From: Science News, Aug. DAY, 2008

Cancer-causing agents’ interaction with nanoparticles could make the chemicals as harmful as cigarette smoke, lab study suggests

By Davide Castelvecchi

The daily exposure to free radicals from car exhaust, smokestacks and even your neighbors’ barbecue could be as harmful as smoking, according to a new study. Many combustion processes, such as those in a car, create tiny particles that may act as brewing pots and carriers for free radicals — chemicals believed to cause lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

The findings are from Barry Dellinger of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, who reported them August 17 in Philadelphia during a meeting of the American Chemical Society. Whether the exposure equates to smoking one cigarette or as many as two packs a day remains difficult to determine, he added.

His team’s lab experiments — first described in the July 1 Environmental Science & Technology — suggest that noxious chemicals form on soot nanoparticles in the still-hot residue of combustion, for example inside a car’s exhaust pipe and catalytic converter.

The chemicals are hydrocarbon-based free radicals called semiquinones.
Similar chemicals usually degrade quickly if they float solo. But in this case, the chemicals stay attached to the nanoparticles, and they linger in the air for much longer than previously thought. “To our enormous surprise, the free radicals survive hours, days, even indefinitely,” Dellinger says.

To mimic the conditions in car exhaust as it cools, Dellinger’s team used silica particles 100 nanometers wide and coated them with copper oxide. The team then exposed the particles to a hot gas — experimenting with a range of different temperatures — containing hydrocarbons typically produced in flames. All those ingredients are common in the exhaust of motor vehicles and factories.

The researchers then examined the nanoparticles with magnetic fields tuned to identify unpaired electrons, the feature that makes free radicals highly reactive and potentially dangerous for living cells.
The data showed a signature typical of free radicals and similar to that of semiquinone, a free radical found in cigarette smoke.

The free radicals, however, only showed up when the initial ingredients had been mixed together at temperatures between 200 and 600 degrees Celsius. That means free radicals are unlikely to form during the actual combustion, which takes place at higher temperatures. Instead, they would likely form once the exhaust begins to cool down.

David Pershing, a chemical engineer at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, says the findings are potentially significant for human health.

Dellinger added that more research is needed to determine not only where someone would be exposed, but also how much the body would absorb.

The exact amount of risk the pollutants pose is hard to estimate, Dellinger said during his presentation. Data on atmospheric pollution provided by the Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto, Calif., suggests that the risk could be equivalent to smoking as little as one cigarette a day or as much as more than two packs a day, he said. “It’s early in the game, and there’s a lot of ways of doing these calculations.”

The free radicals discovered by Dellinger’s team would not show up in ordinary smog checks, which detect molecules in the gas state and not those attached to solid nanoparticles, he said.

Even the most modern catalytic converters may be ineffective at eliminating the free radicals. Ironically, even as a catalytic converter breaks down smog-causing pollutants, it may be creating conditions (particularly high temperatures) for the free radicals to form. “You could be destroying some [pollutants] and creating some at the same time,” Dellinger says.

Citations & References:

Lomnicki, S…. and B. Dellinger 2008. Copper oxide-based model of persistent free radical formation on combustion-derived particulate matter. Environmental Science & Technology 42(July 1):4982.

Canadian Medical Association Press Release | National Illness Costs of Air Pollution

New CMA Report Warns Poor Air Quality Killing Canadians

OTTAWA, August 13, 2008 – The Canadian Medical Association released staggering new data today showing that this year alone as many as 21,000 Canadians will die prematurely from the effects of air pollution. While most of those deaths will be due to chronic exposure over a number of years, almost 3,000 will be the result of acute, short-term exposure.

The CMA’s report entitled No Breathing Room: National Illness Costs of Air Pollution, shows the effects of poor air quality based on the concentrations of two highly predictive pollutants – ozone and particulate matter – on four distinct age groups of Canadians.

“With the start of the Olympics in Beijing, much has been made about the poor air quality in China and the effect it is having on our athletes,” said CMA President Dr. Brian Day. “But we have a serious home-grown pollution problem right here and Canadians, ranging from the very young to the very old, are paying the price.”

Specific findings of the No Breathing Room: National Illness Costs of Air Pollution report include:

  • By 2031, almost 90,000 Canadians will have died from the acute short-term effects of air pollution. The number of deaths, due to long-term exposure, will be over 700,000 – the population of Quebec City.
  • In 2008, 80% of those who die due to air pollution will be over age 65.
  • In 2008, 25 Canadians under age 19 will die of the effects of short-term exposure to air pollution.
  • Ontario and Quebec residents are the worst hit Canadians, with 70% of the premature deaths occurring in Central Canada, even though these two provinces comprise only 62% of Canada’s population.
  • In 2008 there will be over 9,000 hospital visits, 30,000 emergency department visits and 620,000 doctor’s office visits due to air pollution.
  • The economic costs of air pollution in 2008 will top $8 billion. By 2031, they will have accumulated to over $250 billion.

“This report shows for the first time the tragic effects of the toxic air that we breathe, whether it is in my hometown of Vancouver, or across the country in St. John’s,” added Dr. Day.

No Breathing Room: National Illness Costs of Air Pollution used a software model first developed by the Ontario Medical Association and provides detailed health and economic data relating to changes in air quality. The study uses the best available knowledge and data on air quality, human health and economics to produce accurate forecasts of health impacts and expected costs related to changes in air quality. The tool has also been validated by a panel of international experts on health and the environment.

The full report, including provincial data and tables, is available at

For more information:
Contact: Lucie Boileau
Tel. 1800 663-7336 x1266, or 613 731-8610 x1266

The infamous Tim Hortons as featured in the RWDI report | A picture is most definetly worth a thousand words

Here we have it:  Indisputable proof that the Tim Horton’s on Bank Street in Ottawa that does not have a drive-thru will emit less GHG emissions per vehicle visit than a restaurant with an active drive-thru. What better proof that we don’t need drive thrus (more seriously, the photos just demonstrate the importance of doing a full temporal and seasonal assessment of restaurant use). Imagine the statistical evidence if the RWDI study looked at emissions on weekends late afternoon. We also noticed that Bank has street parking from 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. (or 3:00 p.m.) which pretty well restricts traffic to two lanes (one lane each way). Imagine if you are waiting 8 minutes trying to get into the crowded parking lot, holding up traffic in Ottawa South. While Tim Hortons may suggest that this just provides further evidence that drive-thrus are ‘good for climate change’, we counter with the view that a car dependent culture is the root cause of the problem, and that we need more parking or improved access by more sustainable alternatives to the Single Occupant Vehicle when locating Tim Horton restaurants.

Taken on July 19th, 2008 at 5:30 p.m.

Annual tons of CO2 per person

Annual tons of CO2 per person

Check this out for reflection:

Annual tons of CO2 per person:

Ethiopia: .01

India: 1.1

China: 3.2

Sweden: 5.6

France: 6.2

UK: 9.4

Japan: 9.7

Germany: 9.8

CANADA: 17.9

USA: 19.8

It’s us, the one billion affluent people of the world whose footprints are crushing the planet.  Do we have the discipline to step more lightly?  We are losing respect of our international community.  The mass consumption of our society has created an epidemic of obesity, asthma, respiratory problems, etc.



We need public on side with a meaningful CO2 Strategy.  In the LFP article today: it states: “The council [Council of Canadians] says London must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by about five per cent a year until it reaches a targetted 90 per cent decrease. Instead, London’s strategy will more likely be modelled in a “continuous improvement” framework that measures progress each year, Stanford said.”

This ”continuous improvement’ model unfortunately does not work.  We’ve seen this over & over again.  Example: in 1997 London passed its idling bylaw.  The issue of idling & the need to control it has been a main issue raised by the Advisory Committee on the Environment to the City of London year after year.   It has been 11 years since this bylaw came into effect – & yet – our smog days have quadrupled over the past 15 years.  With London second only to Toronto.  This model of continuous improvement is failing us.  We no longer have time on our side to allow us to continue operating in this manner.


Council of Canadians – London Chapter is respectfully not of the opinion that at this point in time the city of London qualifies to be seen as a leader in sustainable energy in comparison to many other progressive municipalities. It is our opinion that the bar must be set rather high to qualify for this designation.

However, we believe that since the debate on drive-thrus began, city staff and many elected officials have recognized the urgency of the crisis we now face in regards to pollution and climate change and the goal of building healthy communities that form the basis of what we would qualify as a sustainable city.  We look forward to working with city staff and other stakeholders on the development and implementation of a climate change CO2 strategy.

It is crucial that citizens of London support progressive staff & councillors in recommendations of green initiatives that will lead us down a path of sustainability if we are to have any kind of future for our children. We must model sustainable choices to our children.  We must work together as a community. To reduce our emissions by 90% by 2030 is the greatest challenge we have ever faced. Citizen participation is key and each and every one of us has an important role to play.

The goal of such a strategy is to reduce our emissions by 4-5% each year until we reach the target of 90% minimum reduction.  The number which is needed to divert the worst effects of climate change catastrophe.  The reduction targets must be met even as population, industry, commercial and institutions expand.

We at Council of Canadians feel that all those in a leadership role must be mindful of the fact that there is a serious detriment to leading people in the community to believe that the serious environmental consequences of our collective actions or inactions are under control when in reality we continue to slide closer to the critical tipping points.  We need to truthfully acknowledge what we are not achieving, as well as celebrate the meaningful achievements.  And we need to do this quickly, as there is not one moment to waste.  The city of London must become a place where it’s demonstrated leadership in sustainability initiatives inspire our vibrant communities and fellow citizens to do the same. Our goal is to foster this sort of thinking and do everything we can to truly transform London into a destination point for those seeking to reside in this sort of an environment.

This is the goal of our C02 climate change strategy. A large-scale transition to a post-carbon economy and society. The battle against climate change will be won or lost in cities. By 2030, two-thirds of humanity will live in cities or urban areas. Half already do. Even now, cities consume 75 per cent of the world’s energy and are responsible for 80 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. It is at city level that innovation and progress on climate change action is most likely to be achieved.

I attach the Hanson report which I highly recommend to understand the urgency of climate change.


Banning new drive-throughs small step for Londoners


Banning new drive-throughs small step for Londoners – July 7th, 2008 – London Freepress

Parking your car, or better yet, walking or biking to restaurants, is a small price to pay to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions, despite the strongly negative response from Tim Hortons and other corporations that make their profits at drive-through windows.

Companies like Tim Hortons need to understand that many of us are still willing to buy their coffee, even if we have to walk to get it.

I work with farmers in Malawi, Africa, who are struggling to adapt farming practices in response to increased and more severe droughts as a result of climate change. It doesn’t seem much to ask Canadians to park their cars and walk, if farmers in Africa have to go to such lengths to cope with the effects of carbon emissions, the majority of which are from our part of the world. If more of us walked and biked, it would make for a better community.

Let’s take this small step for London and the world, by banning future drive-through development.

Rachel Bezner Kerr


Drive-thrus – Think the impact is insignificant? Think again.

Hot off the press.

This study arrived Tuesday via courier.

We were prepared to present Tuesday night, however, as many of you are aware, democracy was not on the agenda Tuesday night at centennial hall.


We have used the calculations provided to us in this study (idling times are completely in line with Tim Horton’s own study (3-4.5 minutes) & with the national average of 3.84 seconds) to produce a very conservative number for the total number of emissions, etc. produced in London drive-thrus.

London has 156 drive-thrus – so we have based our amounts on (29 x 5) 145 as opposed to 156 to keep our results conservative.

Here are the results: (City of London only)

  • Idling time: 108, 795, 760 minutes.
  • Fuel Wasted: 2, 175, 925 litres of fuel wasted.
  • Emissions: 590 tons of carbon dioxide & other pollutants.
  • To offset this amount of pollutants in one year we would need to plant 29,220 trees.
  • Fuel wasted – enough for an average car to circle the globe 425 times.

And this is ONLY London based on only 150 drive-thrus. Imagine the result from all cities in Ontario, in Canada, in North America, in the world.

For more info. on this study (data) please contact us at

We thank Dave De Sylva for taking the time, effort, (out of pocket) costs and conviction to produce this report.

Physicians are concerned about dangers of air pollution

By M. Edward Wilson

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

There is growing national concern in the medical community that the adverse health impacts of air pollution have been under-appreciated. With our rapid population growth, increasing traffic and proposed port expansions, diesel emissions and other small particulate pollution are of special concern for our area.

We hardly notice diesel exhaust until we get behind a truck or bus in traffic. But most of us don’t realize that tiny invisible particles linger in the air for prolonged periods after the soot plume disappears. These particles may bypass the body’s natural defense system and penetrate deep into the lungs. Some particles are deposited in the lungs and may cause damage there, but some are so small they may actually pass into the blood stream where they circulate throughout the body.

Similar to the tiny particles from cigarette smoke, diesel particulates contain about 40 toxic chemicals known to cause cancer. Rates of serious asthma attacks in children have been directly correlated to high urban diesel concentrations. Concentrations are likely significantly higher near busy interstate exchanges and ports. Diesel trucks, while moving cargo from port to warehouses and ships during their stay at port, can produce a significant proportion of these emissions in our area.

Small particulate pollution, emissions from various sources that measure less than 2.5 microns, is one of the most widespread and potentially harmful air contaminants threatening public health. While short- and long-term exposures must be studied further before causation can be established, even short-term increases in small particulate pollution have been linked to death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes. Longer-term exposure has been linked to lung diseases, cancers and DNA damage, as well as to death from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

A recent New England Medical Journal article showed that even within cities, particulate concentration can vary enough to cause significant differences in risks of heart disease for people living at different sites within the same city.

For two years in a row, Charleston has received a grade of F for particulate pollution from the American Lung Association. Although DHEC has monitors set up to comply with federal standards for regional monitoring, site specific monitoring to identify high-risk sites within our community has not been done.

Most industries such as paper mills and coal-powered power plants are monitored for their emissions. They receive permits to release known quantities. But this is not true of the growing amounts of emissions from our mobile sources. South Carolina agencies do not monitor or control particulates from cars, ships, trucks or port facilities, although other places around the country do.

All of these concerns recently prompted the South Carolina Medical Association to pass the following resolution at their annual meeting last month:

“Resolved, That the South Carolina Medical Association support: 1) The maximum feasible reduction of all forms of harmful air pollution, especially new and existing sources of toxic fine particle pollution; 2) Appropriate funding for epidemiological studies targeted toward communities at high risk from emissions, to look at adverse health impact of air emissions in the communities directly affected, and be it further Resolved,

That the South Carolina Medical Association ask the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the South Carolina General Assembly, and appropriate elected officials to oversee a detailed site specific air monitoring program in the Charleston area prior to the commencement of operations of a new port facility. Appropriate air monitoring would establish a baseline of air quality at targeted sites within the urban area; would identify any areas within the community at high risk for poor air quality; and would establish a means for continued follow-up monitoring at sites of high risk, such as around major port terminals.”

Proper monitoring will define the problem and help us design strategies for minimizing the health risks to our growing population.

M. Edward Wilson, M.D., is president of the Charleston County Medical Society.

Where Do We Idle

A lot of idling is done while waiting in line at drive-thrus. If you buy a coffee five days a week, and typically wait three minutes in line at a drive-thru to get it, in just one year you would save almost $100 by parking and going inside to get your coffee.

Drive thrus (bank, fast food, coffee, liquor store), schools, corner stores, construction line ups, malls, friend’s houses, long traffic lights. Where do you idle?

So here’s your 10 mins of idling:

You get your morning coffee: 3 minutes

You wait at the construction: 4 mins

You wait to pick your colleague to car pool: 2 mins

You check phone messages and program music while car is on before driving away: 1 min

Average idling time spent at a Tim Horton’s drive-thru:

Daily emissions at one Tim Horton’s outlet:

  • University of Alberta estimates 385 kilograms of CO2 emissions per day.

**Study undertaken by University of Alberta of a Tim Horton’s in Edmonton over a 54 hour period.

Fast food drive-thru average times, according to Fast Food News:

  • Wendy’s 2:25 minutes
  • TacoBell 2:60 minutes
  • McDonald’s 2:70 minutes
  • Burger King 2:76 minutes

Other places we also tend to idle are:

  • Construction sites on the road
  • Gas line ups
  • Car washes
  • Schools

Therefore when you are waiting to pick up your child from school, or in a line of traffic at a construction site, turn off your car. Not only will turning off your car save the environment but it will also save your money and reduce the wear on your cars engine. Better yet, go for a walk to pick up the kids from school and everyone can get some exercise!

Drive-thru businesses are bad for the planet


January 18, 2008


Except for blabbing on cellphones while jumping lanes in heavy traffic, nothing Canadians do in their cars is more idiotic than idling their engines.

While inhaling exhaust fumes in lineups, they threaten their own health. They damage their engines, waste money by wasting fuel and, if they’re in the drive-thru lanes of fast-food joints, deprive themselves even of the tiny exercise they’d get by walking from a parking spot to get the junk food they shouldn’t be eating anyway.

As they blithely drive away, munching greasy burgers and jelly doughnuts and slurping pop, it doesn’t occur to them, the dumb slobs, that while lined up behind a dozen other automobiles — all of them spewing carbon dioxide and going nowhere — they contribute to the global warming that’s horrifying climate scientists all around the world.

It does cars no good at all to let them idle for several minutes on cold winter mornings, but millions of Canadians do it anyway. They idle cars at drive-thru coffee shops, banks, car washes and, recently, liquor stores. With engines running, they wait to fill up their gas tanks and pass highway repair crews, and for friends to join them on shopping trips, children to get out of school, and trains to pass at railway crossings,

Yet Natural Resources Canada says an idling car releases twice as much exhaust as a moving one. Ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine, and if all the drivers in Canada avoided idling for just five minutes per day they’d prevent 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from infecting the atmosphere, the federal ministry says.

“At some popular fast-food restaurants across the country,” The Canadian Press recently reported, “lineups are so long they stretch out of parking lots and spill onto public streets, and politicians are eyeing the emissions spewed by all the idling cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles.”

Heaven only knows how this affects the health of those who, for years, live, work and breathe near the exhaust fumes, but cities from Victoria to St. John’s now recognize they should put some controls on the spread of drive-thru businesses. Some are considering restricting the hours of operation for drive-thrus, and others have banned new ones in residential neighbourhoods.

Several Nova Scotian communities have anti-idling policies that promote such measures as posting signs at schools to urge parents not to idle their engines while waiting for their children, and in King’s County, councillor Wayne Atwater has pushed for a moratorium on all future drive-thrus.

For everybody except the pregnant, elderly and disabled, he’d also like to see the current drive-thru services eliminated.

“These people who are able-bodied men and women,” he said, “I certainly don’t see any reason why they can’t get out of their vehicles.”

Nor do I. Atwater hasn’t persuaded his fellow councillors to go along with him, but he’s right. Before anyone had ever barked into one of those drive-thru mikes to get fat-loaded whoppers and supersize orders of french fries, the world was no unhappier than it is now.

The London, Ont., chapter of the Council of Canadians has launched an online petition that declares, “Drive-thrus are an incredible detriment to our environment and are a luxury item we can live without.” It asks us to sign our names below this: “I demand that all levels of government impose an immediate moratorium on all new commercial drive-thru operations and establish a timetable to phase out all existing drive-thru operations through zoning or other bylaws.”

I signed. So did one Susan Meehan, who explained why.

“I am shocked and infuriated daily as I notice more and more cars lined up at Tim Hortons drive-thrus,” she said “It is mind-blowing that, given the crisis we are in environmentally and with awareness of it at an all-time high, people continue to feel they have a right to sit there, one person per vehicle, lined up 20 SUVs deep, blocking traffic and polluting our air. What is going on? Where is the government? Come on Canada, we can do better than this.”

About drive-thrus, another petitioner, Joe Wilson, said, “They are ridiculous. How lazy do we have to get! Let’s get real and stop the pollution, the congestion and the lard-butts.”

To those who insist governments will never have the guts to outlaw drive-thrus, I reply, “Maybe you’re right, but I’m old enough to remember those who insisted governments would never have the guts to outlaw smoking in public places.”

Harry Bruce is a member of the Winnipeg-based Issues Network.


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