Big Picture Climate Change Health Impacts Toxic Hazard

A Big Gear Change – Going Road-Electric Could Save Your Child’s Life

In my family, the children were always warned, “Don’t eat the blackberries growing near the road on your walk to school.” What they didn’t tell us, and we didn’t properly know until recently, was that the air pollution was much more dangerous to us than lead deposits in the dust on wayside foraging.

There has been a tacit, taciturn, non-shouting, generally accepted understanding that road transport air pollution is bad for us. After the incredible negative impacts of accelerating private car ownership in the 1970s, European and national initiatives have dramatically improved Air Quality for millions of urban citizens.

But like the “smoking dilemma”, where cigarettes are still on sale despite the atrocious health implications, car manufacturers still carry on vending motor vehicles with the minimum emissions control they can lobby for; advertising that they’re “going green” while at the same time resisting change : a kind of “windscreen wiper greenwash”.

Yes, it’s a Climate Change issue. Increased road transport Carbon Dioxide emissions are causing Global Warming which degrades the environment for everyone, measured in decadal alterations, and will play a part in affecting the health of citizens in the future. But road transport is also an immediate, direct health risk, and recent research points towards serious implications from the build-up of private car ownership.

All the data points to the severe restriction on the use of the internal combustion engine for transportation use. The future is most certainly quiet, zero emissions vehicles. This will have a dramatic impact on urban air quality. It may be that going electric could save your child’s wellbeing, maybe even their life.

It is very unlikely that we shall come up with a technological way to suck traffic pollutants out of the atmosphere. If however, all transport became electric, all the emissions associated with transport would be located in places where they could be capture and stored, or eliminated if Renewable Energy technologies were used.


“Traffic pollution can harm babies in the womb, claim researchers : Exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy could harm babies in the womb, a study shows. 08 Apr 2009 : The risk of a delivering a baby of small weight rose significantly with each increase in pollution levels during the first three months and final three months of pregnancy. Researchers believe restricted fetal growth may be linked to traffic pollution or living close to a major road.”

“Air Pollution Exposure May Slow Fetal Growth : 04.07.09 : Study suggests that toxins alter cell activity and cut oxygen to baby : The study found that the risk of a small birth-weight baby increased significantly with each increase in particulate matter of 4 micrograms per cubic meter during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. Each 10 parts per billion increase in nitrogen oxide exposure was also associated with a large increase in the risk of a small birth-weight baby.”


“Autism Spectrum Disorders in Relation to Distribution of Hazardous Air Pollutants in the San Francisco Bay Area : Received February 23, 2006; Accepted June 21, 2006 : Conclusions : The moderate association we found with higher diesel particulate matter levels may in part be due to some correlation with metals…Results of a study of diesel exhaust exposure in neonatal rats suggested permanent alterations in both learning ability and activity, indicating that the significance to humans should be pursued further (U.S. EPA 2002b). Other animal studies have indicated potential endocrine-disrupting effects of prenatal exposure to diesel exhaust (Watanabe and Kurita 2001) and increased indices of inflammation in brains of mice exposed to airborne particulate matter (Campbell et al. 2005). Results of this semiecologic study suggest that living in areas with higher ambient levels of HAPs [hazardous air pollutant], particularly metals and chlorinated solvents, during pregnancy or early childhood, may be associated with a moderately increased risk of autism.”


“What Is Causing The High Growth In Autism Diagnosis? : Environmental factors that have been claimed to contribute to or exacerbate autism, or may be important in future research, include certain foods, infectious disease, heavy metals, solvents, diesel exhaust, PCBs, phthalates and phenols used in plastic products, pesticides, brominated flame retardants, alcohol, smoking, illicit drugs, vaccines and prenatal stress.”

“After examining the datasets, Dr. Windham and colleagues found that children with an autism diagnosis were 1.5 times or 50% more likely to have a birth residence in an area with higher levels of some HAPs [hazardous air pollutant]. Metals like mercury, cadmium and nickel were among the HAPs most associated with autism. However, because of the methods used by the EPA to obtain its HAPs estimates, the researchers were not able to separate the effects of each metal associated with autism. The researchers also found weaker associations between autism and the aromatic solvents trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride and diesel exhaust particulates.”

“Advances in Autism Research compiled by Teresa Binstock for ARI :
April 2008 : Air particulates, diesel exhaust, human brain and Oxidative stress : Results: Our data demonstrate a significant increase in MPF [median power frequency] in response to DE [diesel exhaust] in the frontal cortex within 30 min into exposure. The increase in MPF is primarily caused by an increase in fast wave activity (Beta2) and continues to rise during the 1 hour post-exposure interval. Conclusion: This study is the first to show a functional effect of DE exposure in the human brain, indicating a general cortical stress response. Further studies are required to determine whether this effect is mediated by the nanoparticles in DE and to define the precise pathways involved.”

“(2006) : Maternal Exposure to Diesel Exhaust Leads to Pathological Similarity to Autism in Newborns : In this study, we examined pathological effects on newborn brain by DE [diesel exhaust]-exposure to pregnant mice, especially focused on autism. These findings indicate that DE-exposure to pregnant mice has a severe impact on fetal brain development and, especially, numerous apoptotic Purkinje cells cause the innate deficiency of them and would involve the pathogenic backing of autism. Our results would give a grave warning that the maternal inhalation of DE is hazardous to fetuses’ health and it is possible that these fetal damages carries a great risk of various disorders of nervous system afterward, such as autism.”

“Autism Society of America, 7910 Woodmont Avenue Suite 300, Bethesda, MD 20814-3067 : To date, there have been few epidemiologic studies completed that have directly linked environmental exposures and autism. Some studies have suggested that during pregnancy, both viral infection and the use of certain medications known to cause birth defects elevate autism risk. More recent research has reported associations of certain air pollutant exposures, most notably airborne mercury, cadmium, nickel, and chlorinated and diesel particulates with autism. Childhood vaccine-related thimerosal exposure now has been investigated in several epidemiologic studies, and the findings have been quite consistent in indicating that thimerosal exposure is not responsible for the dramatic increases in autism cases witnessed over the past few decades.”


“STUDY OBJECTIVE: Many studies have shown that ambient particulate air pollution (PM) is associated with increased risk of hospital admissions and deaths for cardiovascular or respiratory causes around the world…”


“The Feb. 17 article “Districts Uninterested in Funds for Retrofitting Buses” overlooks the role of diesel emissions in causing human illnesses and premature death. The cancer risks associated with diesel exhaust particles are about 10 times higher than the cancer risks from all other hazardous air pollutants combined. The average cancer risk associated with diesel emissions is 580 per million — 80 percent of the total estimated cancer risk from all hazardous air pollutants. Particulate matter, a major component of diesel exhaust, has been linked to a wide variety of serious health problems including upper and lower respiratory diseases such as asthma attacks and possible asthma onset, heart attacks and premature death. These problems affect the general population, not just children and drivers who occupy the buses. However, children may have particular risks because their lungs are still maturing and because their high activity levels cause more rapid breathing with greater inspiration of diesel exhaust particles. In addition to retrofitting engines, other actions can be taken to reduce diesel emissions, including the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and adoption of anti-idling laws. The reduction in exposure to ambient fine-particulate air pollution results in significant improvements in life expectancy in the United States. STANLEY J. GEYER, M.D.”


“Soot particles spewing from the exhaust of diesel trucks constitute a major contributor to the alarmingly high rates of asthma symptoms among school-aged children// in the South Bronx, according to the results of a five-year study by researchers at New York University’s School of Medicine and Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Over the course of the study, asthma symptoms, particularly wheezing, doubled among elementary school children on high traffic days, as large numbers attend schools in close proximity to busy truck routes because of past land-use decisions.”


“One factor that could help to slow the melting of the Arctic, but which has not yet received serious consideration at an international level, would be to cut the amount of “black carbon” – soot – that we spew into the air. Black carbon darkens ice when it falls, causing it to absorb more heat, and may be responsible for half of the warming effect in the Arctic, according to recent research published in Nature Geoscience. Cutting down on soot would not only remove large amounts of air pollution, but, according to some scientists, could be much quicker and easier than cutting carbon dioxide emissions. On current form, the chances of this being agreed also look small, however.”

“[Mark. Z.] Jacobson calculates that reducing fossil fuel and biofuel soot particles would eliminate about 40% of the net observed global warming. When the aerosols and particulate matter are accounted for, fossil fuel and biofuel soot are increasing temperatures by about 0.35°C. Dr. Tami Bond of the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, estimates the sources of black carbon emissions as follows: 14% Diesel engines for transportation; 10% Diesel engines for industrial use…”


“Motorists could be offered a £2,000 Government subsidy to buy an electric car under plans being drawn up before the Budget.”


“Brown’s electric vehicles won’t go the distance : Transport for a Zero Carbon Britain : 10 June 2008 : Last week, Gordon Brown urged more research into electric cars and called for a commitment from European leaders to explore the potential of new “commercially viable” electric vehicle technologies. As part of a serious measure to tackle climate change however, electric vehicles need to be tapping into a grid of clean, renewable energy. Electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) power are a vital element of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)’s Zero Carbon Britain report. Electric vehicles would look much like normal cars. But instead of filling them up with petrol they would be plugged in and charged up, or drivers could swap spent batteries of charged ones while out and about. Electric cars mean less carbon emissions – but only if the electricity they run on has been generated from renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro-power. At present most of Britain’s electricity comes from burning non-renewable fossil fuels so electric vehicles would help make carbon emissions. If Britain did make the switch to clean renewable energy, electric vehicles could also be used to store energy. When the cars aren’t running and are plugged in, their batteries can be used to store electricity and smooth out peaks in electricity demand. This technology is called ‘vehicle-to-grid’ or V2G. When consumers demand lots of electricity, the spare electricity in the plugged in cars could be supplied back to the national grid. When plenty of electricity is being generated, but there is little demand for it, then the power can be used to charge car batteries. Consumers would benefit, as they would be paid for the spare electricity they supplied. The average British car spends 23 hours a day sitting in the drive way. If this trend continues there is potential to use electric cars as energy stores and iron out fluctuations in electricity supply and demand. Almost 2 days worth of Britain’s electricity supply could be stored in our stationary vehicles. Similarly a single electric car would store about 2 days worth of power for the average family home. Having this big storage would make the national grid more secure and balancing the power from different renewable sources easier. “Britain already has some of what we need to make vehicle to grid work. The national grid already supplies electricity to and from people’s homes. However, Britain would need to make massive investments in renewable energy if electric cars and vehicle to grid technology are going to help us tackle climate change,” said co-author of Zero Carbon Britain, Tim Helweg-Larsen.”

Commission for Integrated Transport : Climate Change & Air Quality :-

Chart on California’s Traffic Pollution Burden for Greenhouse Gases :-

Air Quality Challenge in California :-

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