Saturday, September 6, 2014

How harmful is household air pollution?

The use of wood or coal fuel for cooking, heating, and lighting, is said to be putting three billion people worldwide at risk of damaged health and early death.

There are many countries in the world, most in Africa and Asia that predominantly use wood or charcoal, or coal, to cook, heat, and light their homes - approximately one third of global population.

These smoky fuels are very dirty and the result of their combustion is high levels of indoor air pollution.  It is reported that in some areas, household air pollution is so high that it actually contributes to an increase of outdoor air pollution.

Because of the excessive levels of  household air pollution an estimated 600-800 million families worldwide are at increased risk of illnesses that include respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, COPD, asthma, and lung cancer.

The UK researchers from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine concluded that household air pollution killed approximately 4 million people in 2010. The researchers also reported that there are close to 3 billion people that are currently exposed to excessive levels of household air pollution.

Many third world countries have failed in their efforts to tackle household air pollution and the public awareness of the risks of cooking with wood and coal in poorly ventilated homes remains very low.

Scientists and health personnel in countries where household air pollution is still taking heavy toll need to work with governments and international health agencies to increase awareness of this issue in order to have any chance of success.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to successfully clean soil polluted with organic pollutants?

Many organic pollutants, such as oil, pollute soil. Traditional option to clean soil polluted with organic pollutants is to treat soil by composting, and though this is rather successful in dealing with oil, it is far less effective when put against other organic pollutants.

The researchers have estimated that soil polluted with organic pollutants different than oil accounts for as much as 45% of excavated contaminated soil, and thus finding the effective cleaning solution for this soil is very important.

The latest study conducted by Finish scientists showed that this soil which is usually found in areas with plenty of sawing or with significant distribution of fuels, waste treatment and various kinds of industry, can be successfully cleaned with fungi.

Taking soil to a landfill is anything but a sustainable practice. In fact, a lot more sustainable solution would be to clean the polluted soil with fungi instead. However, many countries choose the landfill option because this is cheap and easy to do.

Fungi such as mycellium break down soil polluting substances very successfully. The laboratory tests showed efficiency higher than 90% in breaking down soil-polluting compounds.

As already stated above, landfills are still the No.1 option but in years to come new methods will be necessary such as this one that involves using fungi.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Air pollution has major impact on global weather

Air pollution caused by humans is not only causing health and environmental issues, it is also affecting global weather. The researchers at the Texas A&M University have recently found the clear link between the increased air pollution, and changing weather patterns, particularly on the formation of powerful storms.

In their study, researchers used pollution emission data compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and looked at two scenarios, the first one for a rate in 1850, the so called pre-Industrial era, and the second one from 2000. By comparing these two scenarios researchers discovered that air pollutants from Asia affect storms that hover over the Pacific and subsequently the weather patterns in North America as well as the rest of the world.

The ever-increasing air pollution in many of the Asian fast-growing economies has major impact on storm formation and global air circulation. It makes storms stronger and more intense, and these storms are then characterized with more precipitation in them.

The pollutants that come in the air form particles called aerosols. The level of these particles in the atmosphere affects the scattering or absorbing solar radiation, and can thus indirectly lead to alteration of cloud formations.

The researchers are convinced that the Pacific storm track is intensified because of the growing Asian air pollution. Aerosols in the air over Asia impact the global weather patterns through these powerful Pacific storms can affect weather significantly, both at regional as well as global level.

Hopefully, future studies will shed even more light on the link between air pollution and climate and weather patterns.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

New filtration membranes for cleaner industrial water

Many industries need plenty of water for different processes. The water used for these processes compounds of different metals and minerals, meaning that this is not clean water that can be used for drinking.

The scientists from all over the globe are working on potential solutions that could effectively remove various pollutants from industrial water and turn it into a clean water.

The latest interesting research on this topic comes from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, where researchers were able to develop energy-efficient methods for reuse of water in industrial processes, the ones that also allow extraction of metals and valuable minerals.

The current treatment methods of water in purification plants and industrial facilities require enormous amounts of energy. In most cases,  water recycling and seawater desalination processes use filtration membranes that consume plenty of energy. VTT scientists on the other hand developed intelligent membrane materials, that require significantly less energy, and are based on osmosis technology.

The VTT scientists also developed sensor technology that allows easy and rapid detection of pollutants. They also announced that their technology will be ready for production use within the next few years.

It also has to be said  that many researchers are already testing various biological extraction methods by which metals are recovered from mining, metal and recycling industry waste by using the combination of microbes and chemical reactions. These new methods and technologies are predicted to appear on the market within the next few years.

We all know that clean water is becoming scarcer with each new day. Cleaning industrial water is certainly something world should aspire to in order to tackle the clean water issue.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wildfires to further degrade air quality on our planet

Wildfires have become much more frequent over the last few years and this trend is set to continue even further, the latest study done by the US scientists suggests that by the year 2100, emissions from wildfires in California alone will grow by 19 to 101 percent.

The main reason behind this expected growth of emissions is climate, which is fast changing as our planet becomes hotter due to rapid increase in man-made carbon emissions.

One of the major environmental damages done by more frequent wildfires will be degraded air quality because this will lead to a much higher level of air pollutants in the air leading to adverse effects to human health causing aggravated respiratory conditions.

Climate change is almost certain to impact the number and severity of wildfires, meaning that already concerning air pollution issue will likely grow even further in not so distant future. The science still hasn't proposed the way on which people can better prepare for the future and perhaps lessen the effects of these wildfires.

It's not just air pollution that is worrying scientists but also risk of damage to buildings and homes in hot areas such as American West. People will quickly need to learn how to mitigate these effects in wildfire-prone regions in order to protect their homes and their health.

Air pollution coming from wildfires is not just major health issue, it will also likely lead to lower crop yield, and forest health could suffer, doing damage to many ecosystems that depend on forests.