The Unseen Problems with Nevada’s Air Quality

by Abigail Wang

For nearly twenty years Nevada, along with parts of Arizona, has been a hot topic of the debate between public health and economic development. The issue has resurfaced again as Brenda Buck and Rodney Metcalf, geologists and professors of geoscience at University of Nevada, push the Nevada Department of Health to implement more protective measures in areas filled with asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring carcinogenic fiber that damages the lungs. Deposits of asbestos minerals are fairly common and particularly rich veins have been mined for commercial use. The fibers travel easily through and air and if inhaled, even in modest amounts, can embed themselves into the lungs and cause mesothelioma and other respiratory diseases. Mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer, can only be caused by the exposure to asbestos, and it normally takes 30 or more years to recognize symptoms. Continue reading

Barcelona Study Finds Impact of Urban Green Space Is Appreciable, but Small

by Dan McCabe

One aspect of urban ecology that is often overlooked in development is the biological benefit of vegetation in cities. In order to quantify the environmental impact of urban plants, Baró et al. (2014) analyzed the effect of green spaces on air quality and carbon sequestration in the city of Barcelona, Spain. The authors randomly selected nearly 600 small plots of land within the city limits and collected field data on the plant life and pollutant levels in each. This information, along with meteorological data, was then processed using i-Tree Eco software, which quantified the biological and economic effects of vegetation on both air quality and climate change. In this software model, green space is treated as providing two kinds of ecosystem benefits—defined as air purification and global climate regulation—as well as one harmful consequence, the emission of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). For this case study, the model focused only on the levels of particulate matter (PM10) and NO­2 and no other pollutants that harm air quality, because Barcelona has recently had exceedingly high concentrations of these two pollutants. Continue reading