How Clean is The Air

The Santa Fe Institute has an upcoming seminar on Quantifying Air Pollution Exposure in Cities  Through Large-Scale Data on Human Activities.  They are using mobile phone data to track human movements to better quantify exposure to ambient air pollutants.  “The power of big data for activity tracking in air pollution exposure assignments has yet to be unleashed”.   Science is cool.

When I’m cycling I’m super attenuated to the quality of the air I’m breathing.  I can smell if a person is smoking a cigarette in the car in front of me.  Our sense of smell is amazing and our lungs are sensitive organs.  So when a pre-particulate filter diesel powered vehicle goes by I try not to breathe too hard.  But when I’m cycling and walking this is almost impossible to do.

Walking back from 1millioncups this Wednesday I encountered this group walking on Central Avenue

Walking back from 1millioncups at FatPipe ABQ Wednesday I encountered this youth group walking on Central Avenue

Manufacturers for pick ups and passenger vehicles now include particulate filters on vehicles to clean up the exhaust stream.  And the fuel refineries began delivering ultra low sulfur diesel to 100% of the US on road market in 2010.  Between 2007-2010 heavy duty trucks and buses were phased in with diesel engines that are 90% cleaner. California has a safer standard and aggressive implementation program.  “By January 1, 2023, nearly all trucks and buses will need to have 2010 model year engines or equivalent” in the State of California.  California has 9 out of the 10 most polluted cities for particulate according to the America Lung Association.

Of course the main legacy issue are older vehicles still on the road, and also unmaintained vehicles.  I would love to see financing from all sectors–philanthropic, business, public–combine to facilitate faster change over to quicken the transition to cleaner air for everyone.  Studies like the Santa Fe Institute’s give people better information to manage the proactive changes.  There is no amount of pollution that is good for us.  The USA stands up for human dignity.

I would like to visit Sequoia National Park without emerging from a polluted central valley, seeing produce growing in smog, and worrying about the smog affecting human health and the ancient trees.  I would like to ride my bicycle and walk without worrying about damaging my lungs.  I would like all people to be free to live where they want without being discouraged or impacted by air pollution.  This is possible.  By directing science to benefit human health and by taking action we can determine a better present and shape a brighter future.

Resources:

The World Health Organization has statistics on deaths and illness related to ambient air pollution.  Fine particulate matter from internal combustion engines has serious impacts on human health. http://www.who.int/gho/phe/outdoor_air_pollution/en/

http://www.epa.gov/otaq/highway-diesel/

http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/onrdiesel/onrdiesel.htm

http://www.stateoftheair.org/2013/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html

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