The Obama administration has conveniently discovered a new air pollutant emitted by biomass burning. There can be no doubt that the purpose of this study is to smear/stop biomass as means of generating electricity.
Here’s the media release of the study publisbhed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
Biomass fires produce smoke containing isocyanic acid (HNCO), a chemical that has been linked to chronic diseases such as cataracts and rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study. James Roberts and colleagues conducted laboratory and field measurements of HCNO concentrations found in ambient air in Los Angeles, and emitted from tobacco smoke, laboratory biomass fires, and wildfires in Boulder, CO. According to the authors’ measurements, atmospheric HNCO represents a potential threat to human health, one that is largely unexamined and unregulated. Isocyanates are known to be toxic at high concentrations, and exposure to these compounds in the workplace is tightly regulated. However, the health consequences of HNCO pollution due to large-scale biomass burning, such as wildfires near urban areas or increases in biofuel and coal usage, are poorly understood. The authors also report that HNCO is emitted by urea-selective catalytic reduction systems that are currently being phased in by the U.S. and the European Union to limit diesel emissions. As some 3 billion people burn biomass to cook food and heat their homes, it is imperative that researchers better understand the extent and effects of atmospheric HNCO exposure on human health, according to the authors.
HNCO is such a “potential threat to human health” that no one has ever noticed, let alone worried about it before. (Remember when EPA dreamed up the indoor radon scare in the 1980s?)
While the lab tests in this study detected HNCO at up to 600 parts per billion by volume, HNCO was only found at up to 200 parts per trillion by volume in Los Angeles. So the lab tests reported HNCO levels 3,000 times greater than those detected in Los Angeles — and there is no evidence that ambient HNCO has ever harmed anyone in Los Angeles or anywhere else.
It’s absurd that the authors claim a “possible link” to health effects when they have no evidence any have actually occurred.
This study would be a total “Who cares?” except that the biomass industry is locked in mortal combat with the Obama administration over the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. The industry views biomass as a “clean” fuel (i.e., no “extra” carbon dioxide emitted), while the EPA is loathe to annoint biomass with that status as it would green light biomass as a fuel source.
Now that biomass has been saddled with allegations of “potentially health-threatening emissions,” the EPA will no doubt “be forced” into not “rushing to judgment” about the safety of biomass.
And yes, the study was funded by the Obama administration (NOAA, National Science Foundation and USDA).
Given the study’s alarming language about combustion products, it appears that there are some among us who would give the secret of fire back to Zeus.