Nearly 2 million in Illinois live near warehouses shrouded by truck pollution

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Illinois has been a freight hub since its beginnings, from waterways to rails to interstate highways to modern intermodal transportation centers to an unprecedented proliferation of warehouses to satisfy the demands of online shoppers. 

Increasingly, warehouses crop up beside neighborhoods, exposing people living nearby to exhaust fumes from starting, stopping and idling trucks. And these diesel plumes carry a host of potential health threats to the public, including low birth rates, respiratory illnesses, even dementia.

These are the findings of a recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group that, using proximity-mapping technology, found that about 15 million people live within a half mile of a warehouse in 10 states it examined, including more than one million children under 5 years old. 

Webinar: A Just Transition Approach Powered by a Responsible Energy Industry

May 30, 2023, 11-noon CDT
Register here.

Urgent action is required to decarbonize the power sector in order to minimize global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Decarbonization within the supply chains play a critical role in realizing this ambitions. As a result, efforts are being made to have the power sector reach net-zero by 2040, as decarbonizing the power sector will enable other sectors to do the same.

The Global Alliance for Sustainable Energy is working toward achieving the Paris Accord’s ambition to avoid the harshest impacts of climate change on both people and planet.

In this webcast, learn how the Global Alliance for Sustainable Energy aims to accelerate a just transition to net-zero. In this 1-hour long webcast, you’ll further learn:

  • A view of how key players within the Global Alliance for Sustainable Energy are working towards enabling the transition to fully sustainable energy across the entire value chain;
  • The findings and commitments of the industrial members of the Alliance detailed in their recently published Net-Zero position paper and pledge;
  • How utilities and suppliers can work together to decarbonize the entire energy sector;
  • Among other themes related to Circular Design Criteria.

Moderator:

  • Sarah Golden, VP, Energy, GreenBiz Group

Speakers:

  • Salvatore Bernabei, Enel Green Power CEO and Chairman of the Global Alliance for Sustainable Energy (“The Alliance”).
  • Monica Oviedo, Iberdrola Head of Sustainability Management Iberdrola and Chair of Net Zero/Decarbonization Working Group of the Alliance.
  • Oluwadabira Abiola-Awe, Student Energy’s Ventures and Capital Campaign Associate, Advisory member of the Alliance.

If you can’t tune in live, please register and GreenBiz will email you a link to access the webcast recording and resources, available to you on-demand after the live webcast.

Can beer convince Americans to drink recycled wastewater?

Read the full story from Bloomberg.

To help consumers get over the yuck factor of consuming treated wastewater, advocates are turning to craft beer as a strategy. 

Webinar: U.S. Paint EPR: Challenges & Opportunities

May 25, 2023, 10-11:30 CDT
Register here.

Now in its second decade of operations, PaintCare – a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created by the American Coatings Association – has collected more than 63 million gallons of leftover household paint, most of which has been reused (5%), recycled into new paint (71%), or used for other products or fuel (15%). As both the environmental and business communities look ahead to building a more circular economy, PaintCare is expanding its footprint into new states and products, while recycled paint manufacturers are working to grow domestic markets. 

Join us for an engaging discussion among paint stewardship experts working at the frontlines of the second decade of paint stewardship in the United States. This webinar is open to the entire PSI community; however, the recording will be accessible only to PSI’s Members and Partners.


How a global treaty could solve the plastic waste crisis

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Next week in Paris, a United Nations-sponsored gathering of nations, business groups and activists will gather to advance a treaty aimed at curbing plastic pollution worldwide.

If done thoughtfully and comprehensively, the treaty could be a game-changer. But that’s a two-liter-sized “if.” The open question is whether the measures being considered are sufficient to stem the still-growing tide — or is it a tsunami now? — of plastic waste, including the empty packaging and other detritus already overwhelming the world’s landscapes and waterways.

Amazon shareholders can hold the company accountable for its plastic pollution. Will they?

Read the full story at Fast Company.

For too long, the ever-growing deluge of Amazon plastic packaging has been swept under the proverbial rug. Unlike Target and Wal-Mart, the company’s major competitors, Amazon has resisted globally addressing its plastic packaging footprint. This could all change soon, at the company’s annual meeting on May 24, if major investors call on Amazon to finally report and act on its plastic waste.

How wildfire smoke can harm human health, even when the fire is hundreds of miles away – a toxicologist explains

The sunset in Jersey City, N.J., glows orange through smoke from wildfires in Canada in May 2023. Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

by Christopher T. Migliaccio, University of Montana

Smoke from more than 200 wildfires burning across Canada has been turning skies hazy in North American cities far from the flames. We asked Chris Migliaccio, a toxicologist at the University of Montana who studies the impact of wildfire smoke on human health, about the health risks people can face when smoke blows in from distant wildfires.

What’s in wildfire smoke that’s a problem?

When we talk about air quality, we often talk about PM2.5. That’s particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller – small enough that it can travel deep into the lungs.

Exposure to PM2.5 from smoke or other air pollution, such as vehicle emissions, can exacerbate health conditions like asthma and reduce lung function in ways that can worsen existing respiratory problems and even heart disease.

But the term PM2.5 only tells you about size, not composition – what is burning can make a significant difference in the chemistry.

A map of North America shows where wildfire smoke from fires in Alberta, Canada, was forecast to blow across the U.S. and eastern Canada. Light smoke reaches as far south as northern Texas and Tennessee.
Smoke from wildfires in Canada on May 21, 2023, was visible across a large part of the U.S. FireSmoke Canada

In the northern Rockies, where I live, most fires are fueled by vegetation, but not all vegetation is the same. If the fire is in the wildland urban interface, manufactured fuels from homes and vehicles may also be burning, and that’s going to create its own toxic chemistry. Chemists usually talk about volatile organic compounds, (VOCs), carbon monoxide and PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons produced when biomass and other matter burns having the potential to harm human health.

How does inhaling wildfire smoke harm human health?

Illustration of a small section of lungs showing the alveoli and, within the alveoli, a close up of a microphage
Where macrophages are found in alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs.

If you have ever been around a campfire and got a blast of smoke in your face, you probably had some irritation. With exposure to wildfire smoke, you might also get some irritation in the nose and throat and maybe some inflammation.

As with a lot of things, the dose makes the poison – almost anything can be harmful at a certain dose.

Generally, cells in the lungs called alveolar macrophages will pick up the particulates and clear them out – at reasonable doses. It’s when the system gets overwhelmed that you can have a problem.

One concern is that smoke can suppress macrophage function, altering it enough that you become more susceptible to respiratory infection. A colleague who looked at lag time in the effect of wildfire smoke exposure found an increase in influenza cases after a bad fire season. Studies in developing countries have also found increases in respiratory infections with people who are cooking on open fires in homes.

The stress of an inflammatory response can also exacerbate existing health problems. Being exposed to wood smoke won’t independently cause someone to have a heart attack, but if they have underlying risk factors, such as significant plaque buildup, the added stress can increase the risk.

Researchers are also studying potential effects on the brain and nervous system from inhaled particulate matter.

When smoke blows over long distances, does its toxicity change?

We know that the chemistry of wildfire smoke changes. The longer it’s in the atmosphere, the more the chemistry will be altered by ultraviolet light, but we still have a lot to learn.

Researchers have found that there seems to be a higher level of oxidation, so oxidants and free radicals are being generated the longer smoke is in the air. The specific health effects aren’t yet clear, but there’s some indication that more exposure leads to greater health effects.

The supposition is that more free radicals are generated the longer smoke is in atmosphere and exposed to UV light, so there’s a greater potential for health harm. A lot of that, again, comes down to dose.

A photo looking out at the Denver skyline shows a very hazy cities.
Denver was listed among the world’s worst cities for air pollution on May 19, 2023, largely because of the wildfire smoke from Canada. Colorado Air Pollution Control Division

Chances are, if you’re a healthy individual, going for a bike ride or a hike in light haze won’t be a big deal, and your body will be able to recover.

If you’re doing that every day for a month in wildfire smoke, however, that raises more concerns. I’ve worked on studies with residents at Seeley Lake in Montana who were exposed to hazardous levels of PM2.5 from wildfire smoke for 49 days in 2017. We found a decrease in lung function a year later. No one was on oxygen, but there was a significant drop.

This is a relatively new area of research, and there’s still a lot we’re learning, especially with the increase in wildfire activity as the planet warms.

What precautions can people take to reduce their risk from wildfire smoke?

If there is smoke in the air, you want to decrease your exposure.

Can you completely avoid the smoke? Not unless you’re in a hermetically sealed home. The PM levels aren’t much different indoors and out unless you have a really good HVAC system, such as those with MERV 15 or better filters. But going inside decreases your activity, so your breathing rate is slower and the amount of smoke you’re inhaling is likely lower.

A satellite animation shows smoke moving from fires in Alberta across Canada and into New England.
A satellite captures wildfire smoke on May 16, 2023. NASA EarthData

We also tend to advise people that if you’re in a susceptible group, such as those with asthma, create a safe space at home and in the office with a high-level stand-alone air filtration system to create a space with cleaner air.

Some masks can help. It doesn’t hurt to have a high-quality N95 mask. Just wearing a cloth mask won’t do much, though.

Most states have air quality monitors that can give you a sense of how bad the air quality is, so check those sites and act accordingly.

Christopher T. Migliaccio, Research Associate Professor in Toxicology, University of Montana

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Metal-filtering sponge removes lead from water

Read the full story from Northwestern University.

Engineers have developed a new sponge that can remove metals — including toxic heavy metals like lead and critical metals like cobalt — from contaminated water, leaving safe, drinkable water behind. In proof-of-concept experiments, the researchers tested their new sponge on a highly contaminated sample of tap water, containing more than 1 part per million of lead. With one use, the sponge filtered lead to below detectable levels.

Latest research in microplastic pollution: What does the future hold?

Microplastics have become a more significant issue as concern has grown around plastic pollution and its environmental effects. Ongoing research has looked into biodegradability and ways to increase this. However, more recent research has focused on how plastic pollutants can damage biological organisms.

Not such small things: microplastics in our streams

Read the full story from the University of California Riverside.

UC Riverside scientists are taking a modern approach to studying a murky subject — the quantity, quality, and sources of microplastics in Los Angeles County’s urban streams.