Understanding Relevant Emissions and Atmospheric Formation Processes for Toxic Air Pollutants

Photo creidt: Diliff, via wikipedia comms

Reducing air pollution is vital for the protection of public health. Short-term effects of polluted air include, interfering with being able to breathe deeply during exercising and impairing visibility from haze. Long-term effects for individuals may be a lifetime burden of reduced lung function because they don’t fully develop due to pollution exposure during childhood. Air pollution has also been linked to premature death from heath attacks.

Robert Harley, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkley, spoke about a model use to understand the emissions and atmospheric formation processes for formaldehyde pollutants at the SOCAAR Seminar on March 28th. Continue reading

Airborne interactions between viruses and PM2.5 as an unexplored modifier of viral viability

Photo credit: www.lung.ca

Millions of people die each year from long-term exposure to fine particulate matter, classified as PM2.5. Studies have also shown a correlation between influenza-like illness and increased PM2.5. Although it’s well known that microorganisms exist in particulate matter (bioaerosols), the infectivity of viruses when they interact with particulate matter is relatively unknown. At the SOCAAR Seminar on March 7, Dr. Nicolas Groulx, a Postdoctoral Intern in the Department of Microbiology & Division of Infectious Diseases at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Research Institute and the University of Toronto, spoke about the effects of environmental pollutants on the infectivity of viruses in the air. Continue reading

Novel analytical approaches to characterizing the composition and source of aerosol brown carbon

Dr. Cora Young, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at York University, presented their research into the chemical drivers of climate and the fate and transport of contaminants at the SOCAAR Seminar held on January 10th, 2018. The talk gave insights on the molecular composition of brown carbon, aging, and the limitations of mass spectrometry in detection and characterization of brown carbon.

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Investing in Canada’s Clean Future: Financial Innovation to Drive the Low Carbon Transition

solar panels

Image source: National Observer

Global carbon dioxide emissions have significant contributions from the electricity and heat generation sector. In 2011, this sector accounted for over 40 per cent of global emissions. Shifting power generation from fossil fuels to renewable energy can have a powerful role in reducing emissions. The IEA forecast for the share of renewable energy in global power generation has grown over the last decade. But limitations to profitable clean energy projects exist due to high upfront costs and a lack of accessible financing.

CoPower is a clean energy finance and crowd investment company that matches clean energy firms with investors by selling retail green bonds. Jonathan Frank, director of clean energy projects at CoPower, spoke about creative financing solutions to support the growth of Canada’s clean energy industries at the SOCAAR Seminar on July 5th. Continue reading

In Search of Fresh Air: Characterizing the Sources and Impacts of Air Pollution in Urban Areas

Image source: City Of Pittsburgh

Cities with growing populations have turned to urban planning strategies like mixed-use development. In this type of development Individuals who live, work, and seek entertainment in these urban areas can be exposed to air pollution that is regionally transported and from locally emitted sources.

Urban air pollution measurements typically rely on a few, widely separated monitoring sites to assess population-scale exposure. Existing monitoring techniques may not be able to capture the spatial variability of the air pollutant. Dr. Naomi Zimmerman, a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, spoke about her research to characterize urban spatial and temporal pollutant gradients across Pittsburgh at the SOCAAR Seminar on May 29.
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Exploring trade-offs in the use of biomass for greenhouse gas mitigation

Image credit: ORNL

The chemical production industry is currently among the largest users of fossil fuel and is responsible for about seven per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Yet the majority of policies and government programs around the world incentivize biofuel usage in the transportation section while few programs exist to encourage using biomass in the chemicals industry.

Dr. Daniel Posen, an Assistant Professor in the University of Toronto’s Departments of Civil Engineering, spoke about the use of biomass as a strategy for reducing GHG emissions in the North America at the SOCAAR seminar on April 5.
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MURB Research at Building Energy and Indoor Environment Lab

Toronto has a high concentration of multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) with the bulk that were built during the 1960s and 1970s. Today, these buildings are mostly owned by social housing and around 29 per cent of all rental units in Toronto are social housing MURBs. Current issues with MURBs are linked to energy usage not being considered when these buildings were built and also not being well maintained. Toronto is now In the midst of a second boom for MURBs but there is limited data on how the newer MURBs are performing.

At the SOCAAR Seminar on March 1st, Dr. Marianne Touchie, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Departments of Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering spoke about why energy retrofits of MURBs should take a comprehensive and not piecemeal approach.
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Linking Tailpipe to Ambient: Atmospheric Evolution of Combustion Emissions

Atmospheric fine particle mass mostly originates from emissions from motor vehicles, wildfires and other combustion processes. When emissions are exposed to oxidants and sunlight, they evolve chemically and physically to generate secondary particulate matter. Dr. Allen L. Robinson, Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, shared results from their investigations of atmospheric evolution of emissions at the SOCAAR Seminar on February 1, 2017. Continue reading

The Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium – CANUE

Photo source: CANUE

Canada is an urbanized country with over 80 per cent of Canadians living in urban areas and growing numbers of new immigrants that tend to settle in urban areas. To meet the need to learn how to design and modify cities to improve population health, the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE) was established in June 2016. Continue reading

Sources of Fossil Fuel and Biomass Burning Black Carbon in Ontario

Source: Toronto Star

Black carbon (BC) particles are generated through incomplete combustion processes including combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. These two sources are most commonly from vehicles and residential wood burning for heating. BC has an overall warming effect on the global climate and long-term exposure to it has been associated with cardiopulmonary mortality.

Dr. Robert Healy, Senior Environmental Officer at The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, spoke about the Ministry’s work on assessing the sources of fossil fuel and biomass burning black carbon in Ontario at the SOCAAR Seminar on November 30th, 2016. Continue reading