Countries with the worst air pollution ranked by World Health Organisation There are some countries in the world where the air is so polluted you can forget about coming home with a healthy holiday glow.

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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Environmentalists: Air pollution can be curbed if Israel implements more efficient transportation

ShowImageTransitioning to a more efficient transportation structure could save Israelis billions of shekels and prevent enormous amounts of pollution annually, the founders of an air pollution monitoring app have concluded.

Seemingly minor changes like optimizing traffic flow, filling buses to near capacity and improving bus exhaust pipes could be instrumental in both attracting Israelis to use public transportation as well as curb pollution levels that plague the country’s cities, according to environmental engineers Ziv Lautman and Ran Korber, co-founders of the BreezoMeter air pollution monitoring app. Lautman and Korber recently analyzed a slew of data about air pollution emitted by vehicles, originally compiled by Yaniv Ronen, at the Knesset Center for Research and Information in December 2010.

BreezoMeter, which went live at the end of June, offers real-time access to 300 air pollution monitoring stations around the country and using an algorithm to calculate a user’s air-pollution level at any given location. BreezoMeter was founded by Lautman and Korber along with software engineer Emil Fisher, after they raised $200,000 in seed funding from the venture capital firms Jumpspeed and Entree Capital. Today, the app has accumulated more than 11,000 downloads – about 40 percent of which represent daily users.

The data compiled by the Knesset Center for Research and Information indicated that the emissions level of a full bus is equivalent to that of between 20 and 24 private cars. Assuming that there are about 1.2 passengers on average per private car, and a busy bus line contains about 65, a full bus eliminates the need for about 54 cars on the road – thereby saving more than twice the air pollution, Lautman said.

Looking at these numbers, Lautman and Korber concluded that “the real contribution of buses in reducing air pollution” actually lies today in the tendency of Israelis to travel in nearly empty private vehicles. Meanwhile, they saw that when the occupation of a bus is only 24 out of the 65 total passengers, the pollutant emissions data per passenger compares to that of a private vehicle.

“A bus has the potential to contribute significantly to the reduction of air pollutants, but if the lines are not optimally designed or if there are less busy hours, full private vehicles can also be a good alternative,” Lautman and Korber wrote in their analysis.

The two environmental engineers also examined the impact of Israel Railways operation on the country’s air pollution levels. While the effect of train operations on the country’s air pollution balance is minimal on a national scale, the diesel engines may have a significant impact on a local scale, particularly near major train stations, Lautman and Korber said.

Despite the fact that studies conducted around the world have shown that massive transitions to public transportation can sharply reduce hospitalized asthma events and ozone levels measured in urban space, private car travel in Israel has increased significantly alongside population growth, Lautman and Korber explained. While train travel has also grown considerably in recent years, bus travel has dropped – in terms of the number of buses, number of passengers and amount of seats available, they said.

Many initiatives can be taken to overhaul the country’s transportation structure, thereby saving billions of shekels and making the air more breathable, according to Lautman and Korber. Some such measures include synchronizing traffic lights for better vehicle flow, limiting speeds for reduced fuel burning, improving bus exhaust pipes, encouraging vehicle sharing and bettering both bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, they said.

“There are many more things that we can do in order to cut down air pollution and make our environment better,” Lautman told The Jerusalem Post.

While it is crucial to encourage people to make more use of public transportation modes, doing so means not only investing in the buses themselves, but also in increasing bus frequency, Lautman said.  Revamping the country’s transportation structure requires “a more holistic approach,” which takes into account the diverse array of factors that allow travelers a smooth drive, he added.

As far as the BreezoMeter app is concerned, Lautman said he and his colleagues are please to see people using the app’s features particularly in the morning and the afternoons. Following the request of many users, they will soon be upgrading the app to include the most offensive pollutants in a user’s location, rather than just a general pollution level.Just a week ago, BreezoMeter won the StartUp Open Israel competition in Tel Aviv, held as part of the city’s DLD Digital Conference.

“I think air pollution is the next big thing,” Lautman said.

via Environmentalists: Air pollution can be curbed if Israel implements more efficient transportation.

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‘Reverse graffiti’ highlights traffic pollution in cities


It may come as a surprise to Londoners to learn that not all walls are actually black.Air pollution is the problem that a “reverse graffiti” artist is seeking to highlight in a new London mural, created by washing away the dirt ingrained in the city’s walls.

London has the worst air pollution in the UK, causing around 3,000 people to die prematurely every year. Recently, the air on Oxford Street was found to have the highest recorded levels of pollutant NOx on the planet. The primary culprit is London traffic, which spews particulate matter over the city’s busiest streets, turning them black.

Today, street artist Moose unveiled a new 10-metre long mural in Waterloo, depicting London’s famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace, the Shard, Battersea Power Station and the London Eye.

The work was commissioned by Nissan to highlight the benefit of electric cars like its LEAF model in creating cleaner cities. And the image was drawn with a pressure washer powered by the LEAF’s car battery.“I’ve been using reverse graffiti for fifteen years now, in fact I named it,” said Moose.“My whole ethos is about highlighting the amount of pollution we endure daily using a very positive harmless method that never fails to ask questions about what we accept and what we shouldn’t accept in our environment.”

via ‘Reverse graffiti’ highlights traffic pollution in cities.

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World Pollutionwatch: A breath of not-so-fresh air

On Saturday afternoon, 6 September, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency’s twitter feed began issuing air pollution warnings for rural Ireland and across towns and cities. Sulphur dioxide concentrations briefly resembled those experienced downwind of large, old coal power stations or oil refineries before quickly returning to normal. Largest peaks were seen on the west coast in County Clare and Limerick, but it was also detected in Galway and in Dublin. By early evening the pollution peak reached Cork and Wexford in the south. Similar but smaller pollution peaks were measured that weekend across Northern Ireland and mainland UK reaching south east England on Sunday evening. Scientists at King’s College London also detected traces of mineral dust in the air as the sulphur dioxide passed through.

When air pollution is simultaneously measured over a wide area it normally comes from somewhere far away. Satellite images and weather models point to Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano, which is erupting in the Holuhraun lava field. Gases from the eruption on Friday 5 September reached Ireland and the UK on the following two days. Rotten egg smellsfrom sulphurous gases were also reported on the west coast of Norway. Closer to the source, people in Iceland were issued with health warningsand told to stay indoors if the volcanic gases approached.

The huge quantities of ash spewed into the skies by the Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn volcanos caused massive disruption to air travel over Europe in 2010 and 2011 but Bárðarbunga is a different sort of eruption, it contains little ash but is proving remarkable for its emissions of sulphurous gases.

via World Pollutionwatch: A breath of not-so-fresh air | Environment | The Guardian.

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Spain warned to tackle ‘poor’ air pollution

SPAIN is among a number of European countries being urged to tackle their air pollution problem.

New research by the European Respiratory Society has highlighted an underlying link between Europe’s poor air quality and an increase in poor lung health among adults.

The study evaluated the correlation between air pollution and lung function in adults from the UK, Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain and Sweden.

Professor Peter Barnes, president of the European Respiratory Society, said: “Urgent action is needed to tackle air pollution in Europe.

“It is crucial that policymakers in Europe take note of these findings and update guidelines in Member States to meet the WHO-recommended air quality standards.

“This will ensure equal protection of all citizens’ health across the continent.”

via Spain warned to tackle ‘poor’ air pollution.

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Boris Johnson wins international award for London’s air quality efforts


Boris Johnson, mayor of London, surprised clean air campaigners on Tuesday night by winning a prestigious international award for his efforts to improve the city’s air quality.

The city faces stiff fines from Brussels over its repeated breaches of European Union air quality standards, with air quality likely to continue to fall below standards for years to come. Johnson was recently sharply criticised by a committee of MPs for failing to tackle air quality. Earlier this year, London suffered serious smog problems that led to warnings for vulnerable people, including children, the elderly and those with respiratory illnesses, to stay indoors for days.

The C40 award judges cities around the world on their efforts to tackle air quality and climate change. London won the air quality award for its work on low-emissions taxis, and separately received another award for a new carbon accounting standard, described as an international best practice benchmark.

Matthew Pencharz, the mayor’s senior adviser on environmental and energy issues, told the Guardian: “This is very good for us. This is going to stimulate the low-carbon economy, and taxi drivers will benefit from energy efficiency savings. London is showing practical delivery solutions to these problems [of air pollution and climate change].”

He said: “We are the first to accept that air quality is a challenge. People accuse of us not doing anything, but I think anyone reasonable would say that Boris Johnson is doing everything he can to improve air quality in the capital.”

The new zero-emission capable taxis are expected to reduce emissions by more than 75% compared to the average London taxi. In central London, where they will mainly operate in zero emission mode, emissions per taxi will be reduced by almost 100%. At present, London’s iconic black cabs account for around 15% of nitrogen oxide emissions in central London, and around 35% of PM10 emissions of large particles, which the mayor said would rise to 45% without intervention.

But campaigners were critical of the award, saying that Johnson has not done enough to tackle London’s growing air pollution problem and it was “laughable” for him to receive such an accolade.

Darren Johnson, London assembly member for the Green Party, said: “We are running out of time to avert a climate catastrophe and the mayor of London should be at the forefront, advocating and delivering carbon reduction programmes on the scale needed, as well as zero carbon energy generating technologies like solar energy. Instead, Boris Johnson criticises wind farms, ignores the scientific consensus on global warming and promotes climate sceptic views. His backing of aviation expansion and fracking can only lead to one thing and that is the acceleration of global warming.”

Johnson has made moves to tackle the air pollution problem, for instance by announcing this summer a rise in the congestion charge on the most polluting diesel-fuelled vehicles, but these plans will not come into effect until 2020. He has also introduced the city’s first age limits on taxis, which has resulted in the retirement of more than 3,000 of the oldest vehicles.

The air quality award was made for a measure that would see “low-emissions capable” taxis on London’s streets from 2018. These taxis would cut down on emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, which cause breathing difficulties in vulnerable people and can cause permanent harm to children’s lung development.

However, the rules would only apply to new taxis licensed from 2018, which make up a small proportion of the total number of cabs, and they would only be required to use their low-emission capabilities in the central London low emissions zone, which does not cover the whole capital.

Simon Birkett, founder and director of the Clean Air in London pressure group, said: “Boris is killing the taxi industry not saving it. He should be using his Twitter account to issue smog warnings not begging people to vote for him to win this prestigious international award.”

He said: “The reality of Boris’s taxi strategy is that drivers are forced to buy one of two large, relatively expensive diesel vehicles because they are the only ones meeting the anachronistic 25 foot turning circle requirement. At the stroke of a pen he should remove the turning circle requirement and allow drivers to buy mass market petrol and other low emission vehicles at a fraction of the current cost of a taxi.”

London’s iconic black cabs have long been required to have a tight turning circle, because of historic concerns over their manoeuvrability on London’s narrow streets.

Birkett questioned whether the new rules would make a real difference, and asked: “Will Boris deliver a successful new taxi when he says he will, with funding complying with state aid rules and at a cost that allows taxi drivers to compete with private hire vehicles?”

He also suggested it could take 15 years from 2018 to replace London’s existing 23,000 strong taxi fleet.

via Boris Johnson wins international award for London’s air quality efforts | Environment |

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Smoke From King Fire Brings Air Pollution Advisories, Travel Warnings

The National Weather Service in Reno issued a Dense Smoke Advisory Monday for an area stretching from north of Reno to south of Gardnerville and throughout Lake Tahoe and Truckee through 8 p.m. Monday.

The Dense Smoke Advisory will resume Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. But National Weather Service forecasters don’t expect the air to improve much through Wednesday.

Reno’s air is considered unhealthy for the elderly, young children and people with respiratory problems. The most unhealthy air quality levels have been where the fire is burning, in El Dorado and Placer counties. But as winds shift, so does the smoke. The air quality where the fire started has improved over the past week.

“In Camino and Pollock Pines today [Monday] the levels are down in the good range, zero to 50, whereas last week they were up over 500 to a thousand in the hazardous range,” said Dave Johnston, with the El Dorado County Air Quality Control District. He said dust masks, “N-95 or P-100 rated,” can provide protection from fine particulate matter, which is the major pollutant in wildfire smoke.

The Placer County Air Pollution Control District Monday recommended closure of schools in the Colfax and Foresthill areas due to hazardous levels of fine particulate matter. The District also advised people to avoid outdoor activity in Squaw Valley, Truckee and Auburn.

Officials said Monday the smoky conditions are expected to continue from Placer County to the Lake Tahoe area, depending upon wind direction, until the King Fire is completely out.

The National Weather Service in Reno forecast said visibility could drop to near one mile at times, “especially during the afternoon and evening, when smoke from the King Fire is most likely to spread east of the Sierra Crest.” The forecast also said periods of dense smoke from the fire could create low visibility on I-80, Highway 50 and Highway 89.

The Sacramento NWS issued a Fire Weather Watch for Wednesday. The forecast covers northeast California and northwestern Nevada, including northern Washoe County. The forecast is for gusty winds and 10-15 percent humidity.

via Smoke From King Fire Brings Air Pollution Advisories, Travel Warnings –

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Beware! The Air is Highly Polluted

There has been a disturbing rise in the levels of air pollution in Hyderabad, which is putting residents at a major risk. According to statistical data, the respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) levels have been increasing steadily  in the city. In Secunderabad area alone, the US Embassy and Consulate’s air quality monitor has detected an air quality index (AQI) of 114 on Monday.

This means that there is an increase in the likelihood of symptoms in sensitive individuals, aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly. “There has been a profound increase in total number of respiratory issues among the people due to excessive air pollution. This induces asthma and other upper respiratory problems. Apart from vehicular, industrial and environmental pollution, passive smoking is also very harmful as it leads to an increase in environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) levels,” said Dr Subhakar Kandi, consultant pulmonologist at Care Hospital.

Experts explain that aside from lung-related disorders, people are susceptible to health hazards as a result of air pollution. “Air pollution also causes dermatitis where the skin becomes dry and rashes are formed. It also leads to lung and skin cancer. In addition to this, exposure to air pollution increases carboxyhemoglobin levels in the body, which leads to hypertension and heart diseases,” Dr Subhakar said.

Though vehicular pollution amounts to a significant increase in pollution, industrial and environmental pollution levels have also been on the ascent. Old vehicles tend to release a lot more smoke which further pollutes the environment, and garbage disposals lying around only makes things worse for citizens.

“Upper respiratory problems have definitely increased, particularly among children. Because their respiratory system is not fully formed, children are at greater risk while being exposed to air pollution. Traffic constables and truck drivers are also equally susceptible,” added Dr Subhakar.

When contacted, officials from the AP Pollution Control Board (separate departments for TS and AP have not yet been formed after bifurcation) are undertaking various measures to control air pollution in the city. “We have people working in our labs to constantly monitor the situation and ensure things don’t go out of hand. We are regularly conducting checks at some of the key traffic junctions in the city. In addition to this, we are also looking at encouraging CNG buses to make the city environment-friendly,” said an official from APPCB.

via Beware! The Air is Highly Polluted – The New Indian Express.

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See the Worst Place to Breathe in America

A passenger train travels through town past a refinery in Bakersfield, Calif.

If you think about smog, you’re probably picturing a major city like Los Angeles, where in the 1960’s and 70’s the air was so bad that smog alerts telling people to avoid outdoor activity were regular occurrences. The air has improved in L.A. and other big cities in recent years, thanks to cleaner cars and air pollution regulation.

But the real capital of air pollution in the U.S. is a farming city that sits to the northwest of L.A: Bakersfield.

Bakersfield is in the San Joaquin Valley, a major agricultural area that stretches through much of California. The San Joaquin Valley contains some of the richest, most productive agricultural land in the country. But its geography—the valley is surrounded on all sides by mountains—creates a bowl that traps air pollution. Levels of soot and ozone—which in warm weather, which the valley has much of the year, can create smog—are some of the highest in the country. And while air in much of the U.S. has improved, in Bakersfield and other towns in the southern San Joaquin Valley, the air quality is as bad as ever—if not worse.

How bad? School officials in Bakersfield have used colored flags to indicate air quality: green for good, yellow for moderate, orange for unhealthy for sensitive groups and red for unhealthy for all groups. But this winter, the air became so bad that officials had to use a new color on the worst days: purple, even worse than red. Because of high levels of air pollution, asthma is prominent throughout the region, and the bad air can also raise levels of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Photographer Lexey Swall grew up in Bakersfield, and in this collection of photographs, she shows the human cost of living in one of the most polluted cities in the country. For Bakersfield residents, there’s simply no room to breathe.

via See the Worst Place to Breathe in America | TIME.

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Hong Kong’s air pollution reached the “serious” level today

Hong Kong’s Air Pollution Reaches ‘Serious’ Level on Storm.

Hong Kong’s air pollution reached the “serious” level today, the worst in almost two months, as an approaching tropical storm led to haze.

The pollution, as measured by the Air Quality Health Index, reached the highest level of 10 plus at seven monitoring stations, while the other stations had readings that ranged from 8 to 10, according to the Environmental Protection Department website. The health risk categories are “serious” or “very high,” according to the data.

Tropical storm Fung-wong is sweeping toward Taiwan from the Philippines, with its approach raising the temperature and leading to still air around Hong Kong, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. Nitrogen dioxide, ozone levels and the amount of suspended particles in the air have jumped, according to data on the government website.

“Temperatures in many places rose to 33 degrees or above around noon,” the weather bureau said on its website.

Poor roadside air quality presents the biggest daily health threat to Hong Kong’s 7.2 million people, according to the government’s clean-air plan published last year. Nitrogen dioxide, mostly formed from vehicles in roadside areas, has been linked to damaged lung function in children and asthma attacks.

The last time the pollution level in Hong Kong reached this level was on July 22, when Typhoon Matmo hit the region.

via Hong Kong’s air pollution reached the “serious” level today, the… – News – Mynextfone.

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High air pollution levels hit south-east England

Air pollution is expected to be high on Thursday over the south-east of England, leading to warnings to people with respiratory difficulties.

The pollution is likely to be localised, with clear skies over Scotland as people cast their ballots in the independence referendum.

The pollution in the south-east is the result of weeks of low pressure, according to the Met Office, which has drawn in polluted air from the continent. Today’s levels are thought not to be as bad as those that hit England this spring, when dust from the Sahara combined with continental pollution and high levels of smog that led to some of the worst pollution of recent years, with warnings to vulnerable people, including older people and children, to stay indoors.

However, the official health advice for pollution at today’s levels in the south-east is for adults and children with lung and heart problems to reduce physical exertion, and asthma sufferers have been warned they may need their inhaler more than usual.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement: “Moderate levels of air pollution are forecast for central and southern England as well as eastern Wales. High levels may also be observed across parts of south-east and southern England. This is due to stable conditions and easterly winds bringing pollution across from the near continent.

“Scotland, Northern Ireland and much of northern England are expected to see low evels of air pollution although isolated pockets of moderate [pollution] are possible in urban or industrial areas.”

UK air pollution forecast for 18 September 2014
UK air pollution forecast for 18 September 2014 Photograph: UK Air / Defra

The Met Office said it was not possible to compare current pollution levels with cities such as Beijing, as such international comparisons would have to wait for longer-term reports to be drawn up.

Today’s pollution is likely to be short-lived, the Met Office told the Guardian, and may dissipate as soon as tomorrow as weather conditions change. “We are due for some rain and that should wash the worst of it away,” a spokeswoman said.

Defra said the pollution was not likely to be as bad as that experienced in the spring.

Air pollution is a growing problem, as the UK is in breach of European regulations on the issue, with many cities not expected to be within safe levels by 2030, and faces heavy fines as a result. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has proposed measures such as higher congestion charging and restrictions on polluting diesel vehicles, but these will not enter into effect for several years.

Campaigners have criticised the government for failing to adhere to European standards, and an influential select committee of MPs earlier this week was scathing of the government’s efforts on the problem.

The Environmental Audit Committee said that emissions of a number of airborne pollutants increased in 2013, after being steady between 2010 and 2012 and in a longer term decline before that.

Joan Walley, chair of the committee, said: “A whole generation of young people in our cities will potentially have their health impaired by pollution before the government meets air quality safety standards. That is not acceptable. We need to see much more urgent action in this area and we will be looking at this area in more detail when we publish the results of our inquiry later this year.”

via High air pollution levels hit south-east England | Environment |

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