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.


Letter to Editor | LFP | Drive-thrus

Letter to Editor

Association misleads public
I am disgusted with the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association for using misinformation to mislead public on drive-through regulation.

The literature the association handed out cited a complete ban on drive-throughs, which was never the recommendation before the planning committee. The literature also said disabled people need drive-throughs and a ban would surely make life more difficult for disabled people.

There are currently 154 drive-throughs in this city and there were never any plans to close them. The ORHMA used those with disabilities as a vehicle in which to drive its message home, which was that a ban on drive-throughs was unacceptable to them.

Misleading the public and taking advantage of the less fortunate is abhorrent behaviour and I say shame on the ORHMA.

POSTED BY: Leonard Peter Manning, London
POSTED ON: July 21, 2008

EDITORS NOTE: As published in The London Free Press on July 21, 2008.

It’s still not OK to idle | Article

Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) is our federal government’s official body for helping Canadians save energy and money. Its website,, has a wealth of information about everything from buying better home appliances to designing better commercial buildings.

If you’re a frequent visitor to the site, you may have noticed that longstanding guidelines for idling reduction were modified recently. But there’s something a bit suspicious about the changes.

Old rules and new rules

For years, the OEE’s idling reduction programs have been based on the 10-second rule. It’s message is simple: it’s better to turn a car or light truck engine off than to let it idle for more than 10 seconds.

It’s a general guideline, so as with any such rule there are exceptions. For example, it’s not recommended that engines be shut off at traffic stoplights – they don’t always start back up when you want them to, and that can create a traffic mess. As well, it doesn’t always make sense in cold winter conditions. But overall, the 10-second rule has been a great guideline for Canadians, helping us save money, fuel and the environment.

But back in February, the 10-second rule suddenly disappeared from OEE’s website. In its place was a message indicating that an update was coming soon.

Six months later, the long-awaited update has finally arrived. Now it seems that it’s OK to idle longer. Has the science behind the recommendation changed – or is something else at work? A recent CBC news story suggests there’s a bit more behind our federal government’s change of heart.

Real science or science of convenience?

You see, excessive idling is starting to become socially frowned upon. It’s about time, of course – Canadians waste literally millions of litres of fuel every day through unnecessary idling. If we are truly ready to believe the environment is worth taking care of, minimizing our idling is one of the easiest things we can do.

Much of our preventable idling takes place at the drive-thru, so fast food restaurants and coffee shops are becoming concerned that a backlash against idling might put a damper on a part of their business that clearly makes mountains of cash. If that CBC story is correct, they have been very busy behind the scenes, working to sanitize the image of their drive-thrus. That sanitization campaign has included sponsoring a study that concludes that going through the coffee shop drive-thru causes no more pollution than parking. It has included publicizing those results using questionable comparisons, such as comparing chainsaws (whose two-stroke engines pollute much more by design) to vehicles at drive-thrus. And it has included pulling political strings to help the study’s conclusions become part of the government’s new recommendations.

Could the story be true? There are a few indisputable facts. RWDI Air, an Ontario engineering firm, recently conducted a study on behalf of Tim Hortons that seems to vindicate drive-thru. The study is being widely used to defend them, including by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA), whose membership includes most drive-thru operators in Canada.

Then last February, the CRFA met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, who oversees the OEE – and the 10-second rule disappeared from OEE’s website within 24 hours.

I hope the CBC story is wrong, of course, and that this is all just coincidence. Just like any other Canadian, I want to believe that my government bases its recommendations to Canadians on sound science exclusively. Just imagine if Health Canada took its directives from the pharmaceutical industry. But I have to admit I’m concerned that in this case real science may have been trumped by other interests.

In the meantime, since the 10-second rule remains valid in other countries, I think it’s too early to give up on it here. If you believe our environment is worth preserving, it’s still a good idea to minimize idling and avoid drive-thrus.

Carl Duivenvoorden is one of 22 Atlantic Canadians trained by Al Gore to deliver presentations of ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ He lives in Upper Kingsclear. His column runs every other Monday.

The debate on those damaging drive-thrus

Published Wednesday August 20th, 2008


Having recently read a statistic suggesting that 40 per cent of our meals are considered fast-food and of that nearly 80 per cent of those pass through a drive-thru window, I was determined to do my part and see that change.

My plan is to write to local municipal councils, to the ministers of Local Government, Health, Wellness, and Environment, and of course write the ever-so-influential letters to the editor.

As the environment grows as an issue of concern and as land-use planning becomes increasingly important in Metro Moncton, policies on drive-thrus will certainly become increasingly important for municipalities and planning commissions. Nationally, there also appears to be a trend and a growing persuasion that drive-thrus just ain’t what they used to be.

My letters will be to the point and no tip-toeing around. The statistic above is deplorable. Simply put, drive-thrus must be stopped. Moreover, those that currently exist should be systematically dismantled, and cities and towns should give serious thought to phasing them out. Municipalities and planning commissions should be aware of the health, environmental and even social evils these lanes of laziness are responsible for, if they do not already know. My letters will include those condemnations as well as many others.

We suffer from a serious societal illness where we can exchange e-mails daily with hundreds of people, spend hours on the telephone and texting (if you’re good at it, you can do them simultaneously), and we fulfill our need for face-to-face communication with a site called Facebook. Many of us perform these acts of semi-interaction while spending our days enclosed in cubicles or wrapped within office walls.

Indeed, science magazines and TV shows continue to promote the growth of our virtual realities over our real realities.

To even further isolate ourselves, we drive from our homes to our work spaces to the drive-thru kitchens. Some of us, me included, even start our vehicles under the protection of a garage, because God forbid we talk to our neighbours. Worse, there’s the off chance of a conversation with the garbage-man or postal worker.

Due to the popularity of MP3 players we need no longer worry about chatting with the walker, early morning jogger or any other passerby. The sad fact is my dog gets more one-on-one socialization at the Riverview dog park in a single visit than I get with my fellow human beings in a whole week!

When I gaze upon the occasional construction site I often give serious thought to a change of careers. One where I could work side-by-side with my fellow citizens, where there’s no room for a Blackberry on my belt because it’s already full holding necessary tools like a hammer, a measuring tape and whatever other useful items a carpenter, plumber or landscaper would have on his or her belt. But, the daydream quickly ends when I notice how hot or wet or cold or dry it is outside.

The state of our society aside, we must also consider the environmental and health issues that arise from drive-thrus. I shouldn’t need to mention in the letters the scourge upon our health system that obesity causes. That it will increasingly play a role in every aspect of our financial lives from the amount of sick time taken to the cost on taxpayers for health care to the amount of disability payments made from our government pension plans. One would think we wouldn’t mind getting out of our cars to actually walk into a restaurant rather than sit within our vehicles breathing in the exhaust fumes of the cars around us.

Speaking of exhaust fumes, despite advances in automobile technology over the last 50 years, the last 20 years has seen a decrease in the fuel efficiency of cars rather than an increase. The rising price of gasoline will hopefully see a reverse to that trend but the sad fact is our cars idling in drive-thrus are a health hazard. More and more and bigger and bigger vehicles, built with decreasingly fuel efficient engines cannot be good for our health or for the neighbourhoods these alleys of ease find themselves within.

Before getting started on these letters however, I dropped by my nearest java supplier for a cup of inspiration. Anxious to get going but wanting to avoid hypocrisy, I parked my car and chin held up high — because the view is always better that way when you’re on a pedestal — I strutted inside.

And waited . . . for what seemed like a Dark Ages 10 minutes. I don’t quite know which annoyed me more, seeing the vehicles in the drive-thru actually driving through with relative ease compared to my slow march to the front of the line or the server talking about her two children with a customer while my knuckles whitened and I held back a scream only someone without children can make.

As you can imagine, those letters won’t get written. I would have just e-mailed them anyway, so living with some degree of hypocrisy was in my future. Whether the problem with drive-thrus is people like me who claim we should interact more but would rather tempt diabetes than do so themselves or fast food businesses which devote more and better resources to their drive-thrus than to their counter service is a debate for another day.

The answer is likely a mixture of the two or depends upon whether one sees drive-thrus as a product of our sedentary lifestyles or as one of its multiple causes.

* David Gingras is a Metro Moncton resident and is currently working towards a National Advanced Certificate in Local Authority Administration (NACLAA).

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

EXPOSED | CBC News | Feds revamp stance on idling after meeting with drive-thru group

Feds revamp stance on idling after meeting with drive-thru group
Monday, August 11, 2008
CBC News
A federal government website that highlights the negative health and environmental effects of idling your engine has revamped its message after meeting with a group representing drive-thru restaurants.
‘It’s gonna make it harder for every city politician to make the argument that we need to have restrictive legislation on idling.’— Ottawa Coun. Clive Doucet
The “Idle-Free Zone,” a website managed by Natural Resources Canada’s office of energy efficiency, was removed for review following a meeting with the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. A revised version was posted five months later, on July 22, that:
Advises drivers to shut off their engines after 60 seconds of idling; the previous version advocated turning engines off after 10 seconds.
Does not refer to 5,000 premature deaths annually in Canada linked to air pollution, as the previous version did, and no longer includes posters bearing images such as a girl choking and slogans such as “Idling is killing our environment.”
The website says its purpose is to help communities and environmental groups stop engine idling.
Carol Buckley, director general of the office of energy efficiency, confirmed that the restaurant association met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn on Feb. 7.
According to Lunn’s spokeswoman, Louise Girouard, no one from the office of energy efficiency attended the meeting. Girouard confirmed that an e-mail was sent from Lunn’s office on Feb. 8 asking the site to be taken down.
Buckley said the site was temporarily removed because the office didn’t want to leave any misleading information online while it was being revised.
“We wanted to make sure that the website reflected all of the latest data and information that was available about this topic,” she said, adding that in the end the changes were “not really significant.”
The change to the recommended amount of idling time was made because of access to new research taking into account the wear and tear on a car’s battery and starter caused by shutting off and restarting the engine, she said. Previously, the site said such wear and tear was minimal.
The new site now also refers readers to Health Canada instead of detailing the health impacts of idling because Natural Resources felt that wasn’t really their jurisdiction and they wanted to focus on the effects on climate change, Buckley added.
“I think the emphasis in the earlier text was a little strong. Today’s vehicles are more efficient when it comes to smog emissions,” she said.
Site ‘lacks balance’: restaurant group
Joyce Reynolds, executive vice-president for government affairs for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said the group corresponded with a number of government officials at various levels about the website, which was used by many municipalities to develop their own anti-idling bylaws.
‘What I would like to see is that Natural Resources Canada put the same amount of emphasis on these other driving behaviours that they do on idling.’— Joyce Reynolds, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association
“Our concern is that municipal decision-making must be based on facts and scientific evidence,” she said. “And we were seeing some municipalities that were focusing on the health impacts of idling based on information that was incorrect and misleading.”
The association argues Natural Resources Canada didn’t put enough weight on pollution caused by a puff of contaminants produced when an engine is restarted after being shut down.
Reynolds said some of that misleading information on the “Idle-Free Zone” site has now been corrected, but the site still “lacks balance.”
In particular, she said, it doesn’t deal with other driving behaviours that cause greenhouse gas and pollution emissions, such as excessive speeding, rapid acceleration and poor vehicle maintenance.
“What I would like to see is that Natural Resources Canada put the same amount of emphasis on these other driving behaviours that they do on idling,” Reynolds said.
With regards to idling, the changes to the site will have an impact on municipalities, Ottawa city Coun. Clive Doucet said.
“It’s gonna make it harder for every city politician to make the argument that we need to have restrictive legislation on idling. It’s not good news for cities anywhere,” said Doucet, who pushed hard for an anti-idling bylaw in Ottawa.
A bylaw banning idling for more than three minutes in Ottawa went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008.
With the aim of reducing pollution from idling cars, a number of cities in Canada — including London, Ont., North Vancouver and Sarnia, Ont. — are thinking about making it tougher for restaurants to build new drive-thrus.
Gordon Taylor, an engineering consultant who has done air-quality studies for Natural Resources Canada, suggested that the restaurant association could be taking another approach to deal with criticism of drive-thrus.
“I think the restaurant association should have some kind of a pro-active campaign to say, ‘Hey, if there’s a big long lineup, consider walking in the door.’ ”

Headline News | Idling | Restaurant Industry | NRCAN: CBC World Report

CBC World News:

Here is a link to the audio file from the CBC report. (above) It aired on CBC (National) Radio One this morning at 6 am.

1:57 seconds | Transcript:

“A federal cabinet minister may have thrown his weight behind changes to a website run by the government, that discourages idling cars.

The call for changes comes from an association of restaurants in connection with the debate surrounding drive-through restaurants in Canada.

At first the Natural Resources department wouldn’t go along with any changes.

But as Giacomo Panico reports, the restaurants made some headway after a high level meeting…..

Cont’d – (listen to audio file)


See full story & comment on this story at:

Story by: Giacomo Panico :

p. 613.288.6501