On The Radio – United Nations Environment Programme seeks to tackle air pollution


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The United Nations warned of the many human health impacts pollution poses. (United Nations/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | December 11, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses how the United Nations released an anthology with suggested methods for reducing pollution worldwide. 

Transcript: As global pollution increases, action is needed now more than ever. 

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus. 

United Nations Environment Programme recently released The Executive Director’s Report: Towards A Pollution-Free Planet, an anthology that pulls environmental data from every continent and suggests general methods for reducing pollution globally. 

The report suggests that nobody is free from the effects of global pollution. Around one in four deaths globally are caused by environmental degradation, and governments must take action to reduce pollution in all its forms if they want to reduce the negative side effects of a damaged environment. 

Every aspect of global environmental damage must be examined and monitored, from waste disposal to the burning of fossil fuels. The people most effected by pollution are working class laborers in cities, since around 80% of big cities internationally do not meet the UN standards for clean air. 

Children, elderly and other vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by air pollution. 

The statistics are sobering, but the report suggests that with better government control and a serious approach to pollution, we can all work together to better the environment and our health. 

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org. 

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone. 

Iowa DNR warns of health effects caused by fireworks


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Fireworks were legalized in Iowa for the first time since the 1930’s this year. (flickr/Jorgen Kesseler)
Jenna Ladd | June 30, 2017

A wide array of fireworks are now legal in Iowa, but officials warn that the festive explosives can have consequences for human health.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources released a statement this week encouraging people to sensitive to poor air quality to stay upwind and a safe distance away from firework smoke. Fireworks contain a fine black powder that allows for explosion and metals that provide their vibrant colors, both substances can get trapped near the ground, often accumulating to unhealthy levels.

A monitor in Davenport revealed unhealthy levels of fine particles in the air near Independence Day in 2008, prior to this year’s legalization of a much broader range of fireworks. The elderly, pregnant women, children and people with respiratory conditions like asthma are most likely to be affected. The statement recommended these populations stay indoors if they are unable to avoid areas with smoke accumulation and to contact their physicians if they experience any difficulty breathing.

University of Iowa to hold forum on the water rights tonight in the University Capitol Center


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(Flickr / Peter Esser)
 Jake Slobe | November 30, 2016

Tonight in the University Capitol Center, the University of Iowa will hold a forum discussing the significance of humans having access and rights to water.

University Capitol Centre Rm 1117
Wednesday, November 30 
7:30 PM – 9:00 PM

During this event, the panelists will discuss the fundamental importance of the basic human right to water and it’s implications for human health and well-being. The event aims to engage community members and students in a productive dialogue concerning how these rights and our water resources are being threatened in surprising and worrisome ways domestically and globally. The goal that those in attendance leave feeling informed about the often unconsidered implications of these threats and use their knowledge to stand up for their rights to water and those of others.

The Panelists will include Eric Tate, assistant professor of Geography and Sustainability Studies, and Maureen McCue, an adjunct clinical assistant professor at the University of Iowa Colleges of Public Health and Liberal Arts and Sciences.  She is a founding member, faculty, and former director of the University of Iowa Global Health Studies Program. UI students Kareem Butler and Channon Greer will also be on the panel.

The panel discussion is sponsored by Iowa Chapter  of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Co-sponsors are the UI Global Health Studies Program, the Office of Sustainability,  the UI Center for Human Rights.

Plan to curb air-pollution in India released last week


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Haze and particulate matter are visible in this photo taken west of New Delhi. (Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | October 11, 2016

Ten solutions for breathable air in India were presented at the The Energy and Resource Institute’s World Sustainable Development Summit last week in New Delhi.

The National Clean Air Mission follows a recently released World Bank report which announced that air pollution led to 1.4 million deaths in 2013. The report, which was presented by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) along with University of California-San Diego, is a part of a larger governmental initiative called Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Mission. Seventeen authors from institutions around the world including the University of Iowa, IIT-Kanpur, Stockholm University, University of Maryland, Max Plank Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the California Air Resource Board contributed to the report.

The report said, “This Clean Air Mission should…mandate…government policies for air pollution mitigation across several ministries dealing with transport, power, construction, agriculture, rural development and environment as well as across city and state jurisdiction.” The document also emphasized the need to address the burning of agricultural residue as a major source of air-pollution. It said, “This strategy aims at reducing open burning of agricultural residue and instead of using them as a source of energy.”

Beyond agriculture, the report noted that transportation is a main contributor to air-pollution in the country. Sumit Sharma from TERI said, “Shifting freight transport from road to lower-emission modes like rail and inland waterways and coastal shipping is required.” It also suggested that India scale up its emission trading schemes (ETS), which are government-mandated, market-based systems of controlling pollution. The report read, “The government is already working with ETS in three industrial clusters in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, which needs to be scaled up.”

The report’s authors also suggested the development cleaner fuel options while focusing on larger particulate matter and ozone in the air.

PCBs and Human Health


hans-joachim-lehmlerA University of Iowa faculty member is studying how contaminants move through the food chain, causing diseases in humans.

Hans-Joachim Lehmler, from the UI Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, is studying legacy pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and halogenated pesticides in the environment and how they impact human health.

PCB’s have been linked to cancer, autism, and hormone irregularities. Although their use was banned in the 1970’s, the pollutants are present in many bodies of water and can spread to humans in many ways, including consumption of fish.

By better understanding how organisms, like fish and humans, process PCBs, his team can determine how PCBs function in nature, ultimately protecting humans from their harmful effects.

To read more about Lehmler’s PCB research, click here.