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parisFrance Addresses Air Pollution By Banning 50% Of Vehicles In Paris France has put in place an odd-even scheme based on the last number of the car’s plate number to address the country’s air pollution problem. It would halve the number of vehicles in Paris.

CO2 cuts claim sees ministers challenged by experts UK emissions are rising overall because current calculations omit pollution from goods imported from countries like China, Leeds University experts say.

LondonLondon Pollution shame laid bare: the UK’s 50 worst spots for air filth are all in the capital Londoners are breathing the filthiest air in the country – with toxicity levels up to three-and-a-half times the EU legal limit.

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Smog is no excuse not to go for a run – it’s still better than sitting at home

Going for a run or cycling in a built-up area is still better for you than not exercising at all – despite the pollution, claims a new study.

Researchers concluded that air pollution should not be an excuse for sitting around at home when you could be working up a sweat outdoors.

And there were 20 per cent fewer deaths among those who exercised, despite pollution, than those who didn’t.

A team from Copenhagen University in Denmark decided to look at the fact that exercise is good for you whilst inhaling air pollution isn’t.

Study lead author Associate Professor Zorana Jovanovic Andersen, of the Centre for Epidemiology and Screening at the University of Copenhagen, said: “The beneficial effects of exercise are more important for our health than the negative effects of air pollution, in relation to the risk of premature mortality.

“In other words, benefits of exercise outweigh the harmful effects of air pollution.

“Even for those living in the most polluted areas of Copenhagen, it is healthier to go for a run, a walk or to cycle to work than it is to stay inactive.

“It is well known that physical activity reduces, while air pollution increases the risk of premature mortality.

“Physical activity amplifies respiratory intake and accumulation of air pollutants in our lungs, which may increase the harmful effects of air pollution during exercise.

“But despite the adverse effects of air pollution on health, air pollution should be not perceived as a barrier to exercise in urban areas.”

Read more: What they are not telling us about the smog

The researchers looked at 52,061 subjects, aged 50-65 years, from the two main cities Aarhus and Copenhagen, who participated in a larger study called Diet, Cancer and Health.

From 1993-97, they reported on their physical leisure activities, including sports, cycling to and from work and in their leisure time, gardening and walking.

The researchers then estimated air pollution levels from traffic at their residential addresses.

A total of 5,500 participants died before 2010, and the researchers observed about 20% fewer deaths among those who exercised than among those who didn’t exercise, even for those who lived in the most polluted areas, in central Copenhagen and Aarhus, or close to busy roads and highways.

The findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first large population-based, prospective cohort study that has examined the joint effects of both physical activity and air pollution on mortality. It is based on high quality data on both physical activity and air pollution exposure.

Associate Prof Andersen added: “Air pollution is often perceived as a barrier to exercise in urban areas. In the face of an increasing health burden due to rising physical inactivity and obesity in modern societies, our findings provide support for efforts in promoting exercise, even in urban areas with high pollution.

“However, we would still advise people to exercise and cycle in green areas, parks, woods, with low air pollution and away from busy roads, when possible.”

She added: “It is also important to note that these results pertain to Denmark and sites with similar air pollution levels, and may not necessary be true in cities with several fold higher air pollution levels, as seen in other parts of the world.”

via Smog is no excuse not to go for a run – it’s still better than sitting at home – Telegraph.

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Ozone Air Pollution Could Harm Women’s Fertility

Many urban and suburban areas have high levels of ground-level ozone, an air pollutant that can adversely affect lung and heart health. New research in mice suggests breathing high levels of ozone could also affect women’s ability to conceive.

In some areas, ozone can reach high levels in the summer because the bright sunlight and heat combine with compounds from industrial emissions, car exhaust, and gasoline vapors to form the air pollutant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses the color-coded air quality index to communicate daily levels of air pollutants including ozone. Groups considered most vulnerable during high-pollution days currently include children, the elderly and people with asthma. If the new research findings hold up in people, it might be necessary to add women of reproductive age to that list of vulnerable groups.

“It is important that we know what is in the air we breathe and understand how it can affect our health,” said Patricia Silveyra, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and leader of the research team. “We don’t know a lot about the damaging effects of ozone, but since it does increase inflammation in the lungs, it is possible that this inflammation could affect more than one system in the human body.”

Silveyra and her team were studying sex differences in the effects of ozone on lung inflammation in mice when they discovered that short exposures to ozone affected female levels of progesterone, a major reproductive hormone involved in ovulation and pregnancy. To examine this further, they designed an experiment in which female mice were exposed to 2 parts per million (ppm) of ozone for 3 hours on the day the mice were expected to ovulate. Other studies have shown that this level of exposure in mice is roughly analogous to a person breathing high levels of ozone in a city.

“We found that breathing ozone on the day of ovulation not only decreased progesterone levels in female mice, but also reduced the number of ovulated eggs,” explained Carla R. Caruso, M.D, a resident physician at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine who will present this research at the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) Annual Meeting during the Experimental Biology 2015 meeting. “In addition, this acute exposure to ozone affected important brain and ovarian signaling events that are key for the ovulation process.”

The levels of progesterone in the blood of female mice on the day of ovulation decreased from a normal value of 8 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) in females breathing filtered air, to an average of 2 ng/ml in mice breathing ozone. When the investigators compared the number of ovulated eggs the following morning, they found a statistically significant reduction of 30 percent in females exposed to ozone. Moreover, expression of key enzymes involved in the progesterone synthesis pathway was also significantly reduced in the ovaries of ozone-exposed female mice.

Based on their findings, the researchers postulate that women in large cities could experience fertility issues from inhaling high concentrations of ground-level ozone. However, they caution that their findings are preliminary and that the research involved only mice, not people.

“Population studies evaluating fertility complications in geographical areas with high and low ozone pollution levels, as well as clinical studies conducted in women of reproductive age can help elucidate these concerns,” Silveyra said.

The researchers are now working to understand the mechanisms of ozone’s effects on ovulation in mice.

via Ozone Air Pollution Could Harm Women’s Fertility.

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Central, southern Taiwan battling hazardous air pollution

Taipei

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) issued an air pollution alert Sunday for central and southern Taiwan and the Kinmen islands off southern China, saying particulate concentrations were at levels that could affect people’s health.

The index for PM2.5 particulates, which are considered particularly hazardous to health, were at middle to high levels in central and southern Taiwan areas, meaning that people with vulnerable cardiovascular and respiratory systems should not go outside, EPA data showed.

PM2.5 concentrations were at their highest in Lunbei, Taixi and Mailiao townships in Yunlin County and Erlin in Changhua County at over 71 milligrams per cubic meter, suggesting that outdoor activity should be avoided if possible, the data showed.

In the front-line islands of Kinmen and Matsu, PM2.5 levels were in a middle range of 42-47 milligrams per cubic meter, due to offshore pollution, the EPA said.

A measurement of 35 milligrams per cubic meter or lower is considered “low range.”

via Central, southern Taiwan battling hazardous air pollution | Society | FOCUS TAIWAN – CNA ENGLISH NEWS.

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UK faces European court over coal plant emissions

WalesBrussels will haul the UK into court for breaching emissions limits of the toxic pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NOx) at its coal-fired Aberthaw power plant in Wales, the bloc announced on Thursday.

The Aberthaw plant in the Vale of Glamorgan is currently operating under a permit allowing emissions of 1200mg of NOx per normal cubic metre (Nm3) – more than twice the 500mg limit set out in the EU’s large combustion plant directive.

Toxic fumes from Britain’s coal plants alone are responsible for 1,600 premature deaths a year and health costs from related damage to respiratory systems have been estimated as high as as €3.7bn (£2.7bn) a year.

Molly Scott Cato, the Green MEP for South West England and Gibraltar said: “This is further evidence of the government’s refusal to take air quality seriously and another nail in the coffin of their claim to be the greenest government ever.”.

Doug Parr, Greenpeace’s chief UK scientist added: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that burning dirty coal is incompatible not just with our carbon reduction targets but with efforts to clean up our air too. The leaders of the next government need to keep their promises and get on with the job of phasing out unabated coal within the next decade.”

NOx emissions are a key component in ground-level ozone and a cause of acid rain, which damages forests, waterways and historic buildings. They can also cause ‘eutrophication’ which threatens biodiversity through the excessive growth of plants like algae.

The UK is planning new investments to upgrade the Aberthaw power station, and has been working “constructively” on the issue, the commission says. But a deadline to implement the emissions-cutting directive passed seven years ago, and Brussels ran out of patience.

It would now be “impossible” for Aberthaw to meet a stricter power plants NOx emissions limit of 200mg which is due to come into force next year under the industrial emissions directive, a commission spokesperson said.

“The UK came to us with a national transition plan, showing how they wanted to reach the next directive’s target. But they did not give enough evidence that what they presented would translate into real life,” the official said.

In a separate move, the commission also said that it would take the UK to the European court over its poor treatment of urban waste water in 17 localities, which pose a threat to human health, inland waters and the marine environment.

Four municipal regions were found to have inadequate treatments of waste water – Banchory, Stranraer, Ballycastle, and Clacton – while one, Gibraltar, had no treatment plant at all.

In 10 other regions, waste water discharged into freshwaters and estuaries failed to meet the higher standards set for such sensitive sites. These were: Lidsey, Tiverton, Durham, Chester-le-Street, Winchester Central and South, Islip, Broughton Astley, Chilton, Witham and Chelmsford.

“All communities in the UK deserve access to proper waste treatment that protects local rivers, biodiversity and human health,” said Catherine Bearder, the Liberal Democrat MEP for south-east England. “It is about time effective action was taken to ensure water companies and local authorities clean up their act.”

According to the EU, nearly half of all surface waters on the continent are unlikely to achieve the bloc’s ‘good ecological status’ target for 2015.

The two separate infringement cases against the UK are expected to come to court before March 2017. There will be a UK supreme court hearing into a separate British infringement of EU air pollution laws on 16 April.

A government spokesperson said it would continue to work with the European commission: “Air quality has improved significantly in recent decades – we have invested £2bn since 2011 to continue this.

“We are tackling emissions from industrial sources by setting stringent limits for industrial installations, including coal power stations – Aberthaw Power Station is also investing to meet future emission limits set by the EU. It would be inappropriate to comment on this case further while infraction proceedings are underway.”

via UK faces European court over coal plant emissions | Environment | The Guardian.

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Only radical action can help tackle London’s air pollution crisis

London

There is an air pollution emergency happening in this city, and the Government is failing to get a handle on it.

The latest evidence of this health crisis, released yesterday by scientists at the University of Edinburgh, points to the increased risk of strokes during smog episodes such as the one that hit the capital last week. These findings, on top of the fact that 29,000 people die prematurely every year in the UK because of air pollution, reveal the gravity of the situation we’re facing.

Of course the air pollution problem in London isn’t new — many people I’ve spoken to in Holborn and St Pancras have been affected by poor air quality for years.

When the dreadful settings of the traffic lights on Euston Road trap me as a pedestrian in the middle of the traffic for minutes, I can feel the effects on my own wellbeing.

But against mounting evidence, the empty words of ministers and half-hearted approach of the Mayor of London look increasingly reckless.

It’s clear that half-measures simply aren’t good enough. The Mayor’s policies have ranged from daft (sticking pollution to the road) to ineffective (insufficient Ultra Low Emissions Zones). Meanwhile, central government’s response to the crisis has been to focus on cutting “red tape” — a move which campaigners say could lead to the closure of thousands of pollution monitoring stations.

During the last smog episode the Government rightly urged those with health problems to stay indoors. But nobody should be forced to stay indoors because of air pollution. We need to look at radical measures to tackle air pollution at source.

The official health advice is that anyone experiencing discomfort, listed as sore eyes, coughing, chest pain or a sore throat, should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors. But what if someone is a construction worker — a labourer, someone on a zero-hours contract and just can’t afford, in every sense of that word, to allow our unacceptable air quality to threaten their lives as well as their livelihood? It’s not that easy to call your boss and say “sorry, too dangerous for me today”.

In Paris, for example, the authorities made public transport free during a smog episode. Measures such as this should be considered during smog episodes in Britain.

The fact is that we shouldn’t need “emergency measures” to cut air pollution, we have to cut levels permanently. We should be looking to cut the amount of motorised vehicles, particularly those using diesel, on our city-centre roads and move towards cleaner transport. The electric taxis being announced are a welcome step. Finally, we need to reduce fares on public transport by redirecting the billions earmarked for spending on new roads.

The Government’s inaction on air pollution is inexcusable, and follows a general trend from the Establishment parties of side-lining issues such as climate change and air quality. The time has come for the Government to recognise the fundamental link between our environment and our quality of life, and to start taking this health crisis seriously.

There should be real ambition and determination to solve the source of the problem — not just to tell Londoners that it’s too bad, it’s unhealthy out there today, and to stay indoors.

via Natalie Bennett: Only radical action can help tackle London’s air pollution crisis – Comment – Comment – London Evening Standard.

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How Air Pollution Affects Babies in the Womb

A new study finds evidence that prenatal exposure to common pollutants can contribute to hyperactivity, aggression and more in kids

In the latest study on the subject, published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers for the first time pinpointed exactly which areas of the brain are affected if a baby is exposed to car exhaust and the byproducts of burning home heating oil. These polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have previously been linked to developmental delays, lower verbal IQ. signs of anxiety depression and problems with attention. But researchers haven’t been able to identify which areas of the brain are most vulnerable.

In this study, they recruited 40 mothers and their children living in the inner city who were participating in an ongoing study of pollution’s effect on development. They were selected because they had low exposure to environmental factors other than PAHs that could affect development, such as tobacco smoke, lead, insecticides and other chemicals. Based on measurements of PAH in their surroundings, about half of the mothers had PAH exposures below the median of those in the larger group, and half had PAH exposures higher than the median.

“The effects were extraordinarily powerful,” says Dr. Bradley Peterson, director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and lead author of the study. “The more prenatal exposure to PAH, the bigger the white matter problems the kids had. And the bigger the white matter problems, the more severe symptoms of ADHD, aggression and slow processing they had on cognitive tasks.”

White matter is made up of the fibrous connections between nerve cells and is critical to helping neurons from one part of the brain communicate with their counterparts in other regions, and the babies with the highest exposure to PAH in the womb showed a dramatically lower volume of white matter in the left side of their brains. The entire left hemisphere, from the front to the back, was affected. “You would assume that an environmental exposure brought in by the blood and circulating to the brain would affect both sides of the brain,” says Peterson. “But the adverse effects of PAHs is located on one side; that’s surprising.”

The asymmetrical effect speaks volumes about how PAHs target brain tissue. Like other neurotoxins, they may preferentially seek out actively developing tissue. During gestation, the left side of the brain, which houses language capabilities, may be undergoing more intense structural changes in preparation for birth. This was supported by the fact that in the larger group of children in the study, those who were exposed to PAHs around age five didn’t show the same left-sided bias; in the older children, the pollutants affected both sides equally because the right hemisphere of the brain is undergoing active development at that time as well.

Peterson suspects that the connection between PAHs and later behavioral and cognitive symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity and slow processing speed may be due to how PAHs disrupt the normal communication between nerves in the left side of the brain and elsewhere.

The problem, he admits, is that moms-to-be can’t easily change where they live or work. And most people aren’t aware of how many PAHs they absorb on a daily basis. There are ways to minimize the risk of exposure, however. Expectant mothers can avoid secondhand smoke, a major source of the compounds. Not directly inhaling exhaust from cars on busy streets or smoke from fireplaces can also help, as can spending as much time as possible in parks or other areas free of burning fuels. It won’t eliminate the risk from living in an inner city and being surrounded by car emissions, but it can help, Peterson says. “Even if you can reduce your exposure from moderately high to moderate levels, it’s going to have a beneficial effect on the developing fetus,” he says.

via How Air Pollution Affects Babies in the Womb | TIME.

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Air pollution ‘link to stroke risk’

Air pollution is linked to an increased risk of stroke, a large global study in the British Medical Journal suggests.

Scientists say even short-term spikes in pollution were mirrored by a rise in strokes – particularly in low and middle-income countries.

The work builds on earlier studies linking pollution to cardiovascular risk.

UK experts say although pollution is lower in the developed world, it may still pose a significant risk.

Pollution peaks

Parts of the UK are breaching pollution limits set by the European Union in 2010.

And the UK government says some major cities may well continue to do so until at least 2025.

The European Environment Agency warns that air pollution can lead to major illness and contribute to premature deaths.

The latest study looked specifically at the risk of stroke. Scientists from Edinburgh University scoured the results of 94 studies covering 28 countries across the world.

They say the trends were consistent – a short-term rise in pollution was associated with a rise in the number of people admitted to hospital for strokes and in stroke deaths.

The link was the strongest in low and middle-income countries and on the day people were exposed to high pollution.

The review looked at a range of possible pollutants – from gases such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide to fine soot particles known as PM 2.5.

Dr Anoop Shah, lead author of the study, said: “This study now demonstrates that even short-term exposure to air pollution can trigger disabling strokes or death from stroke.

“One of the key differences between risk of stroke due to air pollution and other risk factors such as smoking or high blood pressure is that the whole general population is exposed.

“As such, this increased risk of stroke is in the general population and not just those previously thought to be at high risk.”

But Dr Shamim Quadir at the Stroke Association said more work was needed to establish how strong this link is and whether or not air pollution could be considered as a risk factor for stroke.

Level check

The British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, says there is an urgent need for the UK government to meet pollution targets.

It says failure to do so could be putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk – though further research is needed to confirm this estimate.

The charity suggests people with heart conditions or lung disease should monitor air pollution where they live and work.

via Air pollution ‘link to stroke risk’ – BBC News.

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