September 6, 2013

    Photo: snowpeak/Wikimedia

Air Pollution Kills 200,000 Annually

Cars the largest source

Air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths each year, a newly released study from MIT's Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment has found. The group tracked emissions from sources like vehicle tailpipes, smokestacks, marine and rail operations, and commercial heating throughout the U.S.

Emissions from road transportation were the most significant contributor due to their proximity to populated areas, leading to 53,000 premature deaths. After analyzing the data state-by-state, researchers found California suffers the worst health impacts. Among cities, the emissions-related mortality rate in Baltimore was the highest, with 130 out of 100,000 residents likely to die in a given year due to exposure.

Premature deaths from residential pollution peaked along the East and West coasts while industrial pollution peaked in the Midwest and around Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and along the Gulf Coast due to oil refineries.

“In the past five to 10 years, the evidence linking air-pollution exposure to risk of early death has really solidified and gained scientific and political traction,” Steven Barrett, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, said in a press release. “There’s a realization that air pollution is a major problem in any city, and there’s a desire to do something about it.”

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Nyad in Cuba suiting up for her 2012 bid     Photo: AP

Nyad's Cuba-Florida Swim Under Attack

Team has yet to release data

Diana Nyad accomplished an incredible feat last week, swimming 110 miles from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida, in a grueling 53-hour marathon. But haters, as they say, will hate, and now members of the online Marathon Swimmers Forum, along with a gaggle of social media pundits, have descended on Nyad in an attempt to cast doubt on her accomplishment.

According to the “English Channel rules” for marathon swimming, the swimmer cannot wear anything that aids their speed, buoyancy, heat retention, or endurance. This includes the protective suit Nyad wore to defend against jellyfish stings. Purists have also protested the lack of an unbiased observer to track her progress, something most channel swimming associations require for official events.

“Because it's a solitary sport and not watched live by many people, it's important to record notes and take down documentation so when people ask the question, 'did you actually do this,' you have evidence,” said Marathon Swimmers Forum creator Evan Morrison.

Nyad has also hurt her case by withholding the data from her 53-hour swim, including her speed, number of strokes, feeding schedule, and GPS coordinates. “If she's accomplished what she's claiming to accomplish … I wonder why she wouldn't take the extra steps to make sure people believe it was actually true,” says Morrison. Given the steady stream of publicity from Nyad’s team, the lack of data is troubling for some swimmers, like Mo Siegel, who just completed a 20-mile crossing of Cape Cod Bay. “I'm skeptical if she swam every stroke of that 110 miles,” he told National Geographic. “I’d love to be proved wrong.”

Team Nyad has yet to comment on the issue.

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