Thursday, 21 June, 2018

14m cases of childhood asthma related to ship pollution

Cleaner ship fuels benefit health, but affect climate

07 Feb 2018, 00:34 ( 4 Months ago) | updated: 07 Feb 2018, 09:01 ( 4 Months ago)

DF Report
File Photo Xinhua.

Marine shipping fuels will get a whole lot cleaner in 2020 when a regulation by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires fuels to contain 80-86 percent less Sulphur, said a study. 

Study finds cleaner ship fuels will reduce childhood asthma by 3.6 percent globally but it will also accelerate climate change, said an official press release.

The new IMO rule will decrease the allowable amount of sulphur in fuel oil from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent, a reduction from 35,000 parts per million (ppm) to 5,000 ppm.

This is the most significant improvement in global fuel standards for the shipping industry in 100 years, intended to achieve significant health benefits on a global scale.  

Now, a new study in Nature Communications quantifies these health benefits and finds cleaner shipping fuels will result in a 3.6 percent reduction of childhood asthma globally.

The team studied the impacts of sulphur emitted by ships using current marine fuels, which produce air pollution particles that are small enough to be breathed deeply into the lungs and are considered harmful to human health.  

Ship air pollution effects are greatest in areas where heavily travelled ship routes exist in, and next to, densely populated communities.

Some key regions include China, Singapore, Panama, Brazil and coastlines of Asia, Africa and South America.

Refining industries will invest in the necessary technology to produce, and shipping will invest to adapt engine systems to use, these cleaner fuels.

“Essentially, we document how much health benefit to expect from the 2020 adoption of cleaner ship fuels,” said James Corbett, professor of marine science and policy in UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and the paper's corresponding author.

About 14 million annual cases of childhood asthma are estimated to be related to global ship pollution using current fuels. 

The change to cleaner ship fuels will reduce the ship-related childhood asthma cases by half.

Additionally, shipping pollution is estimated to contribute to 400,000 premature deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease annually.

Using health risk estimates for ships comparable with the World Health Organization totals, ships account for about 3-4 percent of global lung cancer and cardiovascular deaths caused by air pollution.  About one-third of these ship-related cardiovascular disease and lung cancer deaths will be reduced with cleaner fuels.

“Researchers used a state-of-the-art model of ship traffic based on satellite records to determine where ship activity was producing emissions”, explains FMI researcher Jukka-Pekka Jalkanen.

While the health benefits are clear, the research also quantifies tradeoffs in terms of climate. 

“Sulphur dioxide emissions from ships create small particles. These sulphur containing particles reflect sunlight and help form brighter clouds, creating a global effect that temporarily diminishes the warming effects of carbon dioxide. The use of cleaner ship fuels will increase the rate of global warming by about 3 percent,” said FMI senior researcher Mikhail Sofiev, who led the climate related research.

“This means more attention may be needed to reduce greenhouse gases across all sectors of the global economy.”

 

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