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London must move faster on air pollution Thanks to European judges, the UK government may be taking a closer interest in Boris Johnson’s strategy for cleaning London’s air.


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.

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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Report highlights air pollution deaths

The latest report from The Environmental Audit committee on air quality has prompted BSRIA to call for more action.
Poor air quality is resulting in an estimated total of 29,000 deaths a year from air pollution and the report calls for new schools, hospitals and care homes to be built away from major roads.

Existing buildings that are sited close to busy roads, including 1,000 schools, should filter the air coming into the building, it has been stated.

The report is the committee’s third within five years.

BSRIA head of sustainable construction group Ian Orme said: “Experts believe that the figure of 29,000 is a robust figure, that is unacceptable.

“Those of us working in the built environment must play our part in addressing this. There is also a wider issue of air quality that we need to address, the environment in which people live and work plays a massive part in their wellbeing.

“As we have got better at making buildings airtight, it is BSRIA’s experience that there are often significant failures in the performance of ventilation systems leading to an unhealthy environment,” he said.

BSRIA’s highlights the five main reasons for poor indoor air quality:

Impractical designs and/or designers “gaming” with calculations so as to demonstrate the standards are met;

Ductwork can be prone to damage and the practical installation of ductwork, fans, and terminal units does not always equate to what was designed, including instances of mechanical ventilation systems simply not being connected up to the power supply;

Poor commissioning, such as ventilation dampers, sensors and controls can significantly affect performance. The current approved method of measuring air flow from low pressure ventilation systems is fundamentally flawed, says BSRIA, making it is difficult to identify the true situation in many buildings, even where a ventilation system has been properly commissioned;

Poor maintenance of filters and sensors can have a significant impact on flow rates and the effectiveness of filtration. Design issues sometimes make cleaning of filters or their replacement or the cleaning of ductwork, somewhat problematic;

Occupant effects such as not using the ventilation system as per the design intent, manual tampering of controls, sensors and dampers. Where mechanical ventilation works with trickle ventilators, they may be taped shut.

via Report highlights air pollution deaths | News | Heating and Ventilation News.

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Autism link to air pollution raised

A link between autism and air pollution exposure during pregnancy has been suggested by scientists.

The Harvard School of Public Health team said high levels of pollution had been linked to a doubling of autism in their study of 1,767 children.

They said tiny particulate matter, which can pass from the lungs to the bloodstream, may be to blame.

Experts said pregnant women should minimise their exposure, although the link had still to be proven.

Air pollution is definitely damaging. The World Health Organization estimates it causes 3.7 million deaths each year.

The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, investigated any possible link with autism.

PollutantsIt analysed 245 children with autism and 1,522 without.

By looking at estimated pollution exposure during pregnancy, based on the mother’s home address, the scientists concluded high levels of pollution were more common in children with autism.

The strongest link was with fine particulate matter – invisible specks of mineral dust, carbon and other chemicals – that enter the bloodstream and cause damage throughout the body.

Yet, the research is unable to conclusively say that pollution causes autism as there could be other factors that were not accounted for in the study.

Consistent patternThere is a large inherited component to autism, but lead researcher Dr Marc Weisskopf said there was mounting evidence that air pollution may play a role too.

He said: “The specificity of our findings for the pregnancy period, and third trimester in particular, rules out many other possible explanations for these findings.

“The evidence base for a role for maternal exposure to air pollution increasing the risk of autism spectrum disorders is becoming quite strong.

“This not only gives us important insight as we continue to pursue the origins of autism spectrum disorders, but as a modifiable exposure, opens the door to thinking about possible preventative measures.”

Prof Frank Kelly, the director of the environmental research group at King’s College London, told the BBC: “I think if it was this study by itself I wouldn’t take much notice, but it’s now the fifth that has come to the same conclusion.

“It is biologically plausible, the placenta is there to ensure the foetus has optimal supply of nutrients, but if chemicals are entering the mother’s body then the foetus will have access to those too.

“Women should be made aware of the potential links so they don’t get excessive exposure.”

via BBC News – Autism link to air pollution raised.

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Hong Kong’s air quality falls after Occupy clearance puts traffic back on the roads

Hong Kong’s pollution levels are creeping back to “normal” following the clearance of the final occupied zone in Causeway Bay, as calls for pedestrians to reclaim the city centre resonated among protesters eager to continue voicing their discontent.The air quality in all three previously occupied zones of the city – Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok – has already declined since the roads that had been car-free for over 70 days returned to normal. They were cleared of the tents and barriers of the so-called Umbrella Movement.The Clean Air Network recorded increases in PM 2.5 ranging from about 40 per cent in Mong Kok to over 80 per cent in Admiralty and Central.

Hong Kong’s general air quality is below the standards set by the World Health Organisation – prompting green groups to call for pedestrian zones in the densely packed city centre.

The Occupy Movement “provided the perfect scenario of showing the potential results of creating pedestrian zones” said Kwong Sum-yin, CEO of Clean Air Network. “It flipped people’s understanding of roads: they should not be for cars but for people as well,” she said. “We need not ‘return to normal’ with congested roads and filthy air.”

A plea for the city not to return to normal also appeared on a giant banner hung up on Victoria Peak, sporting the wording “Don’t forget the original goal” – in reference to protesters’ ongoing push for universal suffrage

The yellow sign, measuring six metres long by a metre wide and attached to the cliff by several cables, is the fourth to have been put up by Occupy supporters over the last couple of months.

Last Saturday, a banner of similarly large proportions – measuring six metres by two metres – was hung from Devil’s Peak, near Kowloon, bearing a message that called for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign.

Environment groups like Clean Air Network have long called for pedestrianisation of densely-packed Hong Kong, where daily traffic jams are par for the course.

The group, which compared PM 2.5 levels before and after the clearance, recommends pedestrian zones in Des Voeux Road Central – a bustling street that is flanked by buildings on both sides, creating a “canyon-like” effect that traps emissions from vehicles.

“Now, with exceptionally positive results from the unplanned ‘pedestrianised-like zone’ the government cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this opportunity,” Kwong said.

Speaking at a summit on child health in Hong Kong in October, Professor Ruth Etzel of the World Health Organisation said that reducing air pollution should be top priority for local policymakers, warning that children are far more likely to develop illnesses as a result of poor air quality than adults.

“Hong Kong is in an artificial valley of skyscrapers, so the air settles and makes it very bad for children walking the streets,” she said, warning that their weaker immune systems meant that exposure to harmful particles could lead to lung problems later on in life.

via Hong Kong’s air quality falls after Occupy clearance puts traffic back on the roads | South China Morning Post.

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Hazy road to Mecca: Severe air pollution spikes during yearly pilgrimage

Dangerously high levels of air pollutants are being released in Mecca during the hajj, the annual holy pilgrimage in which millions of Muslims on foot and in vehicles converge on the Saudi Arabian city, according to findings reported today at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

“Hajj is like nothing else on the planet. You have 3 to 4 million people – a whole good-sized city – coming into an already existing city,” said Isobel Simpson, a UC Irvine research chemist in the Nobel Prize-winning Rowland-Blake atmospheric chemistry laboratory. “The problem is that this intensifies the pollution that already exists. We measured among the highest concentrations our group has ever measured in urban areas – and we’ve studied 75 cities around the world in the past two decades.”

Scientists from UCI, King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, the University of Karachi in Pakistan, the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center, and the University at Albany in New York captured and analyzed samples during the 2012 and 2013 hajjes on roadsides; near massive, air-conditioned tents; and in narrow tunnels that funnel people to the Grand Mosque, the world’s largest, in the heart of Mecca.

The worst spot was inside the Al-Masjid Al-Haram tunnel, where pilgrims on foot, hotel workers and security personnel are exposed to fumes from idling vehicles, often for hours. The highest carbon monoxide level – 57,000 parts per billion – was recorded in this tunnel during October 2012. That’s more than 300 times regional background levels.

Heart attacks are a major concern linked to such exposure: The risk of heart failure hospitalization or death rises sharply as the amount of carbon monoxide in the air escalates, the researchers note in a paper published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Headaches, dizziness and nausea have also been associated with inhaling carbon monoxide.

“There’s carbon monoxide that increases the risk of heart failure. There’s benzene that causes narcosis and leukemia,” Simpson said. “But the other way to look at it is that people are not just breathing in benzene or CO, they’re breathing in hundreds of components of smog and soot.”

The scientists detected a stew of unhealthy chemicals, many connected to serious illnesses by the World Health Organization and others.

“Air pollution is the cause of one in eight deaths and has now become the single biggest environmental health risk globally,” said Haider Khwaja of the University at Albany. “There were 4.3 million deaths in 2012 due to indoor air pollution and 3.7 million deaths because of outdoor air pollution, according to WHO. And more than 90 percent of those deaths and lost life years occur in developing countries.”

Khwaja experienced sooty air pollution firsthand as a child in Karachi, Pakistan, and saw his elderly father return from the hajj with a wracking cough that took weeks to clear. He and fellow researchers braved the tunnels and roads to take air samples and install continuous monitors in Mecca.

“Suffocating,” he said of the air quality.

In addition to the high smog-forming measurements, the team in follow-up work found alarming levels of black carbon and fine particulates that sink deep into lungs. Once the hajj was over, concentrations of all contaminants fell but were still comparable to those in other large cities with poor air quality. Just as unhealthy “bad air” days once plagued Greater Los Angeles, research is now showing degraded air in the oil-rich, sunny Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere in the Middle East. Because the number of pilgrims and permanent residents is increasing, the scientists recommend reducing emissions by targeting fossil fuel sources.

Besides vehicle exhaust, other likely culprits include gasoline high in benzene, a lack of vapor locks around gas station fuel nozzles, and older cars with disintegrating brake liners and other parts. Coolants used for air-conditioned tents sleeping up to 40 people also contribute to greenhouse gas buildup. And the dearth of regulations exacerbates these problems.

The researchers said that Saudi officials are aware of the issues and taking steps to address them, such as working to reduce benzene in area gasoline supplies. Directing Mecca pedestrians and vehicles to separate tunnels would be optimal. In addition, clearing the region’s air with time-tested technologies used elsewhere in the world could sharply reduce pollution and save lives.

“This is a major public health problem, and the positive news is that some of the answers are very much within reach, like putting rubber seals on nozzles at gas stations to reduce leaks,” Simpson said. “It’s a simple, doable solution.”

via Hazy road to Mecca: Severe air pollution spikes during yearly pilgrimage.

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Wood burning and air pollution

As we enter into the winter months…some Utahn’s begin to put wood in their fire place or a wood burning stove to generate heat, or just for the ambiance of a wood burning fire.  But some are asking…what’s the impact those wood fires are having on the air we breath?

“We found that if there’s really one specific pinpoint polluter, that we can solve the problem, it’s wood burning,” said former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson, who now is the Executive Director of UCAIR.

During bad air quality days wood burning is against the law, except for those who rely on it as their only source of heat.  New guidelines are being considered to puff out Utah’s wood burning pollution altogether.

“We know that there are two reasons to do this.  One is that wood burning of course impacts the overall regional air quality.  But also it particularly impacts local neighborhoods,” said Bryce Bird who is the Director of Utah Division of Air Quality.

For many people it isn’t an issue…but for children…the elderly…and those with medical conditions, it can lead to all kinds of health consequences like coughing, headaches, eye and throat irritation, asthma attacks and even heart attacks and strokes.

“So the person that’s burning the wood is getting exposed to a greater extent, and the neighbors who live close by are getting exposed to a greater extent.  And we know that the child who has asthma, that can’t go out and play, is being impacted by somebody burning in the neighborhood,” said Bird.

Up to 70 percent of the wood smoke that exits a chimney, will re-enter nearby homes.

“One fire burning for an hour, an average size home fire, running for an hour equals four diesel trucks running for the same hour,” said Wilson.

“For every hour 90 SUV’s drive, that’s about one hour of burning a wood burning appliance,” said Bird.

The particulates in wood smoke are tiny and even doors and windows cannot keep them out.  The pollution from just one wood burning stove is equal to the amount emitted from 3,000 gas furnaces.

“We know that wood burning made a lot of sense in our valley for a long time.  But once we get a large population center where we get many people burning in a neighborhood, or in an area, we know that it impacts air quality.  And maybe it’s just time to look at other options, and that’s what we are really opening right now is the dialogue,” said Bird.

While UCAIR works closely with partner organizations, it also seeks community involvement to find solutions to our air quality challenges.

Wilson says it may be tempting during the holidays to fire up the fireplace, but asks that we consider the impact it will have on the air.

“During the inversion, even if it’s Christmas Eve, it might be a good idea to think twice about burning wood.”

To get involved and learn more about UCAIR, visit them at http//:ucair.org

via Wood burning and air pollution – Good4Utah.com.

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Air quality worst at night, early morning

Delhiites may be exposed to the worst air pollution at night and early morning, indicates a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). CSE chose eight persons and monitored their exposure to pollution for 24 hours using a portable device. It also found that situation in the Lutyens’ zone, where the rich and the powerful reside, is no better despite the greenery and sparse traffic.

The study found PM 2.5 (fine, respirable particulate) levels to be the highest at night and during hours when these people go for morning walk. In some cases, even indoor air quality was extremely poor.

The study involved monitoring the personal exposure of Bhure Lal, chairperson, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), a resident of Lodhi Estate, Harish Salve, senior Supreme Court advocate who lives in Vasant Vihar, Ashok B Lall, architect and resident of Civil Lines, Randeep Guleria, head of pulmonary medicine department at AIIMS, William Bissel, head of Fabindia and resident of Hauz Khas enclave. The group also had people who suffer from asthma—Bharati Chaturvedi who lives in Ravindra Nagar in central Delhi, head of Chintan, Kaushik Das Gupta, a journalist and Avikal Somvanshi, a research professional and cyclist.

The 24-hour average exposure of each individual was compared with the readings of the nearest monitoring station of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) which revealed that the real exposure levels were much higher than the official figures. Lal who lives in Lodhi Estate was monitored on November 12 to 13. The hourly average PM 2.5 level was the highest between 5.50am and 6.50am—at 1195.83 microgram per cubic metre. It was the time when he had gone for a walk in Lodhi Garden. To be doubly sure about pollution levels in Lodhi Garden, the CSE team monitored him again on December 8-9 when levels were found to be 672 microgram per cubic metre, still alarmingly high.

But on warm and sunny days PM 2.5 levels seem to improve. On December 2 for instance, Dr Guleria’s 24-hour average exposure was 188 mg per cubic metre, about three times the safe standard.

The hourly average near the President’s Estate between 8 and 9 am was 1,029 mg per cubic metre. Salve who lives near the Outer Ring Road and the Ridge in Vasant Vihar was exposed to the highest PM 2.5 level between 10 and 11pm on November 25 to 26 at 408 mg per cubic metre. The levels remained high through the night.

Asthmatics are already facing a tough winter. “I was having breathing problems. Doctors recently told me I am borderline asthmatic and may get better if I am in a city with lower pollution levels,” he said. Sunita Narain, director general of CSE, said she had stopped going for morning walks.

“Our data shows that for a couple of years after introducing CNG the pollution levels had stabilized, but they started to rise steeply with the increase in the number of vehicles. Our soft options are over, we need tough measures now,” Narain said.

via Air quality worst at night, early morning – The Times of India.

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Air pollution advisory posted for southern Minnesota through the weekend

Relatively warm, moist weather conditions led the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Thursday to post an air pollution health advisory for the southern half of Minnesota running through early Sunday morning.

An advisory means conditions are approaching unhealthy levels for sensitive groups. It is one step short of an alert.

The moist air is trapping pollution close to the ground, which is elevating levels of fine particle pollution, said Rebecca Place, MPCA’s air quality index coordinator.

“It’s caused by vehicle exhaust or burning wood. They’re very small particulates in the air and they can get into your lungs and cause respiratory problems,” she said.

People with heart disease and lung disease may experience worsening health problems during an air pollution advisory.

If the MPCA upgrades its advisory to an alert, the list of sensitive populations will expand to include young children and elderly adults.

via Air pollution advisory posted for southern Minnesota through the weekend | Minnesota Public Radio News.

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Scientists warn ‘traffic pollution aggravates health conditions’

Obese people and those suffering heart disease, or diabetes should stay indoors during rush hour because of traffic fumes, doctors warn.Pollution not only aggravates existing conditions but has been found to contribute to the cause of these diseases, they said.This is because air pollution exacerbates the development of high blood pressure and impaired insulin sensitivity, which are both risk factors for obesity and diabetes.They also recommended people with asthma, infants and the elderly should avoid pollution hotspots.Doctors should start routinely advising people in these at-risk groups to avoid pollution, they said.

The experts from the European Society of Cardiology also called for a decrease in the use of fossil fuels.

Professor Robert Storey, from Sheffield University, said: ‘More than three million deaths worldwide are caused by air pollution each year.

‘Air pollution ranks ninth among the modifiable disease risk factors, ahead of low physical activity, high sodium diet, high cholesterol and drug use.’

There is now ‘ample’ evidence air pollution is associated with long term illness and death from cardiovascular diseases, he said.

He added: ‘It not only makes existing heart conditions worse but also contributes to development of the disease.

‘Avoiding air pollution where possible may help to reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiologists should incorporate this information into lifestyle advice for their patients.

He said: ‘We also need to increase pressure on policy makers to reduce levels of air pollution.

‘Air pollution should be considered one of the major modifiable risk factors to prevent and manage cardiovascular disease.

‘Individuals, especially those with or at risk of cardiovascular disease, can take measures to reduce their exposure and doctors should include these in lifestyle advice.

HOW TO AVOID POLLUTION

People with obesity, diabetes and heart disease should stay at home during rush hour to avoid traffic fumes, doctors have warned.

This advice extends to asthmatics, infants and the elderly.

People should avoid walking and cycling along busy roads, exercise in parks away from traffic and avoid busy times.

The recommendations came from doctors from the European Society of Cardiology.

To avoid pollution from outdoors seeping indoors, they recommended people could invest in  ventilation systems with filtration for their homes.

They also called on policymakers to reduce levels of air pollution, and back this up with legislation.

‘Policy makers urgently need to reduce levels of air pollution and this should be backed up by legislation.’

A third of Europeans who live in urban areas are exposed to air pollution levels above European Union standards, the experts warned.

But the World Health Organisation, who use more stringent criteria to calculate the number of people affected by pollution, say nearly nine out of 10 Europeans are being exposed to a level of pollution that damages health.

Infants, the elderly and people with cardio-respiratory disorders should avoid walking and cycling along busy roads, exercise in parks away from traffic and avoid busy times.

Those at risk should also ensure they always have their medication with them.

But outdoor air pollution seeping into homes is still a problem, they warned.

Most exposure typically occurs indoors, so experts recommend ventilation systems with filtration for homes in high pollution areas.

Professor Storey added: ‘Policy makers have an important role to reduce outdoor pollution in order to limit indoor pollution where much of the exposure occurs.

‘Apart from reducing their personal contributions to outdoor pollution, there is not much that individuals can do about this unless they invest in systems to filter the air they breathe indoors.

‘Moving away from the use of fossil fuels for energy production will result in major benefits to human health, both from reduced exposure to air pollution and from mitigation of climate change.’

The paper was published in the European Heart Journal.

via Scientists warn ‘traffic pollution aggravates health conditions’ | Daily Mail Online.

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