Archives for category: World Health Organization

Obama and the EPA 's fight on power plants, the epa, climate change and green house gas

We at Green Halo Systems have been following the news about the USA’s greenhouse gas policies since the beginning of the year when the Secretary of State John Kerry’s goal was to become the “lead broker of a global climate treaty” according to The New York Times. John Kerry has made President Barack Obama and millions of others focus on global warming in the past six months and today it was announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a 30% cut from 2005 figures to all power plant emissions by 2030.

To review some of what has happened since the beginning of the year, this past February, the EPA drafted a new rule to regulate 1,500 power plans in America to curb climate change and to tighten the language on such a rule. Later that month, Pres Obama ordered the development of new fuel efficiency standards for the nation’s heavy-duty trucks through the use of executive authority. Days later, the Supreme Court considered the President’s orders when it comes to emissions from “stationary sources” such as power plants. Pres Obama’s use of executive authority has since become a popular topic.

At the end of March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change report warned that climate change is having a “sweeping effect worldwide” that is likely to grow worse unless greenhouse emissions get under control. The report gave weight to Pres Obama’s effort to use his executive authority under The Clean Air Act.

During April the United Nations report said that the United States needs to develop a climate change law so taxing carbon pollution was up for discussion. Paul Krugman’s response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s statement was that economists’ optimism about limiting emissions of greenhouse gases is due to technological innovations that have decreased the cost of renewable energy.

At the beginning of May, Pres Obama announced investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The President campaigned to build support for the EPA’s carbon pollution limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants. Also in May, research about the giant glaciers’ “tipping points” as proof of global warming was scrutinized by The New York Times. Pres Obama also recently stated that the proof of climate change makes this issue “not some distant problem of the future”.

And so now, in the beginning of June, Pres Obama reiterated the importance of climate change policies in his second-term agenda. On June 1st, 2014, the Obama administration proposed what might be the most ambitious climate change mitigation strategy in the USA so far. The proposal is that the entire power sector (America’s largest carbon polluter) must bring its emission levels down by 30% from what they were in 2005 by the year 2030.

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The Basel Convention is a United Nations treaty that was signed in 1989 to control the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal. The treaty helped define hazardous wastes, outlined how hazardous wastes are disposed and set guidelines such as approved facilities by city governments.

 

It’s been said that one event that prompted the Basel Convention was the Khian Sea waste disposal incident from 1986-2000. The Khian Sea cargo ship (which was registered in Liberia) was loaded with 14,355 tons of non-toxic ash from waste incinerations from the US. The story goes that a US company that handled the waste subcontracted a shipment to dump the ash in the Bahamas, however, the Bahamian government turned down the ash and so, for over one year the Khian Sea searched for a place to dump the ash. Many regions of the world refused to accept the ash and since the ash was even refused from the original area in the US from where it was received, in 1988 the crew dumped about 4,000 tons of the waste in Haiti as “topsoil fertilizer” and fled before they could pick up the ash as the Haitian commerce minister ordered. The Khian Sea then moved on to regions such as Morocco, Sri Lanka and Singapore where the captain testified to dumping about 10,000 tons of ash into the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

 

Here is an image of the home port of the Khian Sea in Philadelphia:

 

Philadelphia_port_Green_Halo_Waste_Tracking_Khian_Sea

 

(Source: http://www.basel.int/Home/tabid/2202/Default.aspx and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khian_Sea_waste_disposal_incident )

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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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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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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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Green Halo - China New Smog RegulationsThe famously smoggy Chinese capital of Beijing is finally doing something to curb its appalling air pollution. By a vote of 659-23, the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress passed a new law that for the first time will target reductions infine particulate matter (PM2.5) that pose the greatest health risk to the city’s more than 20 million residents.

A look at Wednesday’s real-time air quality index finds Beijing’s PM2.5 level at a “very unhealthy” level of 270 micrograms per cubic meter. The PM2.5 level in Beijing surpassed 500 on January 15 for the first time this year.  Beijing’s PM2.5 level averages around 227, which is far above the national standard of 34 and the World Health Organization’s safe level of 25. Amazingly, Delhi, India’s air pollution is even worse than Beijing’s with an average measurement of 473. By mid-January, Delhi had passed the 500 mark eight times.

The law, which goes into effect in March, is designed to reduce the city’s total pollutant emissions with tougher punishments for polluters, including daily fines for air pollution violations and possible criminal action for more serious violations.

As part of China’s effort to get tough on industrial polluters, the country’s environmental watchdog last year vetoed as many as 35 projects worth 118.4 billion yuan.

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Seaborne radiation from Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant will wash up on the West Coast of the U.S. this year.

That’s raising concerns among some Americans including the residents of the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fairfax, which passed a resolution on Dec. 6 calling for more testing of coastal seafood.

Green Halo Fukushima Radiation Seafood Pacific Ocean Japan Nuclear Power Plant Accident

At the same time, oceanographers and radio-logical scientists say such concerns are unwarranted given existing levels of radiation in the ocean.

The runoff from the Japanese plant will mingle with radiation released by other atomic stations, such as Diablo Canyon in California. Under normal operations, Diablo Canyon discharges more radiation into the sea, albeit of a less dangerous isotope, than the Fukushima station, which suffered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

“There’s a point to be made that we live in a radioactive world and the ocean just has radioactive isotopes in it,” said Ken Buesseler, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution inMassachusetts, who forecasts the Fukushima plume will arrive in the U.S. early this year. “People have a limited knowledge of radioactivity.”

Leaking Groundwater

At Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi station, where three reactors melted down after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, about 300 metric tons of contaminated groundwater seep into the ocean each day,Green Halo Fukushima Radiation Seafood Pacific Ocean Japan Nuclear Power Plant Accident 3 according to Japan’s government.

Between May 2011 and August 2013, as many as 20 trillion becquerels of cesium-137, 10 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and 40 trillion becquerels of tritium entered the ocean via groundwater, according to Tokyo Electric.

Cesium isotopes, which emit flesh-penetrating gamma rays, are among the most dangerous radionuclides emitted by the plant, said Colin Hill, an associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

Strontium-90, which mimics calcium, increases the exposure risk for humans by remaining in the bones of fish for extended periods. While tritium is less radiologically intense than cesium and passes through fish faster than strontium, it can also contaminate sea creatures that encounter the isotope in high levels, Hill said.

Not Happy

Water exposed to radiation from the Fukushima plant would reach the U.S. at levels at least 100 times lower than the U.S.’s drinking water threshold, Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Allison Macfarlane said at a Dec. 6 briefing in Tokyo.

Green Halo Fukushima Radiation Seafood Pacific Ocean Japan Nuclear Power Plant Accident 2

The assurances haven’t eased concerns for some. “I’m terrified,” Doreen Jean Dempski, a children’s book author, said by phone from her home more than 5,000 miles across the Pacific from Fukushima in Carpinteria, California. “My boyfriend is a surfer and he spends hours a day in the water.”

Sharing Dempski’s worries are the Fairfax city council, which passed the coastal testingresolution, and more than 127,000 signatories to an online petition calling for a United Nations’

takeover of part of the Fukushima cleanup. South Korea has already banned imports of fish from Japan’s northern Pacific coast.

Fukushima radiation is being erroneously blamed for everything from sea-lion deaths to sickened polar bears, according to an editorial this week in Canada’s Times Colonist newspaper.

Risk Expectations

Part of the issue is general concern about radiation, and the startling amounts that are released into the environment by the 435 nuclear power plants operating worldwide as of Jan. 3. Measurements that puzzle the public — becquerels, rems, curies and sieverts — don’t aid transparency. And, worse, scientists disagree on the health risks from low-dose radiation exposure.

A report on the Fukushima disaster by the World Health Organization in February last year estimated increased cancer risk for those in the most contaminated areas around the plant, but not elsewhere in Japan. However, the report also notes that better understanding of the effects of low-dose radiation may alter risk expectations from the Fukushima accident.

Less than 100 miles up the coast from Dempski’s home, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s Diablo Canyon plant in San Luis Obispo discharged 323 million liters of water into the Pacific in 2012, or about 870 tons a day, according to data from the company on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s website. That’s equivalent to 130 Olympic swimming pools and more than twice the daily amount leaking from Fukushima.

Inadvertent Contact

That water contained 3,670 curies of tritium, or 136 trillion becquerels, according to the company, almost three-and-a-half times the amount released from the Fukushima plant into the ocean in the period starting May 2011. The plant also discharged cesium-137, though at lower levels than Fukushima, while its output of strontium-90 is below detectable levels.

Diablo Canyon’s discharges are regulated by the NRC and the plant complies with its licensing requirements, PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said in an e-mail. Total liquid discharges from Diablo Canyon in 2012 were 0.0165 percent of what the NRC allows, Jones said.

The radioactivity in plant wastewater comes from inadvertent contact between the isotopes and cooling water pumped through nuclear plants.

“Tritium is produced when a reactor is operating,” Jones said. “Fukushima is not operating so naturally the tritium levels are lower when compared to Diablo Canyon.”

Rick Castello, a San Luis Obispo-based project manager for a technology company, said by phone that he was unaware of the discharges from the nearby nuclear plant. He also harbors concerns about the approaching radiation from Fukushima.

“It’s not like I think official sources would be intentionally hiding information from the people,” he said by phone. “But sometimes we just don’t know.”

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Smog levels in Beijing, China were found to be 10 to 15 times what the World Health Organization classifies as a health risk. The streets are still overflowing with people wearing gas masks and respirators, and city officials recently announced a fuel pollution tax to help curb emissions. Yu Shaocai, an expert on “wet deposition”, recently proposed a radical new solution that could help clear the air: giant sprinklers that spray water into the atmosphere of heavily-polluted cities.

Yu Shaocai, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee, and an expert on “wet deposition” proposed a solution which is based on a valid natural occurrence. “Wet deposition” is a process by which raindrops and snowflakes deposit polluted particles on the ground and clean the air. Shaocai’s idea is to create a new urban infrastructure and attach the giant sprinklers to the exteriors of skyscrapers in order to clear out toxins and gases from the air.

Shaocai doesn’t have specific answers to some of the technical questions. Installing giant sprinklers would involve a costly process of retrofitting skyscrapers with necessary equipment, not to mention the safety measures during storms and strong winds. The proposal is a theoretical paper, published in the January issue of Environmental Chemistry Letters, which Shaocai plans to test at Zhejiang University and in Hangzhou.Green Halo China Smog Giant Sprinklers Wet Deposition

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China warns people in its northern regions to stay indoors as air pollution in Beijing is averaging 18 times World Health Organization (WHO) recommended levels.

The concentration of fine particulates that pose the greatest risk to human health was 447 micro-grams per cubic meter near Tienanmen Square in Beijing. Compare that to an average of 456 over the past 48 hours, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website. The WHO recommends exposure to no higher than 25 micro-grams per cubic meter over a day.Green Halo China Smog Problem Air Pollution World Health Organization WHO

The smog adds pressure on the government to take measures beyond shutting steel plants and limiting the number of cars on the road to battle air pollution.

Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun declared an “all-out effort” to tackle air pollution by cutting coal use by 2.6 million metric tons and transforming 300 polluting companies this year, the official Xinhua News Agency reports.

Coal-burning boilers inside Beijing’s fifth ring road will be eliminated and measures taken against coal burning in the capital’s periphery, Xinhua said.

A rising number of Chinese cities have introduced emergency measures to counter smog amid increasing social unrest over the health effects of a spoiled environment.

Check out this video:

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