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Thread: Anyone heard of a box canyon effect leading to carbon monoxide poisoning?

  1. #1
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    Anyone heard of a box canyon effect leading to carbon monoxide poisoning?

    I have a current project for a PUD for a student apartment housing complex here in town. A resident and neighboring property owner to the proposed PUD has come forward with a report he created stating that the proposed project will create a “modified box canyon” that will place everyone in the area in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. I have never heard of such a thing and my research has not turned up anything. I was wondering if this is something that anyone has come across. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm....

    Are the parking areas located in a courtyard surrounded by the apartment complex? In other words, is the building surrounding the parking areas on three sides? CO poisoning is a real threat, even in open areas. We have a problem with certain high use areas on the Colorado River exceeding CO levels during calm days, due to the number of power boats that idle along. (Spring Break, July 4, Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends being bad sometimes to the point of closures). It requires monitoring to determine CO levels. I wouldn't ignore the issue, it could be a real concern depending on the conditions. People and kids rutinely die every year from swimming or being behind a boat on idle for just a minute or two before passing out and drowning

    I remember a "garden" level apartment I had to live in during College in Greeley, Colorado where opening a window exposed the arse end of someone's car and the tail pipe would be three feet away! One of those design issues you don't think about until you're met with diesel fumes from a large truck in the morning
    Skilled Adoxographer

  3. #3
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Is this neighbor an expert of some sort whose report is defensible? Would this proposed land use negate prevailing winds and trap car exhaust for long periods of time? Sounds awfully iffy to me, unless he can back it up with science.

    Sounds like he is grasping at straws and is another NIMBY.

    Here, we have narrow canyons and coulees that create "fire chimneys" - areas where the narrow canyon walls, steep slopes and fire fuels cause a threat of wildfire. We can prohibit development or require mitigation. Never heard of carbon monoxide poisoning danger, but who knows?
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  4. #4
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    Is this neighbor an expert of some sort whose report is defensible?

    [snip]

    Sounds like he is grasping at straws and is another NIMBY.

    Here, we have narrow canyons and coulees that create "fire chimneys" - areas where the narrow canyon walls, steep slopes and fire fuels cause a threat of wildfire. We can prohibit development or require mitigation. Never heard of carbon monoxide poisoning danger, but who knows?
    I'm no AQ modeler, but I abandoned a degree in climatology and used to forecast weather as well as being familiar with urban boundary layerl modeling in urban canyons for urban forest mitigation purposes.

    That said, IMHO this guy is throwing out something and hoping it sticks. Ask him for some urban canyon studies and thank him for his concern.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    This is the closest thing I could find in a 5minute search, but this guy also sounds like a NIMBY to me.

    Not sure exactly how relevant this link is, but it does give a general overview of modeling for air contaminants and box canyon effects.

    http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/80330.pdf

  6. #6
    The guidelines for monitoring air quality in metropolitan areas are based on the premise that very local hot spots dont exist. Therefore, there can be a dozen monitors over a thousand square miles that collectively show what a region's air quality might be.

    There is no reason to believe that there is any problem with the build up of any air pollutants in an area of high rises. The PDF on releases of hazardous materials is more about what would happen in the few seconds or minutes after a release where a very small quantity of materials, but which are extremely hazardous even at those small quantities, was released. For example, the release of a radioactive gas where there is no safe exposure amount. For CO2 or CO, there would not be any problem.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    The guidelines for monitoring air quality in metropolitan areas are based on the premise that very local hot spots dont exist. Therefore, there can be a dozen monitors over a thousand square miles that collectively show what a region's air quality might be.

    There is no reason to believe that there is any problem with the build up of any air pollutants in an area of high rises. The PDF on releases of hazardous materials is more about what would happen in the few seconds or minutes after a release where a very small quantity of materials, but which are extremely hazardous even at those small quantities, was released. For example, the release of a radioactive gas where there is no safe exposure amount. For CO2 or CO, there would not be any problem.
    Surely the project has approval (or not) by now, but for the future, the NIMBY could have strengthened his case by coughing up newspaper articles of all the places in the world where this has happened - you know, all the stories everyone has heard about CO poisoning across the world, in dense cities everywhere. All the stories that come up weekly.

  8. #8
    I've never heard of it called a "box canyon effect," but rather, as CO "hotspots." Theoretically, if you're standing in the right place at the right time, someone could pass out on the corner of an intersection due to an accumulation of carbon monoxide due to excessively idling vehicles stuck in traffic. Mitigation for this problem usually comes in the form of alleviating the traffic itself, based of course, on a CO hotspot analysis and the effect of existing traffic congestion and any increase your development may have.

    So, this can be a real problem and, if say this guy was to offer his comments during the public review period of the environmental document (EIR/EIS), it would have to be looked at and a justification would have to be made as to why a hotspot analysis is not needed, or one would have to be done if there was significant new information as to its need or if there was determined to be a prevalence of lingering CO in the project area and the development would significantly increase impacts.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    I've never heard of it called a "box canyon effect," but rather, as CO "hotspots." Theoretically, if you're standing in the right place at the right time, someone could pass out on the corner of an intersection due to an accumulation of carbon monoxide due to excessively idling vehicles stuck in traffic.
    It should be noted that these areas are not primarily caused by buildings per se. Structures and trees in urban canyons can create a boundary layer that prevents scouring by local winds and scavenging by the urban forest affects the NOx levels in some areas. But constructing buildings such that winds are affected won't poison everyone in the area in 999,999,999 out of 1,000,000,000 instances. Elevated CO can have ancillary effects, esp in the...erm...cardiopulmonarily-challenged, but poisoning? NIMBY and distraught adjacent property owner thrashing about for play.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    It should be noted that these areas are not primarily caused by buildings per se. Structures and trees in urban canyons can create a boundary layer that prevents scouring by local winds and scavenging by the urban forest affects the NOx levels in some areas. But constructing buildings such that winds are affected won't poison everyone in the area in 999,999,999 out of 1,000,000,000 instances. Elevated CO can have ancillary effects, esp in the...erm...cardiopulmonarily-challenged, but poisoning? NIMBY and distraught adjacent property owner thrashing about for play.
    I wasn't implying that this is caused by buildings, but that, depending on the built and natural topography, new development which would increase traffic congestion, in turn could create new or exacerbate existing hotspots.

  11. #11
    I work in public health. There is a major national problem with particulates that appear to be associated with sudden cardiac deaths, the classic case of someone falling dead from a heart attack. But while there has been a demonstrated risk of living near a highway and other high traffic streets, no one has looked at box canyon effects caused by buildings. Most highways and high volume streets in the US are not surrounded by walls of buildings *(think of a major suburban arterial).

    There is no health literature on people tumbling over from CO poisoning in outdoor air. None. Not recognized at all.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post

    There is no health literature on people tumbling over from CO poisoning in outdoor air. None. Not recognized at all.
    No, but there is much literature on the detrimental effects of CO accumulation. That's why I said "theoretically," because if you've had people come into a public hearing, you have to field their interpretation of the risks, which may include a somewhat absurd example such as tumbling over on the sidewalk. Whether this particular example is recognized by the public health community is irrelevant, sinc more detrimental effects are established, well known, and already regulated by the EPA and most state transportation agencies and air boards. The public health community might not have as large a share in the policy issues, since its an area that is regulated under an air pollution framework, and not so much a public health framework, although, obviously, there are public health implications.

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/env/air/pages/CO.htm

    Evaluating Efficiency-Equality Tradeoffs for Mobile
    Source Control Strategies in an Urban Area
    Jonathan I. Levy,1,∗ Susan L. Greco,2 Steven J. Melly,1 and Neha Mukhi1

    Evaluating Efficiency-Equality Tradeoffs for Mobile
    Source Control Strategies in an Urban Area
    Jonathan I. Levy,1,∗ Susan L. Greco,2 Steven J. Melly,1 and Neha Mukhi1

    Buonocore, J. , Lee, H. , & Levy, J. (2009). The influence of traffic on air quality in an urban neighborhood: A community--university partnership. American Journal of Public Health, 99(3)

  13. #13
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    No, but there is much literature on the detrimental effects of CO accumulation. That's why I said "theoretically," because if you've had people come into a public hearing, you have to field their interpretation of the risks, which may include a somewhat absurd example such as tumbling over on the sidewalk. Whether this particular example is recognized by the public health community is irrelevant, sinc more detrimental effects are established, well known, and already regulated by the EPA and most state transportation agencies and air boards.
    The original post from months ago claimed the NIMBY stated people would keel over from CO poisoning, which is hogwash.

    CO esp combined with PMx and our favorite NOx and SOx exacerbate asthma and other cardiopulmonary weaknesses. The NIMBY was likely trying to conflate known issues with the project he didn't like.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    No, but there is much literature on the detrimental effects of CO accumulation. That's why I said "theoretically," because if you've had people come into a public hearing, you have to field their interpretation of the risks, which may include a somewhat absurd example such as tumbling over on the sidewalk. Whether this particular example is recognized by the public health community is irrelevant, sinc more detrimental effects are established, well known, and already regulated by the EPA and most state transportation agencies and air boards. The public health community might not have as large a share in the policy issues, since its an area that is regulated under an air pollution framework, and not so much a public health framework, although, obviously, there are public health implications.

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/env/air/pages/CO.htm

    Evaluating Efficiency-Equality Tradeoffs for Mobile
    Source Control Strategies in an Urban Area
    Jonathan I. Levy,1,∗ Susan L. Greco,2 Steven J. Melly,1 and Neha Mukhi1

    Evaluating Efficiency-Equality Tradeoffs for Mobile
    Source Control Strategies in an Urban Area
    Jonathan I. Levy,1,∗ Susan L. Greco,2 Steven J. Melly,1 and Neha Mukhi1

    Buonocore, J. , Lee, H. , & Levy, J. (2009). The influence of traffic on air quality in an urban neighborhood: A community--university partnership. American Journal of Public Health, 99(3)
    Pubic health provides the constitutional authority for air pollution laws. The EPA bases its regulations on public health outcomes. Virtually any issue may come up at a public hearing (I used to work for the mayor of a large city and had to attend lots of hearings on development proposals and have heard just about everything), but one has to guide people back to reality at some point.

  15. #15
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    CO Hotspot

    The California Air Resources Board has a land use and air toxics guidebook for local land use planners...if one is a sensitive receptor (older person with heart or immune system issues) and you have elevated CO loadings from trucks, bus and cars idling - then it might merit a look.

    San Francisco CA now has an air toxics impact assessment on sensitive land uses within a buffer of major air toxics sources like highways...mitigation included on a recent project- sealed windows on structure and HEPA filter...

    So the issue may not be CO but rather assorted air toxics like ultrafine particles and benzene

    Bob

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    This is likely an over simplification, but if the resident's theory is correct, all of Manhattan would have died about 50 years ago.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by smccutchan1 View post
    This is likely an over simplification, but if the resident's theory is correct, all of Manhattan would have died about 50 years ago.
    Yes, exactly. Case closed.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by rgfp View post
    The California Air Resources Board has a land use and air toxics guidebook for local land use planners...if one is a sensitive receptor (older person with heart or immune system issues) and you have elevated CO loadings from trucks, bus and cars idling - then it might merit a look.

    San Francisco CA now has an air toxics impact assessment on sensitive land uses within a buffer of major air toxics sources like highways...mitigation included on a recent project- sealed windows on structure and HEPA filter...

    So the issue may not be CO but rather assorted air toxics like ultrafine particles and benzene

    Bob
    CO is not an air toxic, it is a criteria air pollutant. Air toxics are usually defined as all the other non-criteria pollutants that can be in the air. Yes, there is a well known problem with living near highways and major streets, but there is no literature on buildings concentrating particulates and the other pollutants.

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