Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Delhi's Doctors say, "Diwali Crackers = Lung Cancer"

A large number of doctors in Delhi this year are appealing for a cracker-free Diwali. Advocating ‘No Diwali crackers, no lung cancer’ for the city this festival season, Dr. Niranjan Naik, senior Oncologist (surgeon) from Dharamshila Hospital said: “Firecrackers form a major part of our Diwali celebrations. These firecrackers are not only harming the environment, but also lead to serious health problems. The crackers emit the worst kind of gases and increase air pollution by 30 per cent. The toxic air is not only dangerous for those suffering from pulmonary diseases, but it also causes breathing problems in others.’’

Stating that crackers contain elements like copper, cadmium, sulphur, aluminium and barium, the physician explained that on bursting, crackers emit toxic chemicals and gases that remain suspended for a long time. 

“Breathing such toxic and fine particles in the firecracker smog can cause serious health problems such as risk of lung inflammation, asthma attacks and like symptoms. Exposure to the smoke and smog aggravates symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Staying in Delhi NCR itself is a risk factor equivalent to smoking two cigarettes per day even if you are a non-smoker. It is strongly recommended that children, the elderly and people with lung or heart disease who are especially sensitive should stay indoors and close the windows to avoid breathing the smoke,’’ added Dr. Naik.

Read more @ the Hindu

Beijing's Marathon Masked with Air Pollution !!

Even by the city's standards, Beijing was very polluted on Sunday. The PM2.5 scale, which measures the number of micrograms of "particulate matter" per cubic meter, came up to a whopping 344. (To put that figure in perspective, the World Health Organization considers 25 micrograms to be healthy.)  The pollution was so bad that the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center warned the elderly, the sick, and children to stay indoors, and everyone else to avoid outdoor activity.

Read more @ the Atlantic

To say the least, these weren't ideal conditions for a marathon. But that race is precisely what took place on Sunday, as tens of thousands of runners braved the conditions to complete the 34th annual Beijing International Marathon.

Event organizers were aware that the air wouldn't be good on Sunday, but determined it was too late to postpone the race, which had attracted participants from throughout China and around the world. To help runners clean detritus from their skin, organizers supplied over 140,000 sponges placed at stations throughout the course.

Girhay Birhanu Gebru of Ethiopia won the men's competition for the second consecutive year, finishing in 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 42 seconds. His compatriot Fatuma Sado Dergo, meanwhile, captured the women's title at 2 hours, 30 minutes, and 3 seconds.

But these accomplishments were overshadowed by the sight of thousands of runners, many wearing face masks, streaking through a city so polluted that many nearby buildings could not be seen from the course.

Gong Lihua, a participant from China's Inner Mongolia region who finished third in the women's race, shrugged off the bad air.

"Today the smog did have a little impact on my performance, but not a major one," she said.
The Chinese government has struggled to balance environmental concerns with economic activity, and periodically closes factories located near the capital in order to reduce air pollution. But despite Beijing's ever-improving living standards, the city still endures a reputation as being uninhabitable. The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, a prominent government think tank, found in February that only Moscow had worse environmental credentials than Beijing.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

India Launches Methodology to Present Air Quality Index

India launched an index on Friday to measure air quality across the country, which is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world. It will measure eight major pollutants that impact respiratory health in cities with populations exceeding one million in the next five years and then gradually the rest of the country, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters. The Air Quality Index will warn residents when pollution levels shoot past dangerous levels.

More @ The Guardian

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Who Made This Charcoal Briquette - Linking Motoring and Outdooing Cooking

In the summer of 1919, a Michigan real estate agent named Edward G. Kingsford was invited on a camping trip by his wife’s cousin, the industrialist Henry Ford. In addition to Ford, the adventurers included Thomas Edison, the tire magnate Harvey Firestone and the naturalist John Burroughs. Although the group called themselves the Vagabonds, they traveled with chauffeurs and a chef in a convoy of six vehicles, one of which was a fully equipped kitchen truck.

Link to the article @ NY Times.

Kingsford was invited to join this annual adventure so that he and Ford could discuss timber, specifically the timber that might be found in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Americans bought one million Model T’s in 1919, and between the frame, wheel spokes, dashboard and running board, each car contained about 100 board feet of hardwood. So Ford wanted to produce his own. By the following spring, Kingsford had helped the industrialist acquire 313,000 acres of timberland in Iron Mountain, Mich. Ford built a sawmill and a parts plant there, along with a neighboring town — named Kingsford — to house the workers.

The mill produced plenty of lumber for Ford cars, but it also generated waste in the form of stumps, branches and sawdust. This irked Ford, who didn’t like to leave money lying on the ground. The solution came from a University of Oregon chemist named Orin Stafford, who had invented a method for making pillow-shaped lumps of fuel from sawdust and mill waste combined with tar and bound together with cornstarch. He called the lumps “charcoal briquettes.” Ford, ever efficient, shortened the word to “briquet.”

Edison designed a briquette factory next to the sawmill, and Kingsford ran it. It was a model of efficiency, producing 610 pounds of briquettes for every ton of scrap wood. At the beginning, the charcoal sold to meat and fish smokehouses, but supply exceeded demand. By the mid-1930s, Ford was marketing “Picnic Kits” containing charcoal and portable grills directly from Ford dealerships, capitalizing on the link between motoring and outdoor adventure that his own Vagabond travels popularized. “Enjoy a modern picnic,” the package suggested. “Sizzling broiled meats, steaming coffee, toasted sandwiches.”

But the Great Depression might not have been the best time to evoke the charm of outdoor cooking, which must have called to mind the Hooverville shantytowns springing up in every city. It wasn’t until after World War II that backyard barbecuing took off, thanks to suburban migration, the invention of the Weber grill and the marketing efforts of the businessmen who bought Ford Charcoal in 1951. They renamed it Kingsford Charcoal and persuaded the major supermarket chains to carry it. By 1963, barbecues, like cars, were icons of American leisure. As an article in Reader’s­ Digest observed, “Cooking with charcoal . . . is now as deeply ingrained in American life as the long weekend and the servantless kitchen.”