Air quality in the news: It’s been one notable and at the same time tough year

When it comes to news, 2019 has not been a particularly encouraging nor comforting year where environmental protection is concerned. In getting at specifics, we’re talking air quality news here folks!

As a case in point, it was announced that the U.S. had formally withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord. Here at home also, California is engaged in what seems is a protracted fight to preserve its waiver to set its own automobile fuel efficiency standards.

In other transportation-related news, where greenhouse gas emissions are concerned, transportation is the leading sector, responsible for producing the largest share of GHGs. And, the amount of GHGs from transport and travel is growing.

Deforestation and fires in Rondônia State

A really big news story was the burning of vast swaths of Amazonian rainforest. The acreage was being cleared to make way for development. Not to be lost sight of is that the Amazon rainforest supplies 20 percent of the world’s oxygen.

In India, meanwhile, agricultural stubble left after crop harvest this year in the western part of the country was likewise being burned. This was done in an effort to quickly ready the land for new plantings. The smoke caused by this had drifted into and settled in some of India’s many cities. Incidentally, as recently reported, of the world’s 30 most air-polluted cities, 22 are in India.

It was reported this year that driving in the U.S. in 2018 had reached new heights. Total driven: 3.225 trillion miles. This marks five consecutive years with miles driven exceeding 3 trillion.

Released to the public on Apr. 24th was the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report, its 20th such annual report. What was found was that an increasing number of Americans – more than 4 in 10 – breathed unhealthy air, a more than 7.2 million increase in just one year. Eight cities recorded their highest number of days with unhealthy spikes in particle pollution since when national monitoring of this pollutant began. America recorded more days with air quality considered to be hazardous. For more, see the American Lung Association’s associated Apr. 24, 2019 press release.

The following month in May, the National Parks Conservation Association issued its own press release in it declaring: “Of the 417 national parks evaluated, 96 percent of America’s national parks are plagued by significant air pollution problems. This and other alarming facts were included in Polluted Parks: How America is failing to protect our national parks, people and planet from air pollution, a report released today [May 7th] by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA),” the organization went on in the release to point out.

In the British Safety Council press release “It’s time to recognize air pollution as an occupational health hazard: British Safety Council’s report makes the case for urgent action on the impact of air pollution on outdoor workers,” in referencing the report titled: Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers, this important declaration appeared: “Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said: ‘The impact of air pollution on people working in large cities is starting to be recognised as a major public health risk. However, we are yet to see any true commitment to addressing this issue by the government and the regulators.’”

In no uncertain terms in the same press release, the British Safety Council urged, “Air pollution, linked with up to 36,000 early deaths a year in the UK, is considered the biggest environmental risk to public health. Research from King’s College London suggests that more than 9,400 people [a year] die prematurely due to poor air quality in London alone. Ambient air pollution is linked to cancer, lung and heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infertility and early dementia.”

That was back on May 20th.

June 5th is World Environment Day. Each year World Environment Day has a different theme. The theme this year was “air pollution.” It is important that world attention be focused on the pollution – the poison – in air that 90 percent of the world’s people are breathing, and World Environment Day 2019 did just that.

Returning to California news, the most destructive wildland fires happened late in the year. Affected were portions of the northern, central and southern state.

And, in the state’s central interior region, on Dec. 10th fine particulate matter spiked, the increase in PM 2.5 starting during the early evening hours – in the hazardous to human health range. Strangely, there was no official warning issued prior to the event happening. Atmospheric conditions earlier in the day were clear and the air quality was good. Attributing to the spike was the onset of fog in the region coupled with outdoor agricultural-related burning activity, that plus additional fine particulate matter coming from other sources.

Air Quality Matters hit a milestone: the weblog (“blog”) is 1,000 articles, commentaries, posts strong and for all intents and purposes, all in a 7-year timeframe!

Much happening in the world related to air quality and air pollution this year.

Coking oven-produced air pollution

Images: Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, NASA (upper); Erin Whittaker, U.S. National Park Service (middle); Alfred T. Palmer (lower)

– Alan Kandel

This post was last revised on Dec. 16, 2019 @ 6:20 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.