Ignoring children’s health

Discussion on health consequences of air particulates

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Ignoring children’s health

Postby Wilberforce » Thu May 10, 2012 8:12 pm

Ignoring children’s health

By brian moench
First Published May 10 2012 01:01 am • Last Updated May 10 2012 01:01 am

The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment made a presentation last week to the Utah Air Quality Board, adding a disconcerting new dimension to the debate over how the state will comply with federal air-pollution standards.

Achieving these standards could avert sanctions from the Environmental Protection Agency and shore up federal highway funds. But no one should be under the illusion that doing so will make our air "healthy." If your brother-in-law cuts his smoking to half a pack a day, that’s a good thing, but he’s still smoking.

Enforcing the current standards that we are violating is like ordering the state to join your brother-in-law in cutting back to half a pack. The standards are woefully inadequate, lagging behind the science, perhaps by a decade.

The EPA essentially functions as a community physician. If your personal doctor hasn’t read a medical journal in 10 years, or has to appease hostile members of Congress by calculating the political implications of treating you, undoubtedly you’ll be getting substandard care. So it is with the EPA’s national pollution standards — better than nothing, but a far cry from what is required for real public health protection.

Science is not malleable to our ideologies or the electoral process. Two and two equals four, whether you abhor government regulations or not. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons known as PAHs that you are inhaling right now are forming reactive epoxides that covalently bind with your chromosomes and impair their function, even if you are a state legislator who thinks that Utah is somehow immune from uncomfortable scientific realities.

Virtually every major medical organization in the country has been calling on the EPA to make national air quality standards stricter.

The panel of the nation’s premier air pollution scientists who advise the EPA have been writing letters to the agency since 2006, condemning it for allowing politics to overwhelm science in setting those standards.

Echoing these organizations, the presentation by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment before the Air Quality Board included hundreds of new medical studies demonstrating profound health effects, even with air quality well within the EPA’s standards.

The state board has only one physician, the only one of 1,100 board members who fully understood the presentation. Thanks to Sen. Margaret Dayton’s recent bill, future boards may not have any physicians. A presentation like that to future boards will be as absurd as passengers trying to fly a 747 without a pilot, navigator or radar.

Perhaps of greatest concern are new studies that show even low exposure to those PAHs — products of incomplete fossil fuel combustion, especially prevalent at oil refineries — is extremely toxic to chromosomes and brain development.

Refinery pollution builds up in homes near refineries, exceeding outdoor levels. And children living near refineries have higher levels of PAHs than adults. PAHs accumulate at higher concentrations on the fetal side of the placenta where they can precipitate far more cancer-causing DNA damage than in the pregnant mother. Living near a refinery doubles the risk of leukemia.

Researchers from the Columbia School of Public Health have been studying air pollution’s impact on the developing human embryo for 12 years, making some startling discoveries. Children born to mothers in the upper half of exposure to PAHs had 5 percent lower IQs at age 5 than children of mothers in the lower half of exposure. At age 7, they showed more behavior, attention-deficit and mood disorders, regardless of the air pollution the child breathed after birth.

The world’s premier medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine, recently published a review of the health consequences of exposure to oil. They advised pregnant women to avoid even the odor of oil. Anyone ever notice an odor coming from the refineries?

In my dreams, Utah politicians care about our pregnant mothers and our children’s health, and they not only prevent more refinery pollution, but demand a full-court press to clean them up. UPHE has been trying to persuade the governor, legislators and the DAQ to do just that. But so far their response seems to be, "Yeah, in your dreams."

Brian Moench is president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/54 ... h.html.csp


May 09, 2012
Tyler Environmental Prize Winners: Pollution's Effects Far-Reaching

Mike O'Sullivan | Los Angeles

Two California scientists have been honored for their research into air pollution, outdoor and indoor. This year’s winners of the $200,000 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, John Seinfeld and Kirk Smith, have shown the far-reaching nature of the problem.

Nearly half of the world’s people use biomass fuels such as wood or dried dung to cook their food, and many cook indoors.

Professor Kirk Smith of the University of California, Berkeley studies environmental impacts on human health, and wondered about the impact of smoke on the families. In the early 1980s he was studying energy use in rural Asia.

“And during that time, I noted the very smoky conditions in village households," said Smith. "I came back and I thought, well somebody must have looked at the health effects of this, and I could find nothing in the literature. My students and I looked. So we did some back-of-the-envelop calculations to figure roughly what kind of air pollution levels might exist, and we could not believe the results of our simple models.”

Later measurements confirmed the estimates: household cooking produces as much smoke as 1,000 cigarettes burning per hour. His studies show that this leads to nearly two-million premature deaths a year, especially among women and children, and the emissions contribute to climate change.

Air pollution in one part of the world affects the air in another, says the other recipient of this year's Tyler Prize, John Seinfeld of the California Institute of Technology.

“Emissions from Asia will make it across the Pacific, will be in the air over the United States, and even in some cases be tracked out over the Atlantic heading to Europe," said Seinfeld. "And so you can think of the northern hemisphere as a big backyard.”

He says the southern hemisphere has the same mixing, and there is long-term interaction between the hemispheres.

Seinfeld says natural and man-made substances interact.

“Every particle in the air anywhere on earth is a little kitchen sink of compounds that come from everywhere," he said. "So I got interested in understanding what this was, and it was very clear the atmosphere is just a big reactor.”

He says the interactions are complicated. Human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are warming the atmosphere. Other man-made and natural substances can accelerate the process, or sometimes slow it. " The compounds they produce can be harmful to human health.

The scientists say environmental research requires careful measurement. In Guatemala, India, China, and other countries, Kirk Smith has overseen studies to measure household emissions and assess the long-term effects on those exposed to smoke from cooking.

Research teams are also assessing the effectiveness of low-pollution stoves, and Smith foresees widespread use of that technology when the results are in. He notes that many devices being distributed by non-profit organizations have not been fully tested.

“The motto of my research group is, you do not get what you expect, you get what you inspect," he said. "So it looks good, but we have to inspect before we can know what to expect.”

He sees the financial burden being shared, as it is now in parts of China, where one third of the cost of a stove is paid by the family that uses it, one third by provincial authorities and one third with credits from the international carbon market.

He says stoves that are proven to be effective at reducing emissions will benefit families and communities and help to clear the air around the world.

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/env ... 40835.html
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• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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