Environmental Research and Reports

Air Quality and Public Health | Climate Change
Kirsch Foundation-UCS Special Report

We track a number of health-based and scientific reports that focus on air quality, climate change and other environmental issues of interest.

Air Quality and Public Health

“No Escape from Diesel Exhaust”
Clean Air Task Force – February 2007
The Clean Air Task Force (CATF) investigated exposure to diesel particles during typical commutes in four cities: Austin, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, New York City, and Columbus, Ohio. CATF's investigation demonstrated that whether you commute by car, bus, ferry, train, or on foot, you may be exposed to high levels of diesel particles. Specifically, CATF documented diesel particle levels four to eight times higher inside commuter cars, buses, and trains than in the ambient outdoor air in those cities. In some cases, the ultrafine particle levels during the commutes were so high as to be comparable to driving with a smoker.

“Clearing the Air: How Clean Air is Possible and Affordable by 2013”
International Sustainable Systems Research Center – February 2007
This report outlines a cost-effective and achievable roadmap to cleaning California’s San Joaquin Valley’s notoriously dirty air by the federal deadline of 2013. The unhealthy levels of air pollution in the Valley have been a known problem for more than two decades. The Alternative State Implementation Plan (SIP) presented in this report shows that clean air in the San Joaquin Valley is possible by implementing “best practices,” which could achieve more success than current efforts by the Valley’s Air Pollution Control District. All of the recommendations in this Alternative SIP use proven, available technologies and strategies within the District’s power to implement today.

“Living Near Highways Can Stunt Lungs”
Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California – January 2007
Children who live near a major highway are not only more likely to develop asthma or other respiratory diseases, but their lung development may also be stunted. According to this study of more than a dozen Southern California cities, researchers found that children who lived within 500 meters of a freeway, or approximately a third of a mile, since age 10 had substantial deficits in lung function by the age of 18, compared to children living at least 1,500 meters, or approximately one mile, away. Researchers argue that community leaders, school districts and developers should consider these results when considering new schools or homes.

“Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options”
The Livestock, Environment and Development (LEAD) Initiative – 2006
This report aims to assess the full impact of the livestock sector on environmental problems, along with potential technical and policy approaches to mitigation. The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.

“Digging Up Trouble: The Health Risks of Construction Pollution in California”
Union of Concerned Scientists – December 2006
Pollution from diesel construction equipment is taking a heavy toll on the health and economic well-being of California residents. This equipment contributes to particulate and ozone pollution that can cause severe cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, asthma attacks, acute bronchitis, and even premature death. Lagging emission standards and very old equipment have made construction equipment one of the largest sources of toxic diesel particulate matter pollution in the state, necessitating an accelerated cleanup program to protect the health of all Californians.

“Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options”
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – 2006
This report aims to assess the full impact of the livestock sector on environmental problems, along with potential technical and policy approaches to mitigation. The assessment is based on the most recent and complete data available, taking into account direct impacts, along with the impacts of feed crop agriculture required for livestock production. The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.

“Turning Point”
National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) – August 2006
This report reveals that air pollution is a system-wide challenge for the national parks with 1 in 3 parks – more than 150 of the 390 national park units in the National Park System – located in parts of the country where air pollution exceeds federal standards. Just as pollution reduction programs implemented over the past two decades are starting to show modest improvements at some parks, the nation is developing new energy sources in ways that threaten to undo years of effort to clean the air in the parks. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, located in California’s San Joaquin Valley, have had the most days exceeding the national health standard for ozone of any national park in the country.

“Ships, Trucks, and Trains: Effects of Goods Movement on Environmental Health”
Environmental Health Perspectives – Andrea M. Hricko; April 2006
Globalization is changing the world in ways that we may not yet fully comprehend. For the United States, the enactment of new free trade agreements, the downsizing of our manufacturing base, and consumer demand for inexpensive products are all affecting both jobs and the environment, especially in those regions with ports and transportation corridors designed to distribute imported goods. As this shift in the world and U.S. economies occurs, the author writes that little attention has been placed on its environmental impacts, especially the health impacts of air pollution from international trade and "goods movement."

“Ports in a Storm”
Environmental Health Perspectives – Dinesh C. Sharma; April 2006
In many parts of the world, shipping-related emissions have already exceeded or are expected to soon exceed those from land-based sources. Shipping emissions can be reduced substantially by using some of the same technologies being applied to land-based sources, including cleaner engines and fuels, exhaust control methods, and operational modifications. Various ports are testing the feasibility of these mechanisms with varying degrees of success. The author believes that what is most needed is expedited creation of better regulations at all levels, from the International Maritime Organization to port city authorities.

“Race, Poverty, and Potential Exposure of Middle-School Students to Air Emissions from Confined Swine Feeding Operations“
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Maria C. Mirabelli, Steve Wing, Stephen W. Marshall, and Timothy C. Wilcosky; April 2006
Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) can pollute the surrounding air with malodorous compounds, bacteria, fungi, and endotoxin. CAFO-related health impacts have been investigated primarily in adults, but children may be at greater risk because of their size and developmental stage. Since children spend considerable time at school, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted an investigation of schools' proximity to swine CAFOs to determine the extent to which students may be exposed to airborne CAFO emissions. They determined that some students may encounter CAFO-associated exposures at school and also found that students of color and of low socioeconomic status were the most likely to be affected.

“The Health and Related Economic Benefits of Attaining Healthful Air in the San Joaquin Valley”
California State University, Fullerton – Jane V. Hall, PhD; Victor Brajer, PhD; and Frederick W. Lurmann (Sonoma Technology, Inc.); March 2006
Written by a team of nationally recognized economists and a foremost air-quality expert, this report quantifies the cost of air pollution to the people and economy of the San Joaquin Valley. The primary objective of this study was to assess the health and related economic benefits that would result from attainment of statewide ozone and PM 2.5 standards. As the region’s population continues to increase, with associated increases in vehicle traffic and economic activity, the gains from attaining the health-based air quality standards will grow, but also become more difficult to achieve. The authors conclude that identifying and acting on opportunities now would produce substantial gains to the people of the Valley.

"PON1 status of farmworker mothers and children as a predictor of organophosphate sensitivity”
Pharmacogenetics and Genomics - Clement E. Furlong; Nina Holland; Rebecca J. Richter; Asa Bradman, Alan Ho; and Brenda Eskenazi; March 2006
University of California, Berkeley, researchers demonstrated in this study that children can be up to 164 times more sensitive than adults to pesticides that frequently contaminate agricultural communities. The researchers worked with 130 Latina mothers and children in the Salinas Valley agricultural region of California starting in 1998, analyzing blood samples for a key enzyme (known as PON1), which normally helps the human body detoxify the class of pesticides known as organophosphates. The study found great variations among individuals in their PON1 levels and parallel sensitivity to organophosphates.

“Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Hospital Admission for Cardiovascular and Respiratory Diseases”
The Journal of the American Medical Association - Francesca Dominici, PhD; Roger D. Peng, PhD; Michelle L. Bell, PhD; Luu Pham, MS; Aidan McDermott, PhD; Scott L. Zeger, PhD; Jonathan M. Samet, MD; March 2006
Exposure to fine particle matter air pollution increases a person's risk for hospital admission for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Johns Hopkins University researchers analyzed data from a national database for 1999-2002 on hospital admission rates for cardiovascular and respiratory outcomes and injuries for 11.5 million Medicare enrollees who lived in 204 U.S. urban counties. The individuals lived an average of 5.9 miles from a PM2.5 monitor. Their findings indicate an “ongoing threat to the health of the elderly population from airborne particles and provide a rationale for setting a PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard that is as protective of their health as possible.”

"Plagued by Pollution: Unsafe Levels of Soot Pollution in 2004"
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) - January 2006
While air quality has improved in the U.S. since the inception of the Clean Air Act in 1970, more than 88 million Americans still live in areas with unsafe levels of fine particle pollution. Fine particle pollution is one of the nation's most pervasive air pollutants and its most deadly, causing tens of thousands of premature deaths every year. This report examines levels of fine particle pollution in cities and towns nationwide in 2004 and finds that fine particles continue to pose a grave health threat to Americans.

Climate Change

“Greening the Bottom Line: California Companies Save Money by Reducing Global Warming Pollution”
Environment California – August 2006
Cutting global warming pollution can be good for California businesses and our economy. This report highlights 12 such businesses or institutions and demonstrates the kinds of gains that can be had across California from an organized, statewide effort to reduce the state’s global warming pollution. Altogether, the companies profiled below have reduced their global warming emissions by more than 100 million pounds per year – while reducing their annual operating costs by more than $13 million.

"Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years"
The National Academies – June 2006
There is sufficient evidence from tree rings, retreating glaciers, and other "proxies" to say with confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years, according to a new National Research Council report. This report was done in response to a request from Congress with the goal of assessing the state of scientific efforts to reconstruct surface temperature records for the Earth over approximately the last 2,000 years and comment on the implications of these efforts for our understanding of global climate.

"Global Warming on the Road: The Climate Impact of America’s Automobiles"
Environmental Defense – June 2006
This study provides a first-ever detailed look at the global warming pollution from all the automobiles on America’s roads. By underscoring the magnitude of automotive CO2 emissions, the report highlights the fact that all actors – automakers, fuel providers, consumers and various levels of government – have roles to play in solving the problem. By working together to address transportation CO2 emissions in a comprehensive fashion, Americans can reduce global warming on the road, protecting the planet while at the same time reducing our country's dependence on oil.

"The Carbon Boom: National and State Trends in Carbon Dioxide Emissions Since 1960"
Environment California – June 2006
The early effects of global warming are already evident across the United States and worldwide. The year 2005 was the warmest on record. Left unchecked, temperatures will continue to rise, and the effects of global warming will become more severe. This report examines trends in U.S. global warming pollution nationally and by state and concludes that the failure to limit emissions from burning oil, coal, and natural gas has allowed global warming pollution to grow out of control.

"Climate Choices: California's future depends on our actions today"
Union of Concerned Scientists – 2006
Scientists agree that California's economy, health, and environment will suffer if global warming is not addressed. The state’s leadership in reducing global warming emissions could help prevent the most devastating impacts. Download these global warming impact projection fact sheets from the Union of Concerned Scientists, based on new research by the California Climate Change Center.

“10-State Clean Car Standards to Cut 64 Million Metric Tons of Global Warming Emissions per Year by 2020”
National Association of State PIRGs – Elizabeth Ridlington and Rob Sargent, February 2006
Clean cars programs adopted by 10 states to limit greenhouse gas pollution from cars will reduce global warming emissions in 2020 by 64 million metric tons per year, an amount greater than the national emissions of more than 140 nations, according to this report. Put another way, by 2020 the Clean Cars Programs in these states will eliminate as much carbon dioxide pollution annually as is produced by 63 coal-fired power plants generating enough power for nearly a quarter of U.S. homes.

Kirsch Foundation-UCS Special Report

In February 2005, the Foundation and the Union of Concerned Scientists released "Clearing the Air in the San Joaquin Valley,” a report that highlights the air quality crisis facing California's San Joaquin Valley. A history of neglect, missed opportunity and now rapid growth are compounding the region's problems. Poor air quality is affecting the region's residents, public health and the economy. This report examines the sources and effects of the Valley's air pollution problem and recent legislative and regulatory efforts to clear the air. It outlines an action plan to put the Valley on the road to healthy air.

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