Archive for the ‘public health’ Category

Chicago Center for Green Technology

Monday, April 4th, 2005

This would be a fun class trip in the future…the Chicago Center for Green Technology is a building complex that has used green, or sustainable technology in its design. It uses natural light to help heat the building, and has a lighting system that adjusts the electricity depending on the amount of light outside. It has a green roof, to absorb rainwater and to reduce the amount of water going into the sewer system. Large cisterns also capture the water and reuse it to water the landscape. The building encourages people to use other modes of transportation besides cars. It has bike racks and showers and features outlets for those who drive electric cars. But there are only 2 dedicated spaces for those who carpool. Over 40% of the materials used in the renovation were purchased within less than 300 miles of the site (helping to decrease transportation distance). And over 40% of the materials used in the construction of the building were made from recycled materials. It is only the 3rd building in the US to use high standards of green technology. Where and when will we see the others?

When will it Stop?

Sunday, March 20th, 2005

Although there are various indicators of global warming, when will it be enough to say we’ve got to stop our current inappropriate actions? If we decide to designate an area as a wildlife refuge, we should maintain our word. I wouldn’t trust any government that goes against its word, unless it’s to help its citizens over the long term. This is unfortunately not the case. In a BBC News Article Senators voted 51-49 to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildife Refuge. If he thinks this is going to help the country, he’s crazy. What’s ironic is that the problem is cyclic. If he uses the money to fund technology, for instance, like GIS, he’ll be using GIS to find out why the country is doing so poorly.

Coal powered industry in China

Monday, March 14th, 2005

Climate change is a big issue today…as we are seeing more frequent storms and droughts, and natural disasters, due to humans’ influence on the environment. As China is building for more economic prosperity, the country continues to rely heavily on coal power, (80%), the BBC news article claims. The coal industry may help to relieve poverty, but other (more efficient, less damaging sources of power) may also help to relieve poverty, but they have to make that decision to switch. It is often difficult for developing countries to tackle poverty and at the same time use better technology (the technology is often expensive). Sometimes developing countries can do this, if they are resourceful or inventive. China does have the role model Sihe mine, in which methane is collected as coal is being mined, and it is diverted and used to power other stations. It’s kind of frightening, though, to think what will happen if such a large country (with a large population) developes the bad habits as Western countries, before they adopt less damaging technology. Does Garry Peterson have any thoughts on this or simulation models of what might happen, in terms of climate change?

Asbestos & Canada

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

There was an interesting reportage on radio-canada (cbc in french) on friday night about asbestos & canada. I found that the attitude of Canadian government and companies towards asbestos was the same “kind” of attitude than the one towards Basel treaty. Here’s some interesting facts that I noted from the reportage:

* Asbestos is recognized as hazardous and a threat for public health by all western countries except Canada.

* Some scientific studies show that with appropriate care, asbestos can be safe.

* The form of cancer due to asbestos takes 20-30 years to develop.

* The european union has recently banned asbestos completely.

* Canada blindly exports its asbestos to developing countries where they don’t take appropriate safety measures to handle it. Huge outbreaks of cancers due to asbestos are predicted in these countries (china, thailand,…).

* Other western countries accused canada of using its “good” image and being hypocrites towards developing countries.

* To be consistant and answer others accusations, canada lifted some restrictions on asbestos in canada… so now we put it everywhere in our roads. The government even considered put it in the parliement… but they backed off.

* If Quebec would be a country it would be the country with the highest rate of cancers directly linked to asbestos

* All the asbestos industry is in quebec and it’s worth about $160,000,000. It employs about 1000 persons only 4 months per year.

* Asbestos lobby would be one of the strongest, similar to tobacco lobby.

So basically the conclusion of the reportage was that we risk our own health, the health of thousands of construction workers in developping countries, the international credibility of canada… all this for saving that industry. And you can also do the maths:

– $(the welfare of the 1000 employees for the 8 months they don’t work)
– $(the medical cost for cancers)
– $(CSST cost)
– $(the indemnities for the relatives of the ones who die of that cancer)
– $(the cost of the agency that promotes asbestos)
Is it really worth it????

No more phones in your dormitory

Saturday, February 12th, 2005

The Washington Post has an article on universities debating whether to ‘pull the plug’ on landlines (i.e., traditional phones) in their dormitories. Apparently so many students have cell phones that they rarely use the landlines. Historically, universities have used surcharges on the phone calls to finance the landlines (and more, because the article says that the phone service used to be a “cash cow”). Now they’re sinking lots of money into a service that the students seldom use.

To cover students, such as international students, who do not own cellphones the universities are thinking of loaning them cellphones. But wait. It doesn’t stop there.

[Washington, DC’s] American University already feels unplugged. The campus is wireless, so students can type e-mails and study on laptops from couches, the steps of the library and benches outside. Snatches of one-sided conversations drift by as students walk to class talking on their cells. Next fall, the university will provide business school students the latest BlackBerry devices.

Another interesting tidbit from the article is how youth have socially reconstructed the purpose of the phone call. Explains one such student:

“It used to be you’d call someone because you had a reason to call,” said Ian Johnson, 28, a graduate student at American. “Now you call because you’re bored waiting for the bus to come. . . . It’s almost a noise pollution.”

So here we have the connection to the environment. Cellphones are the new noise pollution.

For other environmental reasons, this may not be a good university policy. See Expert spells it out: health fears mean young should not use mobile phones.

Hi Tech is low impact on the environment, especially for its workers

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

For those of you new to the subject of environmental impacts of computers, I highly recommend a series of pieces by Jim Fisher of Salon Magazine. Although written in 2000 and 2001, I haven’t seen better reporting on the health effects of working in the semiconductor industry, particularly in the clean rooms, where chips and disks are made. He certainly bursts the notion that clean rooms have anything to do with worker safety. He also provides depth to the problem of linking chemical exposure, especially when it’s low level and chronic exposure, to cancer.

Poison Valley, parts 1 and 2

Poison PCs


Tuesday, January 25th, 2005

Ergonomics forms an integral part of the computers-environment-society dynamic because the physical design of computing and its related work environment has significant public health implications. The US Occupational Health and Safety Administration estimates that at least one-third of all workplace injuries are musculo-skeletal disorders (according to the US Dept of Labor, these include afflictions of muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs). Many of these injuries come from computer work where, for example, the mouse is too far or the monitor is too low or the chair is improperly adjusted.

OSHA maintains an excellent resource on computers and public health, which is OSHA’s etools site. Take the ergonomic checklist to determine how ergonomic your computing environment is.

GIS and Access to Information

Tuesday, January 25th, 2005

When you have a chance, you should check out the paper on the Sillicon Valley Toxics Coalition website: SVTC under the heading “Sustainable Water” on the right, then under “Publications”, “GIS and Health”. Or rather, here’s the link directly to the paper: Interactive Applications of GIS in Understanding Community Environmental Health The paper emphasizes collaboration from varying sectors in promoting the health field and trying to increase the public and private knowledge base overall, through the exchange of information. It claims that new technologies are more often developed outside the public sector and rather should be reintigrated into the public sector. It focuses on the interactive use of Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs), originally known a emission inventories, that are made available to the public. For instance, SVTC’s EcoMaps include “information identifying the name and contact information of the polluting facility’s environmental, health and safety officer” (Stanley-Jones 20). This allows the community to question the particular company’s involvement in pollution prevention; however, as the paper reveals later, the information is often screened first by state agencies, and by the company itself, and the company can choose what information, if any, it wants to disclose to the public. Stanley-Jones argues we need more collaboration between community members and government policy-makers, through ‘democratic interactivity’: “Individuals and civic organisations must become the co-producers of environmental information guiding public policy if the cognitive challenges to managing such information are to be met” (Stanley-Jones 23). He promotes community-based monitoring projects as an effective means for attaining this, and lists a number of organisations that have taken this approach. I think this is a good approach, because it seems to be more holistic, in incorporating the public to a larger extent in policy decisions. If we limit information exchange to just a select few, we are limiting ourselves from increased knowledge, and as a result we often make less informed decisions which in turn, can often lead to negative consequences. It is interesting to wonder what kind of reprecussions this will have in the future in the health field. Suppose you can quickly find out which neighbourhood has the most polluting factories nearby, and statistics can help determine your life span if you choose to live there…of course, there are many factors linked to health, and landscapes do change, so perhaps it may not reach that level. The implications of this paper seem promising, though, as the paper seems to encourage more responsibility of companies towards the environment. As a result, this may lead to tighter regulations, and in turn, the standards will keep going up, and we will try to arrive at better solutions, with the help of both private and public sectors…what are your thoughts on this?