Invasive Burmese pythons eat their way through southern Florida: the unexpected effect on our health.

Kaley Fournier (Natural Resources Conservation), Edward Hines (Environmental Science), and Nicholas Stevenson (Animal Science).

 

 

Image result for invasive burmese pythons catch

 

It starts with a headache. Perhaps you develop a fever and become physically ill. You chock it up to the flu and try to let it run its course. What you don’t know; you’ve been infected. Once symptoms start to show, death is expected within 2 to 10 days. Even if you get to a doctor in time to save your life, you will most likely be left with mental and physical disability (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Where exactly did you come across such a dangerous virus? Your own backyard. Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33% mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors (CDC, 2018). The cause of this EEE scare is something unpredictable. The cause can be traced back to something much larger than a mosquito, Invasive Burmese pythons. This snake has slithered its way through southern Florida, devouring native wildlife in its path. This sharp decrease in wildlife populations has forced a change in the animals in which mosquitoes find their dinner. A change to disease ridden animals. Once mosquitos feast on infected hosts, they too become infected. This leaves us with not only wildlife populations to worry about, but also our own health. Continue Reading

Cooling Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Green Roofs

A city does what it has to in order to be sure its citizens can stay safe and protected in the midst of so many dangerous events like crime and murder. One dangerous outcome may come traditionally undetected and that is deaths related to heat waves. San Francisco did all that it could to protect against such a disastrous attack like setting up shelters with air condition, making swimming pools open and free to the public, and opening four air conditioned libraries. This was not enough. Over the Labor Day weekend heat wave of 2017, where temperatures reached triple digits, three elderly people, all in their late 70s to early 90s, died due to the heat wave (Swan, 2017). In San Mateo county in California, just outside of San Francisco, the coroner said three more elderly people died from shock because of the heat wave over the same Labor Day weekend. (Rocha, 2017). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agrees that heat waves are more likely to be more intense in cities due to the already high temperatures from the Urban Heat Island effect. (IPCC AR5, 2014, p.7-8). This exacerbates the conditions usually seen in heat waves, so not only do cities experience higher temperatures, but also more deaths related to these rising temperatures. Only three names were made public, but like the deaths of Patrick Henry, 90, Ernesto Demesa, 79, and Loraine Christiansen, 95, all of San Mateo county, more elderly are at risk during these heat waves compared to the rest of the population. (Rocha, 2017). Green roofs can help alleviate rising temperatures and urban heat island effect in cities.

Cities, on average, are affected more by heat waves than surrounding areas due to the urban heat island effect. The Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect is the heating of urban areas, typically cities, due to the design and material choice of urban architecture and the high volume of emissions emitted from transportation, which it then trapped in the urban environment. (Monteiro et al., 2017). A city like Albuquerque, New Mexico has experienced temperature differences of up to 22°F between the city and the surrounding rural areas on an average summer’s day, Albuquerque is number two in the United States for the greatest difference in temperature between city and rural communities (Hot and Getting Hotter, 2014). Temperatures inside the city have reached up to 100°F five times in 2016 alone, and the hottest day on record in Albuquerque was 107°F on June 26, 1994 (US Department of Commerce, 2016 ). This increase in temperature causes fatal living conditions. (Monteiro et al., 2017).

Rising temperatures from UHI has also been known to cause heat exhaustion, heat cramps, non-fatal heat stroke, respiratory issues and even heat-related mortality (United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2017). These results are more likely to affect sensitive populations like young children and older adults, like those in San Mateo county. (EPA, 2017).

Cities have little to no vegetation. Vegetation promotes evapotranspiration which can help reduce temperatures by 2° F to 9°F (EPA, 2017). The effects presented by decreased reflectivity, increased heat retention, and lower evapotranspiration is like wearing a black wool sweater on a hot July day in the desert. If you wear a black wool sweater in the middle of the summer, your sweat is going to be trapped in the sweater, and prevent evaporation, unlike a moisture wicking white t-shirt which allows your sweat to evaporate off of you and carry away the heat. One way to think of this in effect is also the way that humid air feels warmer, because your sweat won’t evaporate, whereas dry heat feels cooler because of its ability to absorb moisture and allow evaporative cooling.

The white t-shirt will also be able to reflect more sunlight due to its lighter color compared to the black sweater. Green roofs are the white cotton t-shirt, a good solution to feeling hot while succumbing to the conditions of the black wool sweater as the urban heat island effect. In order to mitigate some of the UHI effects in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the New Mexican government must create incentive programs to help encourage the design and development of green roofs.

A large factor contributing to UHI is the reduced albedo caused by dark surfaces, used on roads and roofs, decreasing reflectivity and increasing heat retention. (Morini, Touchaei, Rossi, Cotana, & Akbari, 2017). Albedo is a measure for how well a surface reflects light without absorbing it in the form of heat (Morini et. al, 2017). Urban architecture plays a big role here. Since pavements and roofs typically constitute over 60% of urban surfaces, increasing reflectivity will drastically increase albedo and decrease UHI (Akbari, Menon & Rosenfeld, 2009). Decreased albedo, or decreased reflectivity, has been known to raise the temperatures of exposed urban surfaces, like rooftops and pavement, to temperatures 50°F to 90°F warmer than ambient air temperatures, whereas shaded surfaces, or rural surroundings, remain closer to air temperatures (EPA, 2017). Because rural areas do not have such an abundance of these dark materials, rural areas are 18°F to 27°F cooler during the day than nearby cities (EPA, 2017).

There is a cycle that begins when UHI occurs in a city. UHI causes an increase in air temperatures and leads to uncomfortable living conditions, that is then countered with an increase in air conditioning. Warmer environments lead to more air conditioning and energy use, therefore UHI will cause an increase in energy use through an increase in air conditioning. Research shows that there is a 1.5 – 2.0% increase in electricity demand for every 1°F increase (EPA, 2017)

An increase in energy demand due to UHI effects will require power plants to produce more energy which will emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and add to the already pressing issue of climate change. CO2 is the most prominent greenhouse gas and is primarily caused by the burning of fuel in order to produce energy (EPA, 2017). With multiple days reaching temperatures over 100°F in Albuquerque, UHI and its effects result in huge spikes of energy consumption. Greenhouse gasses trap heat in the atmosphere and increase temperatures (The Greenhouse Effect, 2017). Because of the effects of UHI, power plants will need to produce more energy to meet the demand and emit additional CO2 into the atmosphere in the process. This increase in CO2 will contribute to climate change in the form of a greenhouse gas. All of these causes lead to the urban environment experiencing greater temperatures than before, which brings the cycle back to the issue of having to increase air conditioning usage, it is a perpetual cycle that is harming the environment by contributing to climate change and heating up the urban environment.

The IPCC states that climate change is real and is increasing temperatures at an unprecedented rate. They are “virtually certain” that there will be more hot and fewer cold temperature extremes over as temperatures continue to increase. This rise in temperatures has a direct effect on UHI and heat waves. The Fifth Report put out by the IPCC states that it is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer than previous years and that it is very likely the cause of human activities like burning fossil fuels. (IPCC AR5, 2014, p. 7-8).

Given that this cycle caused by human activity it only seems fit that there should be an initiative taken to break the cycle. The cycle begins with urban architecture increasing the temperatures of an urban environment and inside of buildings, and by using green roofs we can reduce the temperature of both the urban environment and inside of buildings. Green roofs reduce the effects of UHI through its high reflectivity and its ability of evapotranspiration.

A green roof’s reflectivity has drastic effects on the temperature of the outdoor air when compared to a traditional roof. During a normal sunny day, a green roof’s increased reflectivity can cause the temperature of the roof top surface to be cooler than the temperature of the air, as opposed to a traditional roof in which the surface temperatures can be upwards of 104°F warmer than the air (William et al., 2016). By increasing the solar reflectivity of a roof top, the outdoor air temperature will be lower, and will reduce the demand for air conditioning.

Another way that greater reflectivity reduces energy requirements of a building is by reducing the through roof heat gain (TRHG). TRHG flux is higher for roofs with a lower solar reflectivity, regardless of the region (Kibria, O’Brien, Alvey, & Woo, 2016). By increasing the reflectivity of a roof the indoor air temperatures will be lower too, by preventing heat from entering a building through the roof. Reflectivity has two benefits, both lowering the outdoor air temperature of the urban environment and the indoor air temperature of a building.

Green roofs will reduce energy demands by decreasing a building’s ability to absorb heat. Green roofs cause a cooling effect called evapotranspiration. This sensation is essentially to a building like sweating is to a human, the water on the green roof evaporates into the atmosphere and carries away its embodied heat. By having plants on a roof, the water they use and obtain will absorb heat that would have been absorbed into the building. The water then evaporates, reducing the amount of heat that could have potentially been absorbed into the rooftop and into the building. Less heat is absorbed by the rooftop and transferred to the building (William et al., 2016).

Although there are benefits to green roofs some are opposed to them due to the higher upfront cost and higher maintenance cost. The cost per square foot ranges from $10 to $25 and the annual maintenance of green roofs is $0.21 up to $1.50 per square foot (EPA, 2017). These figures are dependent on the types of plants, the media, and the extent of maintenance and irrigation.

This in turns forces a lot of pressure on the owners to absorb this cost of installation and also puts pressure to maintain them as well. In Southern California, if only half of the roofs are green, then $211 million will be saved in heating and cooling cost in the long run (Garrison, Horowitz 2012). In a University of Michigan study, a 21,000 square foot green roof would cost $464,000 to install versus $335,000 for a regular roof. The study also says that the green roof would save up to $200,000 in reduced energy costs (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2008). With green roofs having multiple benefits and the upfront cost being minimal compared to the savings, it seems reasonable to have this cost be a part of buildings plan.

In order to mitigate the negative impacts of urban heat island in Albuquerque, the city must provide an incentive program for green roofs for new buildings. An incentive program would encourage developers by educating them on the benefits of green roofs and by covering a portion of installation cost. There are a number of places in the world that have recognized the many benefits of green roofs and adopted them into their urban development programs. Canada has been one of the leading countries in North America when it comes to green infrastructure legislation, especially in Toronto, Ontario where green roof programs have been implemented since 2006. (City of Toronto, 2017).

In 2006 Toronto, Ontario initiated the Green Roof Incentive Pilot Program to promote the design and development of green roofs on privately owned commercial/ industrial buildings. After one year the program was deemed “very successful” by the city and had awarded 16 applications with grants resulting in over 32,290 square feet of green roofs on new buildings (City of Toronto, 2017). After receiving feedback from the applicants about the pilot program it was determined that although it was successful, they could attract more applicants by increasing the incentive to $5 to square foot which was average for similar incentive programs in the country. (Gironimo, 2007). Within 5 years it was reported by the program coordinator that this program supported a total of 112 projects with a total of 2,507,991 square feet, reducing energy consumption by an estimated 565 MWh, avoiding 106 tons of greenhouse gases (Baynton, 2015, para. 3).

In order to be eligible for this grant the developer must have provided documentation of a design and maintenance plan for the green roof of a new building. This program did not offer grants for developers retrofitting green roofs due to the variables with the type of roofing materials and the amount of weight the building was designed to support. Minimum coverage requirements ranging from 20% for small roofs and up to 60% for larger roof tops were also put into effect. Although larger roofs require 60% of coverage there was a cap of $100,000 for the grant (City of Toronto, 2017). This program is in use today in Toronto and is now a key part of their Climate Change Action Plan and is complimented by the Green Roof Bylaw where the installation of eco-roofs is mandatory for new buildings.

Since this program has shown to be successful over a long period of time according to the city of Toronto, this same sort of incentivized program would be viable for Albuquerque. This program would also provide grants for eligible applicants at $5 per square foot for up to $100,000 for new industrial and commercial buildings and have the same eligibility requirements. With a $5 per square foot incentive, this would cover 20%-50% of installation cost on an average greenhouse relieving pressure from the developers. In order for this plan to work, builders must be educated on the number of benefits for this system by providing resources like pamphlets, websites, and seminars in order to communicate the value of these systems and how the long term benefits outweigh the initial costs.

In order to break the UHI cycle and the rapid increase in temperatures in Albuquerque there must be an incentive program run by the city or state government. Government officials need to address this issue since it impacts the health and well-being of its inhabitants. The impacts on health have led to death and other health complications and with temperature continuing to rise, it seems reasonable to assume the amount of deaths, complications, and general discomfort will rise too. In order for people to alleviate themselves from high temperatures, they must turn to cooling technology. Rising temperatures means that buildings must increase the amount of fossil fuels used to cool buildings which increases not only the cost of cooling, but the amount of greenhouse gases, in this case CO2, in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases then go on to contribute to rising temperatures in cities which then continues the cycle.

Green roofs can help to break this cycle by helping to reduce the amount of heat trapped in these urban areas by increasing evapotranspiration and reflectivity. By increasing these two properties, less heat is retained in the buildings which then decreases the amount of fossil fuels used to cool buildings and reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the air.  By implementing an incentive policy that educates and encourages developers to install green roofs, the impacts of UHI will decrease. Unless the New Mexico government steps in, like Toronto, and provide incentives to green roof installation the cycle could continue on indefinitely affecting more families like those in San Francisco.

AUTHORS

Evan Brillhart – Natural Resource Conservation

Jacqueline Dias – Environmental Science

Michael Pfau – Building and Construction Technologies

Amanda Tessier – Horticultural Science

REFERENCES

Akbari, Menon, and A. Rosenfeld, 2009: Global cooling: Increasing world-wide urban albedos to offset CO2. Climatic Change, 94 (3–4), 275–286, doi:10.1007/s10584-008-9515-9.

Baynton, A. (2015, January 16) Toronto’s Eco-Roof Incentive Program. C40 Cities. Retrieved from: http://www.c40.org/case_studies/toronto-s-eco-roof-incentive-program

City of Toronto. (2017). Eco roof incentive program. Retrieved from: https://web.toronto.ca/services-payments/water-environment/environmental-grants-incentives-2/green-your-roof/

Garrison, N., & Horowitz, C. (2012). Looking Up: How Green Roofs and Cool Roofs Can Reduce Energy Use, Address Climate Change, and Protect Water Resources in Southern California. NRDC Report. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/GreenRoofsReport.pdf.

Gironimo, L.D. (2007). Green roof incentive pilot program(AFS# 3677). Retrieved from City of Toronto: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2007/pg/bgrd/backgroundfile-3302.pdf

Huber, D. G., & Gulledge, J. (2011). Extreme Weather and Climate Change: Understanding the Link and Managing the Risk. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Retrieved from https://www.c2es.org/site/assets/uploads/2011/12/white-paper-extreme-weather-climate-change-understanding-link-managing-risk.pdf.

Hot and Getting Hotter: Heat Islands Cooking U.S. Cities. (2014, August 20). Retrieved from http://www.climatecentral.org/news/urban-heat-islands-threaten-us-health-17919

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp.

Kibria K. Roman, Timothy O’Brien, Jedediah B. Alvey, OhJin Woo, Simulating the effects of cool roof and PCM (phase change materials) based roof to mitigate UHI (urban heat island) in prominent US cities, In Energy, Volume 96, 2016, Pages 103-117, ISSN 0360-5442, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2015.11.082. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036054421501703X)

Monteiro, M., Blanua, T., Verhoef, A., Richardson, M., Hadley, P., & Cameron, R. W. F. (2017). Functional green roofs: Importance of plant choice in maximising summertime environmental cooling and substrate insulation potential.Energy & Buildings, 141, 56-68. doi:10.1016/j.enbuild.2017.02.011

Morini, E., Touchaei, A. G., Rossi, F., Cotana, F., & Akbari, H. (2017). Evaluation of albedo enhancement to mitigate impacts of urban heat island in rome (italy) using WRF meteorological model doi://doi.org/10.1016/j.uclim.2017.08.001

Rocha, V. (2017, September 8). Six deaths linked to Bay Area heat wave – LA Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-six-deaths-heat-wave-bay-area-20170908-story.html

Swan, R. (2017, September 07). 3 deaths in SF likely caused by weekend heat wave. Retrieved from http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/3-deaths-in-SF-likely-caused-by-weekend-heat-wave-12178945.php?utm_campaign=sfgate&utm_source=article&utm_medium=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sfgate.com%2Fbayarea%2Farticle%2FDeath-toll-from-Bay-Area-heat-wave-hits-6-12180514.php#photo-14063884

The Greenhouse Effect. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2017, from https://scied.ucar.edu/longcontent/greenhouse-effect

US Department of Commerce, NOAA, National Weather Service. (2016, September 26). NWS ABQ – 100 Degree Facts for NM. Retrieved from https://www.weather.gov/abq/clifeatures_100degrees

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2008. “Green Roofs.” In: Reducing Urban Heat Islands: Compendium of Strategies. Draft. https://www.epa.gov/heat-islands/heat-island-compendium.

United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA]. (2017). Heat Island Impacts. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/heat-islands/heat-island-impacts

United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA]. (2017). Overview of Greenhouse Gases. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases

United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA]. (2017). Using Trees and Vegetation to Reduce Heat Islands. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/heat-islands/using-trees-and-vegetation-reduce-heat-islands

William, R., Allison, G., Ashlynn S., S., Meredith, R., Phong V.V., L., & Praveen, K. (2016). An environmental cost-benefit analysis of alternative green roofing strategies. Ecological Engineering, 951-9.

Green roofs: an analysis on air pollution removal and policy implementation

 

In October 1948, a thick cloud of air pollution formed above the industrial town of Donora, Pennsylvania. It lingered for five days, killed 20 people and induced sickness in 43% of the town (Environmental Protection Agency, 2007). Pollution poses a serious threat to our environment and health. Nearly one-quarter of the people in the U.S. live in areas with unhealthy short-term levels of particle pollution, and roughly one in ten people live where there are unhealthful levels year-round (American Lung Association, 2010). Air pollution is of particular concern to public health as it is the cause of hazards including upper respiratory irritation, chronic respiratory irritation, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic bronchitis (Kampa & Castanas, 2008). The most common health-related impacts from air pollution are increased occurrences of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and a greater incidence of cardiovascular disease (Pope, Bates & Raizenne, 1995). Urban environments struggle heavily with air pollution due to the large amount of factories and vehicles that are major sources of air pollutants that accumulate so much that they become a hazard to human health. In Canada, the Ontario Medical Association found air pollution to result in 9,500 premature deaths per year (OMA, 2008) and estimates increased costs of healthcare up to $506.64 million and lost productivity of up to $374.18 as a result of air pollution (OMA, 2005). Conditions will only worsen as pollution grows with population, traffic, industrialization and energy use (Mayer, 1999). There are many pollutants in the air of an urban environment, though particulate matter (PM10), ozone (O₃), sulfur dioxide (SO₂), and nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) are among the most serious to human health (World Health Organization, 2016).

Particulate matter that appears in urban environments is made up of sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water that exist in the air from human activities such as combustion of fossil fuels, vehicles, and factory emissions. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the limit for PM10 is 50 μg/m3 annual mean. This represents how much particulate matter is allowed in the air annually by law. Chronic exposure to particles contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer (WHO, 2017).  In countries of Europe that have concentrations of PM above guideline levels, it is estimated that average life expectancy is 8.6 months lower than it would be if PM exposure from human sources was regulated (WHO, 2017).

NO2 is most commonly formed from anthropogenic burning of fuel (heating, power generation, and engines in vehicles/ships). The limit for nitrogen dioxide is 40 μg/m3 annual mean. Epidemiological studies have shown that symptoms of bronchitis in asthmatic children increased in association with long-term exposure to NO2 and at short-term concentrations above 200 μg/m3, NO2 is a toxic gas which causes significant inflammation of the airways (WHO, 2017). Reduced lung function growth is also linked to NO2 at higher concentrations currently measured in Europe and the US. The US EPA (1998) also focuses on the danger of NO2 by stating that Nitrogen oxides (NOx) resulting from combustion of fossil fuels can form ground level ozone that causes respiratory problems, premature deaths, and reductions in crop yields. (EPA, 1998).

Ozone at ground level, not to be confused with the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, is formed from vehicle and factory emissions and emissions from solvents and industry. The legal amount that is allowed in cities is 100 μg/m3 8-hour mean, which means that by law over 8 hours concentrations of ozone cannot exceed 100 μg per cubic meter of air. In some cases, chemicals like nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with sunlight and also contribute to forms of ozone. The limit for ozone is 100 μg/m3 8-hour mean and once this threshold is passed, O3 can cause breathing problems, trigger asthma, reduce lung function and cause lung diseases (WHO, 2017). The American Lung Association (2007) reported that annually, over 3,700 premature deaths in the United States (premature death is a death that occurs before a person reaches their expected age) can occur as a result of a 10 parts per billion (ppb) increase in O3 levels (ALA, 2007). Bell (2004) found that increased mortality rates in 95 urban areas within the US are linked to elevated levels in ozone, with one of these urban areas being Chicago, where ALA (2007) found over 2 million people at increased risk for health problems resulting from short-term exposure to O3 and particulate matters (ALA, 2007; Bell, 2004).

SO2 is a colourless gas with a sharp odour that is produced from the burning of sulfur-containing fossil fuels (coal/oil) for heating residences, generating power, and motor vehicles along with the smelting (extraction by melting) of mineral ores that contain sulfur. The limit for sulfur dioxide is 20 μg/m3 24-hour mean and this means that air in cities will contain on average 20 μg per cubic meter over the span of 24 hours. When the limit is exceeded, SO2 can affect the respiratory system, lung functioning, and cause irritated eyes. Evidence shows that the effects of sulfur dioxide are felt very quickly and most people would feel the worst symptoms of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or a tight feeling around the chest in 10 or 15 minutes after breathing it in (S02, 2005). Inflammation of the respiratory tract causes coughing, mucus secretion, aggravation of asthma and chronic bronchitis and makes people more prone to infections of the respiratory tract (WHO, 2017).

One policy the U.S. government has in place to control pollution levels is the Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1970 (majorly revised in 1977 and 1990). The CAA’s purpose is to reduce air pollution and its harmful effects by setting limits on pollution. This Act requires states to meet specific air quality standards regarding six common pollutants: particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead (EPA, 2017b). The Act contains specific provisions to address hazardous or toxic air pollutants, acid rain, chemical emissions that deplete the ozone layer, and regional haze (EPA, 2017b). The six “criteria” air pollutants are regulated based primarily on human health and secondarily on environmental criteria.

The CAA improved the environment which in turn improved the economy and human health. In the 45 years following the installation of the CAA, national emissions of the six common pollutants dropped an average of 70% while gross domestic product grew by 246% (EPA, 2017c). Forty-one areas that previously had unhealthy carbon monoxide levels in 1991 now meet the health-based national air quality standard. In 1990 alone, pollution reductions under the Act prevented 205,000 early deaths, 10.4 million lost I.Q. points in children due to lead exposure, and a multitude of other health effects (Environmental Protection Agency, 2017d). Despite massive improvements in air quality since CAA took effect, millions of Americans still live in areas with pollution levels exceeding the limits (EPA, 2007). Those who struggle to meet CAA air quality standards may find green roofs a useful tool to bring pollutant levels down.

In response to rising air pollutants, people are considering transforming city rooftops into green roofs to mitigate the problem. A green roof is a layer of vegetation installed on top of a roof, either flat or slightly sloped (National Park Service, 2017). The high amount of rooftop space in urban cities creates an opportunity for green roofs to be implemented on a large scale. Roofs represent 21–26% of urban areas and 40–50% of their impermeable areas (Wong, 2005; Dunnett & Kingsbury, 2004). These spaces typically have much unused surface area that could be repurposed to combat the aforementioned effects of harmful air pollutants, a green roof’s main purpose. The plants that compose the roof are able to take up compounds through their natural processes respiration and photosynthesis, which remove the pollutants from the air and improve its quality.WHO has guidelines for the limits of the primary air pollutants that must not be exceeded in urban environments. Green roofs will help keep the levels of PM10 at 50 μg/m3 annual mean, nitrogen dioxide at 40 μg/m3 annual mean, ozone at 100 μg/m3 8-hour mean, and the concentrations of sulfur dioxide in the air of urban environments at 20 μg/m3 24-hour mean.

Literature surrounding green roofs agrees on their impact of particulate matter removal (Speak, Rothwell, Lindley & Smith, 2012; Currie & Bass, 2008; Rowe, 2011; City of Los Angeles, 2005; Yang, Yu & Gong, 2008; Jayasooriya, Ng, Muthukumaran & Perera, 2017). The range of particulate that is annually reduced by a green roof is 0.42–3.21 g/m2 over 500,000 square meters of rooftops (Speak et al, 2012). Rowe (2011) performed a study where 2000 m2 of uncut grass were planted on a green roof. It was estimated that the green roof could remove up to 4000 kg of particulate matter. In a simulation where green roofs were built over 198,000 square meters of roofs in Chicago, 234.5 kg of particulate matter would be removed by green roofs in one year (Yang et al., 2008).  Yang et. al (2008) also did a study where the concentrations of acidic gaseous pollutants and particulate matters on a 4000 m2 roof in Singapore are measured before and after the installation of a green roof. Research found that the levels of particulate matter was reduced by 6% in the air above the roof after installation of the green roof (Yang et al., 2008). Jayasooriya et al. (2017) state that green roofs annually remove 1.53 g/m2 PM10  (Jayasooriya et al., 2017).Currie and Bass (2008) state that green roofs have the potential to reduce annual amounts of PM10 by .89–9.21 g/m2 (grams per square meter) over 486,000-2,430,000 square meters of green roof coverage in Toronto (Currie & Bass, 2008). Jayasooriya et al. (2017) states that green roofs annually remove 1.53 g/m2 PM10 (Jayasooriya et al., 2017). Another study on green roof remediation in Los Angeles (LA) puts these numbers of removed particulate matter into context. The city of LA found one square meter of green roof able to remove approximately 0.1 kg of particulate matter per year and if a gasoline powered vehicle were to release .01 grams of pm per mile of travel and drive 10,000 miles per year, then the vehicle would emit 100 grams per year (.01 kg/year) and therefore, one square foot of green roof would reduce the pollution of this theoretical car for the whole year (City of Los Angeles, 2005). According to the literature, the annual range of particulate matter reduced by green roofs fall between .42 g/m2 and 9.21 g/m2 (Speak et al., 2012; Currie & Bass, 2008; Rowe, 2011; City of Los Angeles, 2005; Yang et al., 2008; Jayasooriya et al., 2017).

Currie and Bass (2008) state that green roofs have the potential to reduce annual amounts of NO2 by 0.6–2.55 g/m2. Yang et. al (2008) found that if green roofs were built over 198,000 square meters of roofs in Chicago, 452.25 kg of nitrogen dioxide would be removed by green roofs in one year. Rosenfeld, Akbari, Romm, and Pomerantz (2008) calculated that emissions from coal fired power plants to the air could be reduced by 350 tons of NOx per day in Los Angeles by implementing green roofs. This value of energy saved from the installation of green roofs relates to a 10% reduction in the causes of smog to the city of Los Angeles, with an active NOx trade program, and results in a savings of one million dollars per day (Akbari, Pomerantz & Taha, 2001; Rosenfeld et al.,1998;  Clark, Talbot, Bulkley & Adriaens, 2005) estimate that if 20% of all industrial and commercial roof surfaces in Detroit, MI, were traditional extensive sedum green roofs, over 800,000 kg per year of NO2 , 0.5% of that area’s emissions, can be removed. Yang et. al (2008) states that green roofs annually remove 2.33–3.57 g/m2, NO2 in an urban environment. Jayasooriya et al. (2017) states that green roofs annually remove .37 g/m2 NO2. In a study done in Singapore, 21% of nitrous acid, a byproduct of nitrogen dioxide, was reduced directly above a green roof (Rowe, 2011). One study implementing green roofs in Kansas City, MO, used by the EPA, estimated that by 2020, green roofs would reduce 1800 pounds (816 kg) of NOx (EPA, 2016). After reviewing the literature, it is found that a green roof can reduce a range of 0.37-3.57 g/m2 (Currie & Bass, 2008; Yang et. al., 2008; Jayasooriya et al., 2017; Rosenfeld et al., 2008) Clark, Adriaens, and Talbot (2008) reported that green roofs yield an annual benefit of $0.45–$1.70 per m2 ($0.04–$0.16 per square foot) in terms of nitrogen oxide uptake. Clark et al. (2005) estimates that NOx reduction from a 2000 ft2 green roof would provide an annual benefit of $895–$3392, resulting in the green roof being 24.5-40.2% cheaper than a conventional roof without vegetation.

Currie and Bass (2008) state that green roofs have the potential to reduce annual amounts of O3 by 1.2–3.58 g/m2. Yang et al. (2008) state green roofs have the potential to annually reduce 4.49–7.17 g/m2 O3 and in their simulation of Chicago, green roofs were built over 198,000 square meters of roofs, the results were measured over the course of just one year, with 871 kg of O3 removed by green roofs. Jayasooriya et al. (2017) state that green roofs annually remove 1.24 g/m2 O3 . Since ozone is formed by the reaction of sunlight with pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), green house reduction in nitrogen oxides also reduce concentrations of ozone in the urban environment. According to the literature, the annual range of ozone reduced by green roofs fall between 1.2 g/m2 and and 7.17 g/m2 (Currie & Bass, 2008; Yang et. al., 2008; Jayasooriya et al., 2017).

Yang et. al (2008) found that if green roofs were built over 198,000 square meters of roofs in Chicago, 117.25 kg of sulfur dioxide would be removed by green roofs in one year. Currie and Bass (2008) state that green roofs have the potential to reduce annual amounts of SO2 by 0.2–0.84 g/m2. Yang et al. (2008) state that green roofs annually remove 0.65–1.01 g/m2 SO2. Jayasooriya et al. (2017) state that green roofs annually remove 0.1 g/m2 SO2. In a study done in Singapore, 37% of sulfur dioxide was reduced directly above a green roof (Rowe, 2011). One study implementing green roofs in Kansas City, MO, used by the EPA, estimated that by 2020, green roofs would reduce 2600 pounds (1179.34 kg ) of SO2 (EPA, 2016). In one field study, the concentrations of acidic gaseous pollutants and particulate matters on a 4000 m2 roof in Singapore are measured before and after the installation of a green roof. Research found that the levels of SO2 were reduced by 37% in the air above the roof after installation of the green roof (Yang et al., 2008). After reviewing the literature, it is found that a green roof can reduce a range of 0.10-1.01 g/m2 (Currie & Bass, 2008; Yang et al., 2008; Jayasooriya et al., 2017; Rowe, 2011, EPA, 2016)

As an example of the costs of building a green roof in a U.S. city, the installation costs to install green roofs on every roof in Chicago were estimated to be $35.2 billion (Yang et al., 2008). This brings up a high cost of green roofs that deters many cities from considering installation. The EPA projected in 2009 that extensive green roof installation costs, which were ranging from $15-$20/sq. foot should drop to $8-$15/sq. foot as installations increased, and soil substrate and plants became more available (EPA, 2009). Not everyone considers green roofs for their own homes, however, with the amount of pollution removed and human health improvements and the inherent existent pollution in cities, green roofs are critical to pollution removal in urban environments and should therefore be installed. In fact, having a green roof reduces more pollution in an urban environment than simply not having one at all. Agra, Klein, Vasl, Kadas, and Blaustein (2017) compared green roofs to other roofs of buildings with no vegetation at all (control roofs) and found that the control roofs had a CO2 concentration 50 cm above the ground of almost 375 ppm while the three types of green roofs in the study ranged from maintaining concentrations of 365-370 ppm of CO2 50 centimeters above surface (Figure 1). With green roofs being confirmed to be more effective With costs of green roofs accounted for and their associated improvement of human health via reduction in air pollution, green roofs can become even more desirable with the inclusion of governmental incentives/policies for cost reduction.

Seeing cost as one of the main obstacles standing in the way of green roofs, we urge government action to alleviate this issue. The U.S. government must make green roof installation less expensive through an incentive system. Funding should be granted to all major U.S. cities for the installation of green roofs. Depending on design, plant type, and climate conditions the price of green roof construction typically ranges from $15-20 per square foot, though the EPA projects that extensive green roof installation costs should drop to $8-$15/sq. foot as installations increase, and soil substrate and plants became more available (EPA, 2009). The U.S. Government should offer $10 per square foot of green roof for commercial, residential, and private properties. In target areas where pollution is most concentrated, the government should offer $15 per square foot. This proposal makes the initial up-front cost of green roofs more feasible, if not directly profitable.

Green roofs become more attainable and widespread with the help of government incentives, as shown by successful policies in Washington D.C. Currently, Washington D.C. has over 3 million square feet of green roof (Department of Energy & Environment, 2017a). The district set a goal that by 2020, 20% of its buildings will have green roofs. In 2006, the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) launched the “RiverSmart Rooftops Green Roof Rebate Program” to give grants that encourage the installation of green roofs on private property. The grants offer $10 per square foot and up to $15 per square foot if the building is in target watersheds. With no cap on project size, all properties are eligible including residential buildings. To encourage small buildings to install green roofs as well, the program gives funds to offset costs of structural assessments to buildings of under 2,500 square feet (DOEE, 2017a). This incentive plays a large role in the growth in green roof installation per year in D.C. In 2005, building owners installed 0 square feet of green roof as compared to 104,068 sq feet of green roof installed in 2006, the first year of this initiative (DOEE, 2017b). In 2015, D.C. implemented a whopping 712,493 square feet of green roof. Though there is some variation, there is a general increase in total green roof area in Washington D.C. (DOEE, 2017c). An incentive program similar to this on the federal level would increase the total area of green roofs on a broader scale.

Installing green roofs in urban environments is cost-effective. They reduce the amount of pollution in air, improve the health of people living in urban cities, and can be less expensive to install with the implementation of governmental incentives & policies. If all rooftops in Chicago were covered with intensive green roofs, a projected 2046.89 metric tons of pollutants would be removed (Yang et al., 2008).

When discussing the green roofs ability to improve human health, the concentrations of pollutants most commonly discussed in the literature are O3, SO2, particulate matter, and NOx   (Agra, 2017; Clark et al., 2005, 2008; Rowe, 2011; City of Los Angeles, 2006; Rosenfeld, 1998; EPA, 1998) By installing green roofs, the four main pollutants would decrease in concentration enough to create improvements in human health and economic benefits in the reduction of human mortality.  Worker productivity and health is improved along the way, as employees that have a view of nature scenery were less stressed, had lower blood pressure, reported fewer illnesses, and experienced greater job satisfaction (Kaplan et al., 1988; Ulrich, 1984).

The cost-benefit analyses discussed how implementing green roofs would result in savings of a million dollars a day from decreased air conditioning, an overall annual benefit of $895–3392 for each 2000 ft2 green roof, and a reduction in the particulate emissions of one car for a whole year per square meter of green roof. Green roof financial incentives in Washington D.C. greatly increased the total area of green roofs in the area (DOEE, 2017b). An incentive program paired with indirect incentives would be successful if emulated on a federal level. The U.S. has proven that federal environmental policies can be effective as show by the Clean Air Act (EPA, 2015).

Even though green roofs cost 2-3 times as much as a bare roof to install, government incentives can alleviate these costs to bring installation prices down. With the upfront costs lowered, we can reap the benefits of financial, health, and environmental pay-off by green roofs.

AUTHORS

Matas Rudzinskas – Environmental Science

Aaron Lutz – Turf Grass Science

Tara McElhinney- Natural Resource Conservation

 

REFERENCES

Agra, H., Klein, T., Vasl, A., Kadas, G., & Blaustein, L. (2017). Measuring the effect of plant-community composition on carbon fixation on green roofs. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 24, 1-4. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2017.03.003

Akbari, H., Pomerantz, M., & Taha, H. (2001). Cool surfaces and shade trees to reduce energy use and improve air quality in urban areas. Solar Energy, 70(3), 295-310. doi:10.1016/s0038-092x(00)00089-x

Australian government, Department of the Environment and Energy (2005). Sulfur dioxide (SO2). http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/publications/factsheet-sulfur-dioxide-so2

Bell, M. L. (2004). Ozone and Short-term Mortality in 95 US Urban Communities, 1987-2000. Jama, 292(19), 2372. doi:10.1001/jama.292.19.2372

City of Los Angeles Environmental Affairs Department. 2006. Report: Green roofs – cooling Los Angeles

Clark, C., Adriaens, P., & Talbot, F. B. (2008). Green Roof Valuation: A Probabilistic Economic Analysis of Environmental Benefits. Environmental Science & Technology, 42(6), 2155-2161. doi:10.1021/es0706652

Clark, C., Talbot, F.B., Bulkley, J., & Adriaens, P.. (2005). Optimization of green roofs for air pollution mitigation Proc. of 3rd North American Green Roof Conference: Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, Washington, DC. 4–6 May 2005, The Cardinal Group, Toronto (2005)

Currie, B. A., & Bass, B. (2008). Estimates of air pollution mitigation with green plants and green roofs using the UFORE model. Urban Ecosystems, 11(4), 409-422. doi:10.1007/s11252-008-0054-y

Department of Energy and Environment. (2017a). [Graph of green roof installation (in sq ft) per year in Washington D.C. from years 2001-2017]. Green Roof Installation. Retrieved from https://doee.dc.gov/publication/inventory-green-roofs

Department of Energy and Environment. (2017b). Green roofs in the District of Columbia. Retrieved from https://doee.dc.gov/greenroofs

Department of Energy and Environment. (2017c, November). Green roofs in the District of Columbia November 2017. Retrieved from https://doee.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ddoe/publication/attachments/2017.11%20GREEN%20ROOFS%20IN%20THE%20DISTRICT%20OF%20COLUMBIA.pdf

Department of Energy and Environment. (2017d). RiverSmart rewards and clean rivers IAC incentive programs. Retrieved from https://doee.dc.gov/greenroofs

Department of Energy and Environment. (2017e). Stormwater retention credit trading program. Retrieved from https://doee.dc.gov/src

Dunnett, N., & Kingsbury, N. (2010). Planting green roofs and living walls. Portland: Timber Press.

Environmental Protection Agency. (2007). The Plain English Guide To The Clean Air Act https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/peg.pdf

Environmental Protection Agency. (2015). Progress cleaning the air and improving people’s health. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/progress-cleaning-air-and-improving-peoples-health

Environmental Protection Agency. (2016).

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-10/documents/webinar.gi_.robyn3__1.pdf

Environmental Protection Agency. (2017a). Benefits and costs of the clean air act, 1970 to 1990 – Study design and summary of results. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/benefits-and-costs-clean-air-act-1970-1990-study-design-and-summary-results

Environmental Protection Agency. (2017b). Clean air act requirements and history. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/clean-air-act-requirements-and-history

Environmental Protection Agency. (2017c). Progress cleaning the air and improving people’s health. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/progress-cleaning-air-and-improving-peoples-health#pollution

How healthy is the air you breathe? (American Lung Association). Retrieved November 13, 2017, from http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/

Jayasooriya, V., Ng, A., Muthukumaran, S., & Perera, B. (2017). Green infrastructure practices for improvement of urban air quality. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 21, 34-47. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2016.11.007

Kampa, M., & Castanas, E. (2008). Human health effects of air pollution. Environmental Pollution, 151(2), 362-367. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2007.06.012

Mayer, H. (1999). Air pollution in cities. Atmospheric Environment, 33(24-25), 4029-4037. doi:10.1016/s1352-2310(99)00144-2

National Park Service (2017). What is a Green Roof—Technical Preservation Services, https://www.nps.gov/tps/sustainability/new-technology/green-roofs/define.htm.

Ontario Medical Association (2005) Illness Costs of Air Pollution  www.oma.org/Resources/Documents/2005IllnessCostsofAirPollution.pdf

Ontario Medical Association (2008) Ontario’s Doctors: Thousands of Premature Deaths Due to Smog (2008) www.oma.orf/Mediaroom/PressReleases/Pages/PrematureDeaths.aspx

Pope, C. A., Bates, D. V., & Raizenne, M. E. (1995). Health Effects of Particulate Air Pollution: Time for Reassessment? Environmental Health Perspectives, 103(5), 472. doi:10.2307/3432586

Rosenfeld, A. H., Akbari, H., Romm, J. J., & Pomerantz, M. (1998). Cool communities: strategies for heat island mitigation and smog reduction. Energy and Buildings, 28(1), 51-62. doi:10.1016/s0378-7788(97)00063-7

Rowe, D. B. (2011). Green roofs as a means of pollution abatement. Environmental Pollution, 159(8-9), 2100-2110. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2010.10.029

Speak, A., Rothwell, J., Lindley, S., & Smith, C. (2012). Urban particulate pollution reduction by four species of green roof vegetation in a UK city. Atmospheric Environment, 61, 283-293. doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2012.07.043

Ulrich, R. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224(4647), 420-421. doi:10.1126/science.6143402

United States General Services Administration (2011). The Benefits and Challenges of Green Roofs on Public and Commercial Buildings. https://app_gsagov_prod_rdcgwaajp7wr.s3.amazonaws.com/The_Benefits_and_Challenges_of_Green_Roofs_on_Public_and_Commercial_Buildings.pdf

WHO 2016 (World health organization) – Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health. (2016). Retrieved November 14, 2017, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/

Wong (2005) Green roofs and the Environmental Protection Agency’s heat island reduction initiative Proc. of 3rd North American Green Roof Conference: Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, Washington, DC. 4–6 May 2005, The Cardinal Group, Toronto

Yang, J., Yu, Q., & Gong, P. (2008). Quantifying air pollution removal by green roofs in Chicago. Atmospheric Environment,42(31),7266-7273.doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2008.07.003

 

 

Dealing with Coal Mining Effects

In an area of lush green wildlife and rolling mountains, disaster plagues the lives of many who live in the Adirondack area. Not only does mountaintop removal destroy the beautiful landscape that many residents treasure, but it leaves these people with alarming conditions everyday. Maria Gunnoe of Bobwhite, West Virginia, raised by a coal mining family and left land to raise her own family on, lives in constant fear of a disaster waiting to happen. Due to a mountaintop removal project launched in 2000, Maria’s property flooded 7 times in 3 years, even washing away the access bridge to her street and the family’s dog. Because of the threatening conditions, Maria has stated that her children go to sleep prepared to be ready at a moment’s notice to leave their house whenever heavy rain ensues. Now living in a community wrecked by land degradation and poverty, Maria cannot afford nor find anyone to buy her property and cannot provide her family with simple resources, such as clean water (Palone, 2013). Rather than fleeing and giving her community over to the coal companies, Maria is a leader in the movement to end mountaintop removal and organizes to strengthen legislation that is supposed to protect her rights. “This is absolutely against everything that America stands for. And I know that we have better options than this. We do not have to blow up our mountains and poison our water to create energy. I will be here to fight for our rights. My family is here, we’ve been here for the past 10 generations, and we’re not leaving. We will continue to demand better for our children’s future in all that we do” (Mountain Heroes: Maria Gunnoe, 2012, p. 1).

Continue Reading

Green Roofs Effects on Urban Environments

 

 

Green roof, in France

Isabelle Kendall, Hasan Sabri & Bailey Michell

People over 65 make up a significant portion of the United States population, and the number increases every year. By 2040, the amount of people 65 and older in our population will go from 41 million to around 80 million (Kenney, Craighead, & Alexander, 2014, p. 6). This demographic is at great risk for heat related illnesses and death due to the increasing heat indices of our planet (Conti et al., 2005). A heat index is what the combination of temperature and humidity feel like to human beings, and as temperatures rise so do indices (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], 2016). Although the elderly are the most afflicted by heat induced mortality, it can happen to anyone: young or old, rich or poor. Heat waves in Chicago, Tokyo and many other cities have caused fatalities among a variety of individuals. For instance, in the summer of 2003, over 70,000 Europeans passed away during a single heat wave (Knox, 2007). Heat waves are becoming more frequent and more devastating. During a heat wave in Chicago there were nearly 700 more heat related deaths recorded than during a heat wave one year before (Whitman et al., 1997). The increased temperatures that lead to heat related fatalities and other heat related injuries are caused by the expansion of cities across the globe, and more specifically, the materials used to construct these expansions. Materials used include gravel, cement, and asphalt. These impermeable substances that make up urban surfaces like sidewalks, roads, and traditional buildings’ roofs absorb and retain solar radiation during the day then release heat gradually at night increasing surrounding air temperatures into the next day (Knox, 2007). This temperature phenomenon is called the urban heat island (UHI) effect because it causes temperatures in urban areas to be much higher than those in the rural areas around them (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2016). During summer months, the surface of a conventional roof can be as much as 50 º C (90 º F) hotter than ambient air temperatures (Liu & Baskaran, 2003). An article from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) states that in the 1800s, only three percent of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2008, half of the global population lived in cities, and by 2050, almost 70% of the world’s population will be urbanized (Population Reference Bureau, n.d.). Since the population is continuously growing, it is plain to see that any problems facing cities now will affect a staggeringly larger proportion of people over time. Thus, finding solutions to those problems like heat waves, which occur most frequently in cities, will be an integral part of future city living. Continue Reading

The Importance of Being Green: Green Roofs Help Urban Inhabitants Breathe Easier

 

Green roofs have become a popular amenity in cities as city dwellers seek environmentally friendly places to work, live and breathe.

 

Rachel Eckenreiter, Animal Science

Justin Esiason, Environmental Science

Patrick Meehan, Building Construction Technology

 

     As the sun rises in Beijing, the workforce can be seen flowing into the arteries of the city to start the day. The streets steadily fill with people, some whizzing by on bicycles, others on foot as the sun fights through toxic haze and dust. A father and daughter navigate through the dense crowd, completely unfamiliar with the language spoken around them and written on street signs, the young girl quickly glances around her, confused and overwhelmed. Faces of many sizes, ages and shapes glide by, most clad in white medical masks. Her eye catches something they’ve seen before: the welcoming sign of their hotel.  The bright and quiet lobby is cool and clean as they head toward the elevator. Once in the room, she wastes no time and heads straight for the bathroom sink, with the sensation that her face is covered in grime as if she had worked in a dry dirt field all day. After washing her face, she glances down to find that the pristine white hand towel had turned mostly dark grey and brown. Although their stay in China was only three weeks long, it was enough time to recognize that the city of Beijing had a major air pollution problem. (Rachel Eckenreiter, Personal Communication, April 6, 2017). Continue Reading

The dramatic decline in Honeybee populations

 

Matthew Canning- Natural Resource Conservation

Andrew Koval- Wildlife Conservation

Kendra McNabb- Animal Science

Bees are quite an amazing insect, they pollinate over 80% of all flowering plants including 70 of the top 100 human food crops. One in three bites of food that we eat is derived from plants pollinated by bees (Allen-Wardell et al, 1998). Needless to say, bees are important to the crops we humans consume on a daily basis. Over the past two decades, the decline in bee population has reached a critical point. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (2017) concluded that there is a 30% decrease in hive losses annually within the United States. When introduced to stressors, bees can have adverse reactions, leading to what is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). This disorder that is plaguing global bee populations causes many of the adult and working bees in a specific hive to die out, leaving the colony unable to nourish and protect offspring. This eventually leads to a full destruction of the entire hive. The most logical reason for this phenomenon is the introduction of specific stressors to the hive and its bees directly (VanEngelsdorp, Evans, Saegerman, Mullin, Haubruge, Nguyen, Brown, 2009). If something isn’t done to manage declines in bee populations we can expect a negative impact agriculturally and ecologically. Allen-Warden et al. (1998) showed insecticides and pesticides’ have adverse effects on bees and other pollinating wildlife. This study also showed a reduction in pollinators caused a decrease in blueberry production. We can expect a similar impact on crops to continue as time goes by and this issue progresses. Estimates of the economic toll of honey bee decline is upwards of $5.7 billion per year (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2017). It is not out of the question that soon homeowners will have trouble keeping their personal gardens sufficiently pollinated, and forego that simple yet satisfying pastime. Knowledge of bee decline  has been acknowledged for many decades, but research and data behind the reasoning for the global decline are still heavily debated. Continue Reading

Celebrity-led education campaign to increase awareness of causality of ASDs

Dan Anastos, Turfgrass mgt. – Lindsay Glazier, Animal Sci – Jennifer Raichel Environmental sci

At first glance, Rhett Krawitt of California looks like your average seven year old boy. He seems to be a young kid full of life and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, it is not what it seems for Rhett. Instead of spending his days like most seven year olds, outside playing games with friends, he spends his days in and out of hospitals. The main cause of this lifestyle is his leukemia. This disease is only the beginning, as Rhett has been dealt a completely new problem. The new threat to this young boy’s life is measles, a disease that was almost unheard of over the past decade because of advancement in medical vaccinations. Unlike most children, Rhett cannot receive these vaccinations due to his leukemia. He is one statistic in the unvaccinated children debate. However, unlike most other children in this category, Rhett doesn’t have a choice. He now faces an entire new battle for his life, all because of an outbreak fueled by unvaccinated children. Children with the ability to receive the vaccination, but didn’t all because of misjudgments by parents. These parents are just a small portion of this rapidly growing debate sweeping the country.

Continue Reading

Cigarette Education: Beyond Human Health

Figure 1. Cigarette Skull (Davies, 2012).

Figure 1. Cigarette Skull (Davies, 2012).

You smoke a cigarette, toss it on the floor, and it eventually decomposes, right?  Cigarette filters are made out of a form of plastic called acetate and depending on the environmental condition, it could take 18 months to 10 years for the cigarette filter to decompose (Martin, 2013). In addition, cigarette filters are full of toxins known as tar, the resinous tobacco residue that is leftover from the burning of tobacco “and those chemicals leach into the ground and waterways, damaging living organisms that contact them” (Martin, 2013, para 10). Furthermore, most cigarettes are not smoked all the way and contain bits of leftover tobacco that further pollutes our environment. Martin (2013) cites a statement by Keep America Beautiful that investigates why they believe cigarettes are the most commonly littered item:

 

“Americans are smoking fewer cigarettes than ever before, yet cigarette butts continue to be the most commonly littered item in the United States and around the world today. They specify two reasons for this statistic — lack of awareness on the smoker’s part, and the lack of availability of waste receptacles at ‘transition’ locations, such as outside stores and other buildings, and at public transportation pickup spots.”

 

Extensively used across the world by all types of people, cigarettes are smoked most often to ease the tension of everyday life. Due to the smoke and smell of cigarettes, people usually have cigarettes outside. Contaminating our parks, sidewalks, and waterways, this issue is growing rampantly. Containing hundreds of dangerous chemicals, this hazardous waste is filling pristine landscapes with trash. Although these cigarettes are small in size, “the 5 trillion cigarettes smoked around the world every year has become a large problem, a problem that weighs about 2 billion pounds” (Barnes, 2011, p. 45). Since a majority of all cigarettes purchased today are manufactured with a built-in filter, after a person smokes a cigarette they are left to dispose of the filter or butt. Even though the problem is partially the contents of the cigarette itself and the attached filter, improper disposal is feeding the fire.

 

Reasons For Concern

 

The primary cause for the rampant pollution of cigarette butts is the lack of proper cigarette disposal in established receptacles. Instead of throwing a used cigarette in the trash or placing it back into the cigarette pack, they are thrown on the ground. This act of tossing cigarettes on the ground after they have been used has become a social norm. Without the convenient placement of a cigarette receptacle, the ground is the next best thing to many smokers. Even when there are receptacles around, cigarettes are still tossed on the ground next to the trash. Compared to other trash, flicking cigarette butts to the ground is ordinary. Barnes (2011) states, “there are literally millions of points of deposits on the planet” (p. 45).  Without much thought by the smoker, the butts are tossed anywhere. Most people understand that littering is a bad practice, but to many, cigarette butts have become an exception to the no-littering rule. This exception causes the entire whole to be its trashcan. With the current rate of 1.1 billion smokers in the world today and a projected 1.6 billion by 2025, something needs to be done about this problem (Martin, 2013).

 

            Many non-smokers may believe that properly disposing cigarettes do not directly affect them. Yet, it was reported, “cigarette butts comprise an estimated 30% of the total litter along US shorelines, waterways and on land” (Barnes, 2011, p. 45). In the city of San Francisco, it costs about $11 million “annually to remove cigarette litter” (Kaufman, 2009, para 4). That in turn relates directly to money coming out of everyone’s taxes, so it does affect everyone. In order to cover the clean up in San Francisco, you would have to seek “a 33-cents-a-pack tax to cover the $11 million that the city spends annually to remove cigarette litter” (Kaufman, 2009). Now why wouldn’t it be a good idea to do just that? This is because it only mitigates the effects of cigarette disposal and it doesn’t actually solve the problem. We only end up spending more and more money cleaning up the mess instead of preventing it. To reduce the impact of cigarette butt litter on our environment, we need to educate students on the dangers of cigarette litter by implementing the information in health class curriculums.

 

Furthermore, all the cigarettes that end up in our waters pose a serious threat to our marine life. During the breakdown of the cigarette remnants, toxic chemicals have the ability to leak out. When manufacturing a cigarette and growing tobacco, as many as 4,000 chemicals may be introduced to the environment through pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides (Slaughter et al, 2011, p. 1). Slaughter et al. (2011) prove through their experiment that toxicity of cigarette butts increase from unsmoked filters (no tobacco) to smoked filters (no tobacco) to smoked cigarettes (tobacco) (p. 1). This study affirmed that improper disposal of cigarettes and the resulting littering of our waterways is dangerous to the environment. Just as humans breathe in secondhand smoke, marine life now breathes in cigarette-contaminated water. In an additional study done by Clean Virginia Waterways, they proved that “ in approximately two gallons of water, one cigarette butt is fatal to exposed water fleas, a tiny crustacean found in freshwater and saltwater” (Martin, 2013). Although water fleas are extremely tiny, this study shows the damage one cigarette can have on marine life. If the study were to increase the number of cigarettes, it is likely that the size of the animals affected would also increase. By increasing the cigarette number by a moderate million fold, we would begin to reach the number of cigarettes in the oceans. If we start to think about how much toxicity is being released into our waters, the prevention programs statistics “show that butts constitute 28 percent to 33 percent of all litter nationwide” and that “butts account for 28 percent of littered items washing up on beaches worldwide” (Kaufman, 2009). This 28 percent contaminates the water and harms marine life. It is important that we implement a plan to deter the movement of cigarette litter into the waterways.

 

Resistant Audience

 

Cigarette companies have been under heavy scrutinization since the finding of health impacts. The beginning of concern began, “first in the 1920s and then again 30 and 40 years later, after the dangers of cigarettes was brought to the public’s attention” (History of Smoking, 2011). Showing initially the increase rate of lung cancer found in smokers, cigarettes have since been diagnosed to cause many other health problems. Due to these findings, the manufacturers now have to face an extensive amount of smoking related laws. These laws require such things as the warning of its likelihood to cause cancer, the heavy taxing of its product, and media campaigns against smoking. These laws act as a roadblock against the manufacturers, reducing the growth of companies.

 

With all of these laws against the cigarette manufacturers, there is a greater chance for the companies to make less money. As the manufacturers lose profits, they are likely to hire less workers and increase work loads of remaining employees. They are also less likely to need the same amounts of tobacco, because they will have less of a market to supply. Supplying, “an estimated 33 million jobs to farmers, about 15 million jobs to the manufacturers and another 10 million jobs to create the other cigarette supplies needed” (Warner, 2000, p. 78), the production of cigarettes plays a role in the world’s economy. Additional opposition against cigarettes will hurt both the cigarette manufacturers and the workers that depend on this daily income. 

 

When arguing against smoking, many tend to lean on the fact that cigarettes are bad for your health and this increases the chances of you dying earlier. Due to the fact that cigarettes create health problems, it would be common sense to believe that it costs a country more money to take care of the smokers’ health compared to those who abstain from smoking. In reality this is actually a false statement. When compared side by side, “the cost of caring for non-smokers minus the cost of caring for smokers almost equals out to zero” (Warner, 2000, p. 81). This is due to the fact that smokers are more likely to die earlier and thus don’t have to be taken care of for as long as the non-smokers who tend to live longer. Many health problems arise as we age; the major cost difference is how long a patient needs to be taken care of.

 

Against Resistant Audience

 

Cigarette manufacturers may play a large economic role for a few specific countries, but in the United States, “cigarette manufacturing only makes up 1.6% of the jobs found in the six central tobacco US states” (Warner, 2000, p. 78). In addition to this, farmers who grow tobacco in their fields are only growing a small crop. The rest of their field is planted with other various crops. Thus, the lost of growing tobacco would not affect farmers to a great extent. The money that would be spent on cigarettes does not vanish when cigarettes aren’t available either. This money will be spent on other goods and support the economy through other avenues. This extra revenue may help keep other businesses open that provide beneficial goods to the public.

 

Comparing the health problems attributed to smoking versus all other causes of illness is ludicrous. Reducing the number of smokers and the pollution results is better for the environment and humans everywhere. Living your life attached to a cigarette damages your health and doesn’t allow you to live your life to the fullest. Even if you aren’t sick, cigarettes deter your health, acting as a ball and chain.  

 

The Solution

 

            Our goal is to focus on reducing the impact of cigarette butts on our environment through education. It has become a social norm for people to smoke and discard the filter anywhere. The second part of that statement can be changed. Similarly, it is normal for people to have sexual intercourse, but it is up to them whether to use protection or not. Comprehensive sex education programs, which stress abstinence, contraception, and condoms, have helped many youth avoid negative sexual health outcomes (Advocates for Youth, 2009). A study done by the National Survey of Family Growth discovered that teens aged 15-19 who received comprehensive sex education were 50% less likely to experience pregnancy than those who received none (Advocates for Youth, 2009). Additionally, two thirds of the 48 comprehensive sex education programs had positive effects such as a 40% delayed sexual initiation, increased use of condoms, or contraceptive use; as well as a 60% reduction in unprotected sex (Advocates for Youth, 2009).

 

 We believe that through education we can slowly reduce the impact of cigarette butts, but it has to start with our younger and upcoming generation. According to Kids Health, “an estimated nine out of 10 smokers begin smoking before age 18”, so it would be best to implement a plan that would educate them about the environmental impacts that cigarettes have (Nall, 2009, para 2). It would eventually be looked down upon if you did not dispose of your cigarettes properly and it would no longer become a social norm. A lot of people are not aware of the impact and that is why they do not think twice about where they dispose of their cigarette. Martin (2013) states that, “I didn’t think twice about leaving a trail of cigarette litter behind me, but had i known how my actions affected our environment, I would have been much more careful” (para 1). Comparably, many people were unaware about STDS and things of that nature before it was enforced for students to be educated about the dangers of it and ways to prevent it and now people always think twice about putting on protection before intercourse because of that.

 

            In prior years, many people were unaware of the health issues that cigarettes presented and now you see it on commercials, cigarette packs, and in schools, which inform you of the related diseases and risks. Novotny et al. (2009) state that: “ In the last ten years, the per capita consumption of cigarettes declined almost 20% in the United States” (p.11). Through educating people of the dangers of cigarettes we reduced the consumption by 20%, which also means we decreased the number of butts that may have ended up on the ground by 20%. This is why we believe that education is the answer to reducing the amount of butts that are improperly disposed.

 

 Funded by the government, each state would be required to implement an additional section to health class. Students in high school typically take a Health Education course that deals with the dangers of cigarettes. These dangers focus on the health degradation caused by cigarettes and fail to mention the environmental side. The instructor should dedicate one class to this problem and inform the students of the environmental impact and encourage them to dispose of cigarettes properly.

 

To teach this section adequately, the instructor would need to go through an additional workshop. This workshop would compare to other teacher workshops and convey to the teachers this important cigarette information. It is very important that the students are taught the correct information so that they are properly informed on the issues affecting them. It would be a good idea for the government to help fund this project because they already spent millions and millions of dollars cleaning up the mess of cigarette filters and it would cost a lot less to help fund this project and eventually see results that will help them save money.

 

Closing Statement

 

            There is a large majority of the world’s population that fails to realize the implications cigarette litter can have on the environment. In order to stop the ritual littering of cigarette butts in urban and rural settings, the children need to be better educated on the detrimental effects of cigarettes on the environment. Although the school does a good job at educating the kids on the effects cigarettes have on our health, they fail to encompass the effects on the environment. This change in social norms will be slow at first, but as a greater amount of kids learn these facts the culture will begin to change. Throwing cigarette butts on the ground will become taboo and looked down upon by the masses. The best way to help the environment from the hazards of improper cigarette disposal is to educate the masses that choose to smoke them.    

 

 

Citations

 

 

Barnes, R. L. (2011). Regulating the disposal of cigarette butts as toxic hazardous

 

waste. Tobacco Control, 20, i45-i48, DOI:10.1136/tc.2010.041301

 

 

History of smoking. (2011). Retrieved from

 

http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/31899/uncategorized/a-brief-history-of-smoking/

 

 

Kaufman, L. (2009, may 28). Cigarette butts: tiny trash that piles up. Retrieved from

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/us/29cigarettes.html

 

 

Martin, T (2013). Cigarette Litter and how it Affects Us. Retrieved from

 

            http://quitsmoking.about.com/od/cigaretteingredients/a/ciglitter.htm

 

 

Nall, R (2010) Who Do People Start Smoking? Retrieved from

 

http://www.livestrong.com/article/231769-when-do-people-start-smoking/

 

 

Novotny T., Lum, K., Smith, E., Wang V., Barnes, R. (2009). Cigarette butts and the case for                     an environmental policy on hazardous cigarette waste. International Journal of                                  Environmental Research and Public Health, 6, 1691-1705. Retrieved from CAB

 

Abstracts Database.

 

 

Register, K. (2000). Cigarette butts as litter – toxic as well as ugly?. Underwater

 

Naturalist, 25(2), 23-29. Retrieved from: http://watershed.cobbcountyga.gov/documents/spring2013web.pdf          

 

 

Slaughter, E., Gersberg M. R., Watanabe, K. Rudolph, J., Stransky, C. Novotny, T. (2011).                         Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater                     fish. Tobacco Control, 20, i25-i29, DOI 10.1136/c.2010.040170

 

 

Warner, K. (2000). The economics of tobacco: myths and realities. Tobacco Control,

 

9(1), 78-89. doi: 10.1136/tc.9.1.78

 

 

Advocates for Youth (2009) Comprehensive Sex Education: Research and Results                   Retrieved from

 

http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/1487

 

 

Eric Kuhn, Environmental Science

Kevin Lee, Building and Construction Technology