TOP STORIES

brusselsWeak EU air pollution standards risk thousands of lives Weak draft EU rules for coal plant emissions could result in 71,000 deaths and €52bn (£37bn) of health costs across Europe in the decade to come, according to new research

LA

For the youngest and oldest, air pollution may have serious health consequences The effect of air pollution on climate change is well-documented, but two new studies show that it may also pose surprising dangers to public health

usaThe dirty truth: Four out of every 10 americans live with unhealthy levels of air pollution More than 40percent of Americans live where the air contains unhealthy levels of pollution, according to a newly released study.

Posted in Air Quality | Leave a comment

Air pollution in cities: Bright facades and trees against heat and smog

Cities represent “heat islands” within their surroundings, which are characterized by many heat sources and small air flows. In southern Europe, bright buildings produce relief and provide for a cooler urban climate. Simulation calculations of KIT researchers for the city of Stuttgart as an example, however, reveal that such measures for enhancing cooling may adversely affect air quality on the ground. The solution of the researchers: Bright facades for cooling and planting of certain types of trees to reduce pollutant concentration.

Scientists of the Atmospheric Environmental Research Division of the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU) of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Garmisch-Partenkirchen, have developed a new simulation strategy that considers both temperature development in cities and transport of pollutants. With the heat wave of 2003 being used as an example, the urban climate of Stuttgart was simulated under various conditions. “Due to its location in a basin, the city of Stuttgart is very interesting for model calculations of urban climate,” Joachim Fallmann of IMK-IFU explains. He was involved in the model development.

Stuttgart

Fallmann simulated various scenarios, such as enhanced reflection of radiation as a result of a changed color of the buildings in Stuttgart. White-colored houses are traditionally applied to prevent urban heating in the Mediterranean area. Joachim Fallmann explains this effect that is called albedo: “The brighter the buildings and surfaces in a city are, the smaller is the heating rate, because short-wave radiation is reflected and the material is not heated up. This is referred to as a high albedo. Typical grey high-rise buildings, by contrast, have a small albedo and may be considered heat collectors. “The new model approach confirmed that brighter buildings are really suited for counteracting the heat island effect.As regards air quality, however, this strategy is associated with a surprising drawback: “When it cools down, vertical mixing of the air decreases. Fine dust and pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, remain closer to the ground and are more concentrated than in a warmer city.” Hence, the cooling effect is associated with a serious drawback in particular for the population of cities with strong primary pollution sources, such as industry districts or very dense traffic. For other, so-called secondary pollutants, this effect is positive: “When it is cooler, less ozone is formed, which may be harmful for the respiratory tracts on the ground.” Hence, atmosphere chemistry and heat development in a city have to be analyzed together.Greening of cities is a strategy to compensate the effect of reduced air transport. Trees absorb CO2 and may even bind fine dust on the surface. But according to Joachim Fallmann, the details are of decisive importance again: “The right trees have to be used. Poplars, oak trees, and sycamore trees produce biogenous substances, such as pollen, which may act as precursors of ozone formation.” A tree with a positive effect on air quality is the maple tree.The model of IMK-IFU is an important tool to analyze these complex relationships in detail. In the end, every city has to be analyzed individually according to Joachim Fallmann: “Conditions in Stuttgart differ considerably from those in Munich, where the Alps often supply fresh air. It is our objective to refine the simulation model, such that it can be used to reliably test tailor-made solutions for the different cities.”

via Air pollution in cities: Bright facades and trees against heat and smog.

Posted in Air Quality, Europe | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

High pollution can lead to ‘significantly lower’ IQs, study says

High air pollution in cities is “significantly” lowering children’s IQ, particularly among children from poorer backgrounds, according to research.

The double whammy of economic hardship and increased levels of smog from traffic has been shown to have a detrimental effect on children’s development by the time they are 7 years old, the study says.

The findings, produced by researchers at Columbia University, were published last month in the medical journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology.

The study followed 276 pairs of mothers and their children for seven years from pregnancy in New York city. It found that children from poorer backgrounds in areas of higher pollution scored lower in IQ tests by age 7 than those in more affluent areas with cleaner air.

However, researchers also found that within the group of mothers who reported that they were suffering from economic hardship, those children exposed to higher levels of pollutants scored “significantly lower” in IQ tests.

Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, said the study highlighted the need for greater action to be taken on reducing pollution in cities.

“The findings support policy interventions to reduce air pollution exposure in urban areas as well as programs to screen women early in pregnancy to identify those in need of psychological or material support,” Dr Perera said.

A previous study by the same researchers showed exposure to pollutants in the womb could lead to developmental delays among children by the age of 3, and “reduced verbal and full-scale IQ” by age 5, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety by the age of 7.

via High pollution can lead to ‘significantly lower’ IQs, study says | tesconnect.

Posted in Air Quality, Health effects of air pollution | Tagged , | Leave a comment

World Health Assembly closes, passing resolutions on air pollution and epilepsy

The World Health Assembly closed today, with Director-General Dr Margaret Chan noting that it had passed several “landmark resolutions and decisions”. Three new resolutions were passed today: one on air pollution, one on epilepsy and one laying out the next steps in finalizing a framework of engagement with non-State actors.

Air pollution

Delegates at the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to address the health impacts of air pollution – the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Every year 4.3 million deaths occur from exposure to indoor air pollution and 3.7 million deaths are attributable to outdoor air pollution. This was the first time the Health Assembly had debated the topic.

The resolution highlights the key role national health authorities need to play in raising awareness about the potential to save lives and reduce health costs, if air pollution is addressed effectively. It also stresses the need for strong cooperation between different sectors and integration of health concerns into all national, regional and local air pollution-related policies. It urges Member States to develop air quality monitoring systems and health registries to improve surveillance for all illnesses related to air pollution; promote clean cooking, heating and lighting technologies and fuels; and strengthen international transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data in the field of air pollution.

The resolution asks the WHO Secretariat to strengthen its technical capacities to support Member States in taking action on air pollution. This includes further building capacity to: implement the “WHO air quality guidelines” and “WHO indoor air quality guidelines; conduct cost-benefit assessment of mitigation measures; and advance research into air pollution’s health effects and effectiveness. At the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, WHO will propose a road map for an enhanced global response by the health sector that reduces the adverse health effects of air pollution.

Read the full resolution here: http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA68/A68_ACONF2Rev1-en.pdf

 

via WHO | World Health Assembly closes, passing resolutions on air pollution and epilepsy.

Posted in Air Quality, Health effects of air pollution | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘Embrace green tech to clean up London’s toxic air’

London

Londoners were urged today to “embrace not fear” green technology, amid spiralling concerns over the death toll from toxic air on the capital’s streets.

Lord Deben, chairman of Britain’s Committee on Climate Change, made the plea to dramatically speed up action to tackle killer air pollution. Dozens of blackspots are in London, with filthy air smothering some of its busiest and most famous roads, including Oxford Street, and blighting both affluent and poorer neighbourhoods.

Today the Evening Standard launches a series of reports highlighting the problem and encouraging Londoners, businesses, the Mayor, town halls and the Government to swiftly adopt, develop and promote green technology, which experts say could significantly clean up our city.

With the World Health Assembly due to hold talks in Geneva today on combating air pollution, Boris Johnson has announced £8 million for pioneering schemes to improve  London’s environment, such as pollution-absorbing walls and car clubs for zero-emission electric vehicles.

It comes as the motor industry and European Commission face damaging claims over the level of pollution  allegedly being belched out by the latest generation of diesel cars — which were supposed to be so clean that they would not be a threat to public health.

Lord Deben — better known as John Gummer, environment secretary under John Major — called on Londoners to make the most of green technology.

He said: “Don’t be frightened, embrace it. There are a whole lot of things that we can do which mean that we can live exactly the same lifestyle at half the impact on the environment.

“If you are going to deal with London’s air pollution, then electric cars and the use of modern technology on traditional cars are the very first step.”

Householders could upgrade their heating system so it could be switched on by smartphone, to avoid having it on a timer and warming up an empty property, he added, and could also keep electricity bills down by buying the greenest washing machines, fridges and dishwashers. Commuters could ditch their cars — which can contain dirtier air than outside — and walk or cycle more, with the help of apps that find the least polluted route.

After planting a tree at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park today for London Tree Week, Mr Johnson unveiled the  £8 million second round of his £20 million Air Quality Fund, which offers boroughs up to £400,000 for individual projects. Pioneering schemes in the first round included:

Pollution-capturing walls in Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham, and Kensington and Chelsea, to protect pupils in playgrounds and pedestrians in roads plagued by toxic air;

Upgrading 25 electric car club vehicles and installing new chargers;

Developing a freight consolidation centre for Camden, Islington and Enfield that has nearly halved deliveries from participating suppliers to council buildings — with the remaining journeys made by electric van.

The Mayor said: “Embracing this technology as part of our everyday lives is vital. It’s clear that these measures, and the more of us that can adopt them, are helping make London the greenest, most sustainable megacity on earth.”

London’s green economy had reached almost £30 billion a year, he added, with over 160,000 jobs in this sector.

City Hall has backed other innovative schemes including recycling household items into fuel, apps that advise on low congestion routes, and a “green Tardis” project to turn underused phone boxes into solar-powered mobile phone recharging stations.

Mr Johnson also announced £1 million of funding for boroughs to transform urban landscapes and improve air quality, under a Low Emission Neighbourhood scheme.

Projects which could get cash include road redesigns, measures to encourage more walking and cycling, further reduction of the impact of freight and servicing, and smarter charging systems for parking. But the Mayor and ministers are under pressure from the European Commission to take more decisive action to tackle pollution — with the threat of massive fines if they are seen to be dragging their feet, having already missed key deadlines.

Less than a month ago, the Supreme Court ordered ministers to draw up fresh plans to cut levels of nitrogen dioxide, which are in breach of EU limits at numerous locations in London.

Scientists say thousands of Londoners are dying prematurely each year due to pollution. Millions in other cities, including Paris and Beijing, also suffer from dirty air. Their plight and global warming are being thrust back into the spotlight this year ahead of a global climate change summit in Paris.

The Committee on Climate Change is an independent body set up under the Climate Change Act 2008, to advise ministers on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve the environment. Lord Deben said: “We can do everything we do today using half the energy if we just used the energy efficient technology that is available.”

He said London had “some of the brightest and cleverest people who are changing technology faster than one can think”.@nicholascecil

Worst blackspots are in London

  • The number of diesel cars on Britain’s roads has grown from 1.6 million to more than 11 million over the past decade.
  • The air in Oxford Street has the world’s highest recorded concentrations of harmful nitrogen dioxide.
  • More than 4,000 deaths a year in London are linked to dangerous sooty airborne particulates. This is forecast to rose to more than 5,000 by 2020.
  • Air pollution is now ranked Britain’s second biggest public health threat after smoking.
  • All 50 of Britain’s worst blackspots for dirty air are in London.

via ‘Embrace green tech to clean up London’s toxic air’ – London – News – London Evening Standard.

Posted in Air Quality, Europe, London, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Respro® Masks FAQ: What is Air Pollution?

What is Air Pollution?

Air pollution is made up of two distinct categories:

1. Gases and Vapours

2. Particulates

Most types of pollution can be put into one or other category.

Gases & Vapours:

Nitrogen oxides

Sulphur Dioxide

Carbon Monoxide

Low level Ozone

Hydrocarbon Chemicals

These all require an activated carbon filter media to adsorb these pollutants.

(Techno™, City™, Bandit™, Cinqro™, Xtreme™ urban)

Particulates:

Asbestos dust from brake linings

Pollen

Road dust

Black smoke from diesel emissions

Any other material which is solid in nature

These all require a submicron Hepa-Type filter media to trap these pollutants.

(Techno™, Sportsta™, Cinqro™, Respro® Allergy Mask, Xtreme™ Sports)

Particulate Types:

Inhalable and Respirable.

Inhalable particulates: are the particles big enough to be trapped within the nasal hairs and the mucous membranes at the back of the throat. (Larger in size than 2.5 microns)

Respirable particulates: are the particles that pass beyond the nasal hairs and the mucous membranes of the throat and pass into the lung sacs and subsequent blood barrier.

These particulates can carry carcinogenic chemicals used in petrol (benzene, pyrene, etc) to the blood barrier. (Smaller in size than 2.5 microns)

Posted in Air Quality | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Study Finds Possible Association Between Autism and Air Pollution

Research suggests that early exposure to air pollution may have wide-ranging negative effects

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh suggests that exposure to fine particulate air pollution from pregnancy up and through the first two years of childhood may be linked with developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health conducted “a population-based, case-control study” of families living in southwestern Pennsylvania, which included children with and without ASD, reports Science Daily.

The research team was then able to estimate an individual’s exposure to specific categories of air pollution based on where their mothers lived before, during and after pregnancy.

“There is increasing and compelling evidence that points to associations between Pittsburgh’s poor air quality and health problems, especially those affecting our children and including issues such as autism spectrum disorder and asthma,” said Grant Oliphant, president of the Heinz Endowments, which funded the research project.

However, the members of the study stressed that their findings “reflect an association” but does not ultimately prove causality.

via Study Finds Possible Association Between Autism and Air Pollution | TIME.

Posted in Air Quality, Health effects of air pollution | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

European automakers criticize new tests to weed out ‘dirty diesels’

ParisEuropean automakers voiced concern over an upcoming regulation that will require diesel car emissions to be tested under “real world” conditions.

The new rule will require diesel vehicles sold in the EU to undergo tests on roads rather than in laboratories starting in September 2017.

The laboratory tests have drawn criticism from environmental groups as under-stating the real level of potentially harmful emissions from diesel cars.

Industry group ACEA said the new tests will require automakers to make major changes in testing and developing new vehicles but this will be difficult because the regulation is incomplete.

“The industry is being asked to design today for requirements that will only be known next year,” an ACEA spokeswoman said. The changes can only be made once there is full clarity on the new test cycle, ACEA said in a statement.

The lobby group said the current proposal is incomplete because it does not meet the following criteria: a comprehensive set of requirements; specified performance limits; dates of application for the regulation because the September 2017 start date is not yet confirmed by EU law.

ACEA is asking EU regulators for a “complete proposal” by June or July at the latest.

Diesel-powered vehicles are popular in Europe, accounting for half of new-car sales, because fuel is expensive and diesel engines are 15 percent to 20 percent more efficient than gasoline models. The better fuel economy helps to cut emissions of CO2, which is linked to climate change, but diesels emit higher levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter that have been linked to asthma, cancer, lung disease and respiratory illnesses.

Politicians in countries such as France and the UK are considering regulation to ban or limit diesel cars in smog-hit cities including Paris and London. Paris aims to phase out diesel vehicles in the city by about 2020.

The environmental lobby group, Transport & Environment, said the new test rules will help to bring an end to “dirty diesels.” The next step will be for the European Commission and member states to agree on what the limits for the real world tests will be and from when they will apply, it said.

“The continuation of the current weak and ineffective testing regime has seen air pollution worsen with widespread health consequences and the prospect of cities banning diesel vehicles as the only remaining solution,” the group said in a statement.

A study by the ICCT group showed that the gap in 2013 between real world emissions were 33 percent higher than the official laboratory test results.

While the switchover to the new tests was expected, it nonetheless deals carmakers a hard blow because it means they face a heavy burden to meet tough CO2 targets after 2021 as well as the costs of moving to a new diesel test cycle.

Exane BNP Paribas said in a recent report: “We believe that the game is over for diesel.”

The equity researchers said if the new test cycle resulted in emission level figures of 10 percent above those of the current test, it could add development costs of up to 400 euros per car. Mass-market automakers, which typically make only 500 euros per car in a good year, would be hit badly, the report said.

The EU’s latest Euro 6 emissions standards mandate a reduction in NOx to 80 milligrams per kilometer for new cars sold from September of this year, down from 180mg/kg.

via European automakers criticize new tests to weed out ‘dirty diesels’.

Posted in Air Quality, Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breastfeeding protects against environmental pollution

Living in a city with a high level of vehicle traffic or close to a steel works means living with two intense sources of environmental pollution. However, a study indicates that the harmful pollution particle matter and nitrogen dioxide disappears in breastfed babies during the first four months of life. According to the results of the research, breastfeeding plays a protective role in the presence of these two atmospheric pollutants.

Living in a city with a high level of vehicle traffic or close to a steel works means living with two intense sources of environmental pollution. However, a study conducted by the UPV/EHU researcher Aitana Lertxundi indicates that the harmful effect of PM2.5 pollution particle matter and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) disappears in breastfed babies during the first four months of life. According to the results of the research, breastfeeding plays a protective role in the presence of these two atmospheric pollutants.

Aitana Lertxundi has conducted her research work within the framework of the INma (Childhood and Environment) programme led by Jesús Ibarluzea of the Department of Health of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community (region). The aim is to assess how exposure to environmental pollution during pregnancy affects health and also to examine the role of diet in physical and neurobehavioural development in infancy. Lertxundi’s study focusses on the repercussions on motor and mental development during the first years of life caused by exposure to the PM2.5 and NO2 atmospheric pollutants.

Never before has such a recent, significant evaluation been made of the effect of pollution particle matter (PM2.5) on the development of motor capacity and that of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on mental development between the prenatal phase and until the baby is 15 months old. What is more, it has been sustained over time since it was started in 2006. “In the fetal phase the central nervous system is being formed and lacks sufficient detoxification mechanisms to eliminate the toxins that build up,” pointed out Aitana Lertxundi.

The PM2.5 particles measure less than 2.5 micra, in other words, they are four times thinner that a single hair and are suspended in the air. As they are so small they can easily penetrate the body and as they weigh so little they can spread without any difficulty through the air and can move far away from the initial emission source. The composition of these neurotoxic particles depends on the emission sources in the area. The INMA Gipuzkoa area under study has a high presence of neurotoxic particle matter made up of lead, arsenic and manganese from industrial activity and traffic. In comparison with urban averages where the main source of pollution is traffic, the concentration is lower.

One result of the study is that the existence of an inverse relationship has been detected between exposure to pollution particle matter and the motor development of babies. In this respect, the researcher highlights the fact that “these indices display an alteration with respect to the average and, even if they are not worrying, they are significant in that they reveal the relationship existing between air quality and motor development.” The analysis of the data also shows that neither the PM2.5 particle matter nor the NO2 exert a harmful effect on babies breastfed on mother’s milk for at least four months.

The monitoring study started in 2006 when the mothers were pregnant and is continuing today now that the children have reached the age of 8. So far, samples taken from 638 pregnant women and their babies when they were 15 months old have been analysed. They are inhabitants of the Goierri-Alto and Medio Urola valleys, a part of the province of Gipuzkoa where industrial activity (11 steel works), rural activity, and residential areas are interwoven with each other and through which a major highway passes.

via Breastfeeding protects against environmental pollution — ScienceDaily.

Posted in Air Quality, Health effects of air pollution | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment