Tag: air pollution
As wildfires continue to burn in parts of the United States, state public health officials and experts are increasingly concerned about residents’ chronic exposure to toxin-filled smoke.
This year has seen the most wildfires of the past decade, with more than 56,000 fires burning nearly 7 million acres nationwide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. While the total area burned is less than in some recent years, heavy smoke has still blanketed countless communities throughout the country.
Climate change is causing more frequent and severe wildfires, harming Americans’ health, pointed out Dr. Lisa Patel, deputy executive director at the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, which raises awareness about the health effects of climate change.
“The data we have is very scary,” she said. “We are living through a natural experiment right now — we’ve never had fires this frequently.”
Patel sees the effects of wildfires in her work as a practicing pediatrician at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, treating more women and underweight and premature infants at the neonatal intensive care unit when wildfires rage in Northern California.
As researchers focus on the public health impact of wildfire smoke, state health and environmental officials across the country have had to issue more air quality notices and provide guidance and shelter for residents struggling during periods of heavy wildfire smoke. And as experts have found, this issue isn’t isolated to the West Coast — it hurts more residents in the Eastern U.S.
Studies show that chronic exposure to wildfire smoke can cause asthma and pneumonia, and increase the risk for lung cancer, stroke, heart failure and sudden death. The very old and very young are most vulnerable. Particulates in wildfire smoke are 10 times as harmful to children’s respiratory health as other air pollutants, according to a study in Pediatrics last year. Read More
Industrial plants in Birmingham have polluted the air and land in its historic Black communities for over a century. In an epicenter of environmental injustice, officials continue to fail to right the wrongs plaguing the city’s north side. Read more.
North Birmingham residents looking to be relocated from their environmentally contaminated properties will have to continue waiting — though, Mayor Randall Woodfin assured them, that “long conversation” is far from over.
Charlie Powell, a longtime resident of the city’s Collegeville neighborhood, asked officials during Tuesday’s council meeting for an update on relocation efforts for residents of the EPA’s 35th Avenue Superfund Site, which includes parts of Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont.
“I’ve been fighting this battle for 10 years, and I have some concerns from some of the people,” Powell said. “They want to know, what are the plans for the relocation that we asked for? … We’re right in the mouth of this thing!”
The area received the federal superfund designation in 2012 due to high levels of soil contamination. Read more.
Birmingham-based clean-air advocate Gasp and the Southern Environmental Law Center have announced “significant improvements” to a consent decree to address ABC Coke’s illegal emissions of benzene and its effects on communities around northeast Birmingham and Tarrant.
SELC intervened on behalf of Gasp in January 2020 to protest requirements set out by the consent decree agreed to by the Jefferson County Board of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the Drummond Company – which owns ABC Coke. SELC made the case that the requirements were inadequate to address ongoing violations and control of pollution from benzene, a known carcinogen. Read more.
Alabama Power Company’s parent organization told shareholders it will reduce its greenhouse carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050 for all its electric and gas operations, replacing its 2018 commitment to a “low-to-no carbon” future for all.
The company will, however, continue to use fossil fuels to generate most of its energy and depend on carbon-reduction technology and energy-efficiency, tree-planting and other programs to offset its use of natural gas and coal to generate energy.
Southern’s CEO, Tom Fanning, also said the company may be able achieve 50% of its goal by as early as 2025.
The Trump EPA announced this week that it will not lower the current limit on particulate air pollution, an action that disappointed but didn’t surprise public health scientists and clean-air advocates who pointed to a new Harvard study connecting the pollution to a higher mortality risk from COVID-19.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s decision flew in the face of the agency’s own career scientists, who had urged adoption of stricter air quality standards for what is commonly referred to as soot.
Wheeler was backed up by a majority of the agency’s independent advisory group on air quality, including Corey Masuca of the Jefferson County Health Department. Read more.
A fight over ABC Coke’s air pollution in Birmingham and Tarrant entered federal court Tuesday as groups charged that a consent decree agreement approved last spring is too weak to guarantee that unlawful discharges of the cancer-causing chemical benzene will stop. The action came in response to a government motion two weeks ago to finalize the consent decree. The Jefferson County Department of Health said today that it supported making the decree final. Read more.
A federal advisory group recently voted in a split decision against strengthening the current standard for fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5. Corey Masuca, an environmental health scientist with the Jefferson County Department of Health and one of the six members of the panel, sided with the majority.
The 4-2 decision during a contentious meeting of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee last month pitted Masuca and three other members against Environmental Protection Agency scientific staff and an independent panel of scientists. Read more.
A government panel of air pollution experts, including one from the Jefferson County Department of Health, will gather for public meetings in North Carolina later this month to hear comments and review a draft report on whether the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for carbon particles in the air are stringent enough to protect human health.
Politico Pro recently reported that the draft document, the Policy Assessment for Particulate Matter, questions whether the current standard for particulate matter in the air is adequate to protect public health. Read more.
It’s Alabama’s uncharacteristic September heat, not lack of rain, that’s caused recent air quality ozone alerts in numbers unheard of this late in the summer. That’s the word from the Jefferson County Department of Health expert Corey Masuca.
Masuca, who is the county’s air quality control engineer, is one of six experts who the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is required to depend on for recommendations on air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter, among other air pollutants, to protect public health and safety.
Ozone alerts have occurred nine days since May, according to the health department. Six of those have occurred in September. Check here for daily information on air quality in Jefferson County.
Ninety-degree Fahrenheit temperatures are expected to persist for the next several days in a “heat dome” effect that occurs only once every 10 to 30 years, according to an analysis by the joint national weather services of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Read more.