• Mar 15th 2011 at 6:04PM
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Rising levels of roadside air pollution plague major cities across the globe. Over in Europe, fine particulate pollution in the cities of Bucharest, Budapest, Barcelona, Paris, Rome and London – to name a few – has been measured at levels exceeding the United Nations World Health Organization's recommended 10 micrograms per cubic meter. In fact, out of 25 European cities studied, only Stockholm was consistently be below the UN's 10 microgram threshold.

The three-year probe, called Aphekom and funded by the European Union (EU), examined 25 cities in 12 EU countries and found that fine particulates emitted from the exhaust of vehicles create significant health problems and are associated with the loss of up to 19,000 lives per year throughout Europe. In addition, the study claims that curbing roadside air pollution could save European cities 31.5 billion euros ($43.4 billion U.S. at the current exchange rate) in health-related costs and missed work, while also increasing life expectancy by nearly two years. Hat tip to Andy!

[Source: The Independent | Image: austinevan – C.C. License 2.0]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Won't have to worry if the Japan nuclear plant melts down; this will be a minor problem because the clouds move from west to east in the Pacific and radioactive rain could be a possible result.

      BTW, we have 17 plants of the same design in the U.S.; some on earthquake faults; one in Southern California.

      I don't mean to alarm you; just warn you of what happens when decisions are made by politicians for their wealthy backers rather than for the people's health.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hi Lad.
        The polemical rather than fact-based nature of opposition to nuclear power is well illustrated by their continually dredging up a decades old quote from a nuclear commentator in an unguarded moment.

        If we separate out build costs from running costs including everything from fuel to 'waste' disposal (actually perfectly good fuel, about 1% of which has been used, needing only very slightly more advanced reactors and/or reprocessing to make use of it, thereby avoiding much of any environmental damage caused by uranium mining, and so of course virulently opposed by a coalition of greens and fossil fuel interests) then audited running costs in the US amount to around 2 cents/kwh, which if not 'too cheap to meter is cheaper than just about anything else.
        Since nuclear plants can be designed to last at least 60 years there is plenty of time to pay off build costs and then run them very cheaply for many more years.

        If you want lies and deliberate attempts to deceive and misrepresent you need look no further than the anti-nuclear movement. The WWF produced a report purporting to compare COI2 emissions in various European countries, and their blue-eyed boy Germany came tops.
        Digging into the report showed in an obscure footnote that they had treated the output of nuclear plants AS THOUGH it had been produced by natural gas!
        So they simply invented non-existent CO2 molecules, noting that they had done so because they did not much fancy nuclear power!
        Aside from those prepared to wade through the footnotes, they therefore hit their objective, of gross misrepresentation to the public.
        And do you know what, not one anti-nuclear organisation, including in particular Greenpeace, condemned this fraud then or now.
        They are not in the business of informing the public, but of deception.
        They have to do this as their case is factually nonsense.
        There is no way with present technology that we can run society on renewables, so the proposed alternative simply does not exist.
        We need substitutes for fossil fuels now, not in 40 years time.

        Renewables simply can't do the job, merely stretch fossil fuels by a small amount at huge cost.

        Fortunately the anti-nuclear movement has also shamelessly lied about the risks of nuclear, which is by far the safest energy source ever used.
        Here are the comparative risks:
        • 4 Years Ago
        There is no chance at all of vast clouds of life-threatening radioactivity sweeping across the Pacific or anywhere else.
        That is a simple matter of energy economics.
        The reactor at Chernobyl blew when it was running flat out and had no containment vessel, so throwing a huge cloud of radioactivity thousands of feet high.
        At Three Mile Island the containment vessel did it's job, and a similarly hot reaction was contained with no lives lost due to radioactivity.
        The Japanese reactors were shut down, so had only residual heat as the core cools.
        Unfortunately a power supply interruption meant that this heat was not properly carried away.
        Just the same within 24hours the residual heat was around 1% of running temperature, and is now around 0.2%.
        So there simply is not the energy to blow the containment vessel and force radioactivity thousands of feet high which would cause radiation to drift a long way.
        The worst possible collapse now would throw the radioactivity up a few hundred feet, which would spread in any substantial way much more locally, hence the exclusion zone.
        This risk is decreasing rapidly with time as the heat decays.

        A secondary risk is in the spent rods in the cooling ponds, which have to be kept covered with water.
        There has been some drainage of water from these, and this may be the cause of the radiation spikes observed.

        We are not out of the woods yet, but nothing like on the scale you suggest.
        The likeliest outcome is that no-one at all will die from radiation exposure, and this is becomes more likely with every hour that passes.

        In contrast air pollution from coal, not to mention water and soil contamination, kills 100,000 people every couple of months, and perhaps 2,500 or so in the US every month.

        We have an ongoing catastrophe which largely goes unobserved due to familiarity.
        In contrast the impact of this once in a thousand years earthquake and tsunami on rather old designs which are much less safe than present ones is very unlikely to cause any deaths at all due to radiation.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Updated stats on deaths/Terawatthour:
        Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
        Coal – China 278
        Coal – USA 15
        Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
        Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
        Biofuel/Biomass 12
        Peat 12
        Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
        Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
        Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
        Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
        Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

        • 8 Months Ago
        Well this is my second attempt to post this as the first one didn't seem to work. To paraphrase, does the above nuclear statistic extrapolate the risks of an accident 100,000 years into the future? Since only one accident, via a spill or terrorist theft, could have very large consequences, it would totally throw that statistic off the chart. Using only historical data to come up with this statistic is misleading because the last 50 years have been relatively stable politically.

        Is anyone going to care about a 100,000 year old wind turbine 100,000 years from now? Can the same be said of plutonium produced today?

        And also, I was wondering where the fuel for the two Japanese A bombs in WWII came from? Was it from nuclear reactors? I don't know, just wondering.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The fact that LFT reactors where shelved is enough proof of that.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree that coal is not a good substitute for nuclear power. Both present a waste product problem that is difficult to deal with. The recent coal ash spill was an environmental disaster as is the every day operation of burning coal in the air.

        My knowledge of nuclear is limited; however, the promises made by the industry on the use of the power plants were out and out lies. The statement that "Nuclear Power would be so cheap, you wouldn't need a meter" stands out as an example. And, the lies of omission when addressing the disposal problem fall equally irritatingly on the ears.

        This latest disaster begs the question in all countries to re-examine their safety processes and to shut down those plants that have outlived their design lives and initial engineering flaws. Building new plants is prohibitively expensive as is the fuel to run them. The result is an increase price at the meter.

        What is the answer? Ideally, I would like to see all nuclear and coal plants closed and interimly the steam generated by NatGas until we can increase our ability to design and build clean power. Perhaps the answer is millions of PV panels on roof tops, I don't know. But, I do know Coal and Nuclear have proven to be damn dangerous to life and many people don't want to take the chance any longer.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sad to see many governments jumping on the 'let's turn off nuclear power' bandwagon because of what's happening in Japan.

        Modern nuclear power plants are like night and day compared to the 40 year old reactors in Japan. Nuclear energy remains the single energy source capable of providing enough at a very small environmental impact.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hi Mark.
        Check out the link I gave to relative risks, including solar. It says:
        'Nothing is perfectly safe. Chasing perfection can cause us to ignore just improving and trading worse for a lot better. Non-roof installations of solar is safer than roof installation. Nuclear, wind, non-roof solar and hydro are a lot safer than coal and oil. Natural gas is safer but not as much as nuclear and those others. The focus needs to be on getting rid of the most dangerous energy sources which are coal and oil first. Then after that decades long project is done to look at the other energy sources. Safety and improvements for all energy sources should be made as we go.

        Rooftop solar is still a hundred times safer than coal and oil power because of air pollution deaths. Other ways to make solar power safer:
        1. Increase safety for all rooftop work (can reduce deaths by half or more)
        2. Rooftop solar tiles installed on new buildings might not have any more incremental deaths as opposed to panels that are separate from the roof tiles or systems installed that replace roof tiles before they would normally be replaced.
        3. Create some new installation system where people stay on the ground using some forklift or crane to raise and place a solar power system onto a roof. Have to ensure that the heavy machinery system is safer than the roofing process being replaced.

        Some responders online are in denial that people who work on a roof can fall off regardless of the reason they went up there. If I go up there to replace roofing tiles or go up there to install solar panels, the risk of falling is pretty much the same especially when the number of times being compared heads to large numbers like millions of times for each. As I noted in the comments, statistics show that 70% of fatal construction falls occur at height of 3 stories or less.

        Some have also claimed that someone who went up onto a roof to install a solar panel but then fell is not a death associated with solar power. Similarly then if someone is killed in a coal mine then that is not a coal power death because the coal was not in the power plant yet or they might have some other reason for being underground and would have been crushed anyway.'

        In addition to those considerations which indicate that renewables are far from risk free, I would also suggest that with anything like current technologies and without truly heroic assumptions about progress in renewables energy production and storage, that perhaps 80% of power in a renewables + drive would still be generated by fossil fuel sources, which would mean that you would still have most of the huge numbers of deaths associated with fossil fuel use.

        In contrast you could run a society with only modest advances on current technology on nuclear power, with the exceptions of high-grade industrial process heat, air transport and heavy goods trucks with an energy flow of perhaps 1.5kw in Europe, perhaps rather more in the US, using air source heat pumps to stretch the electric power and EV cars, but apart from the exemptions given without major input from fossil fuels.

        Hence my somewhat bold declaration that nuclear is the safest energy source.
        • 4 Years Ago
        David, I agree that the advantages of nuclear are not being properly discussed, but I don't think it's fair to say that it is the safest energy source ever. The waste from uranium reactors hangs around for a very long time and its safety depends on the continuous prudence and good management of the political environment overseeing it at every step of the way for the next 100,000 years. That may be assuming too much of humanity, especially since we are now on a crash course with a complete economic meltdown which will turn the whole political environment inside out.

        By far the safest sources of energy are solar, wind, and hydro. The worst that can happen from hydro is that you displace land and destroy the ecology of some rivers, and possibly the dam could burst in an earthquake. The worst that can happen from wind is that you kill some birds, ruin some viewscapes, and need to back up the intermittent nature of it somehow. The worst that can happen from solar is that you ruin the ecology of some deserts, and after an earthquake you have a bunch of shattered solar panels to add to the landfill.

        The best and safest energy source is solar panel-impregnated bodywork on electric cars to power them 20 km on a sunny day, coupled with rooftop solar panel installations feeding personal battery banks and inverters, along with wind turbines in appropriate locations. This puts the power back into the hands of people and we have all the technology we need to do this right now, we just need to stop subsidizing fossil fuels.

        I am in the process of buying some off grid property and I plan to set up such a system, it will be interesting to see how it goes. We almost have the electric car to go with it, in a month it should be together.
        • 4 Years Ago
        David, it's always good to hear a voice of reason with regards nuclear power!
      • 4 Years Ago
      But I thought diesel cars were gonna save us?
      • 4 Years Ago
      We want electricity. Odds are that wind, Sun, currents and tides can't provide it all, even if we replace all lighting with LEDs and put solar panels on every roof (we should, anyway - it's smart to conserve resources).

      So, we either go with nuclear power, which works 99.9% of the time (but that 0.1% is a doozy), or we go with coal/nat gas/oil which are biological disasters at every single stage of the process, from extraction to transport to refining to burning to waste.

      I have three problems with nuclear: 1) coolant water runoff, 2) location, and 3) spent fuel.

      First, nuke plants tend to let their cooling tower water run right into the nearby streams and rivers, which have been documented to significantly kill life in those rivers and streams due to the elevated temperature of the discharge water (it's not anywhere near the boiling point - it doesn't take a big temp increase to kill). Of course, that's easy to fix: either have a tank to let the water cool to atmosphere before discharge, or keep using the same water more effectively.

      Second, it doesn't take the Japanese disaster to understand that something so powerful and potentially deadly, either right away or over many years of exposure, should be ANYWHERE FREAKING NEAR AN EARTHQUAKE ZONE. Greenpeace was one of the organizations that lobbied hard to stop at least one nuke plant from being erected directly adjacent to the San Andreas fault about 40 years ago. I don't know if the protest was successful. I hope it was.

      These nuke plants, at least in the US, are the only structures capable of withstanding FE5 tornados, which means they should also be able to survive hurricanes. However, when the ground shakes enough, all bets are off.

      Given Japan's geology, they don't have a choice - the whole island chain sits on an active, shallow plate boundary. Here in the US, we have options. We have oodles of land safely away from the oceans and major plate boundaries. There's absolutely no excuse for putting nuke plants in high-risk zones.

      Third, well, I know France has ways of reusing their fuel effectively, where they reportedly have extremely little true waste to be disposed of, compared to the fact that 80% or 90% (I forget which) of their electricity comes from nuke power. So, there are ways to minimize the waste, and there's already a multi-billion $$ project in the US that buries the waste deep underground - probably not ideal, but what are our options?
        • 8 Months Ago
        "nuke plants tend to let their cooling tower water run right into the nearby streams and rivers,"

        That's also why these reactors were so damaged by the tsunami. They need to dump their heat into the ocean so that is why they are built right beside it. Maybe build them inland a bit and pipe the sea water in.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If the Euro governments gave a damn about their citizenscitizens, they would accelerate the schedule of EU 6 from 2016 and create a EU 7 and EU 8 for early adoption. These could match the NAFTA LEV II T2B5 and LEV III sub-T2B2 which America has in place and meets. The EURO automakers were given the technology to meet them by US government decree; and know how to meet them today, witness the cars that they legally sell in NAFTA.

      But the phony "greens" of Europe have raised gas taxes as high as they dare; and have discovered that they can fine (ie tax), "excessive CO2" for more money . When did you ever see socialist politicians who didn't like more taxes?

        • 4 Years Ago
        All the studies I have seen indicate that particulates from diesel make a very substantial contribution to air pollution.
        Here is one link:

        Perhaps you would provide references to your claim?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Several German cities have banned older diesel cars (those without a filter system) from entering. Effect: none. The problem are *not* the diesel passenger cars. The problems are from brakes, from tires, from the industrie and even from old coal heatings some people still use.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A higher gas tax, is money that goes to government, that pays for road repair, infrastructure, including light rail. All beneficial to society, plus it increases employment, with the added benefit of an economic multiplier IN Europe, vs. In Saudi Arabia.

        And puts them in a better position to endure a gas shortage.

        So, it's actually a win for European consumers.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Big cities have always been a curse to civilization causing more harm than good & are mostly soars on the body politic, so I don't feel sorry for the Parisians for living all together in that big stinky city which I lived in for 25 years almost dieing from it's noise & pollution! ha!

      But I made it out into a new way of country living by buying a Caravan & living in smaller wooded towns with nice fresh air!

      Times are changing & the French are headed towards using new innovative technologies in producing nice new green vehicles and may lead the way through Renault and other French companies!

      Pollution free air in Paris? Possibly in years to come. Why not become the optimist in action & buy your family a new hybrid or all electric vehical this year!

        • 8 Months Ago
        Paris has relatively better air quality than many cities in Europe:
        '- Curbing air pollution in major European cities could save 19,000 lives per year, add almost two years to local life expectancy and save 31.5 billion euros (43.4 billion dollars) in health costs and work absenteeism, an EU-funded study said on Wednesday.

        The nearly three-year probe, called Aphekom, looked at 25 cities in 12 European Union (EU) countries, encompassing nearly 39 million inhabitants.

        Only Stockholm was below the threshold of fine particulate pollution of 10 micrograms per cubic metre recommended by the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO), it found.

        At the other end of the scale, Bucharest notched up 38.2 micrograms, Budapest 33.7 micrograms and Barcelona 27 micrograms per cubic metre.

        Among other cities, pollution in Rome was 21.4 micrograms per cubic metre, while in Paris and London it was 16.4 and 13.1 micrograms per cubic metre respectively.'

        • 8 Months Ago
        Thank you for the fact sheet & explanation about polutants in Europe you took time to type up & share! You are deep into this & it pays to see more than on the surface for sure! For this kind of sharing in other areas please see: activated.org short articles with deep meaning! eric in Saarland de.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yes it is very true fact, slashing the air pollution will add two or more years to your life. Many problems, illness arise due to air pollution. Many of them couldn't even recover from the illness. http://www.greenliving9.com/effects-of-air-pollution.html
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