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Posts Tagged ‘air pollution and health’

Putting a CAAP on Air Pollution (Now in St. Paul)

March 7th, 2017

The Clean Air Assistance Project (CAAP) has officially completed its first emissions reduction project!

As part of Clean Air Minnesota’s efforts to improve the state’s air quality, Environmental Initiative is working with our partners and local businesses to make proactive and voluntary improvements that benefit the environment, human health, and help our local economy transition toward a clean and efficient future. CAAP is part of the Area Source Team within Clean Air Minnesota that helps smaller, more localized sources of pollution reduce their emissions. Our first project was with Raymond Auto Body Shop in St. Paul.

Smog, smells, and solvents

Raymond Auto Body has been painting cars in St. Paul for over 60 years. Historically, paints used in auto body shops are usually made from solvents. What are solvents? They usually come with names like “n-butyl acetate,” “xylene,” or “2-methoxy-1-methylethyl acetate.” Rolls right off the tongue, right? Basically, it’s the stuff that makes that spray paint smell.

Solvents evaporate faster than water, shortening the drying time needed to finish painting cars. Unfortunately, they’re also harmful to the environment and human health. These solvents are also called VOCs: Volatile Organic Compounds. When these VOCs are released into the air, they mix with other pollutants and cause ground-level ozone, also known as smog. Smog is bad. How bad? Breathing in smog has been described as the equivalent of “sunburn on your lungs.” So basically, solvent VOCs mix with other compounds in the air to make smog, which isn’t great.

But good news! The project with Raymond Auto Body switched their solvent-based paint to a water-based paint. This is a relatively new technology, but one that many states in violation of federal air quality standards are required to make. It does take a little more effort to make sure the paint booth has enough clean and dry air moving fast enough to make that water evaporate quickly (especially on a hot and humid summer day). This means that switching to waterborne paint usually requires upgrading the air blowers in the booth.

Raymond Auto Body—Exciting for 3 Reasons

This particular project is a real humdinger.

For starters, it’s exciting to get the first CAAP project under the belt! We’ve worked to promote and utilize other programs before (like the Minneapolis Green Business Cost Share Program and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) Small Business Environmental Assistance Program), but this was the first one Environmental Initiative took from start to finish using our own funding.

Second, it’s a big project! What we’ve historically seen from similar conversion projects are VOC reductions ranging from 45 – 65%! We’ll know more when the numbers come in for 2017, but for a shop like Raymond, we’re conservatively looking at tons of emissions reductions.

Third, this project is emblematic of what we’re trying to do with our air work. According to the MPCA’s Life and Breath Report, negative health impacts of air pollution fall disproportionately on lower-income residents and people of color, as well as the elderly, children, and those predisposed to respiratory illness. Raymond Auto Body is right off Lexington and W. Pierce Butler Route, a location the Metropolitan Council identified as an area of concentrated poverty. It’s also located in a corridor that has historically been affected by heavy industrial use. In short, these emission are being eliminated where Minnesotans feel the effects of air pollution more acutely.

Get Involved

While we’re celebrating this project and CAAP’s successful rollout, the last thing we want to do is rest on our heels. In fact, we’re already chasing down our next auto body project in St. Paul and looking for additional opportunities in the Metro. Know of any? Give us a call or e-mail and see if we can bring a similar success to your neck of the woods.

The Clean Air Assistance Program is made possible through generous contributions and support from our partners, 3M and Western Refining.

Bjorn Olson

POSTED BY:

Senior Environmental Project Associate

Project Stove Swap Heats Up

February 6th, 2017

It’s been an amazing year for Project Stove Swap! Looking back at where this project started, I could not be happier with the results we’ve seen and where we’re headed.

Where We’ve Been

If you don’t know, Project Stove Swap operates under the umbrella of Clean Air Minnesota—a diverse coalition of air quality leaders working to reduce emissions by 10%. While Clean Air Minnesota partners identified wood smoke as a crucial area for emissions reductions, no funding was available for a project.

Recognizing that many of Northeastern Minnesota residents rely on wood as a heat and energy source, Environmental Initiative and partners decided it was the perfect region to implement a wood smoke reduction effort and, with help from Minnesota Power and a large network of regional partners, Project Stove Swap was born.

WHERE WE ARE

Now, a year or so later, we’ve officially launched Project Stove Swap in 17 Northeastern Minnesota counties. In short, Project Stove Swap provides financial incentives to consumers and businesses to replace older wood heating appliances with more efficient, less-polluting technologies.

Last week, Environmental Initiative staff and partners came together at one of the project’s vendors, Duluth Stove and Fireplace, to commemorate the launch. We heard from store co-owner Matt Boo, Environmental Initiative’s Mike Harley, Amy Rutledge of Minnesota Power, and Allison Rajala Ahcan about the importance of the project from an environmental and economic perspective.

You can read and watch the news coverage of the event below.

WHERE WE’RE GOING

Since the official launch, our phones have been ringing and ringing from residents, businesses, and stove vendors wanting to participate. I’m always working on getting vendors set up with the project, so if you don’t have a Project Stove Swap vendor in your county, you will soon!

Even beyond this last week’s media coverage, the goal has always been to expand the project and reach the whole state. All Minnesotans should reap the benefits of a newer, cleaner heating alternative. After all, it does get pretty cold here, so any way we can help people be safer, pollute less, and support local businesses is always a good thing. I can’t wait to share all the stories that come out of Project Stove Swap with you, so stayed tuned.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

In the Air: December News

December 27th, 2016

Welcome to this month’s installment of Environmental Initiative’s new blog series focused on the environmental, economic, and health effects of air pollution. Think of this series as an easy way to keep up on the latest local and global air quality stories.

Here are the headlines and reporting that caught our attention this month – including an air quality success from the City of Minneapolis Green Business Cost Share Program and why reducing soot emissions could be a quick win for the climate:

school bus tail pipesFinance & Commerce
Minneapolis helps businesses cut pollution »

The Guardian
Why cutting soot emissions is ‘fastest solution’ to slowing Arctic ice melt »

Time
Beijing’s Air Pollution is Frightening. This video shows how bad it gets »

The Economic Times
How much does air pollution cost in India? 3 percent of its GDP. »

Spot a story worth sharing? Leave a comment below or send me a note and we’ll consider it for a future post.

Photo credit: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

In the Air: November News

November 30th, 2016

Welcome to the second installment of a new, monthly blog series focused on the environmental, economic, and health effects of air pollution exposure. Think of this as an easy way to keep up to date on air quality news.

In this month’s issue, learn about vulnerable populations, how trees can cut air pollution, and the first EV shuttle bus fleet.

AIR QUALITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT


Study: Tree planting pays off for Minneapolis, other cities

A study conducted by The Nature Conservancy found that Minneapolis was among 16 North American cities where there is a return on investment for planting trees. They provide both a cooling effect and significant reductions in air pollution. Read MPR’s coverage »

Rise in global carbon emissions slows

The Scientific American reports, “While Americans used more oil and gas in 2015, the United States decreased emissions by 2.6 percent as the use of coal declined. Researchers expect to see a decrease in emissions of 1.7 percent in 2016.” Read the full story »

 

AIR QUALITY AND THE ECONOMY

School bus
First ever EV shuttle bus fleet launches

EV company Proterra and real estate company JLL are partnering to create an electric bus fleet in Chicago. The new fleet of 10 electric buses is more economical the first all-electric shuttle fleet to operate in the United States. Learn more »

Introducing Project Stove Swap  

Project Stove Swap provides financial incentives to residents, businesses, and organizations to replace old appliances with more efficient, less-polluting technologies. Read more about Project Stove Swap and how your organization can become more efficient »

A step toward producing cleaner air

Mathiowetz Construction in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota partnered with Project Green Fleet to retrofit one of their loaders.  Learn more about their commitment to cleaner air »

 

AIR QUALITY AND HEALTH


300M Children are breathing extremely toxic air, UNICEFF says

According to a UNICEFF report released this month, it is estimated that 300 million children around the world are breathing toxic air. Children are among the populations most vulnerable to air pollution’s health effects, and many of the affected live in areas “where outdoor air pollution exceeds international guidelines by at least six times.”

Air pollution linked to blood vessel damage in healthy young adults

While we know air pollution can impact vulnerable populations, like children and the elderly, a new study from the University of Louisville reports that fine particulate matter may be associated with blood vessel damage among young, healthy adults. Read the report »

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

In the Air: October News

October 31st, 2016

Welcome to a new blog series!

Every month, we’ll be keeping you up to date with the latest in air quality news. Think of this as your one-stop shop for air news, with special focus on the environmental, economic, and health effects of air pollution exposure.

In this month’s issue, learn about local air quality heroes, how clean air legislation affects the way we see the world, and how science is advancing around air pollution and health.

Air Quality and the Environment


Alternate Reality: U.S. Cities without The Clean Air Act

In a weird, alternate reality, you can see two versions of major U.S. skylines: one with The Clean Air Act, and one without. The results? The Statue of Liberty would be “submerged in a sea of smog” without the legislation. See the eerie photos for yourself »


Mathiowetz Construction Invests in Cleaner Air

A construction company in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota took the steps to invest in clean air with Project Green Fleet. Pollution reductions from their diesel equipment upgrades are equal to removing 2,200 cars from the road each year in Minnesota. Read about their accomplishments »

 

Air Quality and the Economy


Judge Approves VW’s $14.7 Billion Settlement Over Emissions Scandal

Earlier this month, a federal judge approved the “largest civil settlement in automaker history” with Volkswagen in regard to their vehicle emissions. The process of compensating U.S. car-owners is beginning now. NPR covers this historic settlement »


Clean Car Standards Continue to Save Americans Money, Reduce Air Pollution

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, consumers will save an estimated 1.7 trillion dollars in gas money over the life of the current federal Clean Car Standards. In doing so, we’ll eliminate 6 billion metric tons of air pollution. Read more about how consumers benefit from the Clean Car Standards »

 

Air Quality and Health


In New Ozone Alert, A Warning of Harm to Plants and to People

Midwest scientists continue to discover the negative effects air pollution can have on the environment and our bodies. As the world warms, ground-level ozone is causing plants to “turn brown and sickly,” and is having negative health outcomes in people as well. Ozone is both a naturally occurring and human-created gas, but on the ground level, it can be highly toxic. Learn more »


Air Pollution a Risk Factor for Diabetes, Say Researchers

A new study suggests air pollution exposure in a place of residence can increase the risk of developing insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic state. As science advances, we discover more about how air pollution affects us, and federal air regulations can become more stringent as a result. Read the study »

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

Community Meeting on Equitable Air

June 8th, 2016

On Monday, June 20, Congressman Ellison will gather leaders working on air pollution to discuss equity and air quality.EquitableAirFlyer

EVENT DETAILS

Monday, June 20, 2016
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Nellie Stone Johnson Community School
807 N 27th Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55411

Map & Directions »

The air we breathe is something many people take for granted. But in the industrial parts of North, South, and Southeast, the air is too frequently anything but fresh.

A joint Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Health study estimates air pollution contributes to roughly 2,000 deaths, 400 hospitalizations, and 600 emergency room visits in Minnesota every year. We also know the negative health impacts of air pollution are not shared equally. One study found that 8% of childhood asthma cases in Los Angeles were a result of living within 250 feet to major roadways.

We hope to see you along with our staff and Clean Air Minnesota partners for this important conversation about air quality and equity. Panelists will include Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner John Linc Stine and Minneapolis Commissioner of Health Gretchen Musicant, as well as organizers working on environmental justice. There will be a large amount of time dedicated to answering questions and listening to testimony from the community.

Questions? Contact Nicky Leingang, Community Representative and Staff Assistant for Congressman Keith Ellison at (612)-522-1212.

Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

We’re an Air Aware Employer. Are you?

May 4th, 2016

Let’s be honest. Minnesota isn’t Beijing or New Dehli. Our air quality is generally good and we currently meet all federal regulations for clean air. But, do you know what is a little bit scary? Scientists are observing negative health effects from lower and lower levels of pollution. A recent headline even links polluted air to weight gain. Seriously.

Dirty air and its connection to our health are just one of the reasons why Environmental Initiative is committed to working with our Clean Air Minnesota partners to voluntarily reduce emissions – regardless of where federal air quality standards are set. And, it’s why we’ve signed up to be an Air Aware employer. air-aware-badge-300-134

The Be Air Aware employer program is a cooperative effort of Minnesota state government agencies and their partners. The goal is to help raise awareness, to share information on days when air is unhealthy, and to pass along ideas for how you and your employees can help minimize air pollution. As a participant in the program you’ll:

  • Receive air quality alerts to share with your employees on days when air quality is poor
  • Get tips on how employees can minimize their exposure to and help reduce air pollution
  • Receive notice of new stories posted on BeAirAwareMN.org
  • Receive BeAirAwareMN.org promotional items for your website and social media accounts
  • Join a network of like-minded employers committed to clean air

On days when air quality is poor, it might not be healthy for your employees or their children to exercise outdoors. Through Be Air Aware, you’ll be notified of air quality conditions in Minnesota, which will keep your employees informed so they can minimize their exposure to air pollution.

I’m the contact person at Environmental Initiative who receives information from Be Air Aware. I pass along messages and tips from Be Air Aware to the Environmental Initiative staff. Easy, right? Since the program’s launch, 17 organizations have joined, connecting with more than 30,000 employees. Will you?

May 2 – May 6 is Air Quality Awareness week. What better way to celebrate than to sign up for the program and keep your employees informed?

Contact Rebecca Place at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to become a Be Air Aware employer or to learn more.

Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

Asthma and Air Quality in North Minneapolis

February 6th, 2015

I’m thrilled to share that Environmental Initiative has been invited to participate in an upcoming forum on health and the environment with Congressman Keith Ellison.event flier

EVENT DETAILS
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Shiloh Temple
1201 West Broadway Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55411

We know air pollution, from fine particles to ozone forming chemicals, have an adverse impact on our health and quality of life. More research in recent years has shown that poor air quality is linked to asthma and other negative health impacts.

The compounding issues that lead to high asthma rates are complicated, but we also know the adverse impacts of air pollution are not shared equally. One study found that 8% of childhood asthma cases in Los Angeles were a result of living within 250 feet to major roadways.

I will be speaking about actions Clean Air Minnesota partners are taking to voluntarily address poor air quality as part of a panel discussion on the causes of asthma and what our community is doing to address the issue. Other panelists include:

  • Assistant Commissioner David Thornton, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Shirlynn LaChapelle, Minnesota Black Nurses Association
  • Dan Huff, City of Minneapolis Health Department
  • Karen Monahan, Sierra Club

I hope you can participate in this important conversation. The event is free and open to all who wish to attend. Feel free to contact me to learn more, or call Congressman Keith Ellison’s office at 612-522-1212.

Gena Gerard

POSTED BY:

Director, Clean Air Program
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