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December 17th, 2011:

Fine particle health risks calculated for roughly city size areas in California

Dec. 9, 2011

Three new studies released today by the California Air Resources Board reveal that exposure to airborne fine-particulate matter significantly elevates the risk for premature deaths from heart disease in older adults and elevates incidence of strokes among post-menopausal women. Heart disease is the number one killer in California and is responsible for approximately 35% of annual deaths.

“We’ve long known particulate matter is a major component of California’s air pollution problem,” said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols. “These new studies underscore the need to eliminate the threat from California’s air.”

Particulate matter is a complex blend of substances ranging from dry solid fragments, solid-core fragments with liquid coatings, and small droplets of liquid. These particles vary in shape, size and chemical composition, and can contain metals, soot, nitrates, sulfates and very fine dust. One source of particulate matter, including PM2.5 or fine-particulate –matter, is exhaust from vehicles, especially from diesel engines. PM 2.5 is particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter – a human hair is about 60 microns in diameter.
Michael Jerrett, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley, found that exposure to fine particulate matter significantly elevated the risks for premature death from heart disease. The most frequent cause of death associated with PM2.5 in this study was ischemic heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and heart failure. The findings of this study are based on the California participants in a large study sponsored by the American Cancer Society, which tracked 76,000 adults from 1982 to 2000.

In another study, Michael Lipsett, M.D., of the California Department of Public Health, led a team that examined the effects of chronic air pollution exposure on heart disease in women. The project tracked over 100,000 current and former female public school teachers and administrators in California. Like the University of California, Berkeley study, Dr. Lipsett found that exposure to PM2.5 elevated the risks for premature mortality from ischemic heart disease. In addition, this study found an increased risk of stroke among women who had never had one before, particularly among those who were post-menopausal.

These two studies demonstrate a relationship between long-term PM2.5 exposure and cardiovascular effects, such as heart attacks and strokes.

The third study, by Fern Tablin, V.M.D., Ph.D., and Dennis Wilson, D.V.M., Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis, investigated how inhaled PM2.5 could contribute to heart attacks and strokes. A common cause of heart attacks and strokes is development of clots in the blood stream. One suggested explanation is that PM2.5 exposure activates platelets, the key cells involved in blood clotting, so that they form clots and then trigger heart attacks and strokes. Drs. Tablin and Wilson examined the platelets of mice exposed to PM2.5 from the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin, and found that mice exposed to fine particulate matter showed platelet activation in both winter and summer, which could promote clotting and lead to stroke and heart attacks.

These new studies add to the existing scientific literature indicating that microscopic airborne particles pose a threat to public health. California Air Resources Board calculations of combined cardiovascular and respiratory (i.e., cardiopulmonary) deaths associated with PM2.5 exposure are based on the results of the national American Cancer Society study. Annually, 7,300 to 11,000 premature cardiopulmonary deaths in California are estimated to be associated with exposures to fine particulate matter.
Estimate of Premature Deaths Associated with Fine Particle Pollution (PM2.5) in California Using a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Methodology (39 pages)

The U.S. EPA’s reports were peer reviewed in a public process by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Particulate Matter Review Panel, an
independent peer review body of national scientists.

There are a large number of published health studies that estimate the
additional risk of mortality due to long-term exposure to PM2.5. U.S. EPA’s new
quantitative health risk assessment for particulate matter uses a 2009 study
(Krewski et al., 2009) for the core analysis. This study is an extension of a 2002
study (Pope et al., 2002) used in the previous PM2.5 NAAQS risk assessment.
This report estimates premature death from PM2.5 in California based on the
2009 Krewski study.

Using U.S. EPA’s methodology, the estimated number of annual PM2.5-related
premature deaths in California is 9,200 with an uncertainty range of 7,300 –
11,000. This estimate of premature deaths is based on the latest exposure
period in the 2009 Krewski study with data from 116 U.S. cities and about
500,000 people.

The results of the national scale assessment are shown above. In U.S. EPA’s table the bolded figures indicate the estimate that corresponds with the lowest measured level in the epidemiological study. The bolded estimates in the Krewski et al. (2009) column were calculated using the same risk coefficients as the urban case study. U.S. EPA indicates a greater emphasis is placed on the results calculated using the lowest measured level reported in the epidemiological studies. The estimated total PM2.5-related premature mortality ranges from 63,000 – 80,000 for the two time periods in the Krewski et al. (2009) study to the lowest measured level of 5.8 μg/m3. For the Laden et al. (2006) study the estimate is 88,000 with a lowest measured level of 10 μg/m3. The 90% percent confidence intervals are shown in each case. The U.S. EPA national assessment is based on 2005 PM2.5 levels. This report provides a California estimate based on air quality data from the years 2006-2008.
Links to the studies:

Michael Jerrett:
Michael Lipsett:
Fern Tablin:

Xiamen to extend monitoring areas of PM2.5 to the whole city in 2012

The grey smog that blanketed most cities in the north and south China in the past few days has brought the PM2.5 to the spotlight, which is mainly to be blamed for the fog that not only disrupted traffic, but also decreased air quality.

PM 2.5, or particulate matter under 2.5 micrometers in size, refers to the fine airborne particles that are considered extremely hazardous to people’s health as they go deeper into the lungs than the larger particles that exist in the air.

But, China currently uses PM10, or particular matter under 10 micrometers, to measure air quality.

Despite the fact that many cities in China now do not monitor PM 2.5, Xiamen, however, has started keeping track of PM 2.5 since 2010, said Xiamen Environmental Monitoring Central Station.

“At present, two of the 4 state-controlled environment & air monitoring stations in Xiamen has already started monitoring PM2.5 in real time, and another eight automatic air monitoring stations will join the monitoring of PM2.5 next year. By then, Xiamen will cover the monitoring of PM2.5 to the whole city.” said Zhuang Mazhan, chief engineer of the Xiamen Environmental Monitoring Central Station.

But the monitoring data is now only used for scientific research and will not be made available to the public until introduction of new national standards.

Click to read Chinese version


EPA sets air quality rules

TIGHT CONTROL::The new standards for air quality are the strictest in the world and aim to reduce the amount of small particle pollution that causes heart and lung disease

By Lee I-chia / Staff Reporter

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 – Page 2

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday announced the strictest standards in the world for fine particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), which will be included in the nation’s evaluation of air quality.

The EPA said the permitted amount of particles smaller than PM2.5 will be limited to a yearly average of 15 micrograms per cubic meterand a daily average of 35 micrograms per m3, through a two-phase implementation of the new regulations.

PM2.5 — known for its health risks — will be tightly controlled under the stricter regulations, the EPA said.

“Taiwan will be only the third country in the world to adopt these air quality control measures,” said Hsieh Yein-rui (謝燕儒), director-general of the EPA’s Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control.

Cheng Tsun-jen (鄭尊仁), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, said studies have shown that PM2.5 pollution can cause health problems such as heart or respiratory diseases.

Chang Ken-Hui (張艮輝), a professor at the Department of Safety Health and Environmental Engineering at National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, said the sources and effects of PM2.5 were complicated, with the effects often originating from long-range transport of air pollutants from abroad.

Chang also suggested that a more aggressive approach is needed in terms of dealing with China, because as much as 37 percent of the PM2.5 recorded in Taiwan is borne on the wind across the Taiwan Strait.

Additional reporting by CNA

Published on Taipei Times :

Taiwan enacts new regulations on air particulates

Taipei, Dec. 14 (CNA) New regulations on the allowable amount of fine particles in the air will help the nation’s air quality meet stricter standards within the next decade, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said Wednesday.

The EPA said the permitted amount of particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers, or PM2.5, will be limited to a yearly average of 15 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) and a daily average of 35ug/m3, through a two-phase implementation of the regulations.

PM2.5 — known for its health risk as it tends to penetrate the respiratory system and lead to chronic disease — will be controlled under the regulations, which have been adopted only by the United States and Japan, the EPA said.

“Taiwan will be only the third country in the world to adopt these air quality control measures,” said Hsieh Yein-rui, director-general of the EPA’s Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control.

According to Hsieh, the EPA will work with the nation’s heavy industries, such as the petrochemical and the iron and steel sectors, to cut down the precursor gases that can form PM2.5.

Joint efforts with other government branches will also be carried out to develop a public transport system using hybrid-electric vehicles as well as to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizer, Hsieh added.

“I am optimistic that we could catch up soon with Japan and the U.S. in terms of air quality control,” said Chang Ken-Hui, a member of an EPA task force set up to implement the move.

Chang said the amount of PM2.5 in Taiwan was reduced by 7.5 percent between 2006 and 2010 and maintained a yearly average of 20.8 ?g/m3, or 1.4 times the average in the U.S. and Japan.

Chang also suggested that a more aggressive approach is needed in terms of dealing with China, because as much as 37 percent of the PM 2.5 recorded in Taiwan is borne on the wind from China.

“The seasonal winds usually carry fine particles from China to Taiwan in spring and winter,” he said, adding that “multinational cooperation is needed to address the problem.” (By Lee Hsin-Yin) ENDITEM/J

Emissions key culprit for smog

By Li Jing and Zheng Xin (China Daily)

BEIJING – A majority of the country’s most hazardous airborne pollutants are coming from industrial sources, according to a newly released report by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Known as PM2.5 pollutants – hazardous particulates smaller than 2.5 microns – such pollution can travel deep into the lungs and damage people’s respiratory systems.

According to the study, China emitted 13.2 million tons of PM2.5 in 2007, among which more than 9 million tons came from industrial sources such as petrochemical plants, cement kilns, and iron and steel smelters.

The transportation sector was responsible for nearly 600,000 tons of PM2.5 emissions that year, while residential activities contributed to 2.7 million tons of the fine particulate matter, according to the report, which cited a study on China’s pollution inventory in 2007.

Such findings show industrial pollution is still the nation’s biggest culprit for the worsening haze and smog in China’s economically well-off eastern region.

“Therefore, curbing pollution from industrial sources is still the key in reducing PM2.5 and improving the nationwide air quality in the long run,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

“Anyway, clear regulations and restrictions already exist for curbing pollution from industrial sources, so it’s relatively easier to start with fixing the industries first,” he said.

But for major cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, where polluting factories have been moved out of the urban areas, emissions from vehicles play a bigger role in their worsening PM2.5 levels, making it more difficult to tackle in the short run, said Ma.

Copyright By All rights reserved

Guangzhou to release PM 2.5 data ahead of schedule

Following widespread calls for the government to provide more information on pollution, and particularly air quality in the country’s sprawling metropolises, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has vowed to revise its air quality appraisal system by 2016. But it turns out China’s third largest city, Guangzhou, capital of the southern Guangdong province, is already steps ahead of the pack.

Published data says the air is slightly polluted, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way out on the streets.

The reason behind the frequent discrepancies between good government ratings and the actual experience of urban Chinese: PM 2.5 or particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are missing from the equation.

Prof. Pan Xiaochuan from Medical school of Peking Univ., said, “A lot of the toxic matters in the air, such as carcinogens, are attached to the particles. They can cause great damage to your body once breathed in.”

Amid calls from the public to revise the current air quality standards to include readings of concentrations less than PM2.5, the government has agreed to this, but not before 2016. But Guangzhou says no need to wait till then. It’s already prepared for this, and the advantages are already showing.

According to the Guangzhou environmental protection bureau, the city first started collecting PM2.5 samples in 2000. Official monitoring began in 2009. The new standards and strict regulation have proven fruitful. Guangzhou enjoyed fine air 98.8 percent of the time during the first 11 months of the year.

A Guangzhou resident said, “I think PM2.5 data should be published. This is the new standard. It’s an international standard and we should use it.”

Major cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, have experienced chronic haze as a result of the surge in vehicle ownership and coal use in recent years. Now with Guangzhou promising to get a head start in cleaning up its environment, residents elsewhere are hoping their cities will follow suit.

The UK Government comments on Incinerators (energy from waste plants)

(in Hong Kong 13 million cubic meters of methane are flared off each year from chimney stacks at our landfills)

24. Are there health risks from energy from waste plants?

Energy from waste (EfW) plants are frequently perceived by some of the public to be a particular risk

to human health. However, despite many detailed studies into the health of communities living near to

EfW plants, none have been able to demonstrate a conclusive link between incinerator emissions and

public health impacts. Modern EfW plants must meet tight emissions standards so they make a very

small contribution to the background levels of air pollution.

25. What were the findings of the Defra review into the health effects of waste management?

The most recent independent review of evidence on the health effects of management and disposal of

household and similar waste was published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural

Affairs (Defra) in 2004. The “Review of the Environmental and Health Effects of Waste Management:

Municipal Solid Waste and Similar Wastes” considered 23 high quality studies of the patterns of

disease around energy from waste (EfW) plants and also four review papers looking at the health

effects of EfW plants. 

The report considered cancer, respiratory disease and birth defects and found no evidence for a link

between the incidence of the disease and the current generation of EfW plants.

27. How can you be sure modern energy from waste (EfW) plants are much safer?

There have been substantial cuts in emissions from incinerators since 1996. All EfW plants are new o

have been significantly modified to meet the much tighter emission standards under the European

Waste Incineration Directive.

The contribution to pollution from EfW plants is very small compared to other sources, such as traffic

road development and other industrial sites.

33. Is it true that a study established a definite link between cancer and living near an energy

from waste plant?

This is not true. Even the most careful and detailed high quality research studies have failed to

demonstrate elevated risks of cancer associated with the emissions from energy from waste (EfW)

plants.  Work by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU) at Imperial College, London

University, which examined cancer incidence of over 14 million people living near to 72 municipal solid

waste incinerators in Great Britain (from 1974-1986 (England), 1974-1984 (Wales), and 1975-1987

(Scotland) failed to find any convincing evidence of an increase in cancer rates due to the incinerators.

This is despite the fact that emissions of dioxins from the older generation of incinerators are around

ten to one hundred times greater than those from modern EfW plants.

The UK Government’s expert advisory Committee on Carcinogenicity reviewed the results of this

further investigation and concluded that any potential risk of cancer due to living near to EfW plants for

more than ten years was exceedingly low.

Impact on the environment

35. Don’t energy from waste plants produce more carbon emissions than coal fired power


No.  Coal-fired power stations produce many more time more carbon dioxide than incinerators.  Whilst

a coal-fired power will generate energy more efficiently than an incinerator generating electricity only

(i.e. no CHP) these stations are much larger than incinerators and use more carbon rich fuels.

36. Do energy from waste plants contribute more to global warming than landfilling waste?

No. Energy from waste plants do produce carbon dioxide gas as a result of burning waste. However,

the energy they produce replaces that generated by other fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas that

would otherwise be burnt at power stations to generate electricity. Landfilling waste generates both

methane and carbon dioxide gases. Methane has a global warming potential of more than twenty

times that of carbon dioxide.

Environment Agency publications

What’s in my backyard?

Position statement on waste incineration in waste management strategies

Booklet on municipal waste incineration

Regional Strategic Waste Management Assessments

Technical guidance on waste incineration

Enforcement and Prosecution Policy

All of the above can be obtained via our website at

Download information pack Q&A : Information_Pack_-_QA_(2) (1)

Lamma Island marina bid is thrown out

South China Morning Post – Dec. 17, 2011

Luxury scheme for flats and yachts in green area would set undesirable precedent, say planners

A bold development plan in an ecologically sensitive part of Lamma Island was rejected yesterday by town planners, who feared its approval would set an undesirable precedent.

The luxury residential and marine project, Baroque on Lamma, was led by a Town Planning Board member, Cheng Yan-kee. He is the chief executive of the company in charge of the development and was one of the project representatives who met the board yesterday.

The Planning Department said Cheng had declared his conflict of interest.

The project would have covered more than 85 hectares of green and marine areas in Tung O Wan and included plans for an international yachting base with 500 berths. The scheme encroached on conservation areas and would have needed a vast, 78-hectare slice of government land.

It was resurrected in March after being rejected by the Development Opportunities Office last year. The office facilitates private proposals that are deemed worthwhile.

Under the amended plan submitted to the Town Planning Board, the development density was reduced by lowering residential buildings and hotel blocks from six or seven storeys to no more than four, providing 900 flats and 120 hotel rooms.

But the proposal failed to win the support of board members and government departments.

“Approval of the application would set an undesirable precedent for similar applications in the south of Lamma and would attract similar applications for development in conservation-related zones,” the Planning Department said.

A spokeswoman for the board said the project was incompatible with the area’s conservation status and its excessive scale would ruin the site’s rural character and threaten ecological assets in the island’s south.

Apart from the loss of farmland, the marina development would involve reclamation of about nine hectares, resulting in the loss of fisheries habitat, including nursing grounds for some commercial species.

The Lands Department also said in the board’s paper that it did not support the project as it involved a substantial portion of government land, some burial grounds and sites of archaeological interest.

Private land in the hands of the developer only accounts for 8.4 per cent of the development’s total area.

The department said the prevailing land policy does not allow land exchange of this scale.

The proposal sparked controversy, and green groups raised objections, fearing the massive development would be a threat to rare species in the area. The Romer’s tree frog, which is endangered, is found in the affected conservation areas, while there is a nesting ground for the endangered green turtle just 200 to 300 metres away.

Guy Shirra
Sai Kung

M: 9307 2041

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