Web Date: September 29, 2009
Blowing In The Wind
Plumes of air pollution blow across oceans in the Northern Hemisphere and help dirty the air thousands of miles from where they are emitted, the report says.
"Local pollution can be affected by global sources," the report says, "although in most cases, air quality violations are driven by local emissions."
The report examined four types of air pollutants: ground-level ozone and its precursors, particulate matter including sulfates and soot, mercury, and persistent organic pollutants such as DDT. All can be transported over long distances, the report says.
"The atmosphere connects distant regions of our planet," says Charles Kolb, chair of the NRC committee that wrote the report. "Emissions within any one country can affect human and ecosystem health in countries far downwind," adds Kolb, who is president and chief executive officer of Aerodyne Research.
The report recommends further research on long-range transport of pollution. This includes improved methods for identifying chemical "fingerprints" for pollution from specific sources, such as measurements of isotope ratios or molecular chirality.
It also suggests investigation into how emissions from ships and aircraft can complicate detection of pollution carried far from land-based sources.
In addition, the report urges policymakers to pursue cooperative international action to address emissions from both domestic and foreign sources.
The report is available at sites.nationalacademies.org/NRC/index.htm.
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