Air pollution

Without a doubt, our world is now quieter since sheltering began, and we can imagine that the air smells sweeter. These are good things but purchased at the terrible costs of COVID-19 suffering and death and devastation of the global economy. The environmental scientist in me thought about lessons to be learned from our present situation.
"Although the epidemiology of COVID-19 is evolving, we have determined that there is a large overlap between causes of deaths of COVID-19 patients and the diseases that are affected by long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5).” It is a great leap from overlap to claiming PM2.5 results in "excess" mortality from COVID-19. But what the heck, why let the fear generated by COVID-19 go to waste?
PM2.5 designates a near-ubiquitous air-polluting particle that frequently appears in the scientific literature as well as popular press news items. But few of us really know what they are talking about, mainly because it is just one characteristic of a complex category.
Here's what's on tap: The how-to of COVID-19 testing ... an extremely well-informed skeptic wonders about our pandemic actions ... a possible silver lining to the massive economic fallout ... and what's behind the long lines of climbers trying to summit Mount Everest?
How do you measure the number of lives lost from air pollutants? As is often the case, it depends. In the United States, by and large, these studies have been designed to support regulatory interests under the Clean Air Act rather than scientific inquiry. The EPA selects the pollutants of concern, the outdoor locations to be monitored and the timeframes of interest. But what, if anything, is really being measured?
The global mortality rate from air pollution is estimated to be 8.8 million people per year. That's 18% higher than the 7.2 million lost annually from tobacco. Do you believe it? There is room for doubt. Let's take a look.
In criticizing the journal Science, when it rains it pours.
A niche publication, E&E News, reports to a wide variety of institutional stakeholders on environmental and energy issues before Congress and federal regulatory agencies. Last week, in its report on the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, its editors felt it better to report half-truths.
Air pollution remains a contentious issue. While everyone is in favor of cleaner air, there is less unanimity over which pollutants, in what concentrations, can harm our health. The linkage between air pollution and disease is beset with problems of accurately identifying a dose-response (a biologic gradient), a clear temporal connection, and, most importantly, biologic plausibility – how does a pollutant cause a disease.
The press reports global estimates of 7 million premature deaths associated with air pollution. That's despite dramatic improvements in air quality. How clean is clean enough?
A weekly look at what's also interesting, even though it didn't make it into Dispatch or onto our website.
Tule fog is a very dense fog found in California's Central Valley, and it's the source of many traffic accidents and fatalities annually. But over the last 30 years Tule fog is seen less often, and for shorter times. Apparently, it's not a result of climate change but of improving air quality.