air pollution | KUOW News and Information

air pollution

Climate Change Is Making Smoky, Unhealthy Air More Common

Sep 7, 2017

On Wednesday, as smoke blotted out the sun across the city of Portland, about a dozen people were hiding out from the smoky heat in the air conditioned Hollywood Senior Center – one of the county's designated cooling centers for those needing relief on the hottest days of the year.

Wearing an electronic air filter around her neck, Jennifer Young, who works at the center, flipped on the larger, high-efficiency particulate  filter she brought from home to purify her work-space air.

Sunset from Gas Works Park, Seattle, August 3, 2017.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

There are more than 20 wildfires burning in British Columbia right now, but that’s just one reason why the air in Seattle is junk right now.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Texas oil company Tesoro and the purchaser of one of its refineries have agreed to spend $403 million to reduce air pollution at oil refineries in six western states under an agreement announced by the Justice Department on Monday.

North Portland Residents Complain Of Flawed Air Testing

Jun 21, 2016

North Portland residents say state air testing in their neighborhood was flawed and doesn’t address their longstanding concerns about strong paint odors.

Neighbors of the Swan Island industrial area voiced their complaints Monday night at a forum at the University of Portland.

The U.S. Forest Service has released the data that kicked off concerns about Oregon’s system of monitoring air quality and air toxics in Portland. Hundreds of readings gathered all around the city are expressed on an interactive map that shows readings taken in 2013.

For weeks, DEQ and Bullseye Glass have been negotiating over whether the company should be allowed to resume using heavy metals while DEQ crafts rules for the art glass industry. Late Monday, the two sides announced a deal. OPB's April Baer sat down with DEQ's Keith Johnson to find out more about the major points.

The Northwest’s art glass industry is under the gun over what it’s putting in the region’s air. Portland-based Bullseye Glass is in the midst of a 10-day production moratorium and is cutting back staff. Last week, facing similar pressures, a Washington-based company decided to shut down for good.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a cease and desist order Thursday against Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland.

The move comes after the Department of Environmental Quality found toxic levels of lead in air monitors near a daycare facility.

DEQ officials recorded lead levels at three times the 24-hour benchmark. Exposure to lead has been shown to decrease IQ levels in children.

Oregon regulators have results back from new air quality monitors installed after toxic hot spots were found in Portland. They show yet another reason for concern.

Neighbors To North Portland Polluter Say DEQ Ignored Their Complaints

Apr 20, 2016

Adam Bartell felt like a crackpot for complaining about air pollution in his neighborhood.

The smell of paint fumes in University Park was potent, frequent and eventually intolerable.

He smelled it in the morning when he took the kids to school. He smelled it in the afternoon when he picked them up.

But when he tried to tell someone who could stop it, he felt ignored.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says two artistic glassmakers in Portland should have installed pollution controls on their furnaces under national rules that were in place for years before emissions became an issue in the city.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced the EPA’s determination in a news release Wednesday.

Oregon’s Top Utility Regulator Resigns

Mar 19, 2016

Oregon’s top regulator of power companies announced her resignation Friday in a letter to Gov. Kate Brown.

Susan Ackerman is a longtime utility lawyer who was appointed to the Oregon Public Utility Commission in 2010 and promoted to chairwoman in 2012. The three-member board regulates investor-owned utilities including their natural gas and electricity rates.

Oregon regulators said Thursday air and soil samples continue to show low health risks for Portland residents. But the level of arsenic in some areas is elevated.

A new test for arsenic around Uroboros Glass in North Portland showed levels several times higher than the state guideline.

But David Farrer with the Oregon Health Authority said people needn’t be concerned.

Forest Service lichenologist Sarah Jovan hardly has to walk half a block from her office in downtown Portland to find the type of shaggy, green moss she used to discover the city’s hidden hot spots of toxic air pollution.

“I mean, it’s just everywhere,” she said. “You can see it on all these trees here, across the street. For a sample you’d need probably a couple handfuls.”

Q&A: What We Know About Portland's Toxic Air Emissions

Feb 17, 2016

Two air-pollution hotspots in Portland have many residents worried about exposure to arsenic, cadmium, and now hexavalent chromium, which can be highly carcinogenic.

The hotspots have drawn attention to two glassmakers, which have now suspended the use of any of those materials in their production processes.

This scare has drawn attention to what you’ve called a blind spot in air pollution regulations. Can you remind us what it is and how it was discovered?

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is calling on the Oregon Health Authority and Department of Environmental Quality to take immediate action, after concerns that glass companies are releasing heavy metals into North and Southeast Portland air.

In a statement Monday, Brown ordered DEQ to begin soil testing in the affected communities. Heavy metals have the potential to linger in soil and be an exposure point for people.

New carbon pollution rules in Washington will pack the biggest wallop for cement makers, oil refiners and paper mills.

These are among the industrial manufacturers that will be required to lower their greenhouse gas emissions under the draft rules released Wednesday by Washington. Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration.

For the first time since it instituted a warning system in 2013, Beijing has issued a "red alert" over dangerous levels of air pollution.

The state news agency Xinhua reported that the city's air is thick with smog and the skyline is obscured by the haze.

The agency reports:

"This is the first time the capital has issued the red alert, which will last from 7:00 a.m. Tuesday to 12:00 p.m. Thursday.

Conjuring images of a dystopia, the shroud of bad air blanketing New Delhi in recent weeks has intensified global pressure on India to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

India will arrive at the climate change summit in Paris next week as the third biggest generator of fossil fuel pollution blamed for warming the planet, after China and the U.S.

Half of India's emissions come from burning coal. A visit to the coal-rich northeastern Indian state of Jharkhand reveals how this stands to get even worse.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that it has discovered more Volkswagen cars containing software that helped them cheat emissions tests. The most recently discovered batch of 10,000 vehicles that the EPA says are equipped with "defeat device" technology are 3-liter diesel engine cars, including several Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche 2014 to 2016 model years.

NPR's John Ydstie reports for the Newscast unit:

Volkswagen admitted it intentionally cheated on federal emissions tests. The German automaker now faces billions of dollars in fines and litigation, plus the cost of fixing some 11 million diesel cars worldwide.

That's just the company. The scandal is costing owners, too — at least those who are trying to sell their VW diesels. Not surprisingly, resale prices for the affected cars have been falling.

American culture has long held a soft spot for Volkswagen. There was Herbie in the 1968 comedy The Love Bug. And, more recently, the chronically honking, classic VW bus featured in Little Miss Sunshine.

If you own a diesel-powered Volkswagen, you're well aware that this week the German car maker was exposed by federal regulators for equipping vehicles with a computerized “defeat device” that gave inaccurate emissions readings.

The cheat caused nearly a half-million of these diesel models since 2009 to emit low emissions during testing, but then turned off those emissions controls in actual driving situations – allowing the vehicles to get better gas mileage and performance while putting out more pollution.

Smoke fills the horizon over Seattle, contributing to a hazy sunset on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Smoke from wildfires raging in eastern Washington prompted an air quality warning for the Seattle area.

The National Weather Service said Saturday afternoon that air quality in parts of the Puget Sound region was unhealthy for sensitive groups.

NASA/NOAA

Westerly winds can carry air pollution from China across the Pacific Ocean in just a few days.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers in the United Kingdom, China and the U.S.

Courtesy Photo

Seattle Public Schools is paying $750,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a teacher who was fired for refusing to work in a building she says made her sick. 

Former teacher Denise Frisino says when she worked at Nathan Hale High School seven years ago, the mold was so bad that she had a hard time breathing and a terrible cough. "It was to the point where I could not be inside the building for long. It was not a minor thing. It was a severe reaction," she says. 

Flickr photo/Washington Department of Natural Resources

Dryer than normal conditions prompted Washington Governor Chris Gregoire to declare a state of emergency and extend a ban on outdoor fires. Outdoor burning is banned in all counties until October 15. The state is experiencing a rare stretch of dry weather.