Indoor swimming pools might be contributing to increased cases of asthma.
The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports on a new study that makes a connection between chlorinated pools and the risk of asthma:
Indoor swimming pools might be contributing to increased cases of asthma.
The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports on a new study that makes a connection between
chlorinated pools and the risk of asthma:
The study looked at kids who attended indoor chlorinated pools on a regular basis.
They found the more children are exposed to the chlorine fumes, the greater their
risk of asthma.
The study was conducted in Brussels. But, the authors suggest
the results could be duplicated in most wealthy Western nations. In the U.S., as in most
industrialized countries, asthma has become the most common chronic childhood disease.
Children in wealthier countries tend to get asthma at a rate ten times that of children
in other countries.
This is the first study to suggest that breathing the chlorine fumes trapped
in indoor pools might be part of the reason. The study was published online
in Environmental Health Perspectives by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Cars and trucks are Americans’ favorite way to get around. But a study that’s the first of its kind in the U.S. suggests children’s health might be suffering from our love affair with the automobile. The GLRC’s Shawn Allee has our story:
Cars and trucks are Americans’ favorite way to get around. But a study
that’s the first of its kind in the U.S suggests children’s health might be
suffering from our love affair with the automobile. The GLRC’s Shawn
Allee has our story:
The University of Southern California studied kids who live near busy
roads and freeways. They found they were fifty percent more likely to
develop asthma than kids who lived farther away.
Professor Rob McConnell co-authored the work. He says homes aren’t
unique. Other places, such as school playgrounds, could pose risks if
they’re near roads, too.
“I think there’re some practical implications for parents or for physical
education teachers in terms of having children exercise away from a
McConnell says studies of children in Europe back up his own
Environmentalists say the findings confirm their suspicion that decades
worth of clean air regulations haven’t gone far enough.
Environmentalists say the Bush administration is ignoring the government’s own scientists in new proposed air pollution rules. The rules reject advice to further restrict soot and other fine particle pollution. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Environmentalists say the Bush administration is ignoring the
government’s own scientists in new proposed air pollution rules. The
rules reject advice to further restrict soot and other fine particle pollution.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Environmental Protection Agency’s own staff scientists and the
independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee both found the
EPA needed to issue more restrictive rules regarding fine particulate
matter, that’s soot emitted from sources such as diesel trucks and coal-
burning power plants.
After reviewing 2000 studies linking particulate matter to asthma, heart
attacks, and early death for people with heart and lung disease, the
scientists concluded that standards set by the Clinton administration in
1997 did not go far enough to help reduce health risks. Despite that, the
Bush EPA appointees basically plan to keep restrictions where they are.
The power plant industry indicates further restrictions would be a
financial burden to it, and provide only marginal public health benefits.
Environmentalists say the Bush administration’s proposed rules ignore
mountains of medical research showing this kind of air pollution causes
serious health problems.
Having a plaque like this on the outside of a building means that the construction, materials, and utilities of the building are eco-friendly. "Green" building has started to increase in popularity. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council)
The Chicago skyline as seen on a beautiful day from the roof of the Chicago Center for Green Technology. (Photo courtesy of the City of Chicago, Department of Environment)
Screened by native plants, this cistern is one of four at the Chicago Center for Green Technology collecting over 12,000 gallons of rainwater off of the roof. The water is stored and used to irrigate the
landscape. (Photo courtesy of the City of Chicago, Department of Environment)
Buildings consume 70 percent of the electricity and create
most of the landfill waste in the U.S. Some cities are looking at “green building” methods to lessen the burden on the environment. The mayor of one major city has set “green” standards for all new buildings, using a mix of mandates and incentives. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Robbie Harris reports on the economic tug of war over building green:
Buildings consume 70% of the electricity and create most of the landfill waste in the U.S. Some cities are looking at “green building“ methods to lessen the burden on the environment. The mayor of one major city has set “green” standards for all new buildings, using a mix of mandates and incentives. Robbie Harris reports on the economic tug of war over building green.
(sound of PA system)
Last year, the first green police station opened in Chicago. It will use 20% less energy, and 30% less water than a typical police station. It’s built of recycled and locally available materials. But it looks pretty much like the other newer police stations you see around the city. Officer Jeffrey Bella who has worked here since it opened, says most people have no idea this is what’s known as a “high performance green building.”
“…and the fact that nobody talks about it and nobody notices it is pretty much a testament to how well it does work.”
This is the first police station in the country to earn a LEED Silver rating from the US green building council. LEED – that’s L-E–E-D- for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system that awards points for features such as energy conservation, site usage, indoor air quality, light pollution reduction, even proximity to public transit. Levels range from basic certification to silver, gold and platinum.
Last spring, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced every new building built by the city, must meet basic LEED standards. Private developers aren’t required to meet LEED standards but they must meet the less stringent city Energy conservation code.
Even that has the development community concerned about higher costs. The Mayor had this to say at the Building and Design conference in February.
“Here in the city of Chicago we have to really educate architects, and engineers and I mean you talk about challenges, that alone – and contractors- because they look at money. Money is the source of their profession, like any other profession. How much money… developers, engineers, archiects, contractors, and subcontractors …so green technology to them means money, it doesn’t mean the technology that maybe you and I think about.”
Even the mayor wouldn’t dispute that most LEED certified construction costs more up front. Washington D.C. economist Greg Kats puts it at roughly 2 percent more. Kats ran a performance study of 40 LEED-certified buildings around the country and found higher initial costs were offset ten fold by a variety of benefits.
“And those benefits pay back very quickly in the form of lower energy costs, lower water costs lower operations and maintenance costs, better building operations. And frankly, people are more happy, they’re more productive, kids’ test scores go up, asthma and allergy problem, which is a real concern for a lot of parents like me, tend to go away in green builings.”
On February 14th, one of the city’ largest real estate firms, LR Developers broke ground on what will be the first LEED-certified luxury high rise in Chicago. LR’s Kerry Dixon says, they built green to differentiate themselves in the luxury condo market, and although they’re not required to be LEED certified, they knew it would please the Mayor. But Dixon says it hasn’t exactly been an important selling point.
“We’re not getting feedback from the marketing and sales staff that yeah, everbody’s interested in it.”
If most condo-buyers are not showing much interest in green buildings, more and more large corporations that want to project greener images are.
“We are one of the nation’s largest energy producers. We are by far the nation’s larger operator of nuclear power plants. Some love us for that, and some are skeptical because of that.”
John Rowe is the CEO and chairman of Exelon. The company is looking to consolidate 3 corporate offices into one location and Rowe was fascinated with the idea of building a new green headquarters.
“But it basically worked out so that it would probably be cheaper. And that if we worked on being green we could probably get just as much credit for using an existing building as a new one.”
That’s because the U.S. Green Building Council also certifies commercial interiors. When it’s finished in 2007 Rowe is confident Exelon’s new corporate headquarters will qualify for LEED’s silver rating. He’s hoping it even makes gold.
For now, the Daley administration has chosen to LEED by example – and hope the private sector follows.
The health effects of diesel emissions can include increased risks for heart attacks, asthma, and early deaths. The Clean Air Task Force is asking states to do more to clean up these emissions. (Photo by Greg Perez)
A new report says the Midwest is one of the most polluted areas in the country when it comes to soot pollution from diesel exhaust. The environmental research and advocacy group The Clean Air Task Force says much
of this pollution could be cut using available technology. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Elizabeth Braun reports:
A new report says the Midwest is one of the most polluted areas in the country when it comes to soot pollution from diesel exhaust. The environmental research and advocacy group the Clean Air Task Force says much of this pollution could be cut using available technology. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Elizabeth Braun reports:
Three Midwestern states: Illinois, Ohio and Michigan are in the Task Force’s top 10 worst states for diesel pollution. The task force says inhaling diesel soot leads to thousands of heart attacks, early deaths and asthma cases. But, they say the trend can be reversed by limiting the amount of exhaust that’s released into the air.
They say one way to do this is to retrofit schoolbuses to reduce emissions. Renate Anderson is with the American Lung Association. She says children are the most at risk from diesel exhaust.
“School buses… that is a specific danger zone. Children have developing lungs, they tend to breathe about fifty percent more per pound of body weight than adults do.”
The task force also recommends passing legislation to limit how long diesel-engine vehicles can idle. The state of Minnesota has a no-idling policy for school buses, and Illinois lawmakers are currently working on such a measure.
So far, coal-burning power plants have been a dominant source of electricity for the U.S. They've also been known to be bad for the environment. New technology makes coal a cleaner source of fuel, but some environmentalists have their doubts. (Photo by Lester Graham)
A new kind of cleaner, coal-fired power plant will soon be built somewhere in the Midwest. American Electric Power, the nation’s largest producer of electricity, says the new plant will be more efficient and pollute less than traditional coal plants. But critics say if utilities were doing more to promote energy efficiency, they wouldn’t need to build new power plants that burn fossil fuels. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner
A new kind of cleaner, coal-fired power plant will soon be
built somewhere in the Midwest. American Electric Power, the nation’s
largest producer of electricity, says the new plant will be more efficient
and pollute less than traditional coal plants. But critics say if utilities
were doing more to promote energy efficiency, they wouldn’t need to build
new power plants that burn fossil fuels. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Erin Toner reports:
Coal-fired power plants are blamed for contributing to air pollution and global warming and aggravating health problems such as asthma. In the 1970s, Congress passed the Clean Air Act to reduce air pollution. But since many coal plants were built before the Clean Air Act, they’ve been exempt from pollution control updates.
So there are a lot of older, dirtier power plants out there. At the same time, demand for electricity is increasing. To meet demand, many utilities, including Ohio-based American Electric Power, are looking at building new plants, or adding on to their old ones. American Electric Power spokesperson Melissa McHenry says the company needs a new plant that will last at least 30 years.
“As we looked forward, you’re looking at increasingly stringent air quality regulations, so we wanted to ensure we would have a plant that would have improved environmental performance.”
And McHenry says the cleanest, and most efficient coal-burning process, is something practically brand-new to the industry. It’s called Integrated Gasification Combined-Cycle, or IGCC. It converts coal to gas, and then removes pollutants from the gas before it’s burned. The process results in almost zero emissions of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, nitrogen oxides, which cause smog, and mercury, which is toxic to people and animals. There’s also much less carbon dioxide pollution, which is believed to contribute to global warming. And gasification is said to be twice as efficient as traditional coal plants.
There are a couple of IGCC plants in the US, but they’re small – only about a quarter of the size of a traditional coal plant. American Electric Power’s IGCC plant would be the biggest one to date – a full-size plant that would serve the power needs of more than a million homes in the Midwest. American Electric Power Spokesperson Melissa McHenry says this plant be only the first of its kind.
“We’re stepping up to build the first one and we think there will be more as we need additional generation capacity. And we think other utilities, you know, obviously other utilities have announced plans to look at this since we have announced ours. The U.S. has significant reserves of coal available, and we think it’s very important that we are able to use this domestic fuel source in a more environmentally responsible way going forward.”
Most environmentalists agree that IGCC is a much improved way to make power. But they say it’s not the best way, since it still depends on a non-renewable energy source – coal. Environmental groups say relying on coal is not a long-term solution to growing energy needs. Although, the coal industry says there is at least a 200-year supply. Marty Kushler is with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. He says utilities should consider ways to reduce the need to build new power plants.
“There are a number of other resource options available that can be achieved at a lower cost than building and fueling and operating a new power plant, such as energy efficiency. Energy efficiency can save electricity at a cost that is less than half the cost of building, fueling and operating a new power plant.”
But getting people to use less power isn’t that easy. Kushler says more states should implement power bill surcharges to fund programs to encourage the public to use more energy efficient appliances and cut electricity use.
But even with those kinds of programs, almost everyone agrees coal will be a part of the American energy mix for some time. And people in the energy industry say gasification is the future of coal power.
Jim Childress is with the Gasification Technologies Council. He says the only drawbacks right now are money. IGCC is about 20 percent more expensive than traditional coal power production. And he says there are a lot of bugs to work out in engineering one of these plants.
“The base technology is set. The question mark is based upon marrying that technology with about three, four, five major components and getting the darn thing to run right.”
Childress says the tough part is getting technology that’s working now on a small scale to work in a full-size coal plant.
American Electric Power says its Integrated Gasification Combined-Cycle plant will cost 2 billion dollars, and should be online by 2010. The company is expected to announce a site for the new plant by summer.
Smokestacks, diesel engines, and a number of other things cause particulate emissions, which can create some negative health effects, and aggravate existing health problems. (Photo by Kenn Kiser)
In the summer, local weather forecasts often
include information about dangerous ozone levels.
But scientists are learning more and more about
another type of pollution that can reach harmful
levels even in the winter months. And as the Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports… we
might be hearing more about this type of pollution in
our daily weather reports:
In the summer, local weather forecasts often include information about dangerous ozone levels. But scientists are learning more and more about another type of pollution that can reach harmful levels even in the winter months. And as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports, we might be hearing more about this type of pollution in our daily weather reports:
Parts of the region recently reached “code red” for poor air quality. And
that had some people perplexed. Warnings about dangerous levels of ozone are
frequent on hot summer days, especially in urban areas. But this was the
middle of winter.
The warnings were for high levels of tiny particles that federal regulators
only recently began monitoring. They’re spewn from diesel engines,
factories, power plants, and fireplaces. Air monitors in Michigan,
Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Indiana recently registered unhealthy levels of
these particles – some of them for a few days straight.
Jim Haywood says the problem was an unusual weather event for this time of
year. Haywood is a meteorologist with the Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality. He says a high pressure system moved very slowly over
the Great Lakes region for several days. When you get high pressure, the air
below sinks, generating a layer of warm air that acts like a lid.
“So that warm air that was sinking effectively stops at a few hundred feet
from the surface of the ground. It acts like a cap. It does not let any of
the pollutants that are released at the surface pop up through that cap.”
So all the pollutants that would have gotten picked up and diluted by the
wind instead just hung out for days – building up, and reflecting sunlight
to create haze.
Eventually, a cold front pushed the high pressure system out of the way, and
took the pollution with it. But what about those few days when the Environmental Protection Agency was warning about unhealthy levels of particulate pollution? For people with
heart or lung disease, agency health officials say short-term episodes can
lead to asthma attacks or even heart attacks. And they say healthy children
and adults can experience throat and lung irritation.
Susan Stone is an environmental health scientist with EPA. She says
particle pollution warnings could soon become a staple of the daily weather
report – much like the familiar summer ozone warnings.
“With ozone, we have the network in place to be able to deliver those
forcasts, people are used to hearing that on TV, and we are working to
provide that same level of coverage for particle pollution.”
Stone says EPA is rolling out a new program called Enviro-Flash
nationwide. It sends real-time air quality information to people’s email
accounts or pagers. EPA is offering the service through state
environmental agencies. And beginning in 2010, areas that register
unacceptable levels of particle pollution will be required to clean up their
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
The EPA has a new agreement with animal farmers who participate in a study of air quality and its relation to animal waste, which is often kept in lagoons like the one above. However, environmentalists worry about the agreement and what it may entail. (Photo courtesy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service)
Environmentalists don’t like a new agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the livestock industry. It will give some livestock farms limited immunity from environmental laws while the EPA measures pollution on their farms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamara Keith reports:
Environmentalists don’t like a new agreement between the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and the livestock industry. It will give some livestock
farms limited immunity from environmental laws while the EPA measures
pollution on their farms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamara Keith reports:
Animals at so called “factory farms” produce a lot of manure. As it
decomposes it lets off a cocktail of gasses, which can contribute to smog,
and health problems, such as asthma. But, federal regulators say they don’t
have an accurate way of estimating emissions from these farms.
Under a new EPA agreement, some livestock operations will work with federal
regulators to monitor emissions. The farms allow air quality monitoring, and
in exchange, the EPA will agree not to sue them for environmental violations
during the 2 year program. That’s where the problem arises, says Andrew
Hanson, with Midwest Environmental Advocates.
“The way government is supposed to work is that it’s supposed to
protect you from air pollution, not enter into deals that allow facilities
to continue to pollute without threat of enforcement.”
The Environmental Protection Agency will accept public comment on the
agreement, until March 2nd.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tamara Keith.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may soon take a step that could help the ozone layer. Health officials say they might phase out certain types of asthma inhalers that use chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley has more:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may soon take a step that could
help the ozone layer. Health officials say they might phase-out certain
types of asthma inhalers that use chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley has more:
Since the early 1990’s, CFCs were banned from use in things such as car
air conditioners and aerosol cans. But they were still allowed to be used in
devices deemed medically necessary.
These include some types of asthma inhalers that contain very small
amounts of CFC gas to propel medicine into the lungs.
Now, health officials say there might be an alternative to the ozone-
depleting gas. They say hydrofluoroalkane, or HFA, gas works just as
Doctor Robert Meyer evaluates drugs for the FDA. He says the new ban
may seem like a small step, but the overall picture matters most.
“We’re not really in the business of questioning whether this individual use
is in and of itself impacting much on the environment, we’re really looking
at the overall picture, and this action is a part of that picture.”
The FDA is asking the public for feedback on the possible phase-out.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Christina Shockley.
The Environmental Protection Agency has picked school districts in the Great Lakes region as the first to receive its so-called “Clean School Bus” grants this year. The money will be used to help diesel-fueled school buses pollute less. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
The Environmental Protection Agency has picked school districts
in the Great Lakes region as the first to receive its so-called
“Clean School Bus” grants this year. The money will be used to
help diesel-fueled school buses pollute less. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
(sound of bus accelerating)
When a diesel school bus accelerates, it often leaves behind a black puff of
smoke. Health experts say that pollution can cause or aggravate respiratory
problems in young children. The EPA has given a couple of Michigan school
districts money to install devices on 160 buses, to reduce carbon monoxide and
small particle emissions. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt says the government
wants to retrofit or replace all of the country’s 400,000 diesel school
buses by 2010. The agency is also working to develop cleaner-burning fuel
for all diesel vehicles.
“That black puff of diesel smoke that we’ve been accustomed to seeing
coming out of the tailpipe of not just school buses but big trucks and
construction equipment is going to be a thing of the past.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists says the government will have to spend billions
of dollars to meet its goal. Congress has allocated five million dollars for this
fiscal year’s round of grants.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Michael Leland.