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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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Prenatal air pollutant exposure linked to decreased pediatric lung function

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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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India’s air quality figures can’t be trusted

Delhi is the most polluted city in the world, but it may actually be worse as faulty instruments, data fudging and lack of regulation allow industries to pollute with impunity

India is changing the way it maps pollution, with an update to its air quality index.. In its initial phase, eight pollutants will be tracked in 46 cities with populations exceeding a million people. After five years, the rest of the country will slowly be brought into the system.

At the launch, the minister for environment and forests, Prakash Javadekar, said it wouldn’t be “business as usual” anymore.

The move couldn’t have come a moment sooner.

Five months ago, World Health Organisation declared Delhi to be the worst polluted city on earth. In a study spanning 1,600 cities across 91 countries, the organisation used India’s own officially released data to show the city had the world’s highest annual average concentration of microscopic airborne particles known as PM2.5.

These extremely fine particles of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter are linked with increased rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease as they penetrate deep into the lungs and pass into the bloodstream. Delhi’s annual PM2.5 reading was 153 compared to London’s 16. Indian officials contested the study’s finding but agreed Delhi was as bad as Beijing, although the latter’s PM2.5 reading was only 56.

Faulty instruments

In fact, Delhi’s air quality may be even worse. The Economic Times reports that the central pollution control board compared some India-made PM2.5 samplers with international ones a couple of years ago. A manufacturer of samplers, Rakesh Agarwal of Envirotech, candidly said: “There was a 100% difference in readings.”

While some instruments leaked air from the sides, others evaluated a lower-than-stipulated volume of air. Agarwal explained the implications: “If I expect the air input to be 20 litres per minute, but get just 16 litres, my PM2.5 count will be lower.” If this is how PM2.5 is measured, Delhi’s PM2.5 score is likely to be worse.

The Economic Times notes while the Indian government hasn’t set standards for these instruments, it makes it mandatory for manufacturing companies to adhere to the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) specifications. It doesn’t check if these samplers comply with those standards. “Manufacturers self-certify.”

Children cover their faces as a precaution from the air pollution, New Delhi, India.
Children cover their faces as a precaution against air pollution in Delhi, India.Photograph: Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Users of these faulty instruments then fudge this flawed data. Since the early 1990s, industrial units have had to install air quality measuring units and send the data to the appropriate state pollution control boards. If emissions peak, the industrial unit may be shut down. So industries fabricate 90% of the data

by changing the calibration of their machines, or by injecting clean air into the intakes or by placing CM units [instruments] away from the plant and in a nearby wood or between trees.”

The Economic Times says 30 years after legislating the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, India has no monitoring protocols. Here too, the country follows EPA standards that may be inappropriate for a tropical country with large volumes of dust. Even if instruments are accurately calibrated and real data flows in, there’s no system to monitor the information and act on it.

Air quality standards are not set according to zones such as residential and industrial areas. The entire country has one standard. All is fine as long as industries’ emissions do not push the overall air quality score above that standard.

So instead of investing in clean technology, industry promoters look for clean places. If it’s located in the countryside, which enjoys relatively low pollution, a company can get away with its emissions, unlike one in a crowded industrial area.

The whole system – from faulty instruments and data fudging to lack of policing – allows industries to pollute and get away with it.

Will the newly launched index improve air quality? It seems unlikely.

The proposed air quality index seems to be interested only in setting up more instruments in more places and providing colour-coded air quality information to the public. If people do become concerned about the quality of air they breathe, there’s likely to be more fudging of data. The new index is no panacea for the rot in the system.

Despite the minister’s exhortations, it’s going to be “business as usual.”

via India’s air quality figures can’t be trusted | Janaki Lenin | Environment | theguardian.com.

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Diwali brings air pollution scare in Indore

Indore, which is known for high air pollution, is likely to witness further high on Diwali day because of pollutants emitting from lighting of crackers. Official data of Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPCCB) indicate that air pollution increases three to four times on Diwali day of what is recorded on normal days.

As such, the level of main air pollutants like respirable suspended particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide remains above normal in the city on most days of year. Their volume will increase further on festival day.

According to Board officials, public awareness drive launched by MPPCB has helped to curb noise pollution in the sense that crackers producing sound of 65 decibels or more have been banned after 10 pm. “But we couldn’t do much to curb air pollution on festival and non-festival days,” a MPPCB official said wishing anonymity.

Board record shows that emission of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) remains 100 to 400 times more against the tolerable limit on Diwali day. One solution to curb RSPM level is that people use crackers which burst not on ground but up and high in air. But not all people can afford them as they are three to 10 times costlier than common crackers which are readily available in market.

via Diwali brings air pollution scare in Indore – Hindustan Times.

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India launches air quality index to warn over dangerous pollution events

India launched an index on Friday to measure air quality across the country, which is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world.

It will measure eight major pollutants that impact respiratory health in cities with populations exceeding one million in the next five years and then gradually the rest of the country, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters. The Air Quality Index will warn residents when pollution levels shoot past dangerous levels.

The World Health Organisation said earlier this year that the Indian capital had the worst air quality in the world, surpassing Beijing, a statement that New Delhi has vehemently disputed.

Air monitoring sensors around the landlocked Indian capital routinely register levels of small airborne particles at “hazardous” levels, especially in winter. The levels are three to four times New Delhi’s own sanctioned limit, rivalling Beijing.Like the Chinese capital, New Delhi has gone through rapid economic development, raising living standards but also spewing out pollution.

Decades of policies that favoured economic decisions over environmental concerns have taken their toll. The numbers of cars on the roads of New Delhi have doubled in the last decade and years of booming construction has kicked up countless clouds of dust.

Javadekar said it wouldn’t be “business as usual anymore” and the government was committed to improving air quality as part of a cleanliness drive launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month.

There are various ways to measure pollution, but comparisons have generally focused on the microscopic particulate matter, sometimes called black carbon or soot, which can lodge in a person’s lungs and fester over time.

In New Delhi, levels of PM10 — particulate matter that is 10 micrometers in size — touched 400 micrograms per cubic meter last winter. That’s four times the city’s legal limit of 100, and well above the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit of 20.

While the Chinese capital acts aggressively on high pollution days — closing schools and factories and taking government vehicles off the road — India doesn’t have a warning mechanism and until a few years ago the matter was hardly ever discussed.

The index will measure levels of PM10 and the even tinier PM2.5 as well six other indicators, including lead, ammonia, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, and then calculate overall pollution. The warning levels would be colour-coded and come with specific health warnings that could be easily understood by lay people, Javadekar said.

The index will be up for review on the ministry’s website for 45 days to seek public opinion before it is functional.

Advocacy and research group Center for Science and Environment lauded the announcement but said in a statement that the measure needed to be rolled out quickly to protect public health.

via India launches air quality index to warn over dangerous pollution events | Environment | theguardian.com.

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Review: RUN AND RIDE SAFELY IN LONDON WITH RESPRO® by Heart London Magazine

UK Air London: A real problem, or just a trend?  Respro® launches new range of street-style pollution masks

2014 has brought Saharan dust and increased toxic air quality reports to the UK and 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.

In response to the ever-deteriorating air quality both here and world wide, Respro®has launched a new line of Skins™ pollution masks, the company’s most fashionable line to date.  The idea behind it is to introduce a style element for the wearer: instead of feeling alienated by wearing a mask, it becomes a fashion accessory with a statement.

Wearing a mask as a cycle commuter or a city runner will provide some protection to a user’s lungs and the new Respro® Skins™ range enables the wearer to match their style and complement their active wardrobe.

Respro® founder and mask inventor Harry Cole comments; “Much has been written about the UK’s deteriorating air quality over the past months and at times the hype may seem impure.  But when we see a noticeable haze sitting atop the London skyline when viewed from Primrose Hill or Brockwell Park and note a heaviness in our lungs when breathing on those hazy days, for us there’s no question that the quality of London’s air is getting worse. “

To see the new Skins™ range and how they can now be personalised, go to:

http://respro.com/pollution-masks/skins

via HEALTH AND FITNESS – Run and Ride safely in London with Respro | Heart London Magazine.

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