Archives for category: Carbon Dioxide

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From: The New York Times:

The tiny black particles released into the atmosphere by burning fuels are far more powerful agents of global warming than had previously been estimated, some of the world’s most prominent atmospheric scientists reported in a study issued on Tuesday.

These particles, which are known as black carbon and are the major component of soot, are the second most important contributor to global warming, behind only carbon dioxide, wrote the 31 authors of the study, published online by The Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

The new estimate of black carbon’s heat-trapping power is about double the one made in the last major report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2007. And the researchers said that if indirect warming effects of the particles are factored in, they may be trapping heat at almost three times the previously estimated rate.

The new calculation adds urgency to efforts to curb the production of black carbon, which is released primarily by diesel engines in the industrialized world and by primitive cook stoves and kerosene lamps in poorer nations. Natural phenomena like forest fires also produce it.

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From Discovery Magazine:

“There is no place called away.” It is a statement worthy of 
Gertrude Stein, but University of Washington atmospheric chemist Dan Jaffe says it with conviction: None of the contamination we pump into the air just disappears. It might get diluted, blended, or chemically transformed, but it has to go somewhere. And when it comes to pollutants produced by the booming economies of East Asia, that somewhere often means right here, the mainland of the United States.

Jaffe and a new breed of global air detectives are delivering a sobering message to policy makers everywhere: Carbon dioxide, the predominant driver of global warming, is not the only industrial by-product whose effects can be felt around the world. Prevailing winds across the Pacific are pushing thousands of tons of other contaminants—including mercury, sulfates, ozone, black carbon, and desert dust—over the ocean each year. Some of this atmospheric junk settles into the cold waters of the North Pacific, but much of it eventually merges 
with the global air pollution pool that circumnavigates the planet.

These contaminants are implicated in a long list of health problems, including neurodegenerative disease, cancer, emphysema, and perhaps even pandemics like avian flu. And when wind and weather conditions are right, they reach North America within days. Dust, ozone, and carbon can accumulate in valleys and basins, and mercury can be pulled to earth through atmospheric sinks that deposit it across large swaths of land.

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From 13 WTHR:

13 Investigates has discovered an invisible problem in classrooms all across Indiana.

You can’t see it or smell it. You can’t taste it or touch it.

But it’s there — sometimes far more than it should be – and it can impact students’ health and education.

The problem is elevated levels of CO2, also known as carbon dioxide.

“Carbon dioxide is actually a natural chemical that is formed when we breathe,” explained Veda Ackerman, a pediatric pulmonologist at Riley Hospital for Children. “If you go back to basic biology class, we all breathe in oxygen and breathe out CO2 … At low levels, it doesn’t cause problems at all.”

But in schools with poor air circulation, CO2 levels can rise rapidly when students pack into a classroom.

13 Investigates found schools across the state have been cited for CO2 levels considered too high by the Indiana State Department of Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That’s when students can begin to feel the impact.

How students suffer

“Higher levels of carbon dioxide make a person sleepy and it also decreases their learning ability,” said David Gettinger, a facilities manager who monitors CO2 levels for Perry Township Schools. “More carbon dioxide means there’s not enough oxygen in the classroom and you don’t think as straight.”

Ron Clark, who conducts school indoor air quality inspections for the state health department, says elevated CO2 levels are one of the most common problems he finds in schools.

“It means they aren’t bringing in enough fresh air for students,” Clark said. “It would impact their education and their learning level.”

Several studies, including a soon-to-be-released report from the University of Tulsa, link elevated carbon dioxide levels and poor air circulation with decreased student performance.

Prolonged exposure to CO2 is also linked to decreased student health.

In schools with high carbon dioxide levels, poor airflow often means pollutants in classrooms are not being flushed out by fresh air. That can trigger serious medical issues in children with asthma and other health problems. Asthma is the leading cause of student absenteeism in the nation, resulting in millions of missed school days each year. Nearly a quarter million Indiana children have been diagnosed with asthma, according to the state health department.

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