Archive for the ‘Understanding PM2.5’ Category

A mother’s perspective on the cost of being poisoned from the smoke from burning wood and coal.

From: Krystal Francesco (Laurance Road, North Pole) [requested name be published]
Date: Sun, Jan 27, 2013 at 3:03 PM
Subject: Smoke
To: (66 DEC and borough agency staff, elected and appointed leaders)

FNSB Real-time image 386 µg/m3 at 8 am 1/27/2013

FNSB Real-time image 386 µg/m3 at 8 am 1/27/2013

Please see the attached photos.  I would love to have a meaningful response from any of you.  This is a public health risk.  I hear more and more about people who are getting asthma, people who are taking their young children to the doctor because of breathing problems, older people who are suddenly having breathing and heart problems that they never had before, people who have a nagging cough, etc.–the list goes on and the number of people affected.

I have a personal interest in this because of my daughter, who at the young age of 2 years, 5 months, has been on the following medications due to chronic breathing problems over her short lifetime: Albuterol inhaler, Flovent inhaler, Zyrtec, Flonase…that doesn’t include over the counter cough medicine.  I’ve had to start giving her all these since early 2012 morning and night to try and prevent ER visits.  This is when I noticed how horrible our air quality was.  I didn’t even need diagrams or pictures, I could SMELL the nasty fumes in the air, and how much my daughter was coughing.  We’ve gone to the ER over labored breathing (ie couldn’t catch her breath) at least 6-7 times last year ALONE, not to mention how many other times in 2011.

I, myself, have just gone today to the doctor’s to receive steroid and inhaler treatments due to a cough I’ve had since early Dec 2012.  My own mother has had terrible coughing fits this entire winter, starting in November of 2012, where she cannot catch her breath.  She is also on inhalers and steroid treatments.

One of the reasons for this is the fact one of our neighbors is clearly burning something than other dry, seasoned wood.  We can smell the toxic fumes, and see the black smoke with our own eyes.  Their smokestack is clearly too short as well, which doesn’t help it rise above house level and drifts into surrounding houses, where we breath it in day and night.  They live a merely 2 blocks away, right off the Richardson Highway on Laurance Road.  Who knows how many other people are burning trash, carcasses, tires, etc.

I would like an answer to the following question: WHAT IS GOING TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS VERY SERIOUS PUBLIC HEALTH RISK CAUSED BY COAL AND WOOD SMOKE, AND WHAT IS THE TIMELINE? Please do something about this; this is a borough-wide problem.  It is your job–all of you, regardless of what our boroughs laws are–to do something meaningful about this.  You all need to work together at the local and state level to save the public’s health–actually do something about this and stop just talking about it.  To do otherwise is a gross negligence of the some of the most important duties of your elected position. Please respond.  I want to protect my family’s health, but I do not want to have to move in order to do it (because of family and financial constraints), so I am looking to you whose job it is to help protect my family from public health hazards.

Krystal Francesco (also living with me are my parents) North Pole, AK

Also attached to the email: graph from 48 Days of Smoke in Rectangle of Death AK 99705 [Graph]


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Presentations by C. Arden Pope III, PhD, one of the world’s most widely cited and recognized experts on the health effects of air pollution. Professor Pope’s work heightened understanding of the relationship between PM 2.5 and cardiac effects including mortality:

C. Arden Pope III, PhD, Brigham Young University  Contact: <cap3@byu.edu> (801)422-2157
C. Arden Pope Wikipedia
2006 Health Effects of Fine Particulate Air Pollution

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 Review this NPR article: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Sickness: Wood Smoke now a major Northwest air polluter 12/16/2011.

Methods discussed or in effect to reduce PM 2.5 pollution:

  • Label wood as carcinogenic
  • Prohibit installation of wood stoves not meeting standards or require their removal [Washington state’s standards are more restrictive than EPA’s certified stove program or EPA’s Phase 2 qualified program for hydronics.]
  • Allow agencies to declare burn bans at lower pollution levels to better head off extreme pollution events
  • Prohibit “any visible smoke” during burn bans, rather than allowing smoke within prescribed opacity limits
  • Further restrict fine particle pollution from other sources such as cars, trucks, and ships
  • Use infrared vision devices to detect smoke emissions at night
  • Expand the number of inspectors
  • Require stoves not meeting standards to be removed when the property is sold  [Many property sales agreements in the Northwest already include this requirement.]
  • Provide economic assistance to support transitions to cleaner heating systems — that funding is running out in Washington state

Just one of these methods — change-out funds — has been put to work reducing winter smoke pollution in Fairbanks and North Pole.

The good news is these methods work on winter smoke.
Washington and Oregon counties are kicking the winter smoke habit. In 2010, Washington counties with winter smoke [Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish] dropped to none or just one day. King (Seattle) had a single Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups day in 2010. Oregon counties with winter smoke [Klamath, Lake, Lane] also made major headway. The highest number was Lane County (Eugene) Oregon that had 4 USG days in 2010. The Pacific Northwest deserves credit for working to breathe healthy air every day.

Fairbanks had 22 USG and 2 Unhealthy days in 2010.


EPA’s AIRNow AirCompare compare counties within a state and review monthly averages and historical profiles yourself

EPA’s AIRNow AirCompare – 2010 state summaries for Alaska, Washington, and Oregon

Compare 2010 monthly averages for up to 10 counties within a state This link is great for figuring out when to visit (or not to visit) an area). At the top of the form, select “Asthma or other lung disease” or “Older adults and children” so the graphs show the number of Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups days as well as Unhealthy. To get the number of air pollution days during 2001 to 2010, follow the historical profiles link at the top of your monthly average search result.

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Dr. Mehmet Oz

Dr. Mehmet Oz:

“Though heating home with a wood fire seems more romantic than a Shakespearean poet, wood smoke is much more carcinogenic than cigarette smoke and a contributor to particle pollution in neighborhoods.”

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Alan H. Lockwood, MD, Emeritus Professor of Neurology, University at Buffalo, New York

Please join us for a presentation by Alan Lockwood, MD, as he discusses the growing body of medical evidence linking coal development to risks to your health.
Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012
6:30 reception, 7:00 pm Presentation
Wood Center Ballroom, UAF, 505 South Chandalar Drive, Fairbanks, AK
Alan H. Lockwood, MD, Emeritus Professor of Neurology, University at Buffalo, New York, will discuss the growing body of medical evidence linking coal development to human health risks. Dr. Lockwood is the principal author of the Physicians for Social Responsibility report “Coal’s Assault on Human Health” which describes the devastating impacts of coal on the human body. At every stage – from mining, transportation, storage, combustion, and disposal of post-combustion wastes – coal development threatens human health. Pollutants from coal damage all major organ systems in the human body. Coal combustion releases mercury, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health. Each presentation will focus on the particular hazards threatening the local community and will be followed by time for a Q & A session.
Get the Report: Coal’s Assault on Human Health [3.74MB]
Dr. Lockwood is a graduate of Cornell University and Cornell University Medical College and is board-certified in Neurology, a member of the American Neurological Association, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. He is the author of approximately 220 publications on scientific topics ranging from hepatic encephalopathy to environmental toxicants. He has been an active member of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) for three decades, and was President of PSR National in 1994. Currently, Dr. Lockwood is a member of the Board and Co-Chair of the Environment and Health Committee.
For more information contact:
Heidi Zimmer at Alaska Community Action on Toxics, <heidi@akaction.org>, (907)222-7714
Teleconference Seminar:
Coal’s Assault on Human Health” will be held from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM Alaska Time, Wednesday, February 15th, as part of the Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment teleconference seminar series. Guest presenter Alan H. Lockwood, MD, will discuss the growing body of medical evidence linking coal development to human health risks. For more information, or to join this free call and receive the dial-up instructions, please RSVP to Alaska Community Action on Toxics at <heather@akaction.org> or (907)222-7714.

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Read one journalist’s story: Fairbanks, Alaska – Land of poisonous ice fog at -50 F – A pictorial explanation

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A new report on the harm to residents and the need for voter support of the Healthy Air Protection Act has been published by Clean Air Fairbanks

Link: Sickened by Smoke: the Harm of PM 2.5 Pollution and the Opportunity for Voters to Help July 2011. [1.3MB]

The report includes effects on health, summaries of public testimony from smoke victims,  measured concentrations from monitoring data including maps generated by the borough’s “sniffer” vehicle, winter source contributions, graphs of the growing number of public complaints, public records of life and safety impacts, agency enforcement to date, property rights vs the right not to be injured debate, economic impacts of continued nonattainment, and options including voter approval of the Healthy Air Protection Act.

The report is intended to inform voters in advance of the advance of the October 4, 2011 municipal election.

Visit Healthy Air Now for more on the ballot proposition and how to donate and volunteer.

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