Archive for the ‘Health’ Category
Smartest Thing You Can Do Is Dump Your Car
By Stephen Leahy
Uxbridge Cosmos, Feb 2013
Cars and trucks are extraordinarily expensive. The full cost of driving 100 km is between between $50 and $75 when fuel, wear and tear, insurance, depreciation, and repairs are included. The cost of owning and operating a car, van, SUV or truck ranges between $9,000 to $15,000 a year depending on the purchase price of the vehicle according to automobile clubs like the CAA . That’s a big chunk of aftertax income spent each and every year. Double this for two-car families.
If you pay $50 at the pump about $33 will go directly to oil companies. The gas station gets around a dollar and the rest is for provincial and federal taxes.
Finally ask yourself how many hours a day your vehicle isn’t being used? Most are parked 22 hours a day.
Why not your car a day off once a week? A No Car Day is easy to do, saves money and reduces emissions of climate-heating carbon dioxide (CO2). The average passenger vehicle emits around 4.8 tonnes of CO2 a year.
The biggest savings by far is to get rid of one vehicle. When you consider the full costs of ownership, the $9 000 to $15,000 saved will let you rent vehicles or taking taxi as needed with plenty of cash left over. For maximum savings use the bus or train. A bus from Uxbridge is only $10 to downtown Toronto. By car that 75 km trip really costs $45 not including parking.
New study – drive less lose weight guaranteed: If drivers nationwide traveled 1 mile less by car each day, not only would fuel consumption fall, but annual health care costs could drop by billions of dollars as fewer people would be classified as obese or overweight, Jacobson estimates.
My related articles:
Source: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 13 Oct 2012
Exposure to air pollution from traffic during infancy is associated with lung function deficits in children up to eight years of age, particularly among children sensitized to common allergens, according to a new study.
“Earlier studies have shown that children are highly susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution and suggest that exposure early in life may be particularly harmful,” said researcher Göran Pershagen, MD, PhD, professor at the Karolinska Institutet Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden.
“In our prospective birth cohort study in a large population of Swedish children, exposure to traffic-related air pollution during infancy was associated with decreases in lung function at age eight, with stronger effects indicated in boys, children with asthma and particularly in children sensitized to allergens.”
The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The study included more than 1,900 children who were followed from birth through age eight. ….
“Our study shows that early exposure to traffic-related air pollution has long-term adverse effects on respiratory health in children, particularly among atopic children,” concluded Dr. Pershagen.
“These results add to a large body of evidence demonstrating the detrimental effects of air pollution on human health.”
Blast from the past: my previously published article on topic that’s back on front pages – Stephen
By Stephen Leahy
Scientists reported this week that gull eggs in the Great Lakes region contain rising levels of a contaminant that could be as dangerous as the PCBs banned in the 1970s.
The contaminant, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, is used mainly as a flame retardant in upholstered furniture, computers, TVs, carpets and drapes.
While concentrations of the chemical have been shooting upward, doubling approximately every three years since the early 1980s, scientists have yet to investigate the environmental risks the substance poses.
Ross Norstrom, an adjunct chemistry professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, told the Toronto Globe and Mail that, “There is no reason to believe that these things will be any different than the PCBs.”
High levels of PBDEs are also being found in household dust, two new studies report this week. “PBDEs are everywhere,” said Bill Walker of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research group in Washington, D.C., that conducted one of the studies.
“They’re crumbling out of couches and migrating out of plastics and TVs and getting into people’s blood and women’s breast milk,” Walker said in an interview. PBDEs are also being detected in just about every animal and fish around the world.
Lab research on animals shows PBDEs disrupt thyroid hormones, which can impact the developing brain and have other harmful effects. Newborn mice exposed to PBDEs have learning and motor-skill problems, and at least one form of the chemical is carcinogenic.
European countries have banned two of the three main forms of PBDEs, and U.S. manufacturers are also taking them off the market by year’s end. New research shows that the most heavily used remaining form, called “deca,” breaks down into one of the more toxic forms and ought to be banned as well, Walker said.
Many computer and electronics manufacturers such as IBM, Apple Computer and Toshiba are ahead of the curve and eliminating PBDEs from their products. “It also makes good economic sense because other countries are banning them too,” said Walker.
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 3, 2012 (IPS)
In northern Pakistan, one in ten children dies before the age of five from diseases such as polio, measles or hepatitis, despite the availability of vaccines. And while health workers feared visiting this region, which includes the mountainous Swat district controlled by the Taliban until 2009, local people also fear the potentially life-saving vaccines.
“Some local imams (religious leaders) have been preaching that vaccines are an attempt by the U.S. government to sterilise children,” said Erfaan Hussein Babak, director of The Awakening project, which aims to promote vaccinations in the Swat district.
“The child mortality rate from preventable diseases is distressingly high,” Babak told IPS by phone from the region.
Some people in the region understand that vaccines are safe, but overall, there is little demand by parents for vaccinations, he said. To counter certain negative perceptions, The Awakening project is working to promote child vaccination by establishing village health committees, school clubs and radio programs.
The project is being funded by the Canada-based Sandra Rotman Centre as one of five projects awarded 10,000 U.S. dollars to educate populations in developing countries about the use of vaccines and immunisation to prevent diseases.
By 2004, polio had nearly been eradicated in Pakistan. However, the disease has seen a resurgence in the northern areas, in part due to the mistaken belief that the oral vaccine could render children impotent or sterile. Read the rest of this entry »
“In a warmer world, there will be more fire”
Fires already burn an area larger than India every year.
By Stephen Leahy
VANCOUVER, Feb 29, 2012 (IPS)
Rising temperatures are drying out northern forests and peatlands, producing bigger and more intense fires. And this will only get much worse as the planet heats up from the use of ever larger amounts of fossil fuels, scientists warned last week at the end of the major science meeting in Vancouver.
“In a warmer world, there will be more fire. That’s a virtual certainty,” said Mike Flannigan, a forest researcher at the University of Alberta, Canada.
“I’d say a doubling or even tripling of fire events is a conservative estimate,” Flannigan told IPS.
While Flannigan’s research reveals forest fire risk may triple in future, a similar increase in peat fires will be far more dangerous. There are millions of square kilometres of tundra and peatlands in the northern hemisphere and they hold more than enough carbon to ramp up global temperatures high enough to render most of the planet uninhabitable if they burn.
A forest fire in Indonesia that ignited peatlands in 1997 smouldered for months, releasing the equivalent of 20 to 40 percent of the worldwide fossil fuel emissions for the entire year, he said.
“There is the potential for significant releases of carbon and other greenhouse gases (from future peat fires),” Flannigan said.
If peat fires release large amounts of carbon, then temperatures will rise faster and higher, leading to further drying of forests and peat, and increasing the likelihood of fires in what is called a positive feedback, he said.
When the increased fire from global warming was first detected in 2006, Johann Goldammer of the Global Fire Monitoring Center at Germany’s Freiburg University called the northern forest a “carbon bomb”.
“It’s sitting there waiting to be ignited, and there is already ignition going on,” Goldammer said according to media reports in 2006.
Please put something in the tip jar before reading on. This is how I make my living.
Environment budget slashed while PM Harper’s office places a gag order on government scientists. (And a $60 billion order for military equipment)
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 9, 2011 (IPS)
Canada’s Stephen Harper government is spending more than 60 billion dollars on new military jets and warships while slashing more than 200 million dollars in funding for research and monitoring of the environment.
Amongst the programmes now crippled is Canada’s internationally renowned ozone monitoring network, which was instrumental in the discovery of the first-ever ozone hole over Canada last spring. Loss of ozone has been previously linked to increases in skin cancer.
“The proposed cuts go so far the network won’t be able to do serious science,” said Thomas Duck, an atmospheric scientist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.
Canada was the pioneer in ozone monitoring, developing the first accurate ozone measuring tool that led to the discovery that the world’s ozone layer was dangerously thinning in the 1970s, which in turn led to the successful Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.
Canada has about one-third of the ozone monitoring stations in the Arctic region. It also hosts the world archive of ozone data, which is heavily relied on by scientists around the world.
“There’s only one guy running the entire archive, and he’s received a lay-off notice letter,” Duck told IPS.
Ozone monitoring and research is part of Environment Canada, the government department charged with protecting the environment, conservation and providing weather and meteorological information.
“Canada can’t afford to pay scientists but we can line the pockets of big oil?
That is totally backwards.”
Update March 2013: Changes in legislation are urgently needed to reduce traffic deaths, and especially among the most vulnerable, says Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013: Supporting a Decade of Action, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and including data on the Americas gathered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). See also Fact sheets on road safety in the Americas – Stephen
More than 16,000 people killed or injured on roads EVERY day
Health costs $500 billion ++
By Stephen Leahy
LEIPZIG, Germany, May 31, 2011 (IPS)
The leading killer of children over the age of five is not malaria or dysentery, but cars and trucks. And ninety percent of those children are killed on roads in developing countries.
Each day, 3,500 people are killed and 13,700 injured in road accidents around the world. That death and injury toll is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent over the next decade without serious efforts to improve road safety, says Etienne Krug, director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability at the World Health Organization (WHO).
Krug was here in Leipzig to the launch of the United Nations the Decade of Action for Road Safety at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual International Transport Forum. The goal for the U.N. Decade is to stabilise the spiralling increase in death and injuries on the world’s roads.
“We have the potential to save five million of lives over the next decade through changes in road safety,” Krug told IPS.
“A cultural shift is needed to create the awareness of the need for road safety,” he said.
Around 90 percent of all road fatalities occur in emerging and developing countries, making it the sixth leading cause of death in those countries. The lack of road safety laws and enforcement combined with increasing vehicle usage and population growth are the major reasons for this, said Krug.
Only 15 percent of countries in the world have good legislation on drinking and driving or use of helmets when driving scooters and motorcycles. “We want to push that to 50 percent by the 2020,” he said.
Legislation and enforcement can make a huge difference. Vietnam enacted a helmet law two years ago and the use of helmets went from only 20 percent to over 90 percent, he said. Brazil recently enacted strict drinking and driving laws, while Mexico has made wearing seatbelts mandatory.
“Much more of this is needed,” he said.
Read the rest of this entry »
Climate disruption shrinking areas where people can live.
Mexico faces $10 billion in storm/flood damage to roads, schools, clinics, etc every year
By Stephen Leahy
OSLO, Jun 9, 2011 (IPS)
Mass migration will inevitably be part of human adaptation to climate change, experts agree, since parts of the world will become uninhabitable in the coming decades.
Last year, 38 million people were displaced by climate-related disasters such as the flooding in Pakistan and China.
“Human displacement due to climate change is happening now. There is no need to debate it,” Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway’s minister of foreign affairs, told over 200 delegates attending the Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century in Oslo Jun. 6-7.
Governments and the humanitarian community need to understand this fact – and that it will get much worse in the coming decades, Støre said.
Without major emissions reductions, climate change could get far worse than anyone is prepared to think about.
“It may be more realistic to consider four degrees C of warming rather than two degrees C,” suggested Harald Dovland, former head of the Norwegian Delegation to the United Nations climate change negotiations.
The world has already warmed 0.8C and will rise to least 1.6 C even if all emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases ended today, James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the conference.
A four-degree C warmer world is a very different planet and risks runaway climate change. Even two degrees C is not safe, Hansen said.
“The last time the planet was two degrees C warmer was during the Pliocene (five to 2.4 million years ago) and sea levels were 25 metres higher,” he said. “If we burn all the fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) we’re creating conditions that future generations will be unable to cope with.”
Even though a four-degree C warmer world “is choosing the suicidal path”, experts must avoid fuelling xenophobia with predictions of mass migrations and conflicts, says Francois Gemenne, research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris.
“This also feeds into a security agenda of panic and paranoia,” Gemenne said.
At least 20 percent of humanity will be at high risk of severe flooding due to sea level rise and extreme rainfall events in the coming decades.
“Too many people live in low-lying deltas and other parts of the world that are becoming too dangerous to live in,” said Gemenne. They will be forced to move and often this movement will be permanent.
Rather than building walls and barriers, countries and the international community need to encourage people to move to safer ground. “Lift the barriers so that people can use migration to adapt to climate change,” he urged delegates. Read the rest of this entry »
[This is a repost about the financial costs and risks of nuclear technology (written before the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant disaster). If a country is going to spend $10 billion to generate energy and reduce carbon emissions what technology truly offers the best return on a full cost-accounting basis? The latter calculation is not simple or uncontroversial. Two years ago Canada balked at the costs of new nuclear plants now it plans to build some without knowing the price tag. -- Stephen ]
By Stephen Leahy*
BERLIN, Jul 31, 2009 (IPS)
With costs of nuclear energy skyrocketing while the costs of renewables are falling quickly why is nuclear energy back on the table?
One reason is a powerful U.S. lobby where 14 energy companies spent 48 million dollars in 2007 alone to convince American politicians to give the industry huge loan guarantees because they cannot get financing anywhere else, says Ellen Vancko, a nuclear energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a U.S.-based non governmental organisation (NGO).
This lavish lobbying effort by the energy and nuclear power sector has been ongoing since the mid-1990s, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a U.S. NGO and now totals at least 953 million dollars.
Even more has been spent to convince the public that nuclear is one of the keys to energy security so that there is significant public support for new reactors, a Gallup Environment Poll reported this year.
“There are lots of senators and members of congress talking about nuclear as a clean, renewable energy resource,” Vancko says.
The other reason is the French.
France gets about 77 percent of its power from 58 reactors and is often cited as the model for other countries. “France is a special case. The entire industry is 85 percent owned by the government,” says Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based energy and nuclear policy analyst.
The industry gets direct and indirect subsidies, government loans and loan guarantees “on practically anything they want”, Schneider told IPS.
And despite a well-polished reputation for efficiency and low-cost, the French nuclear industry has been plagued by cost-overruns, equipment failures, and relatively low levels of reliability. Even though French reactors are all of similar design, the cost to build a plant in 1998 was 3.5 times higher than the first plants built in 1974, says Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich in the U.K.
Unlike wind or solar energy or virtually any other technology, the costs of nuclear go up over time rather than down even in pro-nuclear France, he said. “I think that is rather telling about the technology,” Thomas told IPS.
The current Finnish nuclear experience echoes the industry’s long history.
Backed byFrench government loan guarantees, Areva, the French government-owned nuclear energy company began construction in 2005 on what is supposed to be the world’s largest and safest nuclear plant at Olkiluoto, Finland.
Plagued by thousands of construction and design problems it is currently 2 to 3 billion dollars over budget and three to four years behind schedule.
“It’s a total disaster for Areva,” Schneider says. Areva will have to sell another 12 reactors to cover the cost overruns thus far or else French taxpayers will, he said.
“The hype around a nuclear power revival or renaissance was based on nothing and is effectively dead.”
Last month Canada backed out of ordering two 1,200-megawatt reactors because cost estimates of 10,000 dollars/kW were three times higher than expected. [update Feb 2011 - Ontario now holding hearings to spend $33 billion to build two new reactors and upgrade others and bans offshore wind!]
However there is real danger that the nuclear industry will continue to promote itself as a ‘silver-bullet’ solution to climate change and give politicians the kind of mega-projects that gets them publicity, warns Schneider.
Equally important is that corporate shareholders of large utility companies can do very well financially on such projects when governments guarantee to cover any losses.
“The worst thing about new nuclear is that it steals billions of public dollars from other more effective things like energy efficiency,” he says.
(Second of two part series)
By Stephen Leahy
LIVERPOOL, Apr 29, 2010 (IPS)
Poor intervention in Injecting drug use (IDU) is driving the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Eastern Europe and is also largely responsible for the tuberculosis epidemic in parts of Russia, says a new study.
Shockingly, a mere three US cents a day per injecting drug user are being invested to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and TB, according to the study released at the opening of the Harm Reduction 2010 conference this week in this English port city.
“Our report shows that just 160 million US dollars a year are being used in total for all the harm reduction programmes to prevent the spread of HIV around the world,” says Gerry Stimson, executive director of the International Harm Reduction Association.
Harm reduction involves providing access to the drug methadone, needle exchange services, and counselling. “Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration cost at least that much,” Stimson, emeritus professor at the Imperial College, London, told IPS in an interview.
In Russia there are an estimated 1.6 million IDUs of which 60 to 70 percent have HIV-related illnesses. In the past decade the number of HIV-infected people increased tenfold from an estimated 100,000 to one million, he said.
“Three cents a day is a terrifying figure and equally terrifying are the HIV infection rates amongst IDUs in parts of Eastern Europe and Asia.“
See rest of story here: HEALTH: Injecting Drug Use Spreads HIV in Eastern Europe