the 1980s.   A booming coal industry producing inefficient power plants and employing legal and illegal coalmines changed the city from an ecological paradise into a pile of ash.

Source:  Discovery News, August 8, 2013



1284607055KSuKT3Worldwide, electric power-generating stations annually release about 12,000,000,000 tons of CO2 from the combustion of oil, coal and natural gas.

Home and commercial heating is responsible for another 11,000,000,000 tons, together releasing 23,000,000,000 tons of CO2, all contributing to climate change.

But what if that greenhouse gas were harnessed and converted into electricity?

“Why not?” was the response of Bert Hamelers and colleagues from Wetsus, the Dutch center of excellence in sustainable water technology.

The team used a capacitive electrochemical cell:

“Built roughly like a battery, the cell has two electrodes—one surrounded by a membrane that allows hydrogen ions to flow in and out, and the other that does the same with bicarbonate ions, produced when carbon dioxide is bubbled through water.”

They harvest the chemical energy in CO2 emissions using a two-stage process:

First, by pumping water flushed with CO2 through the cell, they caused the hydrogen and carbonate ions to flow into their respective electrodes.  The ion separation charged the cell and drove an electrical current.

Second, once the electrodes had reached their capacity to absorb ions, researchers pumped air-bubbled CO2 emissions from power plants, industrial smokestacks and residential heating worldwide through the cell, thus driving the ions out of the electrodes and back into the cell.

By repeating these two steps, the cell produces electrical power.

The potential for the new process could generate about 1570 terawatt-hours of power each year, about 400 times that produced by the Hoover Dam.

Like other hydroelectric power facilities, the Wetsus-produced electricity wouldn’t add to global carbon dioxide emissions.

Source:   Smart Planet Daily, July 25, 2013        Science NOW, July 2013       Study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, July 25, 2013


2013_0612-4The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) held a press conference Tuesday with makers of the documentary Triple Divide as a “cautionary tale” for oil and gas fracking in Ohio. OEC said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has yet to begin monitoring of the industry under 2012 legislation that could address at least part of the filmmakers concerns over water contamination

OEC’s director of water policy and environmental health, Melanie Houston, hosted a webinar and answer session with investigative journalists Josh Pribanic and Melissa Troutman of Public Herald, who say Pennsylvania’s history with horizontal hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” of Marcellus shale shows “Americans suffering in the wake of shale oil and gas development.” They offer those experiences as a warning to Ohio.

Pribanic and Troutman, both originally from northern Ohio, say the state still has a chance to learn from its neighbor. “Ohio is really in the infancy stage in shale gas development, compared to Pennsylvania,” said Troutman.

Triple Divide is named after a unique continental transition zone and network of rivers in northwestern Pennsylvania where its fracking industry is concentrated. The film documents what they claim are various regulatory anomalies in the state, including an alleged failure by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to compare certain pre- and post-drilling water tests that could have exposed the effects of fracking on potable water.

“When tests are dismissed, it changes the water quality history of an area, saying a pre-existing condition, not fracking, caused the water contamination,” they said.

In one case, Chesapeake Energy Corp. ignored a pre-drill test with the complicity of DEP, said Pribanic.

In another, the “blow-out” of a fracking well into nearby waterways produced a 10-fold increase in methane, sodium and other contaminants. Guardian Exploration was also found to have buried fracking waste not approved by DEP, Pribanic said.

In fact, he said, only half of all fracking waste is ever extracted from shale formations, proliferating the number of disposal wells.

In Pennsylvania, pre-drill testing is technically required, post-drill testing only occurs in response to complaints, and even then is not well monitored by authorities, Pribanic said. In Ohio, Houston said Gov. John Kasich’s energy legislation in Mid-Biennium Review measure 129-SB315 (Jones) included a provision for pre-drill water testing, but no requirement for post-drill testing.

“While that is a step forward, we are nowhere near where we need to be in the regulation of this industry,” Houston said, noting it’s still

not clear who will monitor testing. “We don’t have rules in place yet. My understanding so far is that Ohio EPA is not involved.”

Troutman and Pribanic were asked whether they believe there is any way to perform horizontal hydraulic fracking without endangering nearby inhabitants.

“According to the information that we found, they have a lot of complaints when it comes to wells, they have a lot of spills, and they have a lot of failures,” Pribanic said. “I can’t say that hydraulic fracturing at this point is being conducted in a safe way.”

Troutman questioned the notion of safety, saying hydraulic fracking uses such intense pressure that it moves substructures underground. “Any statement like that would be very risky.”

They said their documentary is different from “hearsay” exposes on horizontal fracking.

“We’re not giving you our views in the film. We’re not giving you our bias. We are giving you the evidence,” said Pribanic.

OEC issued a follow-up statement following the press conference. “Through thorough investigative journalism, Triple Divide presents a compelling case that the gas land communities of Ohio may be in for more than clogged roads and a temporary surge in retail dollars from itinerant oil and gas workers. They may be in for a real rude awakening,” said Houston.

She provided the following screening dates for Triple Divide in Ohio: Sept. 10, 7 pm, Columbus – Gateway Film Center Sept. 12, 6 pm, Mansfield – Relax, It’s Just Coffee Sept. 19, 7 pm, Granville – Denison University

Sept. 20, 7 pm, Springfield – Senior & Community Center Sept. 21, 7 pm, Rocky River – West Shore UU Church Sept. 22, 6 pm, Youngstown – B&O Banquet Hall Sept. 23, 6 pm, Salem – The Memorial Building

Sept. 24, 7 pm, Bowling Green – Grounds for Thought Sept. 25, 5:50 pm, Toledo – Maumee Branch Library Sept. 27, 7 pm, Sandusky – Harlequins Community Theatre

More information on Public Herald is available at Also, see:

Film Festival Gags Fracking Documentary as Radiation is Discovered in Local Waterway

SOURCE:  Ohio Environmental Press Conference, September 3, 2013


stock-photo-hongkong-victoria-harbor-at-haze-day-140330764Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong on smog day

A new study from MIT projects that the 500,000,000 Chinese people living north of China’s Huai River will suffer a combined reduced life expectancy of 2,500,000,000 years because of particulate pollution from coal used to power and heat the region.  On average, that’s 5 years of life lost for every person in the region because of bad air quality.

As Financial Times points out, that’s the equivalent of reducing the workforce in northern China by one-eighth.

MIT researchers studied the amount of particulates in the air from 1981 to 2000, 1981 being the year Chinese policy began giving free coal to the region north of the river.   During that time period, particulates in the north were 55% higher than in the south.  Mortality statistics showed far more deaths from cardiorespiratory diseases in the north region than in the south.

The research team showed that for every 100 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter added to the atmosphere in any location, not just China, life expectancy at birth is reduced by 3 years.

On its worst days, Beijing’s air pollution was over 900 micrograms per cubic meter.

Michael Greenstone, professor at MIT, conducted the study with colleagues in China and Israel and said, “Everyone understands it’s unpleasant to be in a polluted place.  But to be able to say with some precision what the health costs are, and what the loss of life expectancy is, puts a finer point on the importance of finding policies that balance growth with environmental quality.”

Source:   Smart Planet Daily, July 10, 2013               Study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 8, 2013



Researchers at King’s College London and Anhui Medical University in China conducted a study of 5,921 Chinese people over the age of 60.  They reviewed information about the participants’ dementia statuses, smoking habits and exposure to secondhand smoke.  They found that 10% suffered from severe dementia.

“The increased risk of severe dementia syndromes in those exposed to passive smoking is similar to increased risk of coronary heart disease—suggesting that urgent preventive measures should be taken, not just in China but many other countries,” said study researcher Dr Ruoling Chen, a senior public health lecturer at King’s College London.

Chen continued, “Passive smoking should be considered an important risk factor for severe dementia syndromes, as this study in China shows.  Avoiding exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) may reduce the risk of severe dementia syndromes.”

Another study found the mental decline of a 50-year-old smoking man the same as that of a 60-year-old non-smoking man.

Last December a study concluded that smoking rots the brain, in that it damages parts of the brain responsible for reasoning, memory and learning.

My Take on the information:  Here’s the only sure remedy:


SOURCE:  University of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter, April 2013    Huffington, January 17, 2013   Studies published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in Age and Aging, in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and in Archives in General Psychiatry


9929403-hand-drawn-vector-illustration-of-an-dog-carpet-cleanerSave your breath and $$.  It won’t clean THS residue from your carpeting.

The most effective way, perhaps the only way, to avoid third-hand smoke is to have a zero tolerance policy for smoking in your home and vehicle.  Unlike second hand smoke, third-hand smoke may be present without your even noticing it.

It lingers.  Some persons can still catch whiffs of smoke in hotels that have prohibited smoking for a decade.

Swabs taken from smokers’ homes that have been vacant for 2 months still show measurable levels of THS residue.

If you’re exposed to THS, here are some steps you can take:

Shower, washing skin and hair thoroughly

Clean surfaces exposed to smoke with vinegar, remembering this isn’t always practical, as the vinegar may permanently stain or discolor certain surfaces.

If you allow smoking in your home, open windows and discourage

smoking in carpeted rooms.  (Central heating or air will still circulate

carcinogens throughout your home.)

Educate family and friends.  Studies show that if smokers understand their secondhand or third-hand smoke is harmful to others, they’re more likely to respect a household smoking ban.

Removing THS:

Washing or dry cleaning alone may not help.  Only an acidic cleaner removes nicotine, and most soaps are alkaline.  Vinegar will remove THS from a surface like marble, but most people don’t want their drapes and upholstered furniture smelling like vinegar.

It’s virtually impossible to remove THS from carpeting.  Though expensive, the best bet is to replace the carpet.

Lung Cancer, September 01, 2012



rbv0290469Health dangers don’t dissipate with the smoke.

Health experts say secondhand smoke is 6 to 12 times more toxic than the smoke directly inhaled by a smoker.  And now the experts are warning that third-hand smoke (THS), the invisible, toxic gases and particles that hang around on thinss like clothes, furniture, hair and skin long after a cigarette or cigar has been put out, may be even more harmful.

The longer nicotine toxins linger on persons or objects, the more time they have to react with common indoor pollutants, such as nitrous acid, to create new and dangerous carcinogenic chemicals that can be inhaled or ingested.

Hugo Destaillats, a chemist with the Indoor Environment Department of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, had this to say about the resulting carcinogenic chemicals:  “The burning of tobacco releases nicotine in the form of a vapor that adsorbs (gas molecules accumulating) strongly onto indoor surfaces, such as walls, floors, carpeting, drapes and furniture.  Nicotine can persist on those materials for days, weeks and even months.

“Our study shows that when this residual nicotine reacts with ambient nitrous acid, it forms carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines, or TSNAs.

“TSNAs are among the most broadly acting and potent carcinogens present in unburned tobacco and tobacco smoke.”

 Using a fan or opening a window while smoking doesn’t diminish the adsorption of TSNAs.

Destaillats and the 5 co-authors of the Berkeley Lab study based tests on cellulose as a model indoor material exposed to smoke and found that TSNAs increase rapidly in short periods of time.  Levels of newly formed TSNAs on the cellulose surfaces were 10 times higher after only 3 hours than when they’d been originally deposited.

The team also collected measurements of TSNAs on the interior of a smoker’s truck.  In addition to the TSNAs, the measurements showed substantial levels of the nitrosamine known as NNA along with 2 other potent carcinogens:  NNN and NNK.

In another study regarding smoking in a vehicle, Dr Jonathan Winickoff, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, told Best Health Magazine,  “And don’t even think about allowing smoking in the car, even with a window open.  The smaller the space, the more intense the exposure to toxins.”

Dr Winickoff believes that children are more vulnerable to the effects of THS, pointing out that though children may be only one-tenth the size of adults, they ingest twice the amount of toxic air particles that adults do, thus giving them 20 times the dose.

Dr Vinayak Jha, Associate Pulmonologist at George Washington Medical Faculty, concurs with Winickoff.  He says, “(Children are) crawling along floors, they’re ingesting dust and they’re putting other objects in their mouths which could be contaminated with third-hand smoke.”

Smoking outdoors is not much of an improvement to smoking indoors.  Lara Gundel of Berkeley labs says, “Smoking outside is better than smoking indoors but nicotine residues will stick to a smoker’s skin and clothing.  Those residues follow a smoker back inside and get spread everywhere.

“The biggest risk is to young children.  Dermal uptake of the nicotine through a child’s skin is likely to occur when the smoker returns, and if nitrous acid is in the air, which it usually is, then TSNAs will be forming.”

Berkeley lab’s James Pankow said the results of the study should raise concerns about the supposed safety of “e-cigarettes.”   Because no flame or ignition or tobacco or combustion is involved, these electronic cigarettes are not restricted by anti-smoking laws.

Packow says, “Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco smoke, has until now been considered to be non-toxic in the strictest sense of the term.  What we see in this study is that the reactions of residual nicotine with nitrous acid at surface interfaces are a potential cancer hazard, and these results may be just the tip of the iceberg.”

SOURCES:  Mayo Clinic     Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, February 8, 2010    Global Advisors Smoke-free Policy (GASP), September 2012    WJLA ABC News transcript, March 2013     Best Health Magazine (Canada) Lung Cancer, September 01, 2012

Berkeley Lab study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

Berkeley Lab study funded by University of California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program

Coming up:  Avoiding and removing Third-hand Smoke