Friday, June 12, 2009

Road Particles Pose Higher "Health Risk"

BBC ran an article on June 9th, 2009, "Road particles (PM) pose higher health risk". In a growing number of cities, especially in the developing countries, along the major roads, the contribution of the transport sector is the main culprit. However, the city as a whole, it is important that a holistic picture and understanding of the sources (including the domestic and industrial) is established before a decision is made on the contribution (source apportionment).

For example, during the 2008 Olympics, the city of Beijing, did not achieve the reductions in the air pollution levels by halving the on road vehicular fleet alone. This was achieved only in conjunction with closing down a number of small and large industrial sites in and around the city.

Now, the long range transport plays a critical role. The transport emissions are ground based and tend to increase the local concentrations significantly. However, the industrial sources also contribute to farther distances. For pollutants like SO2, the transport quotient is higher than the coarse PM and this was also evident in Beijing during the games.

On one side, the visibility of the growing transport sector creates an atmospheric cloud that multiples its contribution, while the industries contribute significantly in packets of puff and contribute to farther distances.

Since the people spend more time on the roads, because of traveling or due to sitting in a congestion zone, people tend to experience the most of the air pollution along the roads and thus conclude that the contribution of transport as the main culprit. However, quantifying the contribution of the transport sector is a challenge, not only for the researchers (studying the satellite evidence earlier), but also the policy makers to propose effective measures encompassing multiple sectors.

Previous posts on transport emissions, air pollution, and health

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