By the Numbers

Beyond propaganda and rhetoric, numbers tell the real story

Oil barrels

A 2009 COMPARISON of regular cigarettes and fire-safe cigarettes by the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that FSCs produced 13.9 percent more naphthalene and 11.4 percent more carbon monoxide than regular cigarettes. A key ingredient in moth balls, naphthalene may cause headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when exposures are high and concentrated enough. FSCs employ fire-safe paper, which is made with ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer emulsion adhesive — essentially carpet glue — linked to mouth and throat sores, asthma and bronchitis. Thirty states, including Michigan, have passed laws requiring that all cigarettes be fire-safe.

For more information go to www.firesafecigarettes.org/assets/files/ HarvardStudy.pdf.

ACCORDING TO A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report released in November 2009, new cars and light-duty trucks have increased fuel efficiency while decreasing carbon dioxide emissions for each of the past five years. In 2008, average fuel economy was 21 mpg, which rose to 21.1 mpg in 2009. Average CO2 emissions decreased 8 percent, or 39 grams per mile, and average fuel economy increased 9 percent, or 1.8 mpg, since 2004. The report asserts that the recent trend returns CO2 emissions and fuel economy to levels not seen since the early 1980s.

For more information go to www.epa.gov/otaq/fetrends.htm.

THE WORLD HEALTH Organization's 2009 AIDS Update reports that new HIV infections were reduced 17 percent over the past eight years. Sub-Saharan African infections decreased by 400,000, a 15 percent reduction; East Asia infections decreased 25 percent; and infections in South and South East Asia decreased 10 percent over the same time period. Report data reveals that more people infected with HIV are living longer due to antiretroviral therapy, and that AIDS-related deaths have declined by more than 10 percent over the past five years. The report's writers believe that the increased availability of treatment has saved approximately 2.9 million lives, and that more than 200,000 new infections have been prevented since 2001. Additionally, WHO reports that AIDS-related deaths in Botswana — where treatment coverage has risen to 80 percent — have declined 50 percent over the past five years.

For more information go to www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/ 2009/hiv_aids_20091124/en/index.html.

IN ITS ANNUAL "Toxics Release Inventory" report from December 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that environmental releases of toxic chemicals fell 6 percent in 2008, the last year for which a data set is available. The decrease lowers to 3.86 billion pounds the level of toxic chemicals released into the environment. The TRI monitors 650 chemicals from more than 21,000 sources, including manufacturing and metal mining facilities, electric utilities and commercial hazardous waste sites. Additional information from the report includes a total 14 percent decrease in air releases. Releases to surface water increased 3 percent, partially attributed by the EPA to a coal ash spill in Tennessee. Releases to land were up slightly, by 0.1 percent, between 2007 and 2008.

For more information go to www.epa.gov/tri.