ozone

Ozone, Asthma, and EPA Junk Science

On June 22, 2017, the Arizona Daily Star ran a story with the alarmist headline: “Tucson-area air quality the worst in five years.” The “worst in five years” thing is that on just five days during the past three months ground-level ozone measurements exceeded the EPA standard of 70ppb by a few parts per billion. “Ozone levels at Saguaro National Park-East that topped the 70 parts per billion federal standard: June 15 — 77 ppb, June 14 — 73 ppb, May 12 — 71 ppb, April 21 — 73 ppb, April 20 — 74 ppb.” The EPA claims that ozone causes asthma and other respiratory ailments, hence the strict standards. But, the EPA’s own data debunks the claim.

For many years, the EPA has been conducting experiments on the effects of ozone exposure. They placed volunteers in a closed room and subjected them to 300ppb and 400ppb ozone for two hours while they performed mild exercise. The 6,000 volunteers included children, the elderly, and even asthmatics. The EPA reports that “not a single adverse event.. [was] observed.” (Source)

There is also independent data showing that EPA ozone standards are bunk. For instance, there was “No association between air quality (PM2.5, ozone) and hospital admissions for asthma in University of California-Davis Health System during 2010-2012 (19,000+ cases). (Source)

According to the Institute for Energy Research, “average ozone concentrations nationwide dropped by 33 percent from 1980 to 2014. Since the incorporation of the 2008 standards, average ozone levels have declined by more than 9 percent, nationally.”

IER also reports: “According to an August 2015 report by NERA Economic Consulting, which analyzed the impacts of a 65 ppb standard (EPA ultimately went with a slightly higher 70 ppb standard), the total compliance costs could total $1.13 trillion from 2017 to 2040. The rule could also lead to annualized GDP declines of $140 billion as well as $840 in consumption losses for households.” (Source)

The EPA’s rules were endorsed by a panel of scientists required by law to review them, called the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). Both the Clean Air Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act required that CASAC panels be independent and unbiased. So was the panel independent and/or unbiased? A report shows that members of the board received a total of $192 million worth of EPA grants. (Source)

Some background:

“Ground-level ozone is formed through a chemical reaction when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) interact with sunlight. Emissions from power plants, industrial facilities, automobiles, gasoline vapors and solvents are all sources of NOx and VOCs. Natural sources, such as plant life and fires, also contribute to the formation of ozone; today, given how much ozone levels in the United States have already been reduced, a significant portion of a given area’s ozone concentration is made up of natural background ozone and ozone that has traveled from other states and, increasingly, from overseas.” (Source, study by National Association of Manufacturers)

A measurement problem:

“While the EPA has long known that ozone measurements are significantly biased upward by mercury vapor, the agency has required States to use ultraviolet ozone monitors subject to mercury interference. These ozone monitors blow air between an ultraviolet (UV) lamp and a UV detector. Ozone strongly absorbs UV, so reductions in UV arriving at the detector are proportional to the ozone in the air. But mercury vapor and other contaminants in air also absorb UV, thus, artificially inflating the amount of ‘ozone’ that is measured. The bias can range from a few parts per billion to many more.” (Source)

Mercury occurs in soil in and around Tucson. It is possible that readings recorded by local instruments may be “biased upward” by the mercury contained in blowing dust. A study in Avra Valley, west of Tucson, found soil mercury values up to 750ppb. (Arizona Geological Survey, Open-File Report 81-5, 1981).

The AZ Star article expresses much concern over the County exceeding EPA standards. These standards are the current law, so they may have economic consequences for non-attainment. There is, however, no proof that exceeding these standards have any effect on health.

See also: EPA experiments on humans debunk their ozone and particulate matter health claims

Revealed – EPA conducted illegal and potentially lethal experiments on children

Back in December I reported on EPA experiments that exposed senior citizens to potentially lethal doses of ozone and particulate matter from diesel exhaust, see EPA’s own human experiments debunk health claims.

JunkScience.com has been investigating these EPA experiments and found in late December, from documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, that the EPA was also experimenting on children 10 to 15 years old. These children were exposed to up to 300 micrograms of diesel exhaust particulate matter (PM2.5) which is 60 times the amount EPA claims is dangerous.

JunkScience says “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency paid the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to conduct experiments testing whether exposure to diesel exhaust harms children. These experiments are illegal under the Nuremberg Code, California state law and federal regulations concerning the protection of human subjects in medical research.” The tests were conducted without adequate informed consent.

Read the full JunkScience report here.

Some excerpts:

“EPA’s characterization of the PM2.5 [particulate matter] component renders diesel exhaust essentially one of the most deadly substances known to man in that any exposure can kill within hours. While JunkScience.com disagrees with this characterization, EPA and CARB [California Air Resources Board] nonetheless regulate diesel exhaust and PM2.5 on this basis.”

“Given this context, the conduct of the EPA, USC, UCLA and researchers in intentionally exposing children as young as 10 years old without informed consent to a deadly substance is quite clearly illegal, not to mention heinous and barbaric.”

“That the EPA and USC apparently attempted to conceal these facts from the public once they were discovered underscores the criminality of the conduct.”

“The only defense the EPA has to these charges would be admissions that its and the CARB’s pronouncements on the lethality and toxicity of diesel exhaust and PM2.5 are not true.”

Do you think anybody will be prosecuted?

From Thomas Sowell: “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”

UPDATE: Documents contradict EPA claim that it stopped diesel fume tests on kids

See also:

Replace the Environmental Protection Agency

EPA targets wrong cause of haze in Grand Canyon

Economic consequences of EPA power plant regulations

Impact of new EPA ozone rule

EPA experiments on humans debunk their ozone and particulate matter health claims

The rogue EPA is proposing to lower the ground-level ozone standards from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 60 ppb. This comes on the heels of a report that in 2007, the EPA conducted experiments on the effect of ozone on human subjects and found no adverse effects even at 400 ppb.

In a previous article (Impact of new EPA ozone rule) I documented the potential economic impact of this rule, it would:

Reduce U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040;

Result in 2.9 million fewer job equivalents per year on average through 2040;

Cost the average U.S. household $1,570 per year in the form of lost consumption.

The EPA claims that the lower standard would reduce deaths from asthma. Few people know, however, that back in 2007, the EPA conducted human experiments on the effect of ozone.

They recruited 6,000 elderly individuals with a history of asthma and exposed them to 400 ppb of ozone for two hours while the people performed mild exercise. The EPA reports that “not a single adverse event.. [was] observed.” (Source)

The EPA has been conducting experiments on humans for years. Back in 2011, then EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson testified before Congress: “Particulate matter causes premature death. It doesn’t make you sick. It is directly causal to you dying sooner than you should.”

As reported by Steve Milloy in the Washington Times, the EPA has been “exposing unwary and genetically susceptible senior citizens to air pollutants the agency says can cause a variety of serious cardiac and respiratory problems, including sudden death.”

Milloy:

During that time at those university laboratories, EPA-employed or -funded researchers have intentionally exposed a variety of people to concentrated levels of different air pollutants, including particulate matter (soot and dust), diesel exhaust, ozone and chlorine gas — the latter substance more recognized as a World War I-era chemical weapon than as an outdoor air pollutant.

Over the same period that the experiments in question have been conducted, the EPA has become more and more alarmist in communications to Congress and the public about danger the air pollutants pose to individuals even at commonplace, non-concentrated levels. The EPA has determined, for example, that any exposure to fine particulate matter can cause death within hours or days of inhalation. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, moreover, has testified in Congress that particulate matter causes about 1 of every 4 deaths in America.

Not only is diesel exhaust largely made up of “deadly” particulate matter, but its components include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which the EPA considers to be cancer-causing. The agency generally says that any exposure to a carcinogen increases the risk of cancer. Diesel exhaust also includes lead. The EPA has determined that lead can be readily absorbed from inhalation into the blood and that there is no safe level of lead in blood.

The university laboratories referred to in the quote above include the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan, University of Rochester, University of Southern California and University of Washington.

The EPA has conducted at least four separate experiments where people were subjected to 10 to 20 times the particulate matter concentration the EPA says is safe. (See details on Wryheat).

Investor’s Business Daily reports that the tests were also done on children. Here is how the tests were conducted according to IBD:

“EPA parked a truck’s exhaust pipe directly beneath an intake pipe on the side of a building. The exhaust was sucked into the pipe, mixed with some additional air and then piped directly into the lungs of the human subjects. EPA actually has pictures of this gas chamber, a clear plastic pipe stuck into the mouth of a subject, his lips sealing it to his face, diesel fumes inhaled straight into his lungs.”

Remember, these tests by the EPA were conducted while the EPA claimed “that any exposure to fine particulate matter can cause death within hours or days of inhalation.”

There is now a website devoted to exposing this EPA testing: http://epahumantesting.com/ See the “guided tour” on the left sidebar of the site. That website likens the EPA testing to NAZI experimentation of prisoners during World War II.

See also:

http://www.arizonadailyindependent.com/2013/12/10/economic-consequences-of-epa-power-plant-regulations/

The EPA is destroying America

Impact of new EPA ozone rule

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a more stringent National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone. The EPA is considering lowering the standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 60 ppb.

“Ground-level ozone is formed through a chemical reaction when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) interact with sunlight. Emissions from power plants, industrial facilities, automobiles, gasoline vapors and solvents are all sources of NOx and VOCs. Natural sources, such as plant life and fires, also contribute to the formation of ozone; today, given how much ozone levels in the United States have already been reduced, a significant portion of a given area’s ozone concentration is made up of natural background ozone and ozone that has traveled from other states and, increasingly, from overseas.”

The National Association of Manufacturers has commissioned a study to determine the impact of such a move. The quote above is from that study. The study found that the proposed rules would:

Reduce U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040;

Result in 2.9 million fewer job equivalents per year on average through 2040;

Cost the average U.S. household $1,570 per year in the form of lost consumption;

Increase natural gas and electricity costs for manufacturers and households across the country.

In addition to the costs cited above, the study found that restrictions to new natural gas production from tighter ozone regulations, in combination with the costs to reduce emissions, could reduce the present value of GDP by nearly $4.5 trillion through 2040, result in a loss of 4.3 million job equivalents per year and cost households $2,040 annually.

Read the executive summary of the study here.
The study also found that the technology to achieve the proposed standards does not yet exist.

The map below shows that most of the U.S. (and most of Arizona) would not be in compliance with the proposed regulations.

Ozone compliance

 

The EPA has still not even fully implemented the existing 75 ppb standards, yet is proposing even stricter standards. The EPA has presented no credible science to show that even the existing standard has any discernable benefit. EPA is clearly a rogue agency out of touch with reality.

END

See also at the Arizona Daily Independent:
Economic consequences of EPA power plant regulations
EPA targets wrong cause of haze in Grand Canyon
Global warming may be an unintended consequence of the EPA rule on sulfur

See also on Wryheat:
EPA war on coal threatens Tucson water supply
The EPA is destroying America

EPA Clean Power Plan is Junk Science

This post is reblogged from Globalwarming.org article by Marlo Lewis. Its full title is “How Can EPA’s ‘Clean Power Plan’ Deliver $Billions in Climate Benefits If It Has No Detectable Impact on Global Temperatures, Sea-Level Rise, or Other Climate Indicators?”

EPA’s carbon “pollution” rule for existing power plants, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, requires states, on average, to reduce power-sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis projects significant incremental annual compliance costs — $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion in 2030 (RIA ES-7) — but also much larger air quality and climate benefits. EPA’s Clean Power Plan “By the Numbers” Fact Sheet estimates the public health and climate benefits at $55 billion to $93 billion. The RIA projects net benefits of $46 billion to $84 billion in 2030 (RIA ES-23).

Reductions in premature fatalities attributed to coincidental reductions in ozone and fine particulate (MP2.5) pollution account for more than 90% of the estimated $23 billion to $59 billion in health benefits in 2030 (RIA ES-22). Those gigantic air quality “co-benefits” should be taken with several handfuls of salt.

Claims that PM2.5 pollution currently kills thousands of Americans annually are based on cherry-picked studies and extrapolation of health effects below the lowest PM2.5 concentrations associated with mortality in epidemiological studies. Such claims also conflict with toxicological studies, which indicate that current PM2.5 concentrations in U.S. cities are too low to cause significant disease or death.

As for ozone pollution, the rule’s purported health benefits are even less plausible, since asthma prevalence – especially childhood asthma rates — increased since 1980 while ozone concentrations declined by 25%.* The Clean Power Rule will reduce ozone precursor emissions chiefly by forcing states to shift base load generation from coal to natural gas. But the state with the worst ozone pollution is California, which obtains only 0.4% of its electricity from coal.

Those are my preliminary reactions to the rule’s co-benefit claims. I turn now to the main topic of this post — whether the rule’s alleged climate benefits justify the estimated costs.
Go to source for remainder of the article.

Ozone theory has holes

Last Friday a story in the Arizona Daily Star: “Asthmatics must switch to costlier ‘green’ inhalers” notes that asthmatics will no longer be able to purchase inexpensive inhalers because the propellant contains chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which the FDA thinks harm the ozone layer. The FDA said that patients who use the epinephrine inhalers (cost about $20) will need to switch by Dec. 31 to albuterol inhalers which cost $30 to $60.

Besides asthma, it seems these people will also suffer from bad science and over-zealous regulation.

Ozone (O3, a variant of the oxygen molecule O2) produces smog when it is at ground level, but high in the atmosphere, ozone protects us from Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the Sun.

Back in 1956, scientists noticed that the atmospheric ozone layer seasonally thinned over the South Pole. The size of the ‘hole’ varied from year to year. The reigning theory as to the cause of this ‘hole’ was that CFCs reacted with the ozone and caused its destruction leaving us vulnerable to UV radiation. This theory led to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty promoted by the United Nations. It went into effect in 1989 and required a phase-out of all CFCs which, at the time were used mainly in refrigerators, air-conditioning units, and to a lesser extent, as propellants for inhalers.

The alleged science behind this ban, according to Wikipedia, is this:

In 1973 Chemists Frank Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, then at the University of California, Irvine, began studying the impacts of CFCs in the Earth’s atmosphere. They discovered that CFC molecules were stable enough to remain in the atmosphere until they got up into the middle of the stratosphere where they would finally …be broken down by ultraviolet radiation releasing a chlorine atom. Rowland and Molina then proposed that these chlorine atoms might be expected to cause the breakdown of large amounts of ozone (O3) in the stratosphere. Their argument was based upon an analogy to contemporary work by Paul J. Crutzen and Harold Johnston, which had shown that nitric oxide (NO) could catalyze the destruction of ozone.

In other words, the catalytic reaction of CFCs on ozone was hypothesized based on “might be expected” and by “analogy.” However, there still is no proof that it actually happens in nature on a large scale.

ozone1The first chink in the CFC-ozone hypothesis came in 2007 with an article in Nature: “Chemists poke holes in ozone theory.” Chemists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory found that the rate of photolysis (light-activated splitting) of CFCs was much slower than had been assumed. This means: “The rapid photolysis of Cl2O2 is a key reaction in the chemical model of ozone destruction. If the rate is substantially lower than previously thought, then it would not be possible to create enough aggressive chlorine radicals to explain the observed ozone losses at high latitudes.”

So, if it’s not CFCs, what might be causing the variation in ozone? A possible answer was presented by researcher Qing-Bin Lu (University of Waterloo, Canada) in Physical Review Letters of the American Physical Society, 19 March 2009:

This Letter reports reliable satellite data in the period of 1980–2007 covering two full 11-yr cosmic ray (CR) cycles, clearly showing the correlation between CRs and ozone depletion, especially the polar ozone loss (hole) over Antarctica. The results provide strong evidence of the physical mechanism that the CR-driven electron-induced reaction of halogenated molecules plays the dominant role in causing the ozone hole.

Independent research from Cornell, published in 2010, also found a correlation between cosmic rays and the size of the ozone ‘hole.’

The FDA’s basis for banning the inhalers is not supported by current science, so asthmatics will suffer even more from the expense to pay for an eco-fad. And really, even if CFCs do impact ozone, how much CFCs come from inhalers?

Note: The ozone is produced by UV rays breaking down oxygen. Ozone thinning normally occurs in winter when sunlight and UV rays disappear allowing the normally unstable ozone to decay. The amount and extent of decay apparently depends on cosmic ray flux.

See also:

Antarctic ozone hole may have larger role in climate change

CERN experiment confirms cosmic ray effect on climate

Electricity supply endangered by EPA regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency is promulgating new regulations regarding emissions of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone which may greatly increase the cost of electricity, cause some power plants to close, and endanger our ability to produce adequate power.

According to Investors Business Daily:

The Cross-State Pollution Rule, announced last month, and its implementation over the next 18 months will likely result in the loss of a fifth of the nation’s electricity-generating capacity.

The rule requires [coal-fired power plants] in 27 states to slash emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide by 73% and 54%, respectively, from 2005 levels by 2014.

Up to 110 gigawatts of capacity came on-line between 1940 and 1969 and were grand fathered under the Clean Air Act. Now the EPA is saying bring them up to their code or shut them down.

An analysis released earlier last month by the National Economic Research Associates used government data to examine the combined impacts of this latest rule and other EPA rules and found the EPA’s actions would cause a net job loss of more than 1.4 million job-years by 2020.

Even the New York Times says “Because of new Environmental Protection Agency rules, and some yet to be written, many of those [power] plants are expected to close in coming years.”

The Washington Times reports:

The EPA said it would soon release updated ozone regulations that are going to kill jobs and impose substantial costs on the U.S. economy – at least $90 billion, by its own estimates, and $1 trillion annually between 2020 and 2030 according to industry estimates.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review standards every five years. The EPA last did so three years ago. Why the rush to imposes new stricter standards two years early? Is this political science rather than real science? According to the EPA, ozone levels have been falling since 1980 and are now just 50% of what they were then.

Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone are associated with fine particulate matter which is regulated by the EPA.

Again from the Washington Times:

What if today’s levels of air pollution didn’t kill anybody? That certainly would be bad news for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has spent the past 15 years stubbornly defending its extraordinarily expensive and ever-tightening air-quality regulations.

The EPA claims airborne fine particulate matter kills tens of thousands annually and that the prevention of those deaths will provide society $2 trillion annually in monetized health benefits by 2020.

But we can debunk those claims with more than mere criticisms of EPA’s statistical malpractice and secret data. We have actual data that simply discredit the EPA’s claims.

Continue reading.

For the most part, current standards have been met, so the EPA is moving the goal posts. The EPA has yet to provide any solid scientific justification for these regulations. And the regulations will greatly harm our economy. But regulators tend to regulate to justify their own existence. How clean is clean enough?

For a more in-depth analysis see: Pretending Air Pollution Is Worse Than It Is from Junkscience.com.

Death Toll from Biofuels

It was just a short, filler article buried on page 13 of the Arizona Daily Star: “Rising demand for corn from ethanol producers is pushing U.S. reserves to the lowest point in 15 years, a trend that could lead to higher grain and food prices.”

In contrast, the media have been falling all over themselves speculating on the dangers of radiation from the leaking reactor at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear facility. Although the earthquake and tsunami there have been responsible for about 18,000 deaths, none, so far, have been attributed to radiation.

The consequences from our increasing use of ethanol have not received much press.   A report by Dr. Indur Goklany, writing in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (Volume 16 Number 1, Spring 2011), estimates that at least 192,000 excess deaths and 6.7 million additional Disability-Adjusted Life Years lost to disease have been caused by using food crops to make ethanol for fuel. These deaths have been mainly in third world countries where the rise in price of food staples or the loss of availability of food puts people over the edge. In these cases, being green is fatal.

Goklany’s report cited two studies using World Bank and World Health Organization data. Both studies covered 90% of the developing world’s population and “both indicate that higher biofuel production increases global poverty, even in the longer term.” See the full study here: http://www.jpands.org/vol16no1/goklany.pdf .

A rationale for using ethanol is to cut our dependence of foreign oil. But, so far, our increasing use of ethanol has not cut this dependence.

According to a report from the Manhattan Institute,

Between 1999 and 2009, U.S. ethanol production increased seven-fold, to more than 700,000 barrels per day (bbl/d). During that period, however, oil imports increased by more than 800,000 bbl/d. (In addition, U.S. oil exports—yes, exports—more than doubled, to about 2 million bbl/d.) Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that oil imports closely track domestic oil consumption. Over the past decade, as oil demand grew, so did imports. When consumption fell, imports did as well. Ethanol production levels had no apparent effect on the volume of oil imports or on consumption.

Why didn’t increasing use of ethanol affect oil imports? According to the Manhattan Institute:

The answer to that question requires an understanding of the refining process. When sent through a refinery, a barrel of crude yields different “cuts,” which range from light products such as propane and butane to heavy products such as asphalt. Even the best-quality barrel of crude (42 gallons) yields only about 20 gallons of gasoline. Furthermore, certain types of crude oil, such as light sweet, a high-quality, low-sulfur grade, are better suited than others to gasoline or diesel production. Even the most technologically advanced oil refineries cannot produce just one product from a barrel of crude; they must produce several, and the market value of those various cuts is constantly fluctuating.

The implication is obvious: Corn ethanol has not reduced the volume of oil imports, or overall oil use, and likely never will, because it can replace only one segment of the crude-oil barrel. Unless or until inventors come up with a substance (or substances) that can replace all of the products refined from a barrel of crude oil—from gasoline to naphtha and diesel to asphalt—this country, along with every other one, will have to continue to rely on the global oil market—the biggest, most global, most transparent, most liquid market in human history.

That brings us to some ethical questions. Should we use food crops to make fuel? One entity addressing those questions is the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. (See report)

First they note:

Recent research suggests that assumed GHG benefits from increased use of corn-based ethanol may have been overstated. Emissions from indirect land use change occur when biofuels production displaces agricultural production, leading to additional land use change elsewhere. Some studies suggest this land use change ultimately causes an increase in net greenhouse gas emissions. When such market-driven effects are included, the lifecycle GHG emissions for U.S. corn-ethanol may increase from 135 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per megajoule to 177 g CO2e/MJ, which is nearly double that of gasoline at 92 g CO2e/MJ.

The Calgary paper then asks and discusses four questions:

1. Should biofuel production be managed with regard to effects on food and agriculture critical to poor populations?

2. Biomass typically produces less energy per unit of land over short time scales when compared with other sources of energy. Should we be developing low intensity energy if it results in the destruction of more land and natural areas than high intensity energy?

3. Land use impacts of large scale biofuel production may be significant and are likely to be persistent. Should we only be focusing on the ecological after-effects of climate change rather than the land impacts created by potential changes in energy systems?

4. Should we consider potential effects on rural and urban economies?

The report concludes in part:

There is a missing link today between methods of energy policy development and ethical considerations associated with broader social decision- making. Because the ethical implications of the transitions to new energy systems are seldom considered, the choices we make may have negative moral consequences and corresponding social costs.

In a previous post, I noted that increased use of ethanol fuel, especially E85, significantly increases ozone, a prime ingredient of smog, which even at low levels can decrease lung capacity, inflame lung tissue, worsen asthma and impair the body’s immune system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 people die each year from ozone and other chemicals in smog.

Ethanol may be the darling of the politically correct, but it is not the darling of the environment.

Sunburned Whales and Ozone

A British study of whales in the Gulf of California reports that light-skinned whales show signs of sunburn. The researchers attribute this to thinning of the ozone layers which protect us from ultraviolet radiation.

A curious thing about this study, which was conducted from 2007 to 2009, is that the number of whales exhibiting signs of sunburn greatly increased over the three-year study: in 2007, 12% of the whales had blisters; in 2008, 28% had blisters; and in 2009, 68% had blisters. This large increase in blistering would suggest that the ozone layer is rapidly decreasing. Yet NASA says “UV exposure has increased over the last 30 years, but stabilized since the mid-1990s.” Obviously, these researchers need more government grants to take more tropical cruises to further study this problem.

Since the 1970s, scientists hypothesized that chlorine compounds could react in the atmosphere to decrease the protective layer of ozone (O3) which blocks some of the ultraviolet rays impinging on the earth. In 1985, scientists noticed that the ozone layer over the Antarctic was very thin. (Later research would find that this thinning is an annual event and also varies on longer cycles.) This discovery caused a political furor and in 1987, the Montreal Protocol banned chloro-fluoro-carbons (CFCs) aka freon, from air conditioners and refrigerators.

The claim that CFCs were responsible for the perceived thinning remains controversial. In 2007 chemists poked holes in the ozone theory in a study published in Nature. These researchers found that the decomposition of chlorine compounds by light was much slower than had been assumed and “at least 60% of ozone destruction at the poles seems to be due to an unknown mechanism.”

What could this unknown mechanism be? In 2009, in a paper published in Physical Review Letters found a correlation between cosmic rays and ozone depletion. The abstract says:

“This Letter reports reliable satellite data in the period of 1980–2007 covering two full 11-yr cosmic ray (CR) cycles, clearly showing the correlation between CRs and ozone depletion, especially the polar ozone loss (hole) over Antarctica. The results provide strong evidence of the physical mechanism that the CR-driven electron-induced reaction of halogenated molecules plays the dominant role in causing the ozone hole. Moreover, this mechanism predicts one of the severest ozone losses in 2008–2009 and probably another large hole around 2019–2020, according to the 11-yr CR cycle.”

If these two research groups are right, then once again, a trumped-up environmental crisis is proven to be false and we went to the expense of banning CFCs for nothing.