Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Greek economic crisis leads to air pollution crisis

20.12.2013
Levels of dangerous air particulates jump 30 percent as people turn to burning cheaper fuel sources

In the midst of a winter cold snap, a study from researchers in the United States and Greece reveals an overlooked side effect of economic crisis – dangerous air quality caused by burning cheaper fuel for warmth.

The researchers, led by Constantinos Sioutas of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, show that the concentration of fine air particles in one of Greece's economically hardest hit areas has risen 30 percent since the financial crisis began, leading to potential long-term health effects.

These fine particles – measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter (approximately 1/30th the diameter of a human hair) – are especially dangerous because they can lodge deep into the tissue of lungs, according to the EPA.

"People need to stay warm, but face decreasing employment and rising fuel costs," explained Sioutas, senior author of the study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and Fred Champion Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the USC Viterbi School. "The problem is economic hardship has compelled residents to burn low quality fuel, such as wood and waste materials, that pollutes the air."

Unemployment in Greece climbed above 27 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, heating oil prices have nearly tripled in Greece during the Greek financial crisis of the last few years – driven in part by a fuel tax hike. Cold Greeks, it would appear (according to the air quality), have turned to wood as a major fuel source.

In their study, the researchers collected air samples that supported anecdotal evidence of Greek residents burning of wood and trash for heating. Taken over two-month stretches in Winter 2012 and again in Winter 2013, the samples reveal a dramatic increase in airborne fine particles since the beginning of the economic crisis.

The concentration of these particles, which has been linked to increased risk for heart disease and respiratory problems, rose from 26 to 36 micrograms per square meter over the study period, the researchers found. The EPA standard in the United States is an average of 20 micrograms per square meter over a 24-hour period. Worse yet, the concentrations of carcinogenic organic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) increased five-fold during the study period, the researchers found.

The concentration of the particulates was highest in the evening, presumably when more people were burning fuel for warmth, the study found. An analysis of the air samples also showed a two-to-five-fold increase in the airborne concentrations of organic compounds such as levoglucosan, mannosan and galactosan, which indicate the burning of biomass. The presence of these compounds has been strongly correlated in past research to oxidative stress in human cells, which is linked to inflammation, aging and the development of age-related diseases.

"Wood's cheap, but it's having a major negative impact on air quality," Sioutas said. The authors recommend active involvement of public authorities and local agencies to implement effective air pollution control strategies. They suggest increasing natural gas distribution in residential areas as a practical long-term solution. Catalytic domestic wood burners and increasing the energy efficiency of existing buildings might be additional possible solutions, according to the report.

Sioutas collaborated with researchers from USC, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the study. Arian Saffari, a Provost PhD fellow at the USC Viterbi School, is lead author of the study. The research was funded by the USC Provost, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the City of Thessaloniki Mayor's office.

Robert Perkins | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.usc.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>