E.P.A. Chief Vows to ‘Do Better’ to Protect Poor Communities From Environmental Harm

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday will announce stepped-up enforcement and monitoring to help disadvantaged communities struggling with polluted air and water.

#air-pollution, #environmental-protection-agency, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #houston-tex, #jackson-miss, #louisiana, #pollution, #regan-michael-s-1976, #water-pollution

These Shellfish Could Kill You

Indigenous communities along Alaska’s coast are developing scientific networks to test shellfish for toxins because the state is not doing so

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #features, #pollution

Protecting People from Deadly Shellfish

Indigenous communities along Alaska’s coast are developing scientific networks to test shellfish for toxins because the state is not doing so

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #features, #pollution

Wildfires Are Fueling a Toxic Combo of Air Pollutants

The 2020 fire season subjected half the western U.S. population to a stew of particulate matter and ozone

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate-change, #environment, #pollution

How leaded fuel was sold for 100 years, despite knowing its health risks

A 1960s Southern California gas station being restored.

Enlarge / A 1960s Southern California gas station being restored. (credit: FarukUlay | Getty Images)

On the frosty morning of Dec. 9, 1921, in Dayton, Ohio, researchers at a General Motors lab poured a new fuel blend into one of their test engines. Immediately, the engine began running more quietly and putting out more power.

The new fuel was tetraethyl lead. With vast profits in sight—and very few public health regulations at the time—General Motors Co. rushed gasoline diluted with tetraethyl lead to market despite the known health risks of lead. They named it “Ethyl” gas.

It has been 100 years since that pivotal day in the development of leaded gasoline. As a historian of media and the environment, I see this anniversary as a time to reflect on the role of public health advocates and environmental journalists in preventing profit-driven tragedy.

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#cars, #gasoline, #leaded-gas, #pollution, #science

Warehouse Fire Was Source of ‘Putrid’ Odor in California

The fire, in Carson, Calif., on Sept. 30, consumed beauty and wellness products and sent chemicals into a nearby waterway, the authorities said. Thousands complained about the stench.

#air-pollution, #carson-calif, #fires-and-firefighters, #los-angeles-county-calif, #pollution, #prologis-inc, #smells-and-odors, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #water-pollution, #workplace-hazards-and-violations

Rivers Dump Mercury into Coastal Fisheries

Most of the pollutant arrives at the coasts by river

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #environment, #pollution

Half of the World’s Coastal Sewage Pollution Flows from Few Dozen Places

An analysis of roughly 135,000 watersheds reveals that large amounts of key pollutants come from human wastewater, not just agricultural runoff

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #oceans, #pollution

Lights Out: 5 New ‘Dark-Sky Places’ for Top-Shelf Stargazing

The International Dark-Sky Association awards certifications to sites with exceptionally high-quality night skies, including national parks, sanctuaries and reserves.

#appalachian-mountain-club, #black-gap-wildlife-management-area, #chiricahua-national-monument-az, #international-dark-sky-assn, #lighting, #mammoth-cave-national-park, #milky-way-galaxy, #national-park-service, #national-parks-monuments-and-seashores, #parks-and-other-recreation-areas, #pollution, #space-and-astronomy, #united-states, #watoga-state-park-w-va, #wildlife-sanctuaries-and-nature-reserves

Climate Change Is Acidifying and Contaminating Drinking Water and Alpine Ecosystems

Hotter, drier mountains leach more metal into streams from abandoned mines and natural deposits

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate-change, #ecology, #environment, #pollution, #water

Access to Electric Vehicles Is an Environmental Justice Issue

We must build tomorrow’s transportation infrastructure with equity at its core

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#automobiles, #environment, #inequality, #pollution, #social-sciences, #technology, #transportation

Microplastics may be cooling—and heating—Earth’s climate

Thought climate change was already complicated? Now scientists have to consider the influence of tiny bits of atmospheric plastic.

Enlarge / Thought climate change was already complicated? Now scientists have to consider the influence of tiny bits of atmospheric plastic. (credit: Sanka Vidanagama | Getty Images)

Like the ash spewed from a supervolcano, microplastics have infested the atmosphere and encircled the globe. These are bits of plastic less than 5 millimeters long, and they come in two main varieties. Fragments spawn from disintegrating bags and bottles (babies drink millions of tiny particles a day in their formula), and microfibers tear loose from synthetic clothing in the wash and flush out to sea. Winds then scour land and ocean, carrying microplastics high into the atmosphere. The air is so lousy with the stuff that each year, the equivalent of over 120 million plastic bottles fall on 11 protected areas in the US, which account for just 6 percent of the country’s total area.

In a study published today in the journal Nature, scientists have taken a first swing at modeling how the atmospheric particles could be influencing the climate, and it’s a strange mix of good news and bad. The good news is that microplastics may be reflecting a tiny bit of the sun’s energy back into space, which would actually cool the climate ever so slightly. The bad news is that humanity is loading the environment with so much microplastic (ocean sediment samples show that concentrations have been doubling every 15 years since the 1940s), and the particles themselves are so varied, that it’s hard to know how the pollutant will ultimately influence the climate. At some point they may end up heating the planet.

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#anthropogenic-climate-change, #climate, #microplastics, #pollution, #science

How Airborne Microplastics Affect Climate Change

Like other aerosols, these tiny particles scatter and absorb sunlight, influencing Earth’s temperature

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate-change, #environment, #pollution

Assessing COVID Risk and More with Air Quality Monitors

The consumer devices track pollutants as well as CO2—a proxy for potentially virus-laden human breath

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#electronics, #health, #pollution, #public-health, #technology

Gasoline-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers to be banned under new California law

Gasoline-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers to be banned under new California law

Enlarge (credit: Aleksandr Potashev / iStock)

Gasoline-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers will soon be a thing of the past in California. Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a bill that will ban the sale of small internal combustion engines predominately used in lawn and garden equipment, starting as soon as 2024.

The new law, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman from Menlo Park, will offer rebates for consumers to purchase electric replacements, and it builds on previous rulemaking already underway at the state’s air regulator, the California Air Resources Board, better known as CARB. The phaseout will begin as soon as is feasible or by January 1, 2024, whichever comes later.

“Currently, there are zero-emission equivalents to all [small off-road engine] equipment regulated by the State Air Resources Board,” the law points out. “The battery technology required for commercial-grade zero-emission equipment is available and many users, both commercial and residential, have already begun to transition to zero-emission equipment.”

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#california, #california-air-resources-board, #carb, #fossil-fuels, #lawn-equipment, #policy, #pollution, #small-engines

Landmark Ozone Treaty Could Prevent More Than 400 Million Cases of Cancer

The Montreal Protocol has helped heal the ozone layer that blocks harmful ultraviolet rays

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #pollution, #public-health

Winged Microchips Glide like Tree Seeds

The tiny sensors could gather and transmit environmental data as they drift through the air

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#aerospace, #engineering, #environment, #pollution, #technology

As offices come back, ATMO launches air monitoring device claiming to give COVID-risk score

Way back in 2015 we covered the launch of the Atmotube, a small, innovative, portable air quality monitor which went on to receive a number of awards, post its CES debut.

Since rebranding as ATMO, the company, co-founded by Vera Kozyr, is now launching the Atmocube, an indoor air quality monitoring system for businesses and enterprises. This new product is positioned far more for the Post-COVID era, where air quality inside offices is going to be vital, and this time, instead of being small and portable (although that earlier product is still sold), the Atmocube will be prominent and visible in order to give office workers peace of mind that their air quality is good.

The key to this is measuring CO2 levels which the Atmocube displays on its screen along with other metrics.

The device has up to 14 sensors measuring various environmental parameters such as CO2, formaldehyde NO2, PM1 (small airborne particles), PM2.5, ozone, and others, and other environmental parameters such as relative humidity, temperature, atmospheric pressure, ambient noise, light levels, and color temperature.

The company says this new device also calculates the Airborne Virus Transmission Score — based on the levels of particulate matter, humidity, and CO2, and says it comes up with a “score” that estimates the probability of transferring virus diseases in closed spaces. Obviously, that’s probably something that would need independent testing to verify, but it is the case that the WHO advises that COVID-19 can be transmitted in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings.

Kozyr said: “Air pollution is dangerous because it can affect you and your health even if you don’t notice it. We aim to help people know what they’re breathing and make changes as a result. As businesses return to the office, they need a tool to make information about indoor air quality transparent and accessible to their employees. Most air quality monitors are designed to be hidden away, so we set out to create a device with a more transparent interface that would highlight HVAC performance safety and create trust between occupants and building owners”.

ATMO is by no means the only player in the space of course, as it’s joined by AirThings, Awair Omni and Kaiterra.

#air-pollution, #airthings, #articles, #europe, #player, #pollution, #tc, #vera-kozyr, #world-health-organization

Tiny Robots Could Clean Up Microplastic Pollution

In a proof-of-concept study, microscopic self-propelled devices found and broke down microplastic particles

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #environment, #pollution, #water

Plant Absorbs Toxic RDX Contamination

Modified switchgrass can sop up weapons chemicals on military ranges

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #environment, #pollution

After Greta Thunberg’s Strike, Adults Are Still Failing Children on Climate Change

‘We will not allow the world to look away.’

#children-and-childhood, #floods, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #politics-and-government, #pollution, #united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change, #wildfires

Electric School Buses Reduce Pollution, But New Infrastructure Deal Slashed Funding

Advocates worry that reduced funds will not go to the communities most in need

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #fossil-fuels, #pollution

Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works.

The law aims to take the cost burden of recycling away from taxpayers. One environmental advocate said the change could be “transformative.”

#containers-and-packaging, #environment, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #maine, #mills-janet-t-1947, #oregon, #plastics, #pollution, #recycling-of-waste-materials, #waste-materials-and-disposal

BreezoMeter, the iPhone tool that measures air quality, raises a $30M Series C

Ran Korber and his asthmatic and pregnant wife were looking to buy a house in Israel. As an environmental engineer, he knows that air pollution is the leading environmental cause of premature death, can cause premature birth, and can account for other respiratory diseases. Korber started looking for the city with the least amount of pollution in Israel only to realize that this information didn’t exist. His frustration led him to create what today is BreezoMeter, a tool that forecasts 40 pollutants within the categories of pollen, air pollution, wildfires and weather.

Today the company announced a $30 million Series C led by Fortissimo Capital, bringing its total raised to date to $45 million. The company is based in Israel and launched in June of 2014, about two years after Korber was house-hunting with his wife.

“In many countries, people don’t have a clue about the air around them,” Korber, now CEO and co-founder of BreezoMeter, told TechCrunch.

BreezoMeter uses AI and machine learning to gather and understand data from multiple sources, including more than 47,000 sensors worldwide. The result is street-level air quality resolution (within 16.5 ft) and pollen, pollutants, and fire data, in more than 100 countries. 

You probably didn’t know this, but if you have an Apple Watch or an iPhone, they both have BreezoMeter built into the Apple weather app. Scroll down on the weather of any city, and the air quality measure is presented by BreezoMeter. In the U.S., the Air Quality Index (AQI) uses a scale from 0-500, 0 being the cleanest. Here in Miami, the air quality was 36 (good) yesterday, and 51 (moderate) today. In comparison, New York City’s air is 34 (good) today, better than Miami’s.

BreezoMeter is not only able to measure current air quality, but it can forecast it, too, allowing people to better prepare depending on their sensitivities. 

“We are able to forecast when the conditions for pollen season will start, and then [we] can forecast how pollen may move between two different locations,” said Korber.

If you’re not sure of your sensitivities, knowing the air quality of where you are, you can at least keep a lookout for symptoms.

“Depending on the type of pollutant in the air, BreezoMeter can also tell you the possible symptoms you may start feeling if exposed,” Korber said. 

The challenge isn’t just the pollution itself, but also a large information gap regarding air quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 120 million people in the U.S. live in areas where there is no pollution monitoring.

“Before BreezoMeter, everyone used the data from the same sensors, and now we collect data from those sensors plus others including traffic data, wildfires, satellites, local sensors and we also take into account land use for pollen,” said Korber.

A time when sensors can easily get destroyed is during a wildfire. “The sensors can burn, literally,” Korber said. To circumvent this problem, BreezoMeter relies on its other multitude of sensors for the data, including those from satellites.

“Every day, more than 300 million people use our platform to make informed decisions on how to avoid environmental hazards,” said Korber, and not everyone is using just the weather app.

For people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, they may be benefiting from BreezoMeter from within Propeller by Resmed. Propeller is a device that, depending on the air quality, tells a patient what to do to improve their health, such as close a window or use an inhaler, for example.

According to BreezoMeter, since Propeller incorporated BreezoMeter into its product, Propeller’s patients have experienced about 50% fewer asthma attacks and reduced ER visits.

BreezoMeter plans to use the money from the current raise to develop more product categories and triple its team to about 120 people.


#air-pollution, #breezometer, #environmental-protection-agency, #israel, #machine-learning, #new-york-city, #pollution, #propeller, #resmed, #startup, #tc, #united-states

Mercury is accumulating in deep ocean trenches

Image of people on a boat about to lower equipment into the ocean.

Enlarge / Aboard the German research vessel Sonne off the coast of Chile, ready to take samples from eight kilometers deep in the Atacama Trench system. (credit: Anni Glud, SDU)

Although pollution controls have significantly reduced the mercury content of coal-fired plant emissions, the latest Global Mercury Assessment still estimates that there’s been a 20 percent increase in anthropogenic mercury emissions between 2010 and 2015. A new study provides some insight into where all that mercury might end up: there are unprecedented levels of mercury in up-to-now unmeasured deep-ocean trenches.

The WHO categorizes mercury as one of the top 10 chemicals of major health concern, and as of 2020, over 120 countries have been working together to reduce environmental mercury through the 2017 Minamata Convention on Mercury. In its elemental and mono-methylated form (methylmercury), mercury is a potent neurotoxin. Methylmercury in particular biomagnifies, which means it increases in concentration as it goes up the marine food chain. That has prompted lots of warnings about the consumption of fish and sea food.

This latest report is the first to measure mercury-accumulation rates in sediment cores from some of the deepest parts of the ocean—the hadal zones (>6 km depth). While the deep ocean is considered one of the most important, and relatively safest, places for mercury to end up, the rates of accumulation were up to 56 times greater than prior estimates. The highest measured concentrations were also nearly as high as some of the most contaminated bodies of water on the planet—a jarring finding given that these locations (the Atacama and Kermadec trenches) aren’t in the vicinity of any known mercury sources.

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#environmental-science, #mercury, #oceans, #pollution, #science

Here Is Who’s Behind the Global Surge in Single-Use Plastic

A new report shows that a surprisingly small number of big companies and banks are behind the manufacturing and financing of much of the world’s single-use plastic.

#china-petroleum-and-chemical-corporation-sinopec, #dow-chemical-company, #exxon-mobil-corp, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #plastics, #pollution, #recycling-of-waste-materials

What if Space Junk and Climate Change Become the Same Problem?

Changes to the atmosphere caused by carbon dioxide emissions could increase the amount of debris that stays in orbit.

#carbon-dioxide, #federal-communications-commission, #global-warming, #pollution, #satellites, #space-and-astronomy, #space-debris, #space-exploration-technologies-corp

EPA to eliminate climate “super pollutants” from refrigerators, air conditioners

EPA to eliminate climate “super pollutants” from refrigerators, air conditioners

Enlarge (credit: Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine/Flickr)

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced a rule Monday that would phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the potent greenhouse gases that are widely used as refrigerants.

Though HFCs aren’t intentionally emitted in the regular use of refrigerators and air conditioners, they often leak out at various phases in an appliance’s life cycle, from manufacturing through disposal. One of the most widely used HFCs, R-134a, causes 1,430 times more warming than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide over 100 years. Another that is commonly used in supermarkets, R-404A, has a global warming potential of 3,900. Eliminating the use of HFCs worldwide would reduce emissions enough to avoid up to 0.5˚C (0.9˚F) of warming by 2100.

HFCs were first introduced in the mid-1990s as replacements for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were the previous standard for refrigerants. CFCs deplete the ozone layer that protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation, and decades of use led to a massive hole, discovered in 1974, in the atmosphere above Antarctica. As concern over the ozone hole grew, countries from around the world signed onto the Montreal Protocol, which called for the phaseout of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances. Finalized in 1987 and ratified by the US Senate the following year, the treaty is widely seen as a success—as CFC use has dwindled, the ozone layer has begun to repair itself, and by 2040, experts believe the hole will begin to steadily close.

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#climate-change, #epa, #greenhouse-gases-emissions, #policy, #pollution, #refrigeration, #science

Facing Droughts, California Challenges Nestlé Over Water Use

A draft cease-and-desist letter sent to BlueTriton — known until this month as Nestlé Waters North America — is the latest development in a yearslong battle over water resources in the San Bernardino area.

#bluetriton-brands-inc, #california, #california-water-resources-control-board, #drought, #forest-service, #nestle-waters-north-america, #plastic-bottles, #pollution, #san-bernardino-calif, #shortages, #water

Andium is watching oil fields for emissions and just got money from the biggest oil companies to do it

Andium, a company focused on remote field monitoring of assets including oil and gas wells has just raised some not-insignificant cash in an investment round led by OGCI Climate Investments, a firm formed by the largest oil companies in the world.

Launched in 2014 to “support” the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement to limit global greenhouse gas emissions, OGCI has invested in 21 projects to date.

With Andium, the oil majors join existing investors including Tom Miglis, the former chief investment officer of Citadel Securities and Talis Capital in backing a company developing technologies for natural gas flare monitoring, tank telemetry and object detection.

The company said it provides oil and gas companies with real-time information from remote locations at a far lower cost than other solutions.

Few technologies are less exciting than sensors and monitoring equipment, but there are also few tech services that are more vital to staunching the flow of greenhouse gas emissions. As Mark Tomasovic, a partner at the renewable investment firm, Energize tweeted (to me), “A few companies are involved in monitoring and reducing methane emissions from producing oil and gas wells… Given that there are over [1 million] wells in the U.S. and methane is 28x more potent than CO2, these startups have had more of an impact on global climate change then Tesla.”

“We believe that visibility is paramount in change leadership and operational excellence, and our remote monitoring technologies are specifically designed to offer companies an expedited path to achieve their sustainability goals,” said Jory Schwach, the chief executive of Andium, in a statement.

Schwach, a serial entrepreneur whose previous forays into the business world included GlobalRim, a solar global positioning system company, and an offline communications service, started out developing a battery-powered tracking system for the logistics industry.

“I spent the better part of two years building a battery-powered tracking solution for long haul trailers so the market could replace brokers with ‘shared assets’. I failed fast and often on the hardware and realized that the real value was in the continually changing product requests that would be much more easily solved with a software change,” Schwach told the Medium publication Authority Magazine. “I decided that building a new kind of operating system for small devices could be big business if I leveraged the OS to customize products based on changing use cases while managing the hardware and infrastructure on behalf of the client.”

Andium’s technology uses off the shelf cameras and microphones with an artificial intelligence overlay to provide real-time monitoring of all sorts of industrial assets.

“The transparency created by monitoring and measuring methane is essential to reducing emissions,” said Pratima Rangarajan, CEO of OGCI Climate Investments.  “Andium’s low-cost innovative solution lowers the barrier for operators of all sizes to adopt and implement best practices and we are pleased to support their growth.”

#greenhouse-gas, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #natural-gas, #oil-and-gas, #pollution, #talis-capital, #tc, #tesla, #united-states

Making the Concrete and Steel We Need Doesn’t Have to Bake the Planet

There are cleaner ways to produce the building blocks of the nation.

#carbon-dioxide, #cement, #concrete, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #infrastructure-public-works, #pollution, #united-states

How Green Are Electric Vehicles?

In short: Very green. But plug-in cars still have environmental effects. Here’s a guide to the main issues and how they might be addressed.

#air-pollution, #alternative-and-renewable-energy, #batteries, #carbon-dioxide, #conservation-of-resources, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #energy-efficiency, #environment, #fuel-efficiency, #fuel-emissions-transportation, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #mines-and-mining, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #pollution, #recycling-of-waste-materials, #water-pollution

How Climate Change May Affect Your Health

No matter where you live or how high your socioeconomic status, climate change can endanger your health, both physical and mental, now and in the future.

#air-pollution, #asthma, #center-for-environmental-health, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #content-type-service, #global-warming, #pollution, #respiratory-diseases, #water-pollution, #wildfires

OpenSensors secures $4M for air-monitoring platform which allows offices to be more Covid-safe

Today, the acute asthma attack of primary school-aged girl in February 2013 was ruled by a UK court to be due to air pollution. It is thought to be the first ruling of its kind in the world. Only a year after Ella Kissi-Debrah died, another mother also became concerned about the effects of air quality on her daughter’s asthma and decided to do something about it.

Today, Yodit Stanton has secured $4m in seed funding for her air monitoring startup OpenSensors, in a Seed round led by Crane Venture Partners and other unnamed investors. The startup previously bootstrapped the company prior to the round, supported by customer revenues.

OpenSensors, uses sensors to monitor air quality and light intensity, but it’s the data platform that is the real ‘special source’. The startup’s technology works to reveal workplace and workforce conditions and patterns. It competes with companies like Condecco and Workplace Fabric, but takes a more ‘360 degree’ approach.

It now has more than 30 customers with complex real estate operations across North America, Ireland, UK and Europe, in industries such as Insurance, Finance, Tech and more.



Building costs are the 2nd highest expense for organizations, with office costs over £20bn per year in the UK, but even in normal, pre-pandemic times, half of that office space is unused at any point during the day and only reaches 55% peak utilization. Buildings also represent 36% of global energy usage & 39% of CO2 emissions. OpenSensors tracks humidity, CO2 levels, and more to guide on the optimal capacity to reduce viral transmission, thus enabling companies to return their workforces to offices safely.

Stanton commented: “How we work and live are changing faster than we could have ever anticipated. There is a real opportunity for humanity to rethink how we use the physical world with sustainability in mind as well as making the design of workplaces better for people using them.”

Scott Sage, Partner at Crane Venture Partners said: “With data insights, real-world usage and known customer references, OpenSensors has all the ingredients to become a trusted advisor and solutions provider throughout COVID-19 and the immediate recovery, as well as supporting the shift towards more flexible working that COVID-19 has accelerated.”

Speaking exclusively to TechCrunch, Stanton, who also founded and runs the UK’s Women In Data event, said: “Initially it just started as a fun hobby project. I was playing around with IoT as in my daughter has asthma, so I was monitoring air quality up in our neighborhood to try to see if I can correlate the particulates spikes and so forth with her asthma attacks. I released it as a project for my community to monitor air quality. But it became, I guess a real thing when people asked if I could manage their buildings.”

She said that low humidity encourages virus transmission: “So you really have to aim for around 40% humidity within an indoor environment and dry air also affects your immune system as an individual.”

This means that monitoring air quality has become a huge issue for companies. So it unsurprising that VCs are now backing air-quality startups like OpenSensors.

#advisor, #air-pollution, #articles, #asthma, #crane-venture-partners, #europe, #internet-of-things, #ireland, #north-america, #partner, #pollution, #stanton, #tc, #united-kingdom

The incredible journey of the electronic plastic bottle

The incredible journey of the electronic plastic bottle

Enlarge (credit: Getty Image)

Someone living along the Ganges River in India recently received a gift that we can safely say no one on Earth had ever gotten before. At first, it must have looked like an ordinary plastic bottle floating down the river, save for the rod poking out of its top, like a sailboat with a mast but no sail. The giftee, who remains anonymous, must have gotten curious and ripped open the 500-milliliter bottle, finding that it was in fact packed with electronics. Those included a SIM card, which the person popped into a mobile device and then logged into Facebook.

“The reason we knew it was in use was when we got the bill,” says Alasdair Davies, a technical specialist at the Zoological Society of London. You see, Davies, along with conservation scientist Emily Duncan of the University of Exeter and other researchers, had not long before released the bottle and nine others into the Ganges as part of a clever experiment to show how plastic pollution moves through rivers and eventually out to sea. SIM cards allowed the ill-fated bottle and its companions to connect to cell towers every three hours as they journeyed down the river, recording in great detail how far and how fast the devices traveled. One sailed 380 miles over 51 days.

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#india, #plastics, #pollution, #science

Investors including Microsoft’s climate fund back hyperlocal environmental monitoring tech developer Aclima

Mitigating the effects of climate change and pollution is a global problem, but it’s one that requires local solutions.

While that seems like common sense, most communities around the world don’t have tools that can monitor emissions and pollutants at the granular levels they need to develop plans that can address these pollutants.

Aclima, a decade-old startup founded by Davida Herzl, is looking to solve that problem and has raised $40 million in new funding from strategic and institutional venture capital investors to accelerate its growth.

“We’ve built a platform that enables hyperlocal measurement. We measure all the greenhouse gases as well as regulated air pollutants. We deploy sensor networks that combine mobile sensing where we use fleets of vehicles as a roving network. And we bring that all together and bring that into a back end,” Herzl said. 

The networks of air quality monitoring technology that exists — and is subsidized by the government — is costly and lacking in the kinds of minute details on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis that communities can use to effectively address pollution problems.

“A typical air quality monitoring station would cost somewhere between $1 million to $2 million. Here in the Bay Area, the regulator is paying less than $3 million for access to all of this for the entire Bay Area,” Herzl said. 

Aclima’s technologies are already being deployed across California, and some of the company’s largest customers are municipalities in the Bay Area and down south in San Diego. 

GettyImages 1155300963

Image Credits: Getty Images under a license.

The company has two main offerings: an enterprise professional software product that’s geared toward regulators, experts, and businesses that want to get a handle on their greenhouse gas emissions and environmentally polluting operations and a free tool that’s available to the public.

A third revenue stream is through partnerships with companies like Google, which have attached Aclima’s sensors to its roving mapping vehicles to capture climate and environmental quality data alongside geographic information.

“You’re seeing a lot of large companies in traditionally who are now investing significant amount into really trying to understand their emissions profile and prioritize emission reductions in a data driven way,” Herzl said.

The company’s data is also providing real world tools to communities that are looking to address systemic inequalities in locations that have been hardest hit by industrial pollution.

West Oakland, for instance, has used Aclima’s data to develop community intervention plans to reduce pollution in the communities that have been most impacted by the regions industrial economy.

“The interconnected crises of climate change, public health and environmental justice urgently require lasting solutions,” said Herzl, in a statement. “Measurement will play a key role in shaping solutions and tracking progress. With this coalition of investors, we’re expanding our capacity to support new and existing customers and partners taking bold climate action.”

As a result of the new round of funding, led by Clearvision Ventures, the fund’s founder and managing partner, Dan Ahn will take a seat on the board of directors.

Photo: Greg Epperson/Getty Images

“They are the clear category leader in an important and emerging field of data and standards at the intersection of climate, public health and the economy,” Ahn said in a statement. “Both governments and industry will need Aclima’s critical data and analytics to benchmark and accelerate progress to reduce emissions.”

Other investors in Aclima’s latest round include the corporate investment arm of the sensor manufacturer Robert Bosch, which views the company as a strategic component of its efforts to use sensor data to combat climate change. 

“Aclima has built an expansive mobile and stationary sensor network that generates billions of measurements about our most critical resources every week,” says Dr. Ingo Ramesohl, Managing Director of RBVC, in a statement. “Bosch invents and delivers connected solutions for a smarter future across transportation, home, industrial, and many other fields. What Aclima has achieved in connected environmental sensing is an impressive feat. Together, we can accelerate Aclima’s ability to support customers in taking decisive and data-driven climate action.”

Another key investor is Microsoft, which has backed the company through one of the first direct investments from the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund. 

“We established our Climate Innovation Fund earlier this year to accelerate the development of environmental sustainability solutions based on the best available science,” said Brandon Middaugh, Director, Climate Innovation Fund, Microsoft, in a statement. “We’re encouraged by Aclima’s pioneering approach to mapping air pollution sources and exposures at a hyperlocal level and the implications this technology can have for making data-driven environmental decisions with consideration for climate equity.”

Other investors also adding Aclima to their portfolios in this round include Splunk Inc. GingerBread Capital, KTB Network, ACVC Partners, and the Womens VC Fund II. Existing shareholders participating in the round include Social Capital, Rethink Impact, Kapor Capital, and the Schmidt Family Foundation, the company said in a statement.


#aclima, #articles, #bosch, #brandon-middaugh, #california, #climate-change, #davida-herzl, #director, #google, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #kapor-capital, #managing-partner, #oakland, #pollution, #san-diego, #schmidt-family-foundation, #social-capital, #soil, #tc

Major Retailers in Britain Say No to Glitter for Christmas

Morrisons, John Lewis and Waitrose said they would not be using glitter in their holiday products this year. Does that really help the environment?

#christmas, #containers-and-packaging, #great-britain, #john-lewis, #morrisons, #oceans-and-seas, #plastics, #pollution, #research, #shopping-and-retail, #supermarkets-and-grocery-stores, #waitrose, #water-pollution

Kayhan Space wants to be the air traffic control service for satellites in space

Kayhan Space, the Boulder, Colo. and Atlanta-based company launched from Techstars virtual space-focused accelerator, wants nothing more than to be the air traffic control service for satellites in space.

Founded by two childhood friends, Araz Feyzi and Siamak Hesar, who grew up in Iran and immigrated to the U.S. for college, Kayhan is tackling one of the toughest problems that the space industry will confront in the coming years — how to manage the exponentially increasing traffic that will soon crowd outer space.

There are currently around 8,000 satellites in orbit around the earth, but over the next several years, Amazon will launch 3,236 satellites for its Kuiper Network, while SpaceX filed paperwork last year to launch up to 30,000 satellites. That’s… a lot of metal flying around.

And somebody needs to make sure that those satellites don’t crash into each other, because space junk has a whole other set of problems.

In some ways, Feyzi and Hesar are a perfect pair to solve the problem.

Hesar, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, has spent years studying space travel, receiving a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in aeronautics, and a doctorate in astronautical engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He interned at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and spent three years at Colorado-based satellite situational awareness and systems control technology developers like SpaceNav and Blue Canyon Technologies.

Meanwhile Feyzi is a serial entrepreneur who co-founded a company in the Atlanta area called Syfer, which developed technologies to secure internet-enabled consumer devices. Using Hesar’s proprietary algorithms based on research from his doctoral days at UC Boulder and Feyzi’s expertise in cloud computing, the company has developed a system that can predict and alert the operators of satellite networks when there’s the potential for a collision and suggest alternative paths to avoid an accident.

It’s a problem that the two founders say can’t be solved by automation on satellites alone, thanks to the complexity and multidimensional nature of the work. “Imagine that a US commercial satellite is on a collision course with a Russian military satellite,” Feyzi said. “Who needs to maneuver? We make sure the satellite operator has all the information available to them [including] here’s what we know about the collision about to happen here and here are the recommendations and options to avoid it.”

Satellites today aren’t equipped to visualize their surroundings and autonomy won’t solve a problem that includes geopolitical complexities and dumb space debris all creating a morass that requires human intervention to navigate, the founders said.

Today it’s too complex to resolve and because of the different nations and lack of standards and policy … today you need human input,” Hesar said.

And in the future, if satellites are equipped with sensors to make collision avoidance more autonomous, then Kayhan Space already has the algorithms that can provide that service. “If you think of the system and the sensors and the decision-making and [execution controls] actually performing that action… we are that,” Hesar said. “We have the algorithm whether it uses the ground-based sensor or the space-based sensor.”

Over the next eight years the space situational market is expected to reach $3.9 billion and there are very few companies equipped to provide the kind of traffic control systems that satellite network operators will need, the founders said.

Their argument was compelling enough to gain admission to the Techstars Allied Space Accelerator, an early stage investment and mentoring program developed by Techstars and the U.S. Air Force, the Netherlands Ministry of Defence, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and the Norwegian Space Agency. And, as first reported in Hypeotamus, the company has now raised $600,000 in a pre-seed funding from investors including the Atlanta-based pre-seed investment firm, Overline, to grow its business.

And the company realizes that money and technology can’t solve the problem alone.

“We believe that technology alone can help but can’t solve this problem. We need the US to take the lead [on policy] globally,” said Feyzi. “Unlike airspace… which is controlled by countries. Space is space.” Hesar agreed. “There needs to be a focused effort on this problem.”


#amazon, #articles, #atlanta, #blue-canyon-technologies, #cloud-computing, #colorado, #iran, #metal, #outer-space, #pollution, #satellite, #serial-entrepreneur, #space-debris, #space-travel, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc, #techstars, #u-s-air-force, #united-states

When the U.S. and China Fight, It Is the Environment That Suffers

The Trump administration’s moves to decouple the two economies means less leverage over Beijing’s green policies.

#air-pollution, #carbon-dioxide, #chengdu-china, #coal, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #environment, #gansu-province-china, #general-assembly-un, #global-warming, #green-climate-fund, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #hong-kong, #india, #international-trade-and-world-market, #japan, #liu-he-1952, #obama-barack, #outsourcing, #pacific-ocean, #paris-agreement, #pew-research-center, #pollution, #steel-and-iron, #united-states, #united-states-economy, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

Are Amazon Jobs Worth 1,400 Loads of Traffic? French Region Is Split

The picturesque Gard desperately needs more employment. But environmentalists are pushing back at what they see as a looming blight.

#amazon-com-inc, #e-commerce, #fournes-france, #france, #gard-france, #labor-and-jobs, #pollution, #roads-and-traffic, #unemployment

EPA issues new rules on coal plant pollution

Coal truck at a mine.

Enlarge / A truck loaded with coal is viewed at the Eagle Butte Coal Mine, which is operated by Alpha Coal, on Monday May 08, 2017, in Gillette, Wyoming. (credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

On Monday, the EPA issued updated rules on pollution limits that haven’t been updated in over 30 years. The rules cover water pollution that results from burning coal for power, pollution that can place a variety of toxic metals into the nation’s waterways. The 2020 regulations replace an Obama-era attempt to set more stringent rules to limit pollution, with the changes motivated in part by the EPA’s decision to avoid having the added costs of control measures push any coal plants out of business.

From fossil fuels to water

Coal is the dirtiest form of electricity generation, with a lot of its problems caused by the release into the air of particulates, toxic metals like mercury, and harmful environmental chemicals like sulfates. But, somewhat ironically, controlling these pollutants creates its own set of problems. Many of processes that remove these chemicals from coal plant exhaust end up with some of the exhaust components dissolved in water.

In addition, the byproduct of coal production, the coal ash, is often cooled and moved out of the plant using water, producing even more contaminated material. The list of toxic materials in this water is extensive—arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, chromium, and cadmium. These materials have a variety of health effects, and many can persist in the environment for decades or longer. The EPA has estimated that this contaminated water accounts for about 30 percent of all of the toxic pollutants releases in the United States.

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#coal, #energy, #epa, #fossil-fuels, #policy, #pollution, #science, #trump

Amazon Satellites Add to Astronomers’ Worries About the Night Sky

The F.C.C. approved the company’s 3,236-satellite constellation, which aims to provide high-speed internet service around the world.

#amazon-com-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #corporate-social-responsibility, #federal-communications-commission, #pollution, #private-spaceflight, #research, #satellites, #space-and-astronomy, #telescopes-and-observatories

Your Used Mask Needs to Make It to the Trash Can

They’re on beaches, in parking lots and on sidewalks. You probably won’t catch the coronavirus from a discarded mask, but the litter poses a risk to the environment.

#citizens-campaign-for-the-environment, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #masks, #national-parks-monuments-and-seashores, #plastic-bags, #plastics, #pollution, #protective-clothing-and-gear, #waste-materials-and-disposal, #water-pollution

EPA says incidental benefits of pollution rules don’t count

EPA says incidental benefits of pollution rules don’t count

Enlarge (credit: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In a move that it had been planning since at least last year, the EPA affirmed the existing rules that limit mercury emissions produced by power plants. But the current EPA is not interested in wasting an opportunity to weaken regulations, so it is also undercutting the economic reasoning that was initially used to justify the regulations. This mixed decision may leave the existing regulations at risk in court, and it will definitely make future regulations more difficult.

Some chemical forms of mercury are potent neurotoxins and are a clear public health risk. Power plants are a major source of emissions in the US, and so they potentially fall under the remit of the Clean Air Act. Attempts to regulate mercury emissions date back to the Clinton Administration, were dropped under Bush, and restored by Obama. A few lawsuits added further complications over the course of this history, but a key one was decided by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the Obama administration had erred by not performing an economic analysis before formulating emissions rules.

The Obama-era EPA went back and redid the rulemaking process, and the result was one of the more costly set of rules in US history. Those costs, however, paled in comparison to the benefits that would come through reduced medical costs and improved public health. Most of those benefits, however, didn’t come from the reduced mercury itself. Instead, the process of removing mercury from exhaust streams would also eliminate a lot of particulate emissions, and their absence drove many of the health benefits.

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#clean-air-act, #epa, #mercury, #policy, #pollution, #science

Will SARS-CoV-2 have a long-term impact on the climate?

Map of China with before and after satellite pollution measurements.

Enlarge / China has seen pollution levels plunge. (credit: NASA)

COVID-19 is bad for human activity and enterprise. Human activity and enterprise is bad for the environment. So since our present situation reduces human activity and enterprise, is COVID-19 good for the environment?

The cessation of manufacturing and transportation in Hubei province has caused a drop in air pollution levels all over China so dramatic—emissions were estimated to be down 25 percent—that the relative dearth of both nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide in the air can be observed from space. Most of the effect came from a sharp drop in coal burning, which still provides the bulk of energy in China. Coal is used to heat homes in rural areas there, but also to fuel power plants and industry.

However, pollution—much like the virus itself—may come roaring back after the lockdowns are lifted. This “revenge pollution” can easily negate the temporary drop in emissions we are now seeing. That’s exactly what happened in China in 2009, when the Chinese government responded to the global financial crisis with an enormous stimulus package that funded large-scale infrastructure type projects.

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#carbon-emissions, #coronavirus, #epa, #pandemic, #pollution, #science