An article in Popular Science by Sara Chodosh and Kendra Pierre-Louis titled "Here's how air pollution kills 3,450,000 people a year" discusses a recently released study on air pollution and premature death. The study, published in Nature, shows that approximately 12% of premature deaths were caused by air pollution released elsewhere in the world. Particulate matter that is 2.5 microns and smaller (PM2.5) is especially problematic because of its ability to transfer from the lungs to the cardiovascular system. The article also indicates that the Clean Power Plan, which President Trump just rescinded, would not only have had significant benefits in terms of greenhouse gas reductions, but it also would have significantly reduced PM2.5, saving lives.
The Globe and Mail featured an article on March 24, 2017 titled "Asbestos found in U of T labs stokes concern from faculty, students". The article indicates that dust containing asbestos has been found in multiple labs at the University of Toronto's medical-sciences building. A major renovation has been undertaken of the building, which is almost 50 years old. Although any asbestos use will be banned in Canada by 2018, the University of Toronto incident illustrates the challenges associated with addressing the legacy of asbestos containing materials.
The March 29, 2017 issue of the Calgary Herald features an article by Shawn Logan titled "Study finds deadly radon gas exceeds safe levels in one of eight Calgary homes". A study by University of Calgary researchers published in CMAJ Open Journal found that 12.4% of the 2382 homes tested in Calgary had radon levels higher than acceptable levels. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada and claims 3200 Canadian lives each year.
The March 2017 issue of the ASHRAE Journal features an article, titled Formaldehyde Emissions from Laminate Flooring by Francis J. Offermann. The article describes an error that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made in its report on potential exposures to and health risks of formaldehyde in laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators manufactured in China prior to 2016. The urea-formaldehyde resins used in the medium density fibreboard (MDF) of the laminate flooring in question releases free formaldehyde following installation, but formaldehyde is also released as a result of hydrolysis caused by indoor relative humidity, and this latter source of emissions was not considered in the CDC report. According to the author's own modelling, the calculated cancer risks using the corrected formaldehyde emissions decay rate for laminate flooring is more than 12 times higher than the risks reported by the CDC.
Exposure to Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring represents both cancer and non-cancer health risks. Neither air scrubbers nor ventilation are an effective means of reducing these risks; only removal of the flooring can completely mitigate the risks. The author states that alternate resin systems such as phenol-formaldehyde resin are much more stable than urea-formaldehyde resin, and do not release formaldehyde when exposed to humidity.
This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) released two reports on children's health and the environment. The reports describe threats to children's health such as toxins from improperly recycled electrical and electronic waste. The report also notes that the rise in temperatures and carbon dioxide associated with climate change increases pollen growth, which is associated with increased asthma rates. The report indicates that 44% of asthma symptoms reported in children are related to environmental exposures. The reports can be found here on the WHO website.