The Grand Portage Reservation is at the northeastern tip of Minnesota. The Air Quality Program has many ongoing projects in order to maintain healthy indoor and outdoor air. These projects include monitoring for regional haze and particulate matter, indoor air quality, invasive plant removal, public outreach, environmental education, alternative energy, and climate change.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New Study Links Air Pollution And Autism

A new study from Harvard's School of Public Health has linked autism with exposure of the mother to air pollution. The study builds on research published in 2006 and 2012 which first made the linkage between autism and air pollution. From the report at Bloomberg:
Researchers from Harvard University’s School of Public Health found that pregnant women exposed to high levels of diesel particulates or mercury were twice as likely to have an autistic child compared with peers in low-pollution areas. The findings, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, are from the largest U.S. study to examine the ties between air pollution and autism.

More research needs to be done to determine how air pollution can affect developing brains but the evidence is becoming stronger that there is a link. All the more reason to be vigilant in protecting our air.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Free Carbon Monoxide Alarms Available!

The Air Quality office now has home carbon monoxide alarms available for the Grand Portage community. These alarms detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that causes thousands of deaths each year. These are battery powered alarms similar to smoke detectors and should be placed near the bedrooms of the home. These detectors are required in all new construction but many older homes lack them and this could be deadly. I also have equipment to test your appliances and check for carbon monoxide production.
Please stop by my office or give me a call and I will install it for you. My office number is 475-2027 and is located at 27 Store Road in the Trust Lands building.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Free Radon Monitors Available!

The Air Quality office now has free radon monitors available now for the Grand Portage community. These monitors test the air in the home over a period of time and are then mailed in for analysis. Since home ventilation levels vary over the seasons a one-year test is the most accurate but the detector can be analyzed with as little as a 14 day exposure. Here is how the company describes them:

Each RSSI Alpha-track radon gas detector contains a detector element, called a foil.  When radon atoms decay inside the detector, they release alpha particles.  If the alpha particles strike the foil, they make microscopic tracks in the surface of the foil.  When the detector is analyzed, the foil is chemically treated to enlarge the alpha tracks, which are counted on an automated system.  The average radon level is calculated from the number of tracks and the number of days the detector was exposed.  This level is reported in picocuries per liter (pCi/L).  
Radon levels vary in daily and seasonal cycles, and in response to weather conditions and ventilation patterns.  For these reasons, it is preferable to make the test period as long as possible.  A full year test provides the most reliable prediction of future radon exposure and health risk.  However, RSSI's Alpha-track detector can be used for tests as short as 14 days.

Call my office at 475-2027 or stop by at 27 Store Road and I can set one up in your home. If you have any questions about indoor air quality or would like your house tested Just let me know and we can set it up.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Carbon Monoxide - The Silent Killer Strikes Again

One of the stars of the MTV reality show "Buckwild" and two other people were found dead in their vehicle in West Virginia last week and the cause was carbon monoxide poisoning. The three were in a 1984 Ford Bronco that was stuck in the mud with the tailpipe buried in the mud which allowed the cab to become saturated with a fatal level of CO. This tragedy should be a sharp reminder to us all to be sure that the tailpipe of your vehicle is clear of any obstructions like snow or mud when idling a car. This is critically important if you are stranded and need to run the car for heat. Remember CO is colorless and odorless and can overcome you before you even realize what is happening. Keep a candle and blankets in your emergency kit and you will not need to run the car as much if you become stuck since the heat from the candle can help warm the interior enough to keep you from freezing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Nanoscale Filter Can Desalinate Water 100 Times More Efficiently

Although this is not directly air related, this could be a game-changer for regions suffering for lack of fresh water. Climate change is already worsening droughts worldwide, and this trend is only going to increase as global temperatures rise. A new type of filter developed by Lockheed Martin uses sheets of a carbon material called graphene with nano scale holes which allow water to pass through easily but trap salt molecules. Compared to current filters it takes 100 times less energy to push the water through the filter, and if this technology can scale up it could be shaped into filters that could retrofit current desalination plants.
From the report:
The process, officials and engineers at Lockheed Martin Corp say, would enable filter manufacturers to produce thin carbon membranes with regular holes about a nanometer in size that are large enough to allow water to pass through but small enough to block the molecules of salt in seawater. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.
Because the sheets of pure carbon known as graphene are so thin - just one atom in thickness - it takes much less energy to push the seawater through the filter with the force required to separate the salt from the water, they said.
The development could spare underdeveloped countries from having to build exotic, expensive pumping stations needed in plants that use a desalination process called reverse osmosis.
"It's 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger," said John Stetson, the engineer who has been working on the idea. "The energy that's required and the pressure that's required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less."

Desalination plants are huge consumers of electricity and with demand for fresh water constantly rising this method could help reduce electric consumption worldwide. Desert regions with ocean access could use solar powered desalination plants which could allow for irrigation in places where it once was prohibitively expensive. As I said, not directly air related but a development that could have huge implications for energy use in the future and that does affect air quality.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Comet PANSTARRS Update

This coming week observers in the northern hemisphere will finally get a chance to see comet PANSTARRS, which has been brightening steadily over the month of February. Follow the link above for maps, but here in Grand Portage one of the best places to look for it is to go out to the end of Hat Point by the water pumping station around sunset and look west across the bay. I will set up my big telescope and my camera tripod and attempt to get some photos so if anyone wants a look come on out to Hat Point on clear evenings next week. Binoculars will help in finding the comet but hopefully it should be visible to the naked eye. Start looking around March 8th and keep looking all week as the comet will fade in brightness as the month passes.

Here's to clear skies!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New Hazecam Link

The Hazecam has changed internet servers so we all need to update our bookmarks. The new address is:

As you can see, it's a beautiful sunny day here in Grand Portage with temperatures going into the mid thirties today.