Friday, September 21, 2007

Pollution Probe--Friday Feature

Today’s Friday Feature is Pollution Probe, a Canadian environmental organization and website devoted to clean air and water. Have a look. In their own words, Pollution Probe:

  • Defines environmental problems through research,

  • Promotes understanding through education, and

  • Presses for practical solutions through advocacy.

They are dedicated to achieving positive and tangible environmental change. I checked out its members and was impressed with who served on the board, artist Robert Bateman, among them. They have a great listing of publications and links, plus a decent news section. One of their publications, which I found both interesting and educational is their Smog Primer, part of the Primer series and a publication devoted to everything about smog given in palatable language. I found it useful and interesting.

I live in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Canada, considered by many to be one of this planet’s most beautiful and scenic locations. However, not unlike the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, the Fraser Basin is plagued with air pollution. And smog.

According to the federal government, two-thirds of Canadians are exposed to harmful levels of air pollutants (e.g., smog). Those most at risk include people with heart and lung disease, asthmatics, the elderly, smokers and children. Nearly 8% of non-accidental deaths in Canada have been attributed to pollution produced from the burning of fossil fuels, says the Population Health, Community Service, and Critical Thinking Unit of Nova Scotia.

Once discharged to the atmosphere, the ultimate destination of compounds depends, in part, on their chemical and physical characteristics and also on prevailing meteorological conditions. For example, large dust particles remain in the atmosphere for only a matter of minutes to a few hours, exerting a local influence. By contrast, some polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may remain aloft for decades, traveling throughout the global atmosphere.

Smog, the term given to a haze in the air, is nasty stuff and consists mainly of ground-level ozone and fine airborne particulate matter (PM10, particles <10).>Air quality in the Fraser Valley is regulated federally and provincially with input by the municipalities and regional districts through zoning and bylaws that regulate emissions. Smog is monitored in the valley by comparing monitored data to national and provincial guidelines or objectives. The air is then characterized as good, fair or poor, with public advisories issued when levels are expected to produce poor air quality. Advisories are based on a one-hour threshold level of 82 ppb for ozone and 50 µg/m3 over a 24 our period for PM10. Air particulates in the Georgia Basin ecosystem have gradually decreased since the early 1990s. Although air quality in the Fraser Basin is improving, there remain occurrences when air pollution reaches levels known to cause human health risks. Acute effects of air pollution include: irritation of eyes, nose and throat; exacerbations of existing lung and heart diseases, wheezing, coughing and difficulty in breathing. Particulate matter has been associated with increased risk of heart disease. Chronic effects include increased mortality, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, and prevalence of asthma.

Environment Canada suggests the following things we can do to decrease emission levels:

  • Reduce air conditioning demands in summer by installing window blinds, using ceiling fans and shading your house with trees or awnings;

  • Keep your oil or gas furnace properly tuned. A well-maintained unit uses 10-15% less energy. Consider replacing your old furnace with a more efficient one;

  • When shopping for new appliances, compare EnerGuide consumption rates and choose the one that is most efficient. Even if its more expensive, it will cost less in the long run;

  • When shopping for a new home, keep energy efficiency in mind. What are the levels of insulation? How efficient is the heating system? Are the windows the best available for reducing heat loss?

  • Look for low-emission motors for regular household equipment like lawn mowers, snow blowers and outboard motors;

  • Consider using energy-efficient lighting when buying lights. Fluorescent bulbs for use in standard incandescent sockets are now available and are more than four times as efficient and last eight to fifteen times longer than the equivalent incandescent bulb;

  • Don’t idle your car (one of my personal pet peeves!). Turn if off, even if it’s just for a few minutes; and,

  • Try walking, biking or in-line skating rather than taking your car.

Smog is a composition of pollutants and particulate matter. The term was historically used to describe a mixture of smoke and fog. It now refers to a combination of toxic vapors, gases and particles. Smog is formed in the atmosphere by reactions of VOCs and oxides of nitrogen in the presence of sunlight. Ground level ozone is the primary component of smog and is what is measured to provide air quality forecasts.


Modern Matriarch said...

I just wanted to take a minute to praise the graphic content on your blog. Always eyecatching, and often quite beautiful.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

So many good points. Many cities in this world are smog zones.

sfgirl said...

They are...certainly the bigger ones and those that tend to be locked inside a valley that traps all those lovely hydrocarbons. In your part of the world, there has been a long history of smog in the old coal towns, I guess...They say we are improving. Alternate technologies are helping us clean up the air. I'm optimistic.

sfgirl said...

Thanks, Tricia, for the compliments on my graphic content. I try to post my own photos but often end up "borrowing" from other sites. It's all out there, is the way I see it (I usually give credit though, when I do, and you've just reminded me that I've lapsed in time!)