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Study claims air quality on cruise ships can be worse than the world's most polluted cities

Last Updated Jan 24, 2019 at 1:06 pm PDT

(Courtesy Stand.earth)

A new report suggests the air on-board some cruise ships can be worse than the most polluted cities in the world

Carnival Corporations calls a study on air quality on-board some of its ships 'misleading and inaccurate'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A new investigation into air quality on cruise ships may have you rethinking a vacation out at sea.

A report commissioned by Stand.earth suggests people onboard cruise ships are breathing in air that may be worse than in some of the world’s most polluted cities.

The findings were made by secretly measuring ultrafine particulate pollution on the deck of four Carnival Corporation cruise ships — including one that left Vancouver for Los Angeles in October of last year. Carnival Corporation is one of the world’s largest cruise lines in the world.

Particle counts on the L.A.-bound ship got as high as 76,000 particles per cubic centimetre at the stern while out at sea, the investigation found. In comparison, a count on a busy street in Beijing in 2009 saw over 30,000 particles per cubic centimetre.

“There is evidence that these small particles have consequences for human health, including cardiovascular disease,” explains Dr. Ryan Kennedy, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, who measured the air on the ships using a P-TRAK Ultrafine Particle Counter 8525.

“It can exacerbate symptoms like asthma and the concern is that exposure to very small particles likely affects everyone that’s breathing them,” he adds.

The other three ships where the air was measured left from Port Canaveral, Florida to the Bahamas, from Galveston, Texas to the Western Caribbean and Mexico, and from Los Angeles, California, to Mexico. Average particle counts while out at sea were significantly higher in the areas near the smokestacks towards the stern on the ships, compared to areas towards the bow.

More than 30 million people worldwide are expected to go on a cruise this year, according to Kennedy.

“There’s also tens of thousands of people that are working in these environments and it’s a very important dimension to this because depending on your role on the ship you might be in some of these areas, completing your tasks and not have a lot of choice about when and where you’re in those environments,” he says.

Stand.earth is calling on Carnival Corporation to transition away from heavy fuel oil to power its ships, and switch to cleaner-burning fuel while installing filters to help reduce ultrafine particulate pollution.

“These staff people that are being required to work in these environments are potentially being exposed to extremely high levels of ultrafine particulate pollution,” says Kendra Ulrich with Stand.earth.

“The World Health Organization has called air pollution the new tobacco. This is a very serious public health risk, and one that, you know, these comapnies can address.”

Study is ‘ridiculous’, ‘inaccurate’, company says

In a statement, the company calls the “so-called fly-by tests” “completely ridiculous and inaccurate.”

In an email to NEWS 1130, Carinval Corporation says it has installed Advanced Air Quality Systems on nearly 80 per cent of its global fleet, “in close coordination with the EPA.”

It says its new ships are powered by LNG, and claims the study is “misleading and inaccurate.”

“We test the air quality of our ships and they meet or exceed every requirement,” the statement reads. “This particular organization, for fundraising purposes, is constantly in search of a problem in our industry even if it has to create fake tests that really have no scientific basis.”

Read Carnival Corporation’s full statement:

“These so-called fly-by tests are completely ridiculous, inaccurate and in no way represent reality.

We test the air quality of our ships and they meet or exceed every requirement.

The air quality on our ship decks when in port compares favorably with a typical urban or suburban environment. Independent testing on our funnels – which is the area where the exhaust originates- further validates our claims.

This particular organization, for fund raising purposes, is constantly in search of a problem in our industry even if it has to create fake tests that really have no scientific basis.

The safety of our guests is our top priority and we undertake our cruises in close coordination with national and international regulatory bodies like the EPA to insure the utmost safety of our guests and crew..”