Louisiana is a state in the Deep South and South Central regions of the United States. It shares land borders with three other states and has an extensive coastline on the Gulf of Mexico. Much of its eastern boundary is marked by the Mississippi River. In 2019, the estimated population was 4.6 million people which ranked it as 25th.
Looking at the figures released on the IQAir website it can be seen that the air quality in the capital city of Baton Rouge was less than 10 µg/m³ which is under the target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). For 10 months of 2020 this target figure was achieved, only in November and December was it marginally exceeded but still low enough to be classed as “Good”. The previous years’ figures show that the air quality is slowly improving. In 2017, the annual average was 9.9 µg/m³, 2018 - 10 µg/m³, 2019 - 10.4 µg/m³ and 2020 - 8.7 µg/m³.
Pollution prevention is any method that reduces, eliminates, or prevents pollution from occurring. Reducing the amount of pollution produced means less waste to control, treat or dispose of. Preventing pollution before it is created is preferable to trying to manage, treat or dispose of it after its release.
Pollution prevention reduces both financial costs for waste management and subsequent clean-up and environmental costs such as health problems and damage to the environment. Pollution prevention protects the environment by conserving and protecting natural resources whilst strengthening economic growth through efficient production in industry and the reduced need for households, businesses and communities to handle the waste products.
Americans generate 1.6 million tons of hazardous household waste per year. Reducing consumption, reusing items, and recycling products and materials help to protect the environment and possibly even saving money too.
Most industrial processes should incorporate pollution prevention into their standard working practices. This will lead to cost-saving and increased profits and efficiency. Workers will be safer and at less risk of needing time off due to illnesses. Their safety will also improve.
As with many states in the US, most pollution seems to be due to particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and ozone (O3).
Louisiana is proving to be a mixed bag. Some cities are the cleanest they’ve been in years whilst others just don’t seem to be making any headway at all.
Shreveport, Bossier City and Minden recorded their best levels ever for ozone pollution and ranked as some of the cleanest areas in the nation for the first time ever. The same cannot be said for the state capital, Baton Rouge. Here was ranked 44th for the most polluted city when looking at its ozone levels despite the fact that it has reduced the number of days where ozone was at a dangerous level.
When compared to the 2019 report, New Orleans experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. New Orleans tied for 93rd most polluted city for ozone. It was noted that the production of ozone is on the increase due to the higher temperatures experienced in Louisiana over the last three years.
Ground-level ozone forms when certain chemicals come into contact with ultraviolet light. Those chemicals are produced from combustion, such as from internal combustion engines, power plants or, in the West, forest fires.
The latest report found that year-round particle pollution levels in New Orleans were significantly lower than last year. New Orleans ranked joint 94th for year-round particle pollution and improved to its best level, which met the national standard.
Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped in recent years because of the clean-up of coal-fired power stations and the scrapping of old, dirty diesel engines. However, the increase that has been seen nationally is a troubling reminder that we must increase our efforts to reduce this dangerous pollutant.
Louisiana is rich in petroleum and natural gas reserves. Both of these deposits are found in abundance both onshore and offshore in state-owned waters. Additionally, huge petroleum and natural gas reserves are found off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Energy Information Administration, the Gulf of Mexico OCS is the largest US petroleum-producing region. Excluding the Gulf of Mexico OCS, Louisiana ranks fourth in petroleum production and is home to about two per cent of the total US petroleum reserves.
Around 5 per cent of the US natural gas reserves are to be found in Louisiana. There is an area known as the Haynesville Shale formation which is thought to be the world’s fourth largest gas field. Some extraction units were extracting over 25 million cubic feet of gas, every day.
In late 2020, Louisiana was granted a sum of $978,866 from the Environmental Protection Agency to help monitor the air quality, especially for the fine particulate matter of PM2.5. Specifically, the funds will help the state carry out air-monitoring programs for the prevention and control of air pollution or implementation of PM2.5 air quality standards.
Obviously, there are exceptions, but on the whole, Americans are breathing some of the cleanest air on the planet. These funds will go towards finding the source of this pollutant and reducing the levels where possible.
Louisiana is approving the building of new chemical plants in areas that already have the state's worst air quality in a region known as “Cancer Alley”.
Plants with more than 10 staff members in particular industries, in possession of chemical quantities above specific amounts, are required to disclose information on their toxic emissions to the Toxics Release Inventory which is a program administered by the EPA. On a national level, this figure has decreased over recent years but not so in Louisiana where the number has been on the increase since the 1980s.
The estimated spread of toxic chemicals through the air has also been reducing since that time, but once again, Louisiana bucks the trend.
The largest source of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels by power stations and other industrial facilities. Smaller sources of sulphur dioxide emissions include industrial processes such as extracting metal from ore, natural sources such as volcanoes, and locomotives, ships and other vehicles and heavy equipment that burn fuel with a high sulphur content.
Cleaner fuel with a lower sulphur content will reduce emissions. Factories and industrial processes that emit sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere can have devices installed in their exhaust systems that remove most of the sulphur content before discharge.
Air quality is measured using the Air Quality Index, or AQI. The AQI works similar to a thermometer that is graded from 0 to 500 degrees. Instead of showing changes in the temperature, the AQI is a way of showing changes in the amount of pollution in the air. The higher the figure, the more pollution is present.
Earth’s atmosphere mainly consists of just 2 gases which are oxygen and nitrogen. However other gases find their way into the atmosphere from other sources. The five main pollutants which are monitored by the AQI index are ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and aerosols which include the PM2.5 and PM10 particles.
It is ground-level ozone and airborne particles that are the two air pollutants that pose the greatest risk to human health. They are also the two of the main ingredients in smog, a type of air pollution that reduces visibility and they are often used as a benchmark when determining the general condition of the air.
Everybody knows that smoking cigarettes has a detrimental effect on the lungs and general state of health.
However, a study published in the States found that people who live in areas with just slightly elevated levels of certain types of air pollution, such as ozone, are at a much higher risk of the lung damage associated with smoking, even if they have never smoked.
The results of the 10-year study looked at the CT scans of almost 7,000 healthy people in six regions with slightly higher than average levels of ozone. People in areas exposed to these elevated levels of ozone showed the same progression of lung damage that doctors see in smokers.
Scans taken when the study started were compared to those taken when it finished. It was found that 10 years of exposure to this amount of ozone is equivalent to smoking a pack of 20 cigarettes per day for 29 years.
Significant quantities of both toxic and non-toxic waste are generated during the complete process of extraction, refinement, and transportation of oil and gas. Some industry by-products, such as volatile organic compounds, nitrogen and sulphur compounds and spilt oil can pollute air, water and soil at levels that are harmful to life where badly managed. Climate warming, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise are global changes enhanced by the industry's emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane and micro-particulate aerosols such as black carbon or soot.