Soot Particles in the Air More Dangerous Than Previously Thought


Photo: Paul L. Nettles, CC
*Cough* *Wheeze* *Argh*
An extended epidemiological analysis, building on data from 350,000 people over 18 years, and an additional 150,000 people in more recent years, was conducted for the Health Effects Institute by scientists at the University of Ottawa (which is about 10 blocks from where I'm writing this) about the impact of soot particles in the air. Sadly, no good news: "The review found that the risk of having a condition that is a precursor to deadly heart attacks for people living in soot-laden areas goes up by 24 percent rather than 12 percent, [as previously thought]." Read on for more details.
Photo: Flickr, CC

The New York Times writes:

the areas covered in the study included 116 American cities, with the highest levels of soot particles found in areas including the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles and the Central Valley of California; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; the Ohio River Valley; and Pittsburgh. [...]

A variety of sources produce fine particles, and they include diesel engines, automobile tires, coal-fired power plants and oil refineries. [...]

The link between fine particles, the diameter of which is smaller than a 30th of a human hair, and cardiopulmonary disease has been established for two decades, and the E.P.A. has regulated such emissions since 1997. In 2006, despite mounting evidence that the particles were deadlier than first thought, the agency declined to lower chronic exposure limits.


Diesel fans should take note, their favorite vehicles might get great MPG (especially on the highway), but they still produce more PM than gasoline engines (even if they improved greatly in recent years).

One way to reduce the exposure to soot for people living close to ports would be to figure out a way to make cargo ships much cleaner (see "Just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760m cars").

Via The New York Times
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Tags: Air Pollution | Pollution