Emergy and Transformity Matrix Analysis for Correlating Environmental Pollution with Birth Defects

Sravani Janga, Environmental Toxicology, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL 36688, Eldon C. Blancher II, Toxicological & Environmental Associates, Inc., 300 Fern Hill Court, Mobile, AL 36608, and Manish Misra, Chemical Engineering, University of South Alabama, Engineering Lab Building EGLB 248, Mobile, AL 36688.

Emergy analysis is a quantitative and qualitative method describing the energy flows in the environment. It provides a common basis for measuring the value of different kinds of energy and also for evaluating the contributions from nature and humanity. Emergy takes into account the rate of natural resources use, their exploitation, carrying capacity of the environment and the production of wastes and pollutants. Emergy indices are used to evaluate alternatives for primary energy sources, environmental impacts etc. and they account for both ecological and economic contribution.

In this study, an Emergy network model was developed to study the effect of environmental pollution on birth defects in children in the state of Alabama. This work mainly focuses on the environmental factors and pollution that cause birth defects. The major exposure to organic pollutants, pesticides, heavy metals, chemicals in the environment and hazardous waste sites etc, are responsible for the cause of birth defects. Studies reported that women who lived within 1/4 mile of a superfund site had a greater risk of having babies with certain birth defects. Alabama has 16 superfund sites (listed by EPA) in different counties. These superfund sites release lot of toxic substances that are distributed in air, soil, ground water, surface water etc., which poses health risks to humans.

In this model, emergy signatures such as transformities of rail, road, waterways, commercial areas, toxic release inventory areas and superfund sites are determined and the mapping of these areas is performed using the Geographic Information System software. An eigenvalue method is developed to calculate the Emergy transformities. The emergy transformities increased from left to right as the available energy decreased.

Birth defects data from 1998-2002 was procured through the Alabama Birth Defects Surveillance and Prevention Program (ABDSPP) organized by University of South Alabama (College of Medicine-Department of Medical Genetics). Birth defects data was input to the emergy network model and correlated with the emergy values of the environmental pollutants.