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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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Tackling the Czech Republic’s poor air quality

November saw the release of an annual government-commissioned report on the state of the environment in the Czech Republic. While the gist of the report maintained that a number of factors continued to improve, including water quality and canalisation, air quality was found to be a major problem. It found that in 2013, 55 percent of Czechs were still being exposed to above-average levels of the toxic chemical benzopyrene. Additionally, many cities suffer from smog and ground level ozone, while heating plants were found to account for 41 percent of dangerous PM10 particulate matter being inhaled by Czechs. Last year, the government spent more than 27 billion crowns on improving the environment. Since joining the EU, the country has been able to source around 120 billion crowns from EU funds to this end – but has only utilised 43 percent of total allocated funds for the 2007-2013 period. So is the new government doing enough?

Vojtěch Kotecký is an expert on environmental matters in the Czech Republic, previously representing the Hnutí duha environmental campaign group, and now with analytical firm Glopolis. I sat down with him to discuss the report’s implications.

“The new report once again shows that the air quality in the Czech Republic is very bad. Last year, according to conservative estimates, something like 1,600 people died in the Czech Republic because of air pollution. And additionally, thousands more are sick because of air pollution. This is an issue that the government and city councils need to start dealing with.”

What are the causes of this poor air quality? Does it still relate to a transition from the former heavily industrialised communist economy?

“It is actually a combination of several different factors across different parts of the country. In some parts of the Czech Republic, especially the north-east, the main cause of heavy air pollution is the old heavy industry. And there is increasing evidence that a substantial part of that is actually air pollution from Polish, rather than Czech industry. But local Czech factories, and especially steel mills are also a significant part of mix.

“In other parts of the country, especially in the countryside, in some small villages, heating with coal is a significant problem. In some poor villages, people continue to heat their homes with coal using old stoves, and in some cases people even burn their waste.”

One possible solution to that might be – perhaps not the most ecological – but to switch to natural gas.

“A switch to natural gas is a beneficial move, but it is also something of a trap. This is what the government heavily subsidised in the early 1990s, and it genuinely helped to improve air quality in many Czech villages. The problem is that when the price of natural gas increased, people switched back to coal.”

Vojtěch Kotecký, photo: Ondřej Vrtiška

So what can be done to encourage people in such villages to switch to a more environmentally friendly option – which is presumably also better for their health, as they are the ones who end up breathing the fumes.

“It seems that the only way we can deal with this local heating problem is that the government subsidises the insulation of houses. And also clean, renewable heating, which does not cause air pollution. This can be modern, high tech stoves that use biomass pellets. And solar panels and other solutions, which use locally-sourced renewable resources, and at the same time do not cause air pollution.”

Given recent scandals surrounding the Czech government’s subsidising of solar panels, is that an idea that anyone in the government is going to want to listen to right now?

“Despite all the problems, it seems that the government understands the need to support solar heating. And there are subsidies available for households that want to install solar heating so they reduce their use of gas or coal, especially for warming water.”

And is this something that the Czech national government does better with, or does it require a sort of nudge from the European Union – not to mention EU money too?

“The Czechoslovak government was very successful in the early 1990s. We had very strong air pollution legislation, which substantially improved matters. The problem was much, much worse in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Just as an example, we decreased sulphur dioxide emissions by more than 90 percent over the 1990s, which was a major success. The problem is that this process has slowed down over the last several years, and we need to combine European and national legislation in order to deal with the problem.”

The Czech government has said it wants to spend 9 billion crowns in 2015 subsidising a switch from old-fashioned stoves, while another 30 million has been set aside for the promotion of energy saving and renewable energy sources. I contacted the Ministry of the Environment and they put me in touch with the ministry’s head of air quality division, Gabriela Srbová. I began by asking her if the government intends to react, on a policy level, to the rather disconcerting findings of the report:
Photo: Miloš Turek“Why is air quality in the Czech Republic relatively poor? The main issue is meteorological conditions….”

Are suggesting that the main reason air quality is poor is down to meteorological conditions? As opposed to emissions?

“It is not the most important, but one of the important factors. The biggest problem regarding air quality in the Czech Republic are suspended particles and benzopyrenes.”

Which come from?

“They come most from localised heating of households, from traffic and partly from energy plants and other industrial sources…There is an issue related to localised heating of households. Because we have very limited ways to manage or somehow eliminate poor or obsolete boilers in households. We can promote change, but up to now we have been unable to insist on it. We possess such an instrument by way of the Air Protection Act, which came into force in 2012. It says that from 2022, households cannot use any boilers in households worse that the 3rd emission class – that is our standard for boilers. So this effectively eliminates the worst boilers causing a mass part of air pollution.”

So you are suggesting that their use will be phased out over time. That their use will just gradually disappear, which will then cause an improvement in air quality.

“We hope so.”

And what about, in general, people burning coal in this day and age for their own heating? Is there some way to eliminate that completely?

“We can promote a change of fuels. As we plan to implement, under the [EU’s] Operational Programme, replacement of obsolete boilers with new ones that burn biomass in particular.”

So is the Environment Ministry at the moment committed to seeing that future reports on the environment show a demonstrable improvement in air quality as compared to the latest report?

Photo: Filip Jandourek“Definitely. Because all these activities we are taking are for this very purpose – to improve air quality in the Czech Republic. And a number of analyses show that this is the right approach: to replace household boilers. Some policies also impact upon stationary sources. And also a number of activities are designed to impact of pollution caused by traffic.”

From what I understand, that is in large part a question for city councils. So how is the ministry co-ordinating with city councils to reduce traffic, or working nationwide on its own initiative?

“We have given city councils an instrument to reduce traffic within their respective [urban] areas, or within settlements, by designing so-called ‘low emission zones’. And it is in their power, if it is at all possible, to create such zones. There are several conditions connected with the possibility of creating such a zone.”

In our interview, Vojtěch Kotecký picked up on the problem car pollution in the Czech Republic:

“A third part of the problem is air pollution in big cities, which is primarily caused by car traffic. This is a well-known issue that is also encountered in West European countries. It seems that in Prague, Brno and other Czech cities air pollution actually kills more people than car accidents do. This is something that city councils, rather than the national government need to deal with. And it seems that, for example, the London congestion charge would serve as an inspiration. And actually Prague City Council has been thinking about a similar approach for many years.”

So why the delay? Why is it still in the studying phase?

“Because things are much slower in this country when it comes to governance. Prague may be a cosmopolitan metropolis, but it is definitely not Berlin or London. Czech politicians, even politicians in Prague, are slower when it comes to such things…”

And you don’t think there is any kind of ideological resistance or anything like that? In terms of, you know ‘we must let the invisible hand of the market prevail because we have suffered through communism and can’t possibly regulate or limit such things.’
Photo: Miloš Turek“I think that this used to be a part of the problem, for example in Prague City Council ten years ago. But it has improved considerably because the Council understood that they need to deal with the situation. The real problem is a combination of political and bureaucratic neglect. An inability to move things forward; very slow decision-making, and a focus on other matters. Prague City Council basically spent the last fifteen years building roads rather than dealing with excessive car traffic in the city.”

There is a relatively new national coalition government in place. How would you rate both their theoretical policies with regards to air quality, and also their record of action so far?

“The government claims that it wants to deal with air pollution just like every other government of the last ten or so years has stated. The real question is whether it will come forward with new legislation and new money – subsidies for households and other solutions – and we will still need to see. It seems that, in theory, the government is prepared to tackle some of these issues, and that it understands what needs to be done. But in this country, quite often the real question is not whether politicians understand what should be done in theory, but whether they are able to make practical decisions; whether they are able to put money on the table; to put forth real, tough draft legislation and so on. And that will be the real test for this government.”

So currently, there is no draft legislation or anything similar making its way through the halls of power?

“About three years ago, we had a major change in air quality laws. This represented a major improvement, but we still need to see how far it will actually be able to go. But I think that right now, the far more important question is whether the government will be able to work with that legislation, to deal with individual factories; whether it will be able to open serious negotiations with Poland about Polish air pollution; whether it will put much, much more money on the table for the insulation of houses and renewable heating, because this is something the government, again, understands in principle. Some money is already available, but it is definitely not enough.”

How much is needed? Billions?
Photo: Barbora Kmentová“Yes, billions of crowns. Environmental groups estimated that something like half a billion euros would be necessary annually to deal with the problem over the next ten or twenty years. And last but not least the government also needs to comprehend that the problems that will have to be tackled by city councils are to some extent also the government’s problems. And that it should either approach the city councils and force them to act or work with them to start dealing with car pollution in cities.”

via Radio Prague – Tackling the Czech Republic’s poor air quality.

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Impact of wood-burning fires on Utah’s air quality

Utah

When cold wintry weather rolls in this weekend may Utahns may be tempted to light wood burning fires to stay warm, but that might not be good everyone else.

Bryce Bird, the director of the Utah Department of Environmental Air Quality explains why.

The Wood-Burn Program is designed to prevent particle pollution by restricting or banning wood burning during inversion periods. Emissions from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contribute to the particulate pollution that builds up during temperature inversions.

Wood burning Inversions form when a dense layer of cold air is trapped under a layer of warm air. The warm air acts like a lid, trapping pollutants in the cold air near the valley floor. The mountains act like a bowl, keeping the cold air-and the pollutants in it- in the valleys.

Wood burn restrictions are a proactive measure that can reduce the levels of particulates emitted both immediately before and during inversions.

Impacts from Wood Smoke

Because wood doesn’t burn completely, wood smoke contains a wide range of harmful substances. Pollutants in wood smoke include particulates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), some of which are toxic or considered carcinogenic. These pollutants include:

Benzene
Formaldehyde
Carbon monoxide
Nitrogen dioxide
Particulates
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)
Sulfur dioxide

The poor air circulation that typifies inversions keeps wood smoke close to the ground where it can enter homes and businesses. The fine particle pollutants from wood burning are so small that even well-insulated houses can’t keep them out. Scientific studies have shown that particle pollution levels inside homes reach up to 70 percent of the pollution levels outdoors. Studies have also shown that people using wood-burning stoves and fireplaces to heat their homes are regularly exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter in their indoor air, particularly if there is little fresh air circulating inside the house.

Health Effects

Because the fine particles in wood smoke are too small to be filtered out by the upper respiratory system, they lodge deeply into the lungs, causing irritation and decreasing lung functioning. The toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that are released in wood smoke can bind with these particles, compounding the health impacts. Short-term exposures to particles can aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.

People with heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, or asthma may experience health effects earlier and at lower smoke levels than healthy people. Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have chronic heart or lung diseases than younger people. Children also are more susceptible to smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing, they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, and they’re more likely to be active outdoors.

Numerous studies link particulate levels to increased hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and even early death. Research indicates that obesity or diabetes may increase the risk. Some studies also suggest that long-term PM2.5 exposure may be linked to cancer and to harmful developmental and reproductive effects such as infant mortality and low birth weight.

via Impact of wood-burning fires on Utah’s air quality – Good4Utah.com.

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Main reason for air pollution in Tehran revealed

Baku

Iran has imported gasoline which contains Pollutant MMT (Methylcyclopentadienyl Manganese Tricarbonyl) – a gasoline additive that enhances octane to reduce knock.

The Iranian car manufacturers union has recently conducted a test on gasoline which is sold in Tehran.

It announced that the gasoline which contains MMT is the main reason for air pollution in the city, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported on November 18.

The State Inspectorate Organization has corroborated that imported gasoline contains pollutant elements.

However, Shahrokh Khosravani, Deputy Head of National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC) said that one of the ten gasoline consignments which were imported in July may contain pollutant elements.

Air pollution is measured in particle matter of 2.5 microns in diameter or PM 2.5, were clean air is between 0-50, safe air is 50-100, 100-150 is considered not safe, 150-200 is warning while over 200 is emergency level.

Last year, according to PSI (Pollutant Standards Index), Iran had 147 days during which air quality was substandard. Two years ago, this number stood at 217 days.

Iranian deputy oil minister, Abbas Kazemi, said on June 27 that the administration has taken the decision to import gasoline with the highest international standards.

Saeed Motesaddi, the deputy director of the Iranian Environment Protection Organization, said on October 17 that the administration has taken great steps toward the protection of natural environment.

“One of the most important steps was to stop the production of gasoline by petrochemical units,” Iran’s Shana news agency reported.

Iran’s oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on May 23 that the “petrochemical gasoline’s quality is bad and inappropriate.”

In recent years, three petrochemical complexes were producing gasoline to meet the domestic need under the international sanctions imposed on the country’s oil sector, the Mehr news agency quoted managing director of the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company Abbas Kazemi as saying on May 17.

via Main reason for air pollution in Tehran revealed.

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Court puts more heat on diesels

The UK government will come under renewed pressure to cut pollution from diesel vehicles following the latest ruling in a battle over clean air.

Nitrogen dioxide in cities is illegally high and the European Court of Justice ruled judges must force ministers to clean up the air as soon as possible.

The pollutant comes almost entirely from diesel vehicles.

The group that brought the case says the government now has no choice but to restrict diesel emissions.

They say that could force ministers to order a major retrofit of pollution controls on buses and lorries; ban diesel cars from cities; and install new technology to ensure that diesel cars comply with the emissions data from manufacturers.

It’s estimated that 29,000 people die early from air pollution in the UK. The government is supposed to have cleaned up nitrogen dioxide pollution in cities by 2015 – but has been proposing to achieve the goal by 2030.

Alan Andrews, ClientEarth lawyer, said: “This ruling is a big victory for the millions of people who want to live healthy lives in the UK’s towns and cities. This will force the government to finally take this issue seriously and come up with an urgent plan to rid our towns and cities of cancer-causing diesel fumes.

“The government has done next to nothing to try to achieve the target of cleaning up the pollution by 2015. The UK Supreme Court will now set a standard that the government must achieve – and that will mean the government driving down diesel emissions.”

Environmentalists are celebrating the European court victory but it causes major political problems for the government. For many years politicians have encouraged drivers to buy diesel cars because they produce fewer climate-changing CO2 emissions.

Friends of the Earth urges ministers to respond by introducing low-emission and congestion charging zones; Scrapping road-building plans, and designing communities with key amenities within easy walking and cycling distance.

The chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Joan Walley MP said: “We have been warning the government for four years that it must tackle the public health crisis caused by heavy traffic in our towns and cities. Instead of taking action to save lives and protect people, ministers have complacently carried on with business as usual and put off serious efforts to deal with the problem.

“It is not acceptable for ministers who live in leafy suburbs to tell people living next to busy roads in towns and cities that they have to wait until 2030 to breath clean air. Today’s ruling will force the government to prioritise the issue of air quality in all decisions on transport policy and infrastructure.”

ClientEarth’s legal case refers to 16 zones where NO2 limits are being breached. West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Teesside, The Potteries, Kingston Upon Hull, Southampton, Glasgow, Eastern England, South East England, East Midlands, North West & Merseyside, Yorkshire & Humberside, West Midlands, North East England and Greater London.

The case may be complicated by a review from the new president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker of pollution laws, which are causing a big problem for many member states.

 

via BBC News – Court puts more heat on diesels.

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Delay tackling traffic fumes ‘costing Scots lives’

THE Scottish and UK governments have come under fire over their failure to act on deadly air pollution blighting cities and towns north of the Border.

Environmental campaigners have hit out at ministers for delaying efforts to tackle the problem, which they say has resulted in further unnecessary deaths from breathing in toxic fumes.

Recent official figures from Public Health England blamed the effects of air pollution for killing around 2,000 Scots every year.

Exposure can lead to premature death from lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes, experts have warned.

The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified the cocktail of chemicals in traffic fumes as a leading cause of deaths from cancer. Studies have also shown long-term exposure can stunt growth of unborn babies and increase the risk of heart disease and breathing problems such as asthma.

Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Dundee, and Aberdeen all suffer from dangerously high levels of air pollution, while 35 hotspots across 15 Scottish local authority areas exceed safety levels that should have been met in 2005.

via Delay tackling traffic fumes ‘costing Scots lives’ – The Scotsman.

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Respro® Masks FAQ: What size particles does the Techno™ mask filter out?

Techno maskWHAT SIZE PARTICLES DOES THE TECHNO™ MASK FILTER OUT?

The Techno™ filter has sub-micron filtration capability. What this means is that it is able to trap particles less than one micron in size which is more than capable of the removal of 2.5 micron particulate material (PM).
Typically particulate pollution in the cities appears to be in the 2.5 micron size range and above. Particles smaller than this are known as respirable dusts, which can lodge deep within the lungs and air sacs. This is the more dangerous type of particle pollution as chemicals from vehicle exhaust gases combustion known to be toxic, are carried by means of the respirable particles. Hence the need for a Hepa-type submicron particle filter.

The DACC Activated charcoal layer within the Techno™ filter has excellent adsorption properties when it comes to SO2 and NO2 uptakes. With this capability and its capability of filtering VOC’s it is the best filter available in our range for dealing with the broad spectrum of pollutants commonly found in major cities across the globe.

For more FAQ,  go to Respro® Mask FAQ

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Air pollution spreading

POLLUTION levels on parts of Fabian Way are causing environmental chiefs in Swansea concern.

The situation emerged during hearings into the planned Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

A written submission by Swansea Council to the panel of examining experts said the authority was “under pressure to designate parts of Fabian Way as an Air QualityManagement Area”.

The Post understands that the outbound carriageway by Vale of Neath Road is under the spotlight, and that mobile monitoring equipment is likely to be deployed on the incoming carriageway opposite.

Areas within Hafod, Sketty and Fforestach have suffered air pollution level breaches for years and are contained within an amended Swansea Air Quality Management Area.

A progress report in July this year said the area was still set to exceed mean nitrogen oxide levels, and that this might also be the case in Mumbles, St Thomas and the city centre. The report added: “Several other areas also exhibit the potential to exceed the annual mean objective.

“Revised guidance issued by (UK Government department) Defra indicates that the annual mean objective may not be achieved until after 2020 at some sites.”

via Air pollution spreading | South Wales Evening Post.

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Protest highlighting pollution closes Oxford Circus

Protestors march through Oxford St and hold mass ‘die-in’ at Marble Arch to highlight air pollution and cyclist fatalities

Thousands of protestors brought Oxford Circus to a standstill on Saturday afternoon (November 15), with a horse-drawn hearse leading a march through Oxford Street to highlight air pollution and cyclist deaths in London.

Organised by campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists, the march began at Bedford Square before the horse-drawn hearse paused at Oxford Circus for a two-minute silence to remember those killed in London by road collisions, as well as the 50,000 UK patients estimated to have died as a result of transport pollution over the last decade.

The march later ended at Marble Arch, where protestors led by a bagpiper held a mass ‘die-in’ and placed the symbolic coffin on a Dutch-style catafalque.

The campaign group unveiled 10 demands at the protest, one of which urged authorities to ‘stop the killing from lung, heart and other diseases caused by vehicular pollutants’ and to ‘make it mandatory for particulate filters that meet the latest EU emission standards to be fitted to all existing buses, lorries and taxies’.

In addition, the group are seeking all transport fuels to be from environmentally-sustainable sources within 10 years.

According to Stop Killing Cyclists, the march is one of the first large-scale protests in the UK to raise the issue of traffic air pollution as one of its main concerns.

Another demand called for the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street – a policy also recently supported by London Assembly Member Stephen Knight, partly due to air pollution concerns (see airqualitynews.com story).

In his speech, Professor Delaney said: “This car culture is destroying our bodies through pollution and inactivity as much as it destroys lives through so called accidents and our environment through emissions.”Speakers included Professor Brendan Delaney, Kings College London; Tom Kearney, campaign group Safer Oxford Street; and Caroline Russell, Green Party transport spokesperson.

The Professor of primary care research added: “I spend my working life dealing with the end results of our collective blindness to the hidden killer. Diseases of inactivity will break our national health system in the coming decade. We have to stop.”

via Protest highlighting pollution closes Oxford Circus | AirQualityNews.

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