Thursday, August 28, 2014

Garbage Burning Worsening Air Pollution Worldwide

Unregulated trash burning around the globe is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere than shown by official records. A new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research estimates that more than 40 percent of the world’s garbage is burned in such fires, emitting gases and particles that can substantially affect human health and climate change. The new study provides the first rough estimates, on a country-by-country basis, of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, and mercury that are emitted by the fires. Such pollutants have been linked to serious medical issues. More @ UCAR

The study concluded that the fires produce emissions equivale
­­­nt to as much as 29 percent of officially reported human-related global emissions of small particulates (less than 2.5 microns in diameter), as well as 10 percent of mercury and 64 percent of a group of gases known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These pollutants have been linked to such significant health impacts as decreased lung function, neurological disorders, cancer, and heart attacks.


Trash burning in some countries accounts for particularly high quantities of certain types of pollutants. In China, for example, the emissions are equivalent to 22 percent of reported emissions of larger particles (those up to 10 microns in diameter).

The global impact on greenhouse gas emissions appears to be less, though still significant, with burning trash producing an amount of carbon dioxide equal to an estimated 5 percent of reported human-related emissions. (By comparison, the Kyoto Protocol strove for a global 5 percent cut among industrialized countries in greenhouse-gas emissions derived from fossil fuels.) In certain developing countries—such as Lesotho, Burundi, Mali, Somalia, and Sri Lanka—the trash burning produces more carbon dioxide than is tallied in official inventories. This discrepancy can be important in international negotiations over reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Title: Global Emissions of Trace Gases, Particulate Matter, and Hazardous Air Pollutants from Open Burning of Domestic Waste
Authors: Christine Wiedinmyer, Robert J. Yokelson, and Brian K. Gullett
Publication: Environmental Science and Technology
doi: 10.1021/es502250z

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Household Air Pollution Intervention Tool 'HAPIT'

Professor Kirk Smith's Research Group at the University of California, Berkeley, developed a simple, web-based tool (Household Air Pollution Intervention Tool 'HAPIT') to allow policy-makers, donors, non-governmental organizations, project developers, and researchers to quickly compare the impacts of various cooking technologies on human health at the national level.
 


The tool facilitates easy-to-use impact comparisons by combining data and calculations from several sources. Health impacts are estimated by using recent findings from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease report results, including the latest exposure-response relationships caused by household air pollution for child pneumonia, heart disease, and other diseases. The tool also derives simple cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit estimates based on the World Health Organization WHO-CHOICE methods.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Global Glacier Mass Lost Due to Anthroporgenic Emissions

Published in Science - Abstract - The ongoing global glacier retreat is affecting human societies by causing sea-level rise, changing seasonal water availability, and increasing geohazards. Melting glaciers are an icon of anthropogenic climate change. However, glacier response times are typically decades or longer, which implies that the present-day glacier retreat is a mixed response to past and current natural climate variability and current anthropogenic forcing. Here, we show that only 25 ± 35% of the global glacier mass loss during the period from 1851 to 2010 is attributable to anthropogenic causes. Nevertheless, the anthropogenic signal is detectable with high confidence in glacier mass balance observations during 1991 to 2010, and the anthropogenic fraction of global glacier mass loss during that period has increased to 69 ± 24%.

Mercury Pollution Trippled in Oceans Since 1850's

Globally, oceans contain roughly 60,000 to 80,000 tons of mercury pollution, according to a report published this week in Nature detailing the first direct calculation of mercury pollution in the world's oceans. Ocean waters shallower than about 300 feet (100 meters) have tripled in mercury concentration since the Industrial Revolution, the study found, and mercury in the oceans as a whole has increased roughly 10 percent over pre-industrial times. North Atlantic waters showed the most obvious signs of mercury pollution, since surface waters there sink to form deeper water flows. In contrast, the tropical and Northeast Pacific were relatively unaffected. "We don't know what that means for fish and marine mammals, but likely that some fish contain at least three times more mercury than 150 years ago," and possibly more, lead researcher Carl Lamborg of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said. "The next 50 years could very well add the same amount we've seen in the past 150." This article @ Yale 360

Abstract from the Nature magazine

Mercury is a toxic, bioaccumulating trace metal whose emissions to the environment have increased significantly as a result of anthropogenic activities such as mining and fossil fuel combustion. Several recent models have estimated that these emissions have increased the oceanic mercury inventory by 36–1,313 million moles since the 1500s. Such predictions have remained largely untested owing to a lack of appropriate historical data and natural archives. Here we report oceanographic measurements of total dissolved mercury and related parameters from several recent expeditions to the Atlantic, Pacific, Southern and Arctic oceans. We find that deep North Atlantic waters and most intermediate waters are anomalously enriched in mercury relative to the deep waters of the South Atlantic, Southern and Pacific oceans, probably as a result of the incorporation of anthropogenic mercury. We estimate the total amount of anthropogenic mercury present in the global ocean to be 290 ± 80 million moles, with almost two-thirds residing in water shallower than a thousand metres. Our findings suggest that anthropogenic perturbations to the global mercury cycle have led to an approximately 150 per cent increase in the amount of mercury in thermocline waters and have tripled the mercury content of surface waters compared to pre-anthropogenic conditions. This information may aid our understanding of the processes and the depths at which inorganic mercury species are converted into toxic methyl mercury and subsequently bioaccumulated in marine food webs.