Soot Particles in the Air More Dangerous Than Previously Thought

Now who would have thunk, I mean, thought???

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A new appraisal of existing studies documenting the links between tiny soot particles and premature death from cardiovascular ailments shows that mortality rates among people exposed to the particles are twice as high as previously thought, a report says.

Now one can but wonder how much it – once again – cost to come up with something that our parents and grandparents have known already; soot particles kill you, and that in more than just one way.

An extended epidemiological analysis, building on data from 350,000 people over 18 years, and an additional 150,000 people in more recent years, has been conducted for the Health Effects Institute by scientists at the University of Ottawa about the impact of soot particles in the air. Sadly, there is no good news in that report, not that I would have expected any.

Dan Greenbaum, the president of the non-profit Health Effects Institute, which has been releasing the analysis, said that the areas covered in the study included 116 American cities, with the highest levels of soot particles found in areas including the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles and the Central Valley of California; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; the Ohio River Valley; and Pittsburgh.

The review found that the risk of having a condition that is a precursor to deadly heart attacks for people living in soot-laden areas goes up by 24 percent rather than 12 percent, as particle concentrations increase.

A variety of sources produce fine particles, and they include diesel engines, automobile tires, coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.

Now what a surprise – NOT! And please don't anyone tell me that this actually comes as news to everyone.

Comparing exposure within the New York and the Los Angeles metropolitan areas, the study found that the risks were evenly distributed in the vicinity of New York while some areas around Los Angeles, including neighborhoods near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, had elevated health risks.

The fact that areas around ports and harbors seem to have a much higher proportion of

One way to reduce the exposure to soot for people living close to ports would be to figure out a way to make cargo ships much cleaner.

The link between fine particles, the diameter of which is smaller than a 30th of a human hair, and cardiopulmonary disease has been established for two decades, and the E.P.A. has regulated such emissions since 1997. In 2006, despite mounting evidence that the particles were deadlier than first thought, the agency declined to lower chronic exposure limits.

Diesel fans may wish to take note that their favorite vehicles might get great miles-per-gallon to gasoline cars (especially on the highway), but they still produce more soot particles than gasoline engines, even if they improved greatly in recent years. And this is why biodiesel is as bad an idea as diesel-diesel.

Diesel locomotives too are a great polluter and the good old steam locomotives may have been cleaner than the the diesel ones that run around today. This would be especially so if the steam locomotive would be burning carbon-neutral wood instead of fossil coal.

© 2009