Is there an increase in health risks from air pollutants in Massachusetts?

Air pollution
Paper , Order, or Assignment Requirements

Write an essay of approximately 2 pages in length that addresses the following: (1) Describe what you are personally most concerned about relative to air pollution and air quality. Please focus on issues that you feel most effect you or your family. For example, if you have very light skin and are outdoors a lot it might be the diminishing ozone layer. If you or your children have asthma it might be air quality issues that affect asthma. It could be air toxics because you are concerned about a potential family history of cancer, smog/ozone because you are a jogger, etc. If you like to fish or eat fish it could be acid rain or mercury from power plants. Those are just some examples, please pick the one you really care about because it is an important issue.

For sources you could use these sites. And only use the sources i provide. If you need additional sources you could get them from any site, as its more preferable than books:

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Depletion of the Ozone Layer

The stratospheric ozone layer protects Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Rowland and Molina discovered that chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs could damage the stratospheric ozone layer through the release of chlorine atoms. EPA took action by banning the use of aerosol cans containing CFCs in the U.S. Most of the effects of CFCs can be observed in the Earth’s polar regions with the ozone hole, polar vortex, and the arctic hole, however, ozone depletion is everywhere. The Montreal Protocol of 1987 and the phase-out of CFCs in the U.S. are some of the responses to coming to grips with ozone depletion.

What lifestyle changes can you make to become part of the solution in your community? Can these changes extend to the global community? You may discuss this topic at the Discussion board.

Atmospheric Pollution

Air Pollution Essentials

The atmosphere is comprised primarily of gases and aerosols. Factors determining the level of air pollution include the amount of pollutants entering the air, the amount of space that pollutants are dispersed, and the mechanisms to remove pollutants from the air. Natural air pollutants have been cleaned in the biosphere by hydroxyl radical, aerosolized sea salts, and microorganisms in soil. Human activities have elevated pollutants above normal concentrations thereby using up the hydroxyl radical cleansing power. The appearance of industrial and photochemical smog began around the time of the Industrial Revolution due to combustion sources such as coal burning factories and automobiles. Long-term temperature inversions cause pollutants to build up to dangerous levels prompting health officials to urge people with breathing problems to stay indoors.

Donora, PA generated questions regarding possible weakening of the CAA and the potential impacts of such action. Are there any lessons to be learned from Mexico City? (p. 577).

Additional information on smog and other air pollutants can be found at the American Lung Association ( and the US EPA (

Major air pollutants and their sources

Primary pollutants (direct products of combustion and evaporation) are tracked and monitored by the US EPA under the Clean Air Act. Since lead was removed from gasoline, lead smelters and battery manufacturers have become the largest sources of lead emissions. Most toxics tend to originate from industries and small businesses whereas radon is a natural decay process from rocks and soil. Once in the atmosphere, some primary pollutants may undergo further reactions and produce secondary pollutants. Some of these secondary pollutants (sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) enter the troposphere, oxidize with hydroxyl radicals, and return to Earth as acid deposition. Acid deposition is measured according to acidic or basic properties of the concentrations of hydrogen ions on a pH scale. Natural emissions of sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides have remained fairly constant but anthropogenic sources have increased significantly.

Consult the Massachusetts’ Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) website at ( Enter your community name and find out what toxics are being used, generated, and emitted.

Air Pollutants of Concern in Massachusetts – “Particulates in the air prompt greater concern than ever. Recent public health studies state that more Massachusetts residents die prematurely from exposure to fine particulates than are killed in automobile accidents. And new scientific research argues that the national standard for particulates must be far more stringent, to focus on smaller particles that more easily reach our lungs.”

III. Impact of Air Pollutants

Human exposure to air pollutants can have chronic, acute, or carcinogenic effects on human health. The chronic effects of air pollutants can be seen in the increased levels of asthma in the United States in the last decade. Studies analyzed by the Health Effects Institute have concluded that higher concentrations of fine particles were correlated with increased mortality rates, especially heart disease and lung cancer. Air pollutants can damage the environment (crops, forests, and visibility of the sky) and man-made objects such as buildings, artifacts, and automobiles. A 1999, the EPA established a Regional Haze Rule aimed at improving visibility at natural parks and wilderness areas.

Acid deposition impacts aquatic ecosystems (i.e.: mercury accumulation in fish as lake waters become more acidic), in forests (i.e.: chemical interactions in forest soils leaching out of essential nutrients such as calcium and introducing toxics such as aluminum ions), artifacts, surface water, groundwater, and water distribution lines.

Consult the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website ( for statistical data on cancer rates and health impacts from heavy metals such as mercury and lead. Is there an increase in health risks from air pollutants in Massachusetts? Can we draw any direct conclusions?

Impacts of Air Polution (PM2.5) on Heart Attack Rates ? ( ) “Between Jan. 1995 and May 1996, researchers interviewed 772 Boston area heart attack patients about four days after their heart attack to establish when their symptoms began. Participants were enrolled in the Determinants of Myocardial Infarction Onset Study, which is aimed at gathering information about factors associated with myocardial infarction, or heart attack. Researchers compared the times heart attack symptoms began with daily air pollution measurements collected in Boston during the study period. They paid special attention to levels of the smaller pollutants.”

Air Pollution – Health Impacts ( ) “Air pollution kills about 70,000 Americans each year,” said Joel Schwartz, associate professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health. “That’s more people than die from breast and prostate cancers combined. Air pollution is a huge public health problem.”

Air Quality in the World’s Megacities ( ) “The worst pollutant affecting the megacities as a whole is suspended particulate matter (SPM), particularly amongst megacities in the continent of Asia. This is of particular concern as high levels of SPM are known to be related to increased mortality rates, and in many of the megacities in developing countries health care for acute cases is less proficient than in developed countries. The sources of SPM are varied and can include natural sources such as windblown dust from desert areas and the generally more toxic SPM from man-made sources such as power generation, motor vehicles (particularly diesel) and industrial processes. The three megacities which meet WHO guidelines are those which have undergone large scale control measures to reduce man-made SPM.”

Health Impacts from Air Pollution from Incinerators – Massachusetts ( ) “Their Report estimated that current emissions from the Salem Harbor and Brayton Point power plants can be linked to more than 43,000 asthma attacks and nearly 300,000 incidents of upper respiratory symptoms per year in the region. The study also estimated that 159 premature deaths per year could be attributed to this source of pollution. The health risks are greatest for people living closer to the plants. The researchers also analyzed the potential health benefits of reducing current emissions to the lower levels that would be reached by using the best available control technology required for newer power plants. An estimated 124 premature deaths would be averted per year, along with 34,000 fewer asthma attacks and 230,000 fewer incidents of upper respiratory problems.” It should be noted that Brayton Point Station in Somerset, MA is the largest fossil-fuel burning power plant in New England and Salem Harbor is in Salem, MA.

Controlling air pollution:
The Clean Air Act (1970), the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants were enacted to regulate emissions and control human pollutants. In 1990, the CAA Amendments sought more aggressive actions to identify, monitor, and control released pollutants. Some of these actions include the establishment of attainment zones, the reduction of motor vehicle emissions, and the identification of major sources of target pollutants in order to develop maximum achievable control technology standards. CAF? standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (1975) set mileage rates lower for larger motor vehicles. A new ozone standard implemented in 2004 is anticipated to generate health benefits. The Ozone Transport Rule was established by EPA to set NOx emission budgets for Midwestern and Southern states to control transport to Northeast states.

Although there was a well-established link between power-plant emissions and acid deposition in the early 1980s, Title IV of the CAAA was not passed until 1990 due to political delays. Title IV of the CAAA is the first law in U.S. history to address acid-deposition by mandating reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide levels.

Discuss Title V of the CAAA. Have the control and reduction measures since 1990 been successful?

Discussion of gasoline additives from lead to MtBE, and now to ethanol. Are we solving the problem or creating other unknown problem?

Unresolved Issues
Measures to reduce air pollution carry an economic cost resulting in economic benefits such reduced hospital visits, fewer premature deaths, and fewer lost workdays. Older power plants were exempt from installing new pollution controls unless an upgrade of the facility occurred. In 2003, the New Source Review would not require pollution controls to be updated unless there were changes to more than 20% of the entire facility. The Clear Skies Act would change the CAA regulations for power plants by addressing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and mercury simultaneously under the same “cap-and-trade” strategies. CAF? standards aimed at addressing air pollutants from motor vehicles is often met with resistance. In 1990, California passed a law that all new cars sold in the state must be emission free by 2003.

Some topics to discuss at the discussion board:

Is MA doing anything to encourage the use of electric cars? Car-pooling?

What are the implications of supreme court rulings related to the Clean Air Act in the last few years?


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