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Site: http://news.mit.edu/topic/mitenvironment-rss.xml

They may seem innocuous enough, those small planes used for weekend getaways, flight training, small freight deliveries, and other civilian purposes. But collectively, the more than 167,000 piston-engine aircraft that comprise the majority of the U.S. general aviation (GA) fleet may pose a significant health threat. That’s because these vehicles, which rely on leaded fuel to operate safely, constitute the nation’s largest remaining source of lead emissions. Those exposed to low levels of lead, especially children, have been shown to suffer neurological and cognitive impairment, including IQ loss. Unlike commercial airliners, which do not use leaded fuel, and automobiles, which went all-unleaded by 1995, piston-driven GA aircraft account for about half of anthropogenic lead emissions in U.S. skies. But just how much of an impact is this airborne lead having on the nation’s public health and economy? To answer that question, a team of MIT researchers has conducted the first assessment of the nationwide annual costs of IQ losses that can be attributed to aviation lead emissions. The team found that each year, these IQ losses result in about $1 billion in damages from lifetime earnings reductions, with an additional $0.5 billion in economy-wide losses due to decreases in labor productivity. Its findings appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. “Regulations have brought about a dramatic reduction in lead exposure for the U.S. population over time, but childhood lead exposure is associated with decreased academic achievement and IQ loss even at low blood lead levels,” says Philip Wolfe, a postdoc in the MIT Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, and lead author of the paper. “This study not only provides an estimate of the costs of these effects, but also is the first to look at how these damages have feedback loops in the economy. It shows that emissions today will continue to have an impact for decades.” Conducted by researchers affiliated with the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, the Center for Environmental Health Sciences and the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, the study is unique in its inclusion of lead emissions incurred not only on takeoff and landing, but also during the cruise phase of GA flights. Previous investigations of GA-based lead emissions focused primarily on health impacts at local airports and regions, and did not explore economic damages. “This study shows that even minor sources of toxic pollutants can have a major health and economic impact,” says Noelle Selin, an associate professor in the MIT Institute for Data, Systems and Society and Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, and one of two faculty co-authors (along with associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics Steven Barrett) of the study. “Our results underscore the need to assess carefully the implications of exempting certain sectors or specific uses from regulations on harmful substances.” To obtain their results, the researchers developed an inventory of general aviation emissions across the continental U.S., and modeled its impact on atmospheric lead concentrations using the Community Multi-Scale Air Quality Model (CMAQ). Based on these GA-specific contributions to overall atmospheric lead levels, they quantified associated IQ deficits nationwide and their annual economic impacts. They estimated annual losses in lifetime earnings potential using earnings data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, and annual losses in labor productivity using a Joint Program computational general equilibrium model called USREP, which models the U.S. economy. Efforts to curb leaded emissions from GA aircraft have been underway for at least a decade. Petitioned by the environmental nonprofit group Friends of the Earth (FoE) in 2006 to address the problem of leaded emissions from GA aircraft, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed limiting such emissions in 2010, but has yet to issue a ruling. The FoE claims that 70 percent of GA planes could switch to unleaded fuel without retrofitting. Toward that end, the Federal Aviation Administration aims to certify and distribute an unleaded replacement fuel by 2018. This research was supported by the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences with funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Kennedy K.,Center for Environmental Health | Grimes C.,Hayward Healthy Home
Current Allergy and Asthma Reports

Exposure to dampness and mold in indoor environments has received significant attention in recent research. This review focuses on studies looking at the impact of dampness, moisture and microbial agents on children's health. We then look more broadly at how research studies have tried to describe dampness and exposure to moisture. Papers published from 2010 onwards were reviewed and are briefly summarized. Most of the papers using dampness as a proxy for microbial exposure focused on respiratory tract infections, especially asthma. This review highlights new findings and also discusses the variety of approaches used to assess dampness in indoor environments. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York. Source

Bouwknegt M.,Center for Zoonoses and Environmental Microbiology | Knol A.B.,Center for Environmental Health | van der Sluijs J.P.,University Utrecht | Evers E.G.,Center for Zoonoses and Environmental Microbiology
Risk Analysis

Epidemiology and quantitative microbiological risk assessment are disciplines in which the same public health measures are estimated, but results differ frequently. If large, these differences can confuse public health policymakers. This article aims to identify uncertainty sources that explain apparent differences in estimates for Campylobacter spp. incidence and attribution in the Netherlands, based on four previous studies (two for each discipline). An uncertainty typology was used to identify uncertainty sources and the NUSAP method was applied to characterize the uncertainty and its influence on estimates. Model outcomes were subsequently calculated for alternative scenarios that simulated very different but realistic alternatives in parameter estimates, modeling, data handling, or analysis to obtain impressions of the total uncertainty. For the epidemiological assessment, 32 uncertainty sources were identified and for QMRA 67. Definitions (e.g., of a case) and study boundaries (e.g., of the studied pathogen) were identified as important drivers for the differences between the estimates of the original studies. The range in alternatively calculated estimates usually overlapped between disciplines, showing that proper appreciation of uncertainty can explain apparent differences between the initial estimates from both disciplines. Uncertainty was not estimated in the original QMRA studies and underestimated in the epidemiological studies. We advise to give appropriate attention to uncertainty in QMRA and epidemiological studies, even if only qualitatively, so that scientists and policymakers can interpret reported outcomes more correctly. Ideally, both disciplines are joined by merging their strong respective properties, leading to unified public health measures. © 2013 Society for Risk Analysis. Source

Macey G.P.,Brooklyn Law School | Breech R.,Richmond Global | Chernaik M.,Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide | Cox C.,Center for Environmental Health | And 3 more authors.
Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source

Background: Horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and other drilling and well stimulation technologies are now used widely in the United States and increasingly in other countries. They enable increases in oil and gas production, but there has been inadequate attention to human health impacts. Air quality near oil and gas operations is an underexplored human health concern for five reasons: (1) prior focus on threats to water quality; (2) an evolving understanding of contributions of certain oil and gas production processes to air quality; (3) limited state air quality monitoring networks; (4) significant variability in air emissions and concentrations; and (5) air quality research that misses impacts important to residents. Preliminary research suggests that volatile compounds, including hazardous air pollutants, are of potential concern. This study differs from prior research in its use of a community-based process to identify sampling locations. Through this approach, we determine concentrations of volatile compounds in air near operations that reflect community concerns and point to the need for more fine-grained and frequent monitoring at points along the production life cycle. Methods: Grab and passive air samples were collected by trained volunteers at locations identified through systematic observation of industrial operations and air impacts over the course of resident daily routines. A total of 75 volatile organics were measured using EPA Method TO-15 or TO-3 by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Formaldehyde levels were determined using UMEx 100 Passive Samplers. Results: Levels of eight volatile chemicals exceeded federal guidelines under several operational circumstances. Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels. Conclusions: Air concentrations of potentially dangerous compounds and chemical mixtures are frequently present near oil and gas production sites. Community-based research can provide an important supplement to state air quality monitoring programs. Source

Surgan M.,NYS Attorney Generals Environmental Protection Bureau | Condon M.,NYS Attorney Generals Environmental Protection Bureau | Cox C.,Center for Environmental Health
Environmental Management

Pesticide Risk Indicators (PRIs) are widely used to evaluate and compare the potential health and environmental risks of pesticide use and to guide pest control policies and practices. They are applied to agricultural, landscape and structural pest management by governmental agencies, private institutions and individuals. PRIs typically assess only the potential risks associated with the active ingredients because, with few exceptions, pesticide manufacturers disclose only the identity of the active ingredients which generally comprise only a minor portion of pesticide products. We show that when inert ingredients are identified and assessed by the same process as the active ingredient, the product specific risk can be much greater than that calculated for the active ingredient alone. To maintain transparency in risk assessment, all those who develop and apply PRIs or make decisions based on their output, should clearly disclose and discuss the limitations of the method. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. Source

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