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London

Oxford 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.

 

EU Cities NO2Boris Johnson defends London’s record on air pollution Levels of NO2 on Oxford Street in 2013 were at an annual mean of 135 μg m-3, according to samples taken by the London Air Quality Network. Other data analysed by the European Environment Agency also showed London topping Europe’s cities for air pollution, though at lower levels than the Oxford Street samples, which were not submitted for the agency’s consideration.

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Nightmare days in summer

While many people hanker for some proper summer weather with long dry and sunny days, for others those warm days can turn into a nightmare – those who suffer from hayfever.

Hayfever is an allergic reaction to pollen released by plants during the spring and summer months and this year has been an unusually severe season due to the weather conditions.

Perfect conditions for pollen production starts with a warm and wet spring, followed by a dry, warm summer, high humidity and just a gentle breeze.

The day-to-day weather impacts on pollen levels for any given day, levels usually peaking mid-to-late morning after the pollen is released early, and again in the evening.

The pollen type also varies through the season, with tree pollen the main variety from March to mid-May, mainly birch and oak, followed by grass pollen from mid-May to late July, then finally weed pollen from mid-to-late July through to September.

But have you ever wondered how pollen counts are measured and forecast?

Pollen levels are measured in what is called a Burkhard volumetric spore trap, a standardised method of collection which is a garden chair-sized contraption, about waist high, that is placed about two storeys above ground level.

This is the same for all the traps across the UK, and in Northern Ireland the trap is located on a rooftop at Queen’s University Belfast.

Yolanda Clewlow is the UK pollen network manager at the Met Office which is now responsible for the UK pollen monitoring network and forecasts.

She said the readings were taken at all sites at the same time, daily at 09:00, by a very dedicated team of observers – mostly for the love of it!

Inside the Burkhard trap is a rotating drum with a wax-coated sticky tape. An aperture on the trap sucks in air at a regulated speed, depositing anything in the air onto the drum.

Observers remove the tape and mount it on a slide using a pollen stain called fuscin, which identifies only pollen spores and stains them pink.

They can then count the pollen grains and extrapolate to give pollen grains per cubic metre over the next 24 hours.

The information is then sent to the Met Office from all the UK sites and is used along with the weather forecast to give the pollen forecast for the next five days.

So what constitutes whether the levels are high?

Levels are based on a numerical range that varies according to the pollen species, and the grass pollen has been exceptionally high this year due to the weather conditions.

Anything over 150 grains per cubic metre is considered very high, and here in Northern Ireland the highest count has been up to 212 this summer.

So, if you are allergic to grass pollen and have been suffering from sneezing, an itchy nose or watery eyes, that is the reason.

However, levels have been highest across parts of England with York University having the highest count, up to a very eye-watering 801 grains per cubic metre.

The pollen microscope slides are retained indefinitely because we can never be sure what additional use may be made of them in the future.

Over the past three years they have also been used to identify volcanic ash from Iceland to ascertain how far it had spread across the UK, and also the DNA of ash die-back disease, to establish whether the disease had spread to the UK from the continent as it was previously thought unable to be carried by the wind.

The pollen data collected is also used extensively in research, especially around climate change and health.

via BBC News – Nightmare days in summer.

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Boris Johnson defends London’s record on air pollution

London

The Mayor of London’s office has strenuously defended the city’s record on air pollution, insisting that it is far from the worst polluted city, despite data showing that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels have been higher than anywhere else yet recorded.

Boris Johnson’s top air quality officials told the Guardian that it was “ludicrous” to put London in the same category as capitals such as Mexico City, Delhi and Beijing, and other cities.

“It’s not even comparing apples with pears, it is comparing apples with cucumbers,” said Matthew Pencharz, the mayor’s adviser on environment and energy.

Pencharz claimed other cities frequently site their air quality monitoring stations far from the sources of the worst pollution, for instance in parks, quiet roads or suburbs, but that London’s monitoring stations are “more reliable” because they are sited near busy roads.

Levels of NO2 on Oxford Street in 2013 were at an annual mean of 135 μg m-3, according to samples taken by the London Air Quality Network.

Other data analysed by the European Environment Agency also showed London topping Europe’s cities for air pollution, though at lower levels than the Oxford Street samples, which were not submitted for the agency’s consideration.

Under the EEA’s analysis, Marylebone Road, a busy London road where pollution levels frequently exceed the EU’s legal maximum, was found to be the worst in Europe in 2012, with 94 μg m-3, compared to a maximum of 40 μg m-3 which is considered by the EU to be the upper safe limit for human health. The next worst European cities were Stuttgart, with 91 μg m-3 at one site and 90 μg m-3 at another, and Paris with 90 μg m-3 at one site.

EU cities with highest annual mean NO2 levels (μg/m3)

40 μg/m3 is the level considered safe for human health by the EU

EU Cities NO2

But Pencharz said that the data cited was not representative, because other cities have fewer monitoring stations and submit less data. London had more monitoring stations than Paris or Rome, for instance, with 157 sites compared to 32 in Paris, 13 in Rome, 17 in Berlin and 19 in Amsterdam, in 2011. He also said other cities frequently sited their monitoring stations away from some of their main polluting sites, and therefore were not as reliable as the UK.

The mayor’s office said: “More monitoring stations means we can do the responsible thing and place our monitoring stations directly in the most polluted roads. Some cities place their monitoring stations in vast green parks or traffic-free courtyards, hence the lower figures they report. That’s why Oxford Street records comparatively high levels of pollution than for many other cities – but to say it is the worst of any place on Earth is misleading.”

Martin Adams of the European Environment Agency confirmed that member states could pick the data they wanted to submit on air quality, provided that it met certain criteria and a minimum number of sampling stations were included. “That is the flexibility that member states have,” he told the Guardian. “That is the responsibility of member states – to choose the monitoring stations [from which they submit data].”

Pencharz also said London was leading the world’s cities in improving air quality. He has said that emissions of NOx have fallen on average by a fifth since Johnson was elected, and the number of Londoners living in areas that break EU limits for the gas had been halved.

NO2 can contribute to breathing difficulties, and is a particular problem for young children, older people and susceptible adults, such as those with existing respiratory conditions. Diesel-fuelled vehicles are a major source of the pollutant, and London is facing hefty fines from the European Union for flouting NO2 limits.

Johnson unveiled plans on Tuesday to double the current congestion charge for drivers of diesel-powered vehicles. He said that diesel was worse for air pollution than alternatives including petrol, electric vehicles and other transport. The new plans – which must be put out to consultation before they can be adopted – would not come into force until 2020.

via Boris Johnson defends London’s record on air pollution | Environment | theguardian.com.

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Increase diesel taxes to fight pollution, say Boris Johnson and green groups

London

Green campaigners, pollution experts and the mayor of London have called on government to increase taxes on diesel fuel to tackle dirty air in UK cities.

They say a change is needed to the system of taxation because it currently favours diesel vehicles despite their having a much more severe air pollution impact than petrol cars.

Boris Johnson laid out plans on Tuesday for an effective doubling of the congestion charge for diesel cars within certain areas of London, to around £20, and said he was lobbying central government for a change in taxation. Fuel taxes on petrol and diesel are the same despite the latter giving higher miles per gallon, meaning diesel works out cheaper in taxation per mile travelled.

But diesel results in far higher air pollution than petrol, because the method of combustion means bigger sooty particles are emitted. The particles – some so big they can be visible to the naked eye – cause respiratory problems, and are especially harmful to young children, older people and susceptible adults, such as those with respiratory problems.

Environmental campaigners including Clean Air in London, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Client Earth, as well as the the Green Party, Labour and the thinktank IPPR have all called for a reconsideration of fuel taxes given the health problems associated with the lower-taxed fuel.

Simon Birkett, founder and director of Clean Air in London, told the Guardian the problem was now acute and must be dealt with: “Successive governments have incentivised the use of diesel vehicles, especially through company car taxation, even though they have known for over ten years that doing so was killing people. We need action now to ban carcinogenic diesel exhaust from the most polluted places by 2020 with an intermediate step by 2018 and an inquiry to discover how this public health catastrophe happened in the first place.”

Client Earth, another environmental pressure group, said that higher taxes on diesel relative to petrol should be considered urgently, together with reform of vehicle excise duty and company car tax. “It needs to happen as part of a comprehensive plan to tackle diesel pollution in the shortest time possible,” a spokesman said.

The IPPR thinktank said: “[Current] taxes do not reflect where a car is driven, or at what time of day. There are undoubtedly significant problems. Diesel vehicles are the most polluting.”

Frank Kelly, a professor at King’s College London, told the Guardian: “Diesel cars have to date been regarded as the ‘green’ option because they appear to offer better fuel consumption and hence CO2 emissions than petrol cars. This image of diesel cars however is wrong as they emit more harmful air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Given the shortcoming of diesel vehicles a sensible option would be discourage their use through a higher fuel taxation.”

Under Johnson’s plans, from 2020, all drivers of diesel vehicles, and petrol cars registered before 2006, will have to pay an extra £10 to drive into central London on top of the existing congestion charge, as part of his ‘air quality manifesto’, launched on Tuesday night. Only those diesel vehicles that meet the EURO6 emissions standard will be exempt from the charge.

Caroline Russell, spokeswoman on local transport for the Green Party, said: “Policy has… failed to keep up with a growing body of evidence that shows that the reality of diesel performance in the stop-start city-driving situation is nothing like that achieved on a test track and increasing awareness of the damaging impact of diesel particulates on air quality and human health.

“Government and local authorities must act fast to protect our health from the effects of diesel pollution and use all measures at their disposal – this should include working towards a diesel ban and removing fuel duty incentives.”

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: “This isn’t quite a miss-selling scandal, but for years ministers took their eye off the ball and encouraged drivers to buy diesels to help fight climate change. That has come at a cost: local air pollution. Today 10 million cars in Britain are powered by diesel engines – a third of the total.

“Part of the problem is regulation. In laboratory conditions diesel cars have met strict test criteria. Unfortunately that performance hasn’t been matched on the road and now we have a significant health issue because of the dash for diesel.”

Other motoring industry representatives and car companies did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Food, Rural Affairs and the Environment did not comment on whether diesel taxation should be reviewed but said: “Local authorities also have powers to introduce low emission zones and other access control schemes to reduce emissions on the most polluted roads. This could include an age restriction on certain diesel vehicles – the government is not considering a blanket ban on the production and sale of diesel vehicles.”

The Treasury did not comment, but has previously told the Guardian that the taxation rates of diesel and petrol-driven vehicles are equal and there are no plans to change them.

via Increase diesel taxes to fight pollution, say Boris Johnson and green groups | Environment | theguardian.com.

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Respro® Masks FAQ: These bendy nose things, how far should I bend them?

These bendy nose things, how far should I bend them?

The malleable nose clip deforms easily so that a good fit can be formed around the bridge of the nose. Continuous or exaggerated deformation will eventually cause failure in the metal – it will snap. Once a good fit has been found, it is best to maintain the shape, rather than folding it flat when storing it or when not in use.

For more FAQs,  go to Respro® Mask FAQ

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Air quality ‘unhealthy’ as haze obscures skies

BP2014073032Air quality around Kuala Lumpur and on Borneo island was ‘unhealthy’ yesterday, with one town reaching ‘very unhealthy’ levels as haze – mostly from forest fires in Indonesia – obscured skies.

Kuala Lumpur residents wore face masks as protection from the choking smog, while visibility was low.

Nine out of some 50 measuring stations recorded air pollutant index readings above 100, which signify ‘unhealthy’ air quality.

Readings in Sibu, Sarawak breached 200 – designated as “very unhealthy” – on Monday, but recovered slightly yesterday.

A reading of above 300 signifies ‘hazardous’ air.

In Indonesia, the National Disaster Management Agency deployed a chopper to conduct water bombing to West Kalimantan on Borneo to tame 268 so-called hotspots detected in the province as haze also shrouded skies there and on Sumatra island.

In Riau on Sumatra, hundreds of military and police personnel as well as firefighters used water cannons to put out fires that stretched over more than 850 hectares of land.

“Ninety-nine percent of this fire is man-made,” said National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

“Hundreds of fire-fighters and volunteers are trying to put out the fire, but the fire, set alight by individuals and groups, are more intensified still.”

Haze is an annual problem during drier summer months when monsoon winds blow smoke from fires mostly on the huge Indonesian island of Sumatra, which lies across the Malacca Strait from Malaysia and Singapore.

The fires have been largely blamed on palm oil firms using the illegal but cheap method of burning vast tracts of rainforest and peatland to clear them for planting.

Indonesian authorities had warned last month that Malaysia and Singapore could be hit by haze again after a huge jump in forest fires in Riau province, which was at the centre of an air pollution crisis last year. — AFP

Both Malaysia and Singapore were effected, with readings hitting 750 in one town in southern Malaysia in June last year.

This was the highest seen in the Southeast Asian country for 16 years, causing a declaration of emergency in several districts, school closures and a regional diplomatic row.

Malaysia – usually known for its tropical heavy downpours – this year has also been plagued by drought, leading to water rationing, particularly in Selangor, the country’s economic hub, which surrounds the capital.

via Air quality ‘unhealthy’ as haze obscures skies – BorneoPost Online | Borneo , Malaysia, Sarawak Daily News | Largest English Daily In Borneo.

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Malaysia air quality ‘unhealthy’ as haze obscures skies

Malaysia

Air quality around Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur and on Borneo island was “unhealthy” on Tuesday, as haze mostly from forest fires in Indonesia, obscured skies.

Kuala Lumpur residents wore face masks as protection from the choking smog, while visibility was low.

Nine out of some 50 measuring stations recorded air pollutant index readings above 100, which signify “unhealthy” air quality.

Readings in Sibu town in Sarawak state on Borneo breached 200 — designated as “very unhealthy” — on Monday, but recovered slightly early Tuesday.

A reading of above 300 signifies “hazardous” air.

Readings hit 750 in a town in southern Malaysia in June last year, the highest seen in the Southeast Asian country for 16 years, causing a declaration of emergency in several districts, school closures and a regional diplomatic row.

Haze is an annual problem during drier summer months when monsoon winds blow smoke from fires mostly on the huge Indonesian island of Sumatra, which lies across the Malacca Strait from Malaysia and Singapore.

The fires have been largely blamed on palm oil firms using the illegal but cheap method of burning vast tracts of rainforest and peatland to clear them for planting.

Indonesian authorities had warned last month that Malaysia and Singapore could be hit by haze again after a huge jump in forest fires in Riau province on Sumatra, which was at the centre of the air pollution crisis last year.

Malaysia — usually known for its tropical heavy downpours — this year has also been plagued by drought, leading to water rationing, particularly in the central state of Selangor, the country’s economic hub, which surrounds the capital.

via Malaysia air quality ‘unhealthy’ as haze obscures skies – Yahoo News UK.

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Diesel drivers to be penalised in drive to cut air pollution

Lorry_exhaustCars with diesel engines could soon incur new charges and higher taxes as part of efforts to lower air pollution levels in Britain’s towns and cities.

Drivers of diesel-powered vehicles will have to pay an extra £10 on top of the normal congestion zone charge to enter central London under proposals being drawn up by Boris Johnson, mayor of London.

Many other cities are considering following London’s lead by creating low emission zones, which would carry charges and penalties for diesel vehicles.

 Mr Johnson is also urging the government to charge diesel car drivers more road tax.

Labour wants to create national network of low emission zones, which would prevent older diesel vehicles entering many cities.

There is growing pressure on city councils to cut diesel fumes in order to avoid fines from the European Commission for breaching air pollution limits. The commission launched legal proceedings against Britain in February.

At least 20 cities including Sheffield, Leicester, Bradford, Birmingham and Bristol, which suffer poor air quality, are looking at introducing low emission zones.

Oxford created a low emission zone for buses this year which may be extended to apply to all vehicles.

In Britain, about 29,000 premature deaths a year are thought to be caused by air pollution.

People living in London, Birmingham and Leeds will be exposed to dangerous air pollution from engine fumes until the 2030s unless stricter rules are imposed, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

More people turned to diesel powered cars in recent years due to government tax incentives which were designed to lower carbon emissions.

But diesel engines produce toxins including nitrogen dioxide, which irritates the lung lining and can cause respiratory disease.

The £10 extra diesel charge in central London could come into force as early as 2020 and would mean diesel drivers would pay a minimum of £20 every time they entered the capital’s ‘ultra-low emission zone’.

Diesel vehicles that meet the Euro 6 emissions standard would be exempt while petrol cars registered before 2006 would also have to pay.

Mr Johnson will today outline his plans for an “air quality manifesto” to get London’s air pollution levels two thirds of the way towards EU limits.

He is calling on the government to help by raising vehicle excise duty rates and urging the European Commission to create a fund to help cities switch to electric cars.

Matthew Pencharz, the mayor’s environment adviser, told The Times: “We want to see an unwinding of incentives that have driven people to diesel.

“Euro engine standards on emissions have not delivered the savings expected, meaning we now have a legacy of a generation of dirty diesels.”

He dismissed calls for a total ban on diesel vehicles which are being voiced by some environmental groups.

“It would not be reasonable to say, ‘I’m sorry, you have just bought that car but it’s now banned.’ He said.

“People bought them in good faith and it’s not fair to clobber them.

“We think a five-year notice gives enough warning. People who drive in once a month might not buy a newer car whereas somebody who drives in every day probably would do.”

via Diesel drivers to be penalised in drive to cut air pollution – Telegraph.

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Trees prevent respiratory diseases

372983_trees- reduce-respiratory diseasesA new research has suggested that trees play significant role in removing air pollution and preventing respiratory diseases.

A large scale study conducted by the researchers of several centers unveils that trees save more than 850 people lives and prevent 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms annually.
The research focused on the effects of trees air pollution removal and people’s health.

The investigation shows that trees can remove air pollution and improve the air quality up to average standards.

Researchers valued the human health effects of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion every year, according to the study published recently in the journal Environmental Pollution.

The study also unraveled that “pollution removal is substantially higher in rural parts than urban areas; however the effects on human health are substantially greater in urban areas than rural areas.”

The study examined four pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in aerodynamic diameter.

The pollutants were considered to be measured for air quality standards at the research centers.

The impact of pollution on health was investigated through pulmonary, cardiac, vascular, and neurological systems.

The study was carried by Dave Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Satoshi Hirabayashi and Allison Bodine of the Davey Institute.

“In terms of impacts on human health, trees in urban areas are substantially more important than rural trees due to their proximity to people,” Nowak said.

We found that in general, the greater the tree cover, the greater the pollution removal, and the greater the removal and population density, the greater the value of human health benefits.” Nowak added.

via PressTV – Study: Trees prevent respiratory diseases.

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Air quality alert for the Truckee Meadows

The Washoe District Health Department has issued an air quality alert for the Truckee Meadows after ozone reached a level of unhealthy for sensitive groups.

The department recommends people, especially those with lung disease like asthma, reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion.

Fine particulates were moderate early Sunday afternoon.

Pollution is coming into the area is from California fires, said Scott McGuire, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“It’s a combination of the Sand Fire down by Amador and El Dorado counties and the El Portal Fire by Yosemite,” McGuire said.

There’s a chance it could continue into Monday as it appears the fires are growing, McGuire said. But he doesn’t think the area will experience anything like the two-week haze that choked the air last year due to the Rim Fire near Yosemite.

Moisture will move into the region beginning Tuesday, which may not only drop moisture on the fire but help clear the air of smoke through rain drops.

“It will be a fairly active week again with the moisture advecting from the south,” McGuire said. “It’s tough to tell exactly where the thunderstorms will set up.”

High temperatures in the Reno area will be in the mid 90s with overnight lows in the mid 60s, which is close to average, McGuire said.

This happens to be the hottest week of the year in Reno on average, he noted.

For more information on air quality, go to OurCleanAir.com.

via Air quality alert for the Truckee Meadows.

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