Archives for category: Pollution

A list of kids’ responses on the KidsCom® Web site showed what many kids thought would be a great invention for the earth:

http://www.parentstalk.com/kidseyes/ke_wkt_apr01.html

One thing that we found of particular interest from this list is that an overwhelming amount of children wrote in about how robots and machinery should be used to save the planet.

kids with robots

(Pictured above are children who built robots out of recycled materials in their first grade class)

It makes sense that since being responsible for our waste is extremely important to many but not necessarily to all, that robots could help pick up what others left out. Litter is an unsightly, and devastating issue that many cities have, and truth be told the main method of picking up others’ litter (clean-up crews) is usually not enough. The solution of having people pick up waste for community service hours is a good remedy but clean up and being responsible for our waste in the first place should be improved.

robot

In a world where robots are being used to assemble cars, package goods and to perform numerous other functions, it seems reasonable to consider building more robots that benefit our environment.

Regardless of creed, ethnicity, or tax bracket, everyone must breathe the same air. This week, the World Health Organization announced that air pollution was responsible for seven million deaths globally in 2012. It is also the single largest preventable health risk worldwide. Both indoor and outdoor particulate matter is to blame for illnesses such as stroke, heart disease, respiratory infections, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Not just harmful to human bodies directly, much of the pollution also contributes to the acceleration of climate change and its catastrophic affect on agriculture, the economy, and biosphere.

Green Halo - Air Pollution Responsible for 7 Million Deaths in 2012According to the WHO, air pollution is responsible for one death in eight every year. Overall, 4.3 million deaths worldwide were linked in 2012 to indoor pollution primarily due to cooking with coal, dung, or wood stoves. Outdoor pollution from diesel engines and fires were linked to 3.7 million deaths. Many populations are exposed to poor air quality in both settings, causing a degree of overlap within the aggregate figure of seven million deaths. Further chronic health risks such as birth defects and impaired cognitive abilities in children add to the already sobering statistics.

While the entire planet is vulnerable to air pollution, low and middle income countries such as those in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific are particularly hard-hit. In addition to particulate matter expelled from fossil fuel reliant power plants, industrial operations, and auto fumes, burning black carbon for domestic cook stoves can cause diseases that lead to early mortality. By switching to cleaner forms of energy and investing in public transportation, regions most reliant on fossil fuels would see immediate improvements.

“Reducing air pollution, including black carbon soot pollution, can save millions of lives a year, reduce crop losses significantly, and cut the rate of global warming in half and the rate of warming in the Arctic by two-thirds over the next few decades,” according to the WHO. “With this combination of benefits—healthier citizens, higher crop yields, and half the rate of climate change—reducing air pollutants should be a top priority for sustainable development and climate protection.”

To help clear the air, many governments and NGOs are beginning to support the switch to clean cooking stoves, reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and put moratoriums on the construction of new coal fire power plants. As the climate changes and developing nations seek to industrialize, energy production and consumption practices on both local and commercial scales must be adjusted to ensure the health of one of humanity’s most vital shared resources.

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Green Halo - 168,000+ Gallons of Oil Spills into Galveston BayA barge moving through Galveston Bay collided with another ship Saturday afternoon, spilling over 168,000 gallons of marine fuel oil. The spill is particularly devastating, even though it isn’t the largest in recent memory, because Galveston Bay is a migratory bird habitat and shorebird season is fast approaching. On top of that, the type of fuel that spilled is particularly difficult to clean up. The ship was being towed when it collided with the other vessel, though there are no details at this point on how the collision occurred.

The ship contained about 924,000 gallons of the thick, tarry fuel known as RMG 380, but officials say that only one of the barge’s tanks was breached. The six crew members on the ship are all accounted for and are in “stable condition” according to the Coast Guard. Although the wildlife habitats that surround the area are at risk from contamination, the nearby town of Texas City is reportedly not at risk.

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Green Halo - World's Biggest DumpsAfrica is home to some beautiful sites…and then there’s Agbogbloshie, Ghana. The town has one of the world’s largest dumps for discarded electronics. Millions of tons of used electronics from all over the world – including the U.S. – are sent to Africa to be re-sold or donated to charity. But much of it is broken or obsolete and winds up in Agbogbloshie. The old electronics are often smashed by scavengers looking for valuable metals inside, such as copper. Back in the U.S., the Puente Hills landfill in Los Angeles County, California, has piles of trash reaching as high as a 40-story building. The landfill, which was the largest in the country, closed this past October after more than 50 years in operation because it reached capacity – about 130 million tons of trash. The landfill will be sealed with a layer of dirt and eventually turned into a park. But the largest trash dump in the world isn’t actually on land – it’s in the Pacific Ocean. Trash thrown into the Pacific is carried by currents to an area north of Hawaii. This floating trash pile is now estimated to be larger in area than the state of Texas. Several private organizations are working to clean it up, which is difficult because of its size and remote location. The good news is that the city of Oslo, Norway has a use for some of that ocean trash: converting it to heat and electricity by burning it. The Norwegians are such good recyclers that they often run out of trash to burn and must import it from other countries. Kudos to the Norwegians for doing their part to prevent Africa – and the rest of the world – from becoming one giant trash heap.

Yahoo News Video:
http://news.yahoo.com/video/whoknew-worlds-biggest-dumps-060000314.html

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A cloud of smog has enveloped Paris – and on Friday air pollution levels were actually worse than notoriously smoggy Beijing. The French capital is taking emergency measures to reduce air pollution – over the weekend the city made public transportation, bike sharing and electric car sharing free, and starting Monday private cars and motorcycles with even registration numbers will be banned. 700 police officers are stationed at checkpoints issuing $31 (€22) fines for violators. Electric vehicles, hybrids and cars carrying at least three people are exempt.

While Monday’s air quality is improving in parts of the city, a check of the Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) still finds “hazardous” levels of air pollution at Boulevard Haussmann in the eighth and ninth arrondissements. The fine particulate (PM2.5) index value of 880 is dangerous, and authorities have warned that “everyone may experience more serious health effects.”

Green Halo - Paris Air Quality Worse Than BeijingExperts blame last week’s unsafe pollution levels — the worst in France since 2007 — on a combination of unseasonable warm and sunny days and cool nights with low wind speeds and precipitation. These factors kept toxic pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide near the ground instead of dissipating into the atmosphere.

France’s extensive use of diesel fuel is being scrutinized as a contributing factor to the unhealthy levels of air pollution. An estimated 60 percent of French vehicles use diesel-powered engines, and in 2011 70 percent of French car sales were diesel. Since World War II the French government has subsidized the use of diesel and there is a powerful corporate diesel lobby. The problem with diesel is that while it reduces carbon emissions compared to gasoline-powered engines, it increases fine particulates that cause air pollution. The World Health Organization has also found that diesel fumes are carcinogenic.

To curb pollution, authorities in Paris and the Île-de-France region surrounding the capital will also be lowering the speed limit, urging people to not burn wood in their fireplaces, requesting that trucks with heavy loads avoid traveling around the city, and asking factories to work on a reduced schedule to cut back on emissions.

Extreme smoggy conditions also hit northern and eastern regions of France, with the smog belt extending to Belgium and Germany. Similar pollution-reducing measures such as free public transportation have also been implemented in other European cities.

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In a permanent extension of a 2007 law, San Francisco has made it illegal for the City to buy or distribute plastic water bottles. Bottled water contributes to massive amounts of litter and plastic waste all over the world. San Francisco has an aggressive plan to achieve zero net waste by 2020. In 2013, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors appeared ready to enact one of the strictest bans on bottled water in the nation. Days ago, the proposal became law, and plastic water bottles smaller than 21 ounces will no longer be allowed on city property starting Oct. 1, 2014.

Green Halo - San Francisco Bans Bottled Water on City PropertySan Francisco’s legislation, introduced by Supervisor David Chiu, “does not prohibit private business from trading in small plastic bottles of water.” Rather, it restricts the sale at events of more than 100 people (not including marathons and other sporting events), and on all city property and parks. San Francisco Airport will also be allowed to sell plastic bottles indefinitely.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors supported the legislation unanimously. Prior to the vote, Chiu held up a water bottle that was a quarter of the way filled with oil. The move illustrated just how much oil is used in the production and transport of plastic water bottles.

“He also reminded San Franciscans that the current fad of buying bottled water only started in the 1990s when the bottled water industry mounted a huge ad campaign that got Americans buying bottled water,” reports the San Francisco Bay Guardian. “Somehow, Chiu noted, ‘for centuries, everybody managed to stay hydrated.’ He, and the rest of San Francisco seem confident that they can learn to do so again.

Not surprisingly, the American Beverage Association and bottled water industry were less than enthusiastic about the bottled water ban. These critics claim that banning bottled water at concerts and other large events will drive them to choose alcohol or carbonated beverages instead of healthier water.

Learn more about this new legislation here.

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A coal mine fire burning for almost a month is forcing residents of an Australian town from their homes after pollution more than 22 times above recommended safe levels triggered a health alert.

Green Halo - Australians Flee Beijing-Style Smog as Coal Mine BurnsFirefighters are pumping as much as 84,000 liters of water a minute, the equivalent of about two Olympic-size swimming pools an hour, onto the burning mine at GDF Suez’s Hazelwood power station in Victoria state, according to local authorities. Pollution readings in the nearby town of Morwell, 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of Melbourne, peaked last month at levels beyond hazardous on the Air Quality Index.

Residents have abandoned more than half of the 750 homes in the worst-affected area, as families with pregnant women, elderly people and young children take up A$1,250 ($1,128) weekly payments to temporarily relocate, according to the state government. Victoria’s Premier Denis Napthine has urged people in the region to offer vacant holiday homes to those seeking respite and pledged use of his own coastal vacation property.

“The ash falling out of the sky every day was getting in to every part of the house that wasn’t air tight, it smelled like an ashtray,” said Nick Albon, a 30-year-old engineer who moved out of his home about 500 meters from the mine’s northern boundary on Feb. 16. “Headaches were the first thing to instantly hit. As soon as you got out in the smoke, you could taste it in your mouth whenever you were outside.”

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Beijing’s record-breaking air pollution has spurred officials and designers to come up with innovative solutions – and the architects at London-based Orproject recently proposed the creation of gigantic Bubbles filled with fresh air! The inflatable spaces would contain parks and botanical gardens that provide fresh air to residents sick of choking on the city’s ever-present smog.

Green Halo - Giant Bubbles Filled With Fresh Air for Beijing Air Pollution and SmogOrproject is an innovative design practice founded in 2006 that tends to explore advanced geometries with an ecological leaning. Bubbles is based on a lightweight structural system developed to mimic butterfly wings and the veins of leaves. The system utilizes a material known as ETFE, which is the same material used in China’s National Swim Center at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. This transparent and stretchy plastic could be used to create wonderful domes that allow light in while protecting inhabitants from pollution.

Orproject founder Christoph Klemmt envisions that this biome will create different micro-climates within the same space – bringing to life tropical forests next to deserts. Heating and cooling of the space will be controlled through a ground source heat exchange system, while electrical needs will be provided by solar panels integrated into the canopy structure. Their toughest challenge will be the Chinese government and developers – Klemmt was quoted in an interview with Co. Exist saying: “The big park is our dream, which depends on a lot of other people, including the government. If we were to realize this for a schoolyard, it’d be much easier for it to happen.”

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Two and a half years after a near meltdown, the Fukushima nuclear power plant is still in trouble. The Nuclear Regulation Authority issued a new warning Wednesday, raising the severity level of the continuing leak from one to three on an international eight-point scale.

Ever since the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake shook the area, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has been subject to numerous leaks and controversies.

The alert comes as TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co) found at least 300 metric tons of radioactive water to have leaked from the site, with ‘hotspots’ found nearby. Workers are now scrambling to check an additional 300 tanks that currently contain contaminated water at the stricken nuclear power plant.Green Halo - Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Leaks 100 Tons of Radioactive Water

Each point on the International Atomic Energy Agencies eight-point scale of the scale represents a ten-fold increase in radiation, so a jump of two points is highly significant. The latest confirmed leak, from a tank which can hold up to 1,000 tonnes of water, hasn’t been stopped yet and TEPCO acknowledges that they have yet to identify the cause of the leak.

TEPCO has stated that there is no evidence that the contaminated water from these leaks has reached the ocean, but there is significant contamination to the soil in the area, which will need to be addressed. The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has expressed a loss of confidence in Tepco’s ability to deal with the situation, and has stated that the government will be stepping in to take additional measures to address this continuing disaster.

Tepco has also been criticized for delaying the release of strontium-90 levels in local groundwater despite demands from regulators.

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The Swiss power and automation technology group ABB has teamed up with Shenzhen Daimler New Technology Co to expand China’s electric vehicle charging network to be the largest in the world. Over the next six years, the company hopes to supply enough wall-mounted chargers to make the new DENZA electric car a practical, sustainable alternative to traditional vehicles in the world’s most populous country.

Green Halo - China Expanding its Electric Vehicle Charging Network to World's Largest

The chargers are expected to roll out in urban areas first, allowing for easy and rapid adoption of the new vehicles. Owners would be able to quickly charge their DENZAs at home or at readily-available public charging stations. With a lengthy battery life of about 200 miles, the network should allow consumers to travel freely within populated areas of the country. This is just the latest attempt to stir up local interest in electric vehicles since 2009, after attempts to entice buyers with government rebates failed to sell as many cars as initially planned.

The news makes sense, coming from one of the most heavily-polluted areas in the world. Air quality in parts of the country is so bad that it can be seen from outer space. The nation is doing everything it can to curb industries that release noxious chemicals into the air, from shutting down coal-fired power plants to banning outdoor barbecues and New Year’s fireworks in Beijing. Hopefully as more people transition to emission-free vehicles, the air quality will start to improve.

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