Tag Archives: air quality

Summer can be deadly for older adults

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Olivia Notter via Flickr

Summertime and the living is easy – sometimes.

While most of us look forward to the warmer weather and participating in outdoor activities, summer is not always kind to older adults. Moreover, despite what seems like an annual warning about the dangerous effects of hot temperatures and poor air quality on seniors, there are still too many reports of older people hospitalized or dying from heat-related causes. That’s why it’s still a good idea to remind everyone that summertime isn’t always so easy.

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Blame trucks, not just factories, for industrial pollution in Seattle

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Spurred by a few recent studies, InvestigateWest’s Robert McClure and KCTS-Seattle’s Jenny Cunningham launched an investigation to figure out just what has made Puget Sound’s air some of the most toxic in the nation. Their work centered on the heavily polluted, industrial Seattle neighborhoods of Georgetown and South Park, where residents “face an onslaught of toxic airborne pollutants that according to a recent study exceed regulatory caution levels by up to 30 times.”

Where is this toxic air coming from? The answer may surprise you. The majority of the pollution, government regulators and scientists say, comes not from the large concentration of industrial facilities in South Park and Georgetown. Rather, it’s from the cars, trucks and buses whizzing by these neighborhoods – especially those with diesel engines. Fumes from ships in Elliott Bay and the Duwamish, as well as diesel-powered equipment at the Port of Seattle and elsewhere, add to the toxic mix. In the fall and winter, wood smoke from fireplaces becomes a significant contributor.

The problems here have implications in other neighborhoods, too: Anywhere people are living close to major roadways, they’re likely breathing unhealthy air, studies show. Anyone living within about 200 yards of a major roadway is thought to be at increased risk, with the first 100 yards being the hottest pollution zone.

Watch the full episode. See more KCTS 9 Connects.

Reporters looking to localize the story will probably want to scroll first to the “The Effects” section, which gets into the practical science of how this sort of pollution takes its toll. You’ll probably also enjoy Cunningham’s sidebar on what she learned in reporting the piece (it’s at the bottom of the page). If you’re also looking to understand the regional and national regulatory structure which governs diesel and related emissions, the “Solutions” subheading is also worth a pit stop.

For more on the big picture issues impacting health in South Seattle, see Carol Smith’s recent piece on the related Superfund site.

APHA: Transportation policies impact health

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Transportation policies and public health are inextricably linked, according to a new report released by the American Public Health Association.

traffic-and-health

Photo by Nrbelex via Flickr

The Hidden Health Costs of Transportation” (PDF) attempts to put a dollar amount on the cost of transportation-related health outcomes and explores how such policies affect public health.

Our dependence on automobiles and roadways has profound negative impacts on human health: decreased opportunities for physical activity, and increased exposure to air pollution, and the number of traffic crashes. The health costs associated with these impacts, including costs associated with loss of work days and wages, pain and suffering, and premature death, may be as high as several hundred billion dollars.

The report lists other things that are impacted by transportation policy, such as noise, water quality, mental health and/or stress, equity and social capital or social cohesion.

The report cites a 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office that recommended the United States refocus its transportation planning to incorporate cost-benefit analyses and the APHA says those analyses should take health costs into account.

Perhaps somewhat predictably, the report says “Investment should shift toward transit, pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure in order to facilitate healthy, equitable and environmentally sound mobility.”