UK failed to meet NO2 limits for 2013, latest figures show Only five of the UK’s 43 air quality zones were compliant with EU annual mean limits for nitrogen dioxide in 2013, according to the UK government’s submission on air quality to the European Commission.

LondonOxford Street revealed as worst place in the world for toxic pollutant nitrogen dioxide Traders today said urgent action was needed to slash traffic levels after a report revealed Oxford Street has the highest levels of a toxic pollutant in the world.

air pollution mapAn Interactive Air-Pollution Map In March, the World Health Organization estimated that air pollution was responsible for 7 million premature deaths in 2012. That’s one out of every eight total deaths in the world.

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Sharp spike in Bhopal air pollution on Diwali

Minimum temperature rose sharply and air pollution levels touched alarming levels on Diwali leaving many at the risk of respiratory problems in the state capital.

The respirable suspended particulate matter RSPM — which directly affects breathing — went up 2.6 times above the national ambiance air quality standard, officials of the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board MPPCB said on Friday.

According to MPPCB, maximum RSPM was recorded at the commercial Hamidia Road, 457.7 micro gram per cubic metre, which is 3.5 times higher than normal 100 micro gram per cubic metre and 24.1 percent higher than last year’s data.

Deviation in RSPM was 2.6 times by normal standard near Paryawaran Parisar, a residential area. It was also 25.6% higher than last year’s data.

However, Govindpura area recorded a decline in RSPM. Though it was 1.7 times higher than normal standard, it was 38.7% less than last year’s Diwali data.

“Increase in RSPM can create respiratory problems for many as quality of air gets poorer. It can also aggravate respiratory ailments among existing patients,” MPPCB chemist Neeraj Verma said.

According to the Metrological department, the minimum temperature increased by 1.3 degree — from 18.3 degree Celsius on Wednesday to 19.6 degree Celsius on Thursday.

via Sharp spike in Bhopal air pollution on Diwali – Hindustan Times.

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Boris Johnson denies misleading MPs over London’s air quality

Boris Johnson’s office have described accusations that he misled a House of Commons select committee as “completely untrue and unfounded”.

Last month the Mayor appeared before the the environmental audit committee as part of MPs’ investigation into air quality.

In both his written and oral evidence to the committee he disagreed with data from King’s College London which suggests some roads in the capital have the highest nitrogen dioxide NO2 concentrations in the world.

He also disputed data suggesting measures to cut pollution, including an age limit on taxi cabs and making more vehicles subject to the Low Emission Zone, had produced only a 3% drop in roadside NO2 levels rather than City Hall’s claimed 20% cut.

City Hall has repeatedly denied suggestions that London’s air quality is the worst in the world and insists its policies are working.

Addressing MPs, Mr Johnson suggested that comparisons with other international cities may not be accurate because “we stick our sensors and our devices right by where the tailpipe of the most polluting vehicles would be expected to be found,” adding that he was “very far from convinced that that is the technique adopted by every country in the EU.However the Clean Air in London campaign has questioned the accuracy both of the Mayor’s evidence and a report commissioned by his office on which his denials that London lags behind other cities are based.

The campaign claims the report “was already out of date by the time it was published” and failed to identify “a single monitoring site in the whole world” reporting higher levels of NO2 than reported in Oxford Street – the capital’s worst performing street.

CAL has also criticised the report for using “new and complex methodology without publishing a practically auditable trail of methodology or underlying data” which would allow its claims to be verified.

The failure to locate a monitoring site recording higher NO2 levels than London means, the campaign claims, that Mr Johnson “may have misled” the committee. CAL has suggested MPs recall the Mayor will “to address the concerns raised.

”Responding the campaign’s comments, City Hall says the report “was independently peer-reviewed to ensure the methodology it used was robust and fair” and confirms that “different cities adopt different approaches to the siting of their monitoring stations, which means that it is not possible to fairly compare the worst location in one city with another.”

A spokesperson for Mr Johnson told MayorWatch: “These claims are completely untrue and unfounded. The Mayor’s work to assess and address London’s air quality challenge is entirely transparent.“

He continues to take the problem extremely seriously and is working with a wide range of stakeholders to take forward a comprehensive range of measures to reduce air pollution and protect the health of Londoners.”

via Boris Johnson denies misleading MPs over London’s air quality — MayorWatch.

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Indian capital braces for worst air quality this festive week

Children light fireworks on the Hindu festival of Diwali in New DelhiAir quality in New Delhi will deteriorate to “severe” levels this week when Indians set off firecrackers to celebrate the Hindu festival of lights, a government scientist said, leaving many at risk of respiratory problems.

The warning, based for the first time on India’s newly launched national Air QualityIndex, is significant as New Delhi dismissed a World Health Organization study in May which found the capital to have the world’s worst air pollution.

The study, which covered 1,600 cities, also said that India has 13 of the 20 cities with the worst air quality worldwide.

“Delhiites are going to breathe very poor-to-severe air at least for two days,” said Gufran Beig, chief scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, referring to Thursday, when the nation celebrates Diwali, and a day after.

The city of over 16 million people will see its air pollution index jump to 450 from 220 currently. A reading above 401 could put the healthy at risk for respiratory problems and seriously affect those already ill, the new index explains.

Pollution levels in Indian cities have often been compared to Chinese counterparts such as Beijing, notorious for the smog that prompted some Anglophone residents to dub it “Greyjing”.

“Over the next three days the air quality will be worse than Beijing because of firecrackers,” Beig said, adding that Delhi normally has better air quality than the Chinese capital.

However, a delay in the onset of the winter season will result in lower pollution levels this year as warmer temperature helps pollutants disperse faster, Beig said.

Indian government officials have appealed to the public to refrain from bursting firecrackers, with the health minister calling for a “silent Diwali” in Delhi to control sound levels.

via Indian capital braces for worst air quality this festive week | Reuters.

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Ireland falls below WHO guidelines on air pollution

Ireland falls below strict World Health Organisation WHO guidelines on air pollution for four potentially harmful emissions.

As a report revealed 12 sites were responsible for 80 per cent of all complaints about smells, watchdogs warned people’s lifestyles may have to change to meet strict international air quality targets.

The Environmental Protection Agency EPA — which reported that 4 per cent of tests last year failed European pollution standards — said how people warmed their homes and travelled to work or school in future may have to be restricted.

Testing at 29 locations found air quality within EU rules but when the stricter WHO limits were applied, Ireland failed to make the grade for concentrations of four emissions.It raised concern over levels of the cancer causing particulate matter PM and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAH, which are produced by burning solid fuels, and ozone which in high concentrations causes breathing problems, damages lungs and may lead to asthma.

The EPA said local air quality was significantly impacted by using coal or peat in the home and from the amount of traffic in urban areas.

Gerard O’Leary, director of the environmental agency, said 2013 saw higher rates of compliance with emissions limits.

“We need to be vigilant to maintain these compliance levels and to continue to target sites where problems have been identified,” he said.

“The findings of the report on wider air quality are also very encouraging.

“I would urge people, however, to consider air quality when making choices about home heating and transport as both of these activities can have a negative impact on air quality.”

Patrick Kenny, EPA air quality manager, warned about the level of particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAH and ozone.

“To meet these more stringent guidelines in the longer term will require collaboration across a range of policy areas including transport, energy and spatial planning,” he said.

“The choices we make as consumers about how we heat our homes and travel to work and school will also affect our local air quality.

”The EPA said the EU may adopt the stricter WHO guidelines after reviewing its air quality directive.

The agency also warned about the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air in cities which is mainly produced by engines and power plants.

It said: “Ireland must develop and implement policies to reduce travel demand, emphasising sustainable transport modes such as cycling, walking and public transport and improving the efficiency of motorised transport,” it stated.

On the review of air quality, odour and noise, the EPA received 1,088 complaints in total last year with 895 for foul smells.It also carried out 71 formal EPA investigations and resolved 45 satisfactorily.

The EPA identified 11 sites which accounted for 706 of the complaints, including 139 against the Ballynagran landfill in Wicklow and 130 against the Arrow Group in Naas, Co Kildare.

The EPA also noted that an extensive fire over five days at the end of January at the Oxigen facility in Ballymount, Dublin, had had no significant potential for any long-term health or environmental impacts.

via Ireland falls below WHO guidelines on air pollution.

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Prenatal air pollutant exposure linked to decreased pediatric lung function

1. Prenatal exposure to air pollutants was associated with detrimental effects on lung function in young children.

2. Results of this study suggest that in utero exposure to air pollutants during the second trimester may be more related to the adverse effects on airway function than postnatal exposure.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: Development of respiratory airways in humans begins during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and continues until 3 years of age. Studies have suggested that airways may be highly susceptible to permanent damage if the child is exposed to air pollution in utero or postnatally. This study used nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and benzene levels in the air as proxies for pollutant levels related to traffic fumes and industrial activities. Pulmonary effects of prenatal and postnatal pollutant exposure were followed-up in children at the age of 4.5 years by way of lung function tests. It was found that higher prenatal exposure to air pollutants was associated with lower expiratory flow volumes. Exposure during the second trimester of pregnancy held the most significant relationship with diminished lung function.

One of the major limitations of this study stems from the low rate of follow-up. Compared to mothers whose children were excluded from the analysis due to loss to follow-up or improper testing, the mothers of children included in the analysis were older and of higher socioeconomic status. Children included in the final analysis also had higher incidences of wheezing and lower respiratory tract infections in infancy and better day care attendance. While this should not compromise the conclusions of this study, bias effecting the magnitude of the results may have been introduced. Regardless, this is the first prospective, population-based study to assess and demonstrate the association between prenatal air pollution exposure and lung function in children of preschool age.

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Living with smoker ‘as bad as living in polluted city’

Non-smokers who live with a smoker are exposed to three times the officially recommended safe levels of damaging air particles, according to a study.

The researchers found that living with smokers is the same as living in smoke-free homes in heavily polluted cities such as Beijing or London.

They said moving to smoke-free homes could have major health benefits for non-smokers.

The study has been published online in the BMJ’s Tobacco Control journal.

It was carried out by researchers at the universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

They said there was already strong evidence to suggest that exposure to second-hand smoke is linked to a wide range of adverse health events such as respiratory and heart illness.

Accordingly, many governments have introduced measures to restrict their population’s exposure to second hand smoke within workplace and leisure settings.

Exhaust fumes

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5), such as fine dust or soot suspended in the air, has been widely used as a marker for second-hand smoke exposure.

Main outdoor sources of particulate matter include exhaust fumes from motor vehicles and industrial emissions, and more is known about what impact this has on health than the impact within indoor environments.

Therefore, the Scottish researchers set out to estimate the amount of PM2.5 inhaled by people living in smoking and non-smoking homes.

They studied data from four linked studies carried out in Scotland between 2009 and 2013 that had real time measurements of PM2.5 in homes, and combined them with data on typical breathing rates and time-activity patterns.

Collectively, the studies produced air quality data from 93 smoking homes with a further 17 non-smoking households. Most sampling was for a 24-hour period with the exception of one study data, which was generally carried out over a period of 6-7 days.

The results showed that the average PM2.5 concentrations from the 93 smoking homes were about 10 times those found in the 17 non-smoking homes.

Non-smokers living with smokers typically had average PM2.5 exposure levels more than three times higher than the World Health Organisation’s guidance for annual exposure to PM2.5.

Many non-smokers living in smoking homes inhaled similar quantities of PM2.5 to non-smokers who lived and worked in smoke-free environments in cities such as Beijing or London with high levels of air pollution.

The researchers also calculated that overall, homes where unrestricted, heavy-smoking activity took place produced second-hand smoke concentrations that were, on average, about 10 times higher than homes where efforts to reduce or restrict second-hand smoke exposure were more common.

Some homes studied had particularly high rates of smoking. Around a quarter of homes had 24 hour average concentrations more than 11 times that recommended as an annual average concentration by WHO.

The researchers also estimated that the overall mass of PM2.5 inhaled over an 80-year period for a person living in a typical smoke free home was about 0.76g compared with a similar person living in a smoking home, who would inhale about 5.82g.

Very young

Non-smokers living in smoking households would experience reductions of more than 70% in their daily inhaled PM2.5 intake if their home became smoke-free, the researchers calculated, and the reduction was likely to be greatest for the very young and for older members of the population.

They concluded: “These findings ultimately support the need for efforts to reduce SHS [second hand smoke] exposure in the home, most notably through the implementation of smoke free home rules and smoke free multi-unit housing policies.”

Lead author Dr Sean Semple, of Aberdeen University, said: “Smokers often express the view that outdoor air pollution is just as much a concern as the second-hand smoke in their home.

“These measurements show that second-hand tobacco smoke can produce very high levels of toxic particles in your home: much higher than anything experienced outside in most towns and cities in the UK.

“Making your home smoke-free is the most effective way of dramatically reducing the amount of damaging fine particles you inhale.”

via BBC News – Living with smoker ‘as bad as living in polluted city’.

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Respro® Masks FAQ: What does PM 2.5 mean?

PM2.5 is any particle larger in size than 2.5 microns.

Remember there a 1000 microns in 1 millimetre.  A sub micron particle which is less than 1 micron in size is smaller and therefore able to penetrate the airways more effectively.

For more FAQs,  go to Respro® Mask FAQ

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Threat of air pollution to worsen along with global warming, warns Climate Council

Increased air pollution from bushfires is among the rising threats facing NSW residents as global warming makes blazes more likely, according to a new report by the Climate Council.

The council said air quality levels were 50 times worse than usual in the Sydney Basin during the Blue Mountains bushfires a year ago, with NSW Health reporting 228 people attending hospital with breathing difficulties.

Ambulance staff treated 778 other individuals, while the number of asthma patients seeking hospital help more than doubled.

“Bushfires can have all sorts of impacts other than people losing their homes,” said Lesley Hughes, a professor of biological sciences at Macquarie University and author of the report.

The Climate Council survey said the state had 27 significant bushfires since 1926, with thousands of homes lost and 116 lives. Last October’s fires in the Blue Mountains and elsewhere in NSW killed two people and destroyed 222 houses and damaged 168 others.

The report echoed findings by fire researchers that point to more risk of bushfires in NSW and elsewhere in south-eastern Australia as the climate warms. Autumn and winter rainfall is also on the long-term decline.

Such conditions “prime the fuel to be drier and therefore more flammable”, Professor Hughes said.

Earlier starts

The lengthening of the fire season is evident again this year with 55 local government areas starting their fire danger period prior to the statutory October 1 date, the report noted.

Between July and October 19, NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers attended almost 4900 bush and grass fire incidents, a spokesman said.

RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons last week said authorities were adjusting activities in response to climate change, including coping with a shrinking “window of opportunity” for hazard reduction burns.

“As the risks get greater for wildfires, the possibilities for preparing get reduced,” Professor Hughes said.

The threat of air pollution from bushfires will also worsen as fire crews are forced to intensify burning off during favourable periods, she said. Also, as Sydney’s population continues to swell, more people will be living in the so-called urban-rural interface where those hazard reduction efforts are taking place, she said.

Bureau of Meteorology officials, meanwhile, told Senate estimates on Monday that Australia was on a clear warming path, with temperatures rising between 0.71 and 0.76 degrees since 1960, depending on the methods used.

Staff needs

The report also said resources will be stretched, citing research last year by the National institute of Economic and industry Research for the United Firefighters Union of Australia.

That study found national numbers would need to rise from 11,000 in 2010 to 14,000 in 2020 and 17,000 by 2030 to keep up with population growth. When climate change is added, the necessary crews would have to increase by additional 2000 staff by 2020 and 5000 by 2030.

“These estimates are likely to be conservative because they do not account for the potential lengthening of the fire season in addition to increased fire weather,” the Climate Council’s report said. The NIEIR study also predicted declining numbers of volunteers.

The RFS, though, said there is no indication that volunteer numbers are on the wane, noting a jump in sign-ups in the wake of last year’s Blue Mountains fires.

“The NSW RFS is the world’s largest volunteer firefighting agency,” a spokesman told Fairfax Media. “The service’s volunteer numbers continue to go from strength to strength – we currently have 74,000 volunteer members, up from 72,000 last year.”

“There has been no decline in NSW RFS volunteer numbers in recent years,” he said.

The Climate Council will release fire reports on other states, including South Australia, to be released on November 3 and Victoria on December 1.

via Threat of air pollution to worsen along with global warming, warns Climate Council.

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