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Highest level of killer air pollution ‘at pushchair level’  Research by a community group worried about air quality has found that pollution levels are 30% higher at pushchair level than official recorded levels.

Summer Wildfires: Chemicals, and Effects on Air Pollution Wildfires – such as those in California – can have substantial effects on both air pollution and human health. What are the most common pollutants resulting from the California wildfires, and other fire events – and how dangerous are these chemicals?

4251Nearly 9500 people die each year in London because of air pollution Nearly 9,500 people die early each year in London due to long-term exposure to air pollution, more than twice as many as previously thought, according to new research.

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Praise for Fife Council’s efforts to improve air quality – Fife Today

Efforts to improve air quality in Fife have been highlighted as an example of ‘best practice’.

Fife Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland to develop an Air Quality Strategy, and its progress report setting out an overview of air quality and how issues should be tackled has been described as ‘thorough’ and ‘comprehensive’ by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

In general, Fife’s air quality is good, but pollution can be caused by a range of substances being released into the air. Emissions from vehicles – nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter – are the main sources of air pollution for local authorities to deal with, and Fife Council has established an extensive monitoring network targeted at the busiest roads.

Roy Stewart, senior manager for protective services, said: “Fife Council is committed to protecting and improving the Kingdom’s air quality. “This is an important public health and community safety issue, as clean air is essential for our health and to protect our environment. Research from Health Protection Scotland shows that air pollution is responsible for over 2000 deaths in Scotland each year and costs the NHS up to £2 billion annually. “

Actions taken to tackle air pollution caused by traffic congestion include traffic flow improvements, the promotion of cycling and walking, and the adoption of cleaner, greener technologies, such as low emission vehicles.”

Bonnygate in Cupar and Appin Crescent in Dunfermline were previously identified as potential ‘pollution hotspots’ and action plans were implemented to reduce the concentration of pollutants, mainly caused by the build-up of traffic. Latest monitoring results at these locations have revealed significant air quality improvements. Further council-led initiatives to tackle air quality issues include the introduction of a greener fleet of vehicles to reduce emissions, the establishment of an extensive electric vehicle charging network, and the setting up of the Fife ECO stars project, encouraging fleet operators to improve their eco-credentials, with this scheme set to be extended to taxis later this year.

Councillor Margaret Kennedy, who chairs the council’s safer communities committee, said: “Improved air quality makes a crucial contribution to enhancing the quality of life for communities and creating sustainable economic growth. “Our clear and credible strategy to reduce air pollution is being praised on a national level. This is important because high levels of air pollution are linked to both short term and long term effects on health including asthma and other respiratory problems.”

Source: Praise for Fife Council’s efforts to improve air quality – Fife Today

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Smoke from Sumatran fires leads to air pollution warnings

HAZE (PEKANBARU).img_assist_custom-637x480The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, Riau, said that smoke from land and forest fires in several areas in Sumatra continued to cause the air quality to decline.

“The air quality in several areas in Riau has continued to decline. Currently, it stands between medium and low levels, which are considered unhealthy, or within a range of between 100 to 199 points on the Pollutant Standards Index [PSI],” the agency’s head of data and analysis division Slamet Riyadi told thejakartapost.com on Tuesday.

Thick smoke with strong smells blanketing several areas in Riau also reduced the visibility, particularly in the morning and the afternoon.

Based on monitoring results of the BMKG, the visibility in Pekanbaru and Pelalawan dropped to 500 meters on Tuesday morning. The visibility in Dumai and Rengat reached 2 and 3 kilometers, respectively.

“The smog-like haze, which loomed over several areas in Riau, came from provinces in the southern part of Sumatra. The wind is currently moving from the southern and southeastern parts of Sumatra to areas in the western and northern parts of the island, passing through Riau,” said Slamet.

He said Terra and Aqua satellites detected only four hot spots in Riau on Tuesday morning. Three hot spots were reported in three regencies, namely Indragiri Hilir, Indragiri Hulu, and Kampar, while the one remaining hot spot was detected in Pekanbaru City.

“Two hot spots were detected in Indragiri Hilir and Pekanbaru, with a confidence level of more than 70 percent,” said Slamet.

He said that smoke currently blanketing several areas in Riau was from land and forest fires in Jambi and South Sumatra, which had occurred during the last two days.

“Today, Jambi and South Sumatra reported 33 and 38 hot spots respectively, up from 107 and 79 hot spots the previous day,” said Slamet.

On Tuesday morning, Aqua and Terra satellites also monitored six hot spots in Bangka Belitung, followed by Aceh (3), Lampung (2) and Bengkulu (1).

“In total, there are 85 hot spots that are spread evenly in areas across Sumatra. Impacts of El Niño south of the equator are stronger than what happened last month. That’s why land in Jambi and South Sumatra is getting drier and easy to burn,” said Slamet.

via Smoke from Sumatran fires leads to air pollution warnings | The Jakarta Post.

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Plans to extend Edinburgh’s air pollution zone

Plans to extend Edinburgh’s city centre air pollution zone by 3.5 km to the south and west of the city have been announced by the council.

It designates an area where air pollution has broken the Scottish air quality safety standard.

Edinburgh has five pollution zones, with the city centre pollution zone first designated in 2000.

Campaigners said long-term exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Lesley Hinds, Edinburgh city council’s transport and environment convener, said: “We recognise that improving air quality in Edinburgh can be a challenge and we are making every effort to address this.

“We monitor air quality continuously across the city and extending the air quality management area enables us to direct actions more effectively at those locations.

“We are already working closely with bus and road freight operators to reduce vehicle emissions on some of our busiest traffic routes and recent monitoring suggests that air quality is improving in many places, including the South Bridge/Nicolson Street corridor.”

Emilia Hanna, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Toxic traffic fumes right here on Nicolson Street are harming the public’s health.

“Long-term exposure to this sort of air pollution can increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke and has been linked with babies being born with low birthweights.

“Air pollution causes 200 early deaths in Edinburgh alone every year.

“Road traffic is the main cause of air pollution, so the council needs to work together with the Scottish government to get more people walking and cycling and using public transport.”

via Plans to extend Edinburgh’s air pollution zone – BBC News.

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Adapting to air pollution with clean air stands in China

9528967d-2d98-4b5c-b802-bba6206455cb-2060x1236As with climate change, both mitigation and adaptation are needed to tackle air pollution in China

To adapt or to mitigate? That is the question that faces governments and industries across the globe as the impacts of climate change and pollution become ever clearer. It turns out, we will need to do both. The longer we allow pollution to be freely emitted, the fewer and more expensive will be the choices remaining to us.

Pollution adaptation can take many forms, but it generally means dealing with a pollutant after it has been emitted, or it can mean changing infrastructure to make it more resilient to heavy rains, floods, or more intense storms.

One great example of adaptation is being developed in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia by a major engineering company (Arup Engineering) and the CSR arm of a Hong Kong property developer (Sino Green). Arup and Sino Green are dealing with the environmental problem of localized airborne pollution.

In many parts of the world, airborne pollution levels are very high and can be elevated for long periods of time. These high levels of pollution can pose health problems to people and animals, particularly people with other health problems or those who are young or the elderly. In some cases, the airborne pollution levels can be at high levels for 8,000 hours (90%+) in a single year.

There are many sources of pollution; for Arup Engineering, whose East Asia headquarters is in Hong Kong, much of the pollution is from nearby heavy industries across the border in mainland China and from vehicle emissions. At other locations, high levels of airborne pollution may be caused by burning of wood or dung for fire, slash-and-burn agricultural practices (particularly for countries near Indonesia), or from other causes. But, regardless of the cause, companies such as Arup are trying to find ways to reduce human exposure even when the airborne pollution levels are high.

Arup is embarking on an effort to provide filtered air zones for people who are street side, perhaps waiting for public transportation. Much like a bus stop, the proposed structure (called City Air Purification System) provides clean air flow to create a cocoon around bystanders, shown in the following photograph.

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The stand is able to accommodate approximately 20 people and washes them with filtered air, protecting them from particulates from passing traffic. The company has shown by both experiment and by numerical simulation (similar to a climate model), that the occupants breathe significantly healthier air.

Not only is the Arup/Sino Green structure very energy efficient, but by providing clean air to residents, it is possible to counteract the deleterious health effects on the human body, particularly the respiratory and cardiovascular system.

I asked the lead inventor, Dr. Jimmy Tong (with whom I worked in the past) about this project. He told me,

The system tested in Hong Kong had demonstrated an effectiveness of reducing particulate matter by 30–70%, and the system is moving to Beijing, China for further testing. Its success could also have huge effects when used in other cities around the world struggling with air pollution.

My view is that it is always better to deal with pollution by reducing the emissions. Adaptation is more expensive and less certain than mitigation. However, when the will to mitigate is not found, adaptation is the only plan B. Arup/Sino Green’s device is a bit of a window on the future to local solutions for a global problem.

via Adapting to air pollution with clean air stands in China | John Abraham | Environment | The Guardian.

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We can’t ignore the air pollution crisis in Africa’s fast-growing megacities

Residents of London, Los Angeles and Beijing often complain about air pollution. And they’re right to – their concerns are backed by lots of data. However, not all cities are measured as rigorously. Notably, the air quality in many African cities is almost completely unmonitored. By 2050, both Lagos and Kinshasa will exceed 30m people – shouldn’t we know more about pollution in this fast-growing part of the world?

The World Health Organisation calculates air quality is responsible for more than 500,000 deaths a year in Africa from both indoor and outdoor air pollution. To put this into perspective, around 11,000 people died in the recent Ebola epidemic.

Yet the WHO’s ability to make these estimates is limited both by the lack of air measurements and the lack of medical studies linking pollution to deaths in Africa. It seems unlikely that the current air quality impact studies based on the populations of Los Angeles or London can be directly transferred to Lagos or Kinshasa.

London and Lagos have entirely different air quality problems. In cities such as London, it’s mainly due to the burning of hydrocarbons for transport. A complicated problem for sure, but one that can be addressed by tackling petrol usage through electric vehicles, car free zones, and so on.

African pollution isn’t like that. There is the burning of rubbish, cooking indoors with inefficient solid fuel stoves, millions of small diesel electricity generators, cars which have had the catalytic converters removed and petrochemical plants, all pushing pollutants into the air over the cities.

It’s not even obvious what source to tackle first. Compounds such as sulfur dioxide, benzene and carbon monoxide that haven’t been issues in Western cities for decades may be a significant problem in African cities. We simply don’t know.

Nature isn’t helping here either. Compounds such as hydrocarbons which may be inoffensive in themselves are emitted into the atmosphere and a complex web of chemical reactions process them into harmful products such as ozone and aerosols. These reactions are driven by the sun, and Africa has that in spades.

Natural sources of harmful compounds also abound. Sahara sand storms can cloak cities with choking dust. Chemicals emitted by trees in Africa’s vast forested areas may magnify the impact of human emissions in the same way as they do in the southern US, and smoke from seasonal forest fires can drift over population centres.

The relative importance of these natural sources compared to the human sources, and, even how we separate out the natural versus human are hotly debated by scientists. How much of the forest burning we see is due to natural courses such as lightning strikes and how much is linked to agricultural practices? Again without improved observations it is hard to tell.

These air pollutants also harm vegetation and crops. In Asia it is estimated that around 10% of the food crop is destroyed by pollutants. For Africa we’ve got no good idea. First because we don’t have the same controlled field experiments on Africa’s staple crops such as cassava or millet as we do for Europe and North America’s crops. Second, because if we know little about air quality in cities, we know even less about what is happening in agricultural areas.

Growing pains

The need to focus on air quality in Africa’s new megacities is the topic of a new paper, which I co-authored, in the journal Nature Climate Change. Not only is pollution in these cities killing local residents, we found these emissions may even be altering the climate along the coast of West Africa, leading to changes in the clouds and so potentially to rainfall with devastating effects.

Things aren’t going to get better any time soon. Half of the global population growth between 2015 and 2050 will occur in Africa, and the continent is becoming increasingly urbanised.

Economic development will put increased strain on resources. A 2012 OECD report suggests successes in dealing with other problems such as access to drinking water and malaria is likely to make air quality the dominant environmental risk for premature deaths globally by 2030, if it isn’t already. Africa will not be far behind.

Scientists can help. The latest generation of satellites is providing high-resolution information about these pollutants on an unprecedented scale, and cheap new sensors can monitor the composition of the air over cities.

Couple this with the revolution in big data and the decades of research that has been undertaken in North American, European and now Asian cities and we should soon be able to understand the air quality problems of African cities quality. And once we’ve understood the problem, science will be able to suggest solutions. Then it will be up to African cities to implement changes needed to prevent the deaths of thousands of their citizens.

via We can’t ignore the air pollution crisis in Africa’s fast-growing megacities.

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Middle East conflict ‘drastically altered’ air pollution levels in region – study

3110War, humanitarian catastrophe and economic crises in the Middle East have drastically altered air pollution levels in the region, according to a new study.

In major cities across Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Egypt, the levels of nitrogen oxides have dropped by 20-50% since 2010, researchers told the Guardian. Satellite observations show that before 2010, levels had been on a steady and marked rise since the mid 1990s, when monitoring of pollution in the region from space began.

The report, published in the journal Science Advances, argues that the decline is “tragically” linked to political and social upheaval since the time of the Arab spring. It says the dramatic trend reversal is unique to the Middle East.

“We find that geopolitics and armed conflict in the Middle East have really drastically altered air pollution emissions,” said Prof Jos Lelieveld, director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany and lead author on the report.

“From 2005-10 the Middle East has been one of the regions with the fastest growing air pollution emissions. This also occurred in East Asia, but especially in the Middle East. This was related to economic growth in many countries. However it’s the only region in the world where this upward trend of pollution was interrupted around 2010 and then followed by very strong decline.”

 

Nitrogen oxides are released into the atmosphere, produced by the burning of fossil fuels and to a lesser extent biofuels and agriculture. These have been shown to have a significant impact on air quality and climate change.

The rise of Islamic State has led to a substantial decrease in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in Baghdad and central Iraq since 2013, with a downward trend beginning two years earlier, the report says. A similar trend reversal is identified in Egypt around the time of the government’s overthrow in 2011. But it attributes drops in other parts of the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, to the introduction of air quality controls.

In Syria, NO2 over Damascus and Aleppo has decreased by 40-50% since 2011, coinciding with the uprising of that year which triggered a bloody civil war that is ongoing. In sharp contrast, the report found a 20-30% increase in NO2 levels over Lebanon in 2014, which it links to the 1.5 million Syrian refugees that have moved into the country, where they make up at least one-fifth of the population.

The analysis stretched as far as Greece, where NO2 levels have been in gradual decline for two decades, but the report shows the trend has accelerated as the economy has declined, citing a drop of 40% over Athens since 2008.

The researchers focused their analysis on data collected by high resolution satellites on cities between 2005 and 2014. They then compared this data to development statistics gathered by the World Bank.

Lelieveld added that the observations have unexpectedly contradicted existing predictions, and that there should be further investment in the use of satellites to monitor the impacts of environmental measures, migration and economic crises. In the Middle East, there are no air quality networks on the ground.

“These findings could not have been predicted and for this reason disagree with emissions scenarios used in the projections of air pollution and climate change in the future. Often these emissions are linked to energy use and CO2 but we find these are simply not good predictors for trends, at least not in the Middle East,” he said.

Air pollution is becoming an increasingly political problem in fast developing countries such as India and China, where the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, recently vowed to “fight it with all our might”. Physicists believe that air pollutants are killing 4,000 people a day in the country, as a result of heart, lung and stroke problems.

The report says: “Unfortunately, the Middle East is not the only region in the world affected by economic recession and upheaval owing to war, although geopolitical changes appear to be more drastic than elsewhere. It is tragic that some of the observed recent negative NO2 trends are associated with humanitarian catastrophes.”

via Middle East conflict ‘drastically altered’ air pollution levels in region – study | Environment | The Guardian.

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

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

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

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

For more Frequently Asked Questions,  go to Respro® Masks FAQ

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Air quality in Sandy is cause for concern

The quality of air in Sandy needs to be improved according to Central Beds Council.

They are taking action to reduce predicted raised pollution levels in parts of the town.

The council’s regular air quality monitoring across the region showed that levels of nitrogen dioxide in the outskirts of Sandy will exceed national guidelines if action is not taken.

Councillor Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Community Services, said: “We regularly monitor air quality levels across Central Bedfordshire and compare them to national averages, and it is rare to have any cause for concern.

“However, our predictions are that nitrogen dioxide levels will exceed national guidelines which is why we are acting now to help reduce them before there are any problems.

“We have already consulted residents before creating the air quality management areas and we will be seeking public feedback on our action plans too before they come into force.”

Air quality management areas have now been declared along the A1 from the Georgetown exit to Bedford Road in Sandy.

This will allow the council to develop action plans in an attempt to reduce pollution levels.

The action plans will be developed in liaison with other agencies and stakeholders and will then go out to public consultation before the final plans are introduced.

The air quality management zones will remain in place until the raised levels of nitrogen dioxide, caused by traffic congestion, are reduced.

Generally if you are young and in a good state of health, moderate air pollution levels are unlikely to have any serious short term effects.

However, elevated levels and/or long term exposure to air pollution can lead to more serious symptoms and conditions affecting human health.

This mainly affects the respiratory and inflammatory systems, but can also lead to more serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

People with lung or heart conditions may be more susceptible to the effects of air pollution.

In general the air quality in Central Bedfordshire meets the Air Quality Objective levels set by the Government.

For more information about air quality monitoring, visit http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/pollution

via Air quality in Sandy is cause for concern – Biggleswade Today.

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