Louisiana - Along a winding stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the sugar cane fields that have surrounded small neighborhoods for generations have been gradually replaced by smokestacks and chemical flares. Residents have protested the industrial plants for years, saying the facilities affect their health. Now, several companies and the State of Louisiana are proposing new industrial facilities that they say will be carbon neutral through a process called carbon capture. But after years of industrialization, many local residents and environmental activists are skeptical of the proposals.
Almost everyone on Earth breathes unhealthy air. That’s the alarming conclusion from the latest update of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality database, which drew on data from more than 6,000 cities in 117 countries. The organization argued that the figures were another argument in favor of phasing out the use of fossil fuels. “Current energy concerns highlight the importance of speeding up the transition to cleaner, healthier energy systems,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press release. “High fossil fuel prices, energy security, and the urgency of addressing the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change, underscore the pressing need to move faster towards a world that is much less dependent on fossil fuels.”
As the acceptance of climate change becomes increasingly commonplace, more and more companies will be created or adapted to “fight” or “solve” it — or, at the very least, minimize its effects. Kingspan Group, which began as an engineering and contracting business in 1965 in Ireland, has since grown into a global company with more than 15,000 employees focused on green insulation and other sustainable building materials. Its mission is to “accelerate a zero emissions future with the wellbeing of people and planet at its heart.” But workers at the Kingspan Light + Air factory in Santa Ana, Calif. don’t feel that the company has their wellbeing at its heart — and they say they have documented the indoor air pollution in their workplace to prove it.
As you enter Chester, Pennsylvania, and drive by 10 Highland Ave, chances are you just took a breath of mercury, soot, and lead. You might have also seen a big smokestack as you drove by, and if you did, you would have seen the country’s largest trash incinerator run by a company called Covanta. This incinerator sits in a mostly Black neighborhood in which one-third of the residents live under the poverty line. The location of this incinerator, however, is far from a coincidence. Forty-five percent of all incinerators in the country are in neighborhoods where people of color are a majority or a higher percentage than the national average. This is a striking example of environmental injustice.
San Francisco - Aliyah Dunn-Salahuddin still remembers riding the bus home from elementary school and smelling fresh-baked pastries and bread from the Parisian Bread Factory near Evans Street. She also remembers how quickly that scent would turn to one of sewage and smoke as the bus pulled closer to her home. Dunn-Salahuddin grew up two decades ago in Bayview-Hunters Point, a neighborhood in the southeastern corner of San Francisco, jutting into the bay. It’s under four square miles, just 8.5 percent of San Francisco’s land mass. This relatively small parcel of the city holds a disproportionate concentration of its toxic and polluting sites. For decades, state and local agencies have tried—halfheartedly, advocates say—to monitor and clean up the polluted air in Bayview.
Studies have long pointed to air pollution in the United States disproportionately harming poor and minority communities. But a pair of recent studies that examined tailpipe pollution in major urban hubs suggest policymakers could craft regulations more effectively to reduce air pollution disparities by targeting emissions from diesel vehicles. One of the studies, published by University of Virginia researchers earlier this month, used satellites to measure the near-daily emissions of nitrogen dioxide in 52 major U.S. cities, including Phoenix, Los Angeles and Newark, New Jersey. It found that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color experience an average of 28 percent more nitrogen dioxide pollution than higher-income and majority-white neighborhoods.
Chicago - Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) announced Tuesday he will join 10 hunger strikers fighting to block another polluter from receiving the city’s approval to operate on the Southeast Side. As the Pilsen alderman joined the strike, United Neighbors of the 10th Ward member Breanna Bertacchi, Southeast Youth Alliance founder Oscar Sanchez and George Washington High School teacher Chuck Stark wrapped up their 20th day without food. They’ll complete their third week Wednesday. The three initial strikers and eight others who have joined the fast in recent weeks are demanding the Chicago Department of Public Health deny an operating permit to Southside Recycling, a metal scrapper planned for 11600 S. Burley Ave. in East Side.
Burning fossil fuels kills nearly 9 million people worldwide and an estimated 350,000 in the U.S. every year, according to a new study by scientists from Harvard and three British universities. The staggering death toll is more than double the WHO's 2017 estimate of deaths caused by air pollution. "There's a perception in the United States that we have this under control, but that's a mistake," Joel Schwartz, a Harvard professor and one of the study's authors, told the Boston Globe. Based on data from 2018, the scientists found nearly one-in-five deaths that year — and nearly a third of deaths in eastern Asia — were caused by burning fossil fuels.
Springfield, MA - More than 75 people gathered on the steps of City Hall on Thursday calling for an end to a long-proposed biomass project in East Springfield, saying it is a threat to public health and an environmental hazard. Some of those speaking used he phrase “we can’t breathe” in expressing their strong opposition to the wood-to-energy plant proposed by Palmer Renewable Energy LLC at 1000 Page Blvd. Verne McArthur, of the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, led the activists and residents in chants against the biomass project, including, “We will, we will, block you, block you.”
The researchers found that Covid-19 patients who lived in polluted areas were more likely to die than those in less polluted areas, with a small increase in PM 2.5 associated with a large increase in the risk of premature death. If the results held up, it would be striking evidence of the need for a more expansive public policy to control Covid-19 that included environmental, as well as personal, protection. But the paper instantly touched off a political scrum, in large part because the Harvard team's conclusion was directly at odds with the Trump administration's drive to aggressively roll back environmental regulation. Democrats and environmental advocates cited the research in their battle against the Trump agenda, while Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wheeler's science advisers, Republican members of Congress and anti-regulation lobbyists all blasted the study.
As the death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise in the U.S. — and as initial studies suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution may lead to higher death rates from the disease — a new report finds that nearly five in 10 Americans are breathing polluted air. According to the American Lung Association’s (ALA) latest State of Air Report released April 21, 150 million Americans — almost half the population — are living in areas with unhealthy air. The findings challenge clean air claims by the Trump administration and fossil fuel allies. The report also describes how the current administration’s environmental rollbacks threaten the nation’s air quality and public health. The American Lung Association’s 21st annual State of the Air Report marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, a bedrock environmental law enacted in 1970.
As many Americans fight for their lives in the midst of a respiratory pandemic, the Trump administration Thursday axed the justification for a mercury pollution rule that saves more than 10,000 lives and prevents as many as 130,000 asthma attacks each year. The new rollback leaves mercury emission standards in place for now, but changes how their benefits are calculated so that the economic cost takes precedence over public health gains, The New York Times reported. The move provides a legal opening to challenge other pollution controls even as evidence suggests that exposure to air pollution might increase one's chances of dying from the new coronavirus. "This is an absolute abomination," former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head under Obama and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) president Gina McCarthy said in a statement.
Every time Linda Garcia’s cellphone pings, she wonders if it will be another death threat. The environmental activist has been targeted by anonymous callers for five years since taking on Big Oil to save her community from environmental devastation. Garcia lives in Fruit Valley, the kind of close-knit place where everybody knows everybody. The low-income community in Vancouver, Washington, sits just across the river from Portland, Oregon, and is home to a thousand households. It also has a severe air pollution problem.
Plastic pollution is now the greatest global issue. And a new study proves microplastics are traveling through the atmosphere. In a first of its kind published in Nature Geoscience, the study looked at atmospheric microplastic deposition and transport. Research presented in the study included “observations of atmospheric microplastic deposition in a remote, pristine mountain catchment (French Pyrenees).” Over a five month period, samples were analyzed in both wet and dry deposition identifying fibers up to ~750 µm long and fragments ≤300 µm as microplastics, the study reported. The study concluded “daily counts of 249 fragments, 73 films and 44 fibers per square meter” that deposited on the French Pyrenees.
On December 28, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal that would effectively weaken the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which protect American families from mercury and other harmful air pollutants emitted by power plants. These regulations save a lot of lives — 11,000 every year, according to the EPA’s own data — and they prevent 130,000 asthma attacks annually. Stripping this regulatory power virtually guarantees more asthma attacks and more preventable deaths.