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Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 13.58.17Diesel Cars: Is it time to switch to a cleaner fuel? Diesel cars emit less carbon dioxide (CO2) than their petrol equivalent, we were told. In fact, not only are CO2 emissions almost identical on average, but they also produce large quantities of other pollutants linked with thousands of premature deaths.

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.

LondonAlmost all London boroughs failed EU air pollution limit for toxic NO2 gas All but two of London’s boroughs are exceeding EU limits for a toxic gas linked to respiratory problems, ministers have admitted.

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This Incredibly Detailed Map Shows Global Air Pollution Down to the Neighborhood Level

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If you’ve ever wondered how air quality in your neighborhood compares to the dirtiest cities in the world, this map is for you.

A team of Yale University environmental researchers just released a map tool that shows concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) across the whole world in pretty astounding detail: each pixel represents a 10-by-10 kilometer square. They also included visual representations of the world’s dirtiest power plants—a timely feature as the U.S. announces a sweeping new plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, especially coal-fired ones.

PM 2.5 inflicts critical damage on populations exposed to it in high concentrations, says map co-creator Alisa Zomer, manager of the Yale Environmental Performance Index. “PM 2.5 is invisible to the human eye,” she says. “But it penetrates into blood and organ tissues, and can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.”

The map draws from satellite measurements to calculate average particulate matter. Users can also toggle on citywide PM 2.5 counts, which come from the WHO’s ambient (outdoor) air pollution in cities database from 2014. Power plants came from the database over at Carbon Monitoring for Action. The air pollution data represent averages, so Zomer notes that the best way to track particulate matter is to install more local sensors in at-risk neighborhoods. That can inform policies and political action to clean up the air.

The new map marks a significant improvement on the one published last yearby Zomer and Angel Hsu, director of the Environmental Performance Measurement Program at Yale. The original map simply colored each nation based on its average PM 2.5 readings. The new map, when you click “Show Satellite Data,” illustrates just how much that pollution can vary within a country.

For instance, the expanse of land between the East Coast and the Missouri River appears red as an extremely rare steak, indicating higher concentrations of pollutants, whereas points out West fade to yellow. CityLab’s neighborhood in Washington, D.C., has a reading of 14 micrograms per cubic meter. That exceeds the World Health Organization’s standard of 10 for safe air, landing in the lower range of “moderate” health concern. In general, densely populated areas with lots of cars and high energy demand are host to higher PM 2.5 concentrations and more of the dirtiest power plants.

That pattern holds true around the world. For all the headlines about how bad the air is in Beijing or New Delhi—and their regions do stand out on the map—Europe, Japan, Korea, and the U.S. have their work cut out for them, too. The Obama administration’s new power plan could help get America on track; though it targets carbon dioxide rather than particulate matter, both emissions come from dirty coal plants.

“On most urban environment issues, like water and sanitation, the U.S. and the developed world tend to do really well,” Zomer says. “But air pollution is still problematic in developed countries.”

 

via This Incredibly Detailed Map Shows Global Air Pollution Down to the Neighborhood Level – CityLab.

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Highest levels 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.

The group called hfcyclists worked with Healthy Air London and ClientEarth to monitor pollution levels at different heights. They attached pollution monitors at a variety of heights around two areas of west London.

Official readings are recorded three metres in the air but the study found levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were higher at pushchair level.

Andrea Lee, Healthy Air London coordinator at ClientEarth, said:

A recent study from the Mayor of London has revealed that almost 10,000 early deaths each year in London are caused by air pollution.

Air pollution affects us all but some members of society, such as young children, older people and people with heart and respiratory conditions, are more vulnerable to the impacts.

The Mayor, councils and the UK Government need to do more to protect people from illegal levels of air pollution.

– ANDREA LEE, HEALTHY AIR LONDON COORDINATOR AT CLIENTEARTH

via Highest levels of killer air pollution ‘at pushchair level’ | London – ITV News.

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Klamath County air quality at ‘hazardous’ levels

55be8b54babd7.imagePublic Health officials urge Klamath County residents to take precautions as the air quality reached Hazardous levels. according to Jim Carey of the health department.

The wind direction and speed will vary throughout the next three days. We advise residents to use caution when they are outdoors.

The air quality index, a 24-hour average of pollution levels, reached hazardous levels Saturday at 7 p.m., meaning Hazardous air conditions for all groups (see U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s scale for rating air quality below).

The smoke coming into our area is believed to be from the” Frog Fire” in Northern California and from the “Stouts Creek Fire” 16 miles east of Canyonville, Oregon. During the next three days our Air Quality may vary from Hazardous to Moderate levels.

Check out http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/ and http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/index.aspx

for updated fire and Air Quality information. Klamath County Environmental Health Division will also provide updated Air Quality information at 541-882-2876

klamathairquality.blogspot.com/ , http://klamathair.info/,

and http://www.facebook.com/KlamathBasinAirQuality?ref=hl.

Klamath County Public Health is advising residents in Klamath County to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations and urge local residents to take the following precautions to avoid breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke:

• Check local Air Quality Index for information about conditions.

• Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors. This can usually provide some protection, especially in a tightly closed, air-conditioned house in which the air conditioner can be set to re-circulate air instead of bringing in outdoor air. Staying inside with the doors and windows closed can usually reduce exposure.

• Avoid strenuous outdoor activity.

• Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution. Some indoor sources of air pollution can emit large amounts of the same pollutants present in wildfire smoke. Indoor sources such as burning cigarettes, gas, propane and woodburning stoves and furnaces, and activities such as cooking, burning candles, and vacuuming can greatly increase the particle levels in a home. These sources of indoor air pollution should be avoided when wildfire smoke is present.

• Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, but will not offer protection from smoke. An “N95” mask work properly will offer some protection.

Individuals with lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should follow their health care provider’s advice about prevention and treatment of symptoms. When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may experience symptom remember, local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction. People can conduct a visual assessment of smoke levels to quickly get a sense of air quality levels and take precautions. If people have additional concerns, they should contact the nearest local public health agency for the latest in threats to health conditions from smoke.

Klamath County Health Department advises you to see your health care professional for your specific health situation if necessary.

via Klamath County air quality at ‘hazardous’ levels | Breaking | heraldandnews.com.

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The most polluted US national parks

4928Air pollution in many national parks, from Yosemite to Joshua Tree and Kings Canyon, means a hike in the ‘fresh air’ is not as healthy as it seems, reports Mother Jones

It’s late summer, and Americans are flocking to the country’s national parks for some recreation and fresh air.

But a study released this week by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) found that air in some of the country’s most popular parks is not so fresh – and it’s potentially hazardous. The report rated the country’s 48 parks in three categories: levels of ozone (a pollutant that can irritate or damage lungs), haziness, and the impacts of climate change on the park. Here are the 12 worst contenders (full list available here):

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Ozone is a pollutant common in smog, and it’s particularly prevalent on hot summer days. Seventy-five percent of the parks had ozone levels between 2008 and 2012 that were “moderate” or worse, according to the federal government’sAir Quality Index. Four national parks – Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite – regularly have “unhealthy” ozone levels, meaning that the average hiker should reduce strenuous activity and those with asthma should avoid it altogether. (You can see the air quality in your area here.)

Jobs at Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, including those indoors, come with pollution warnings saying that at times the air quality “may pose human health problems due to air pollution,” according to the report.

Pollution doesn’t just make visitors and employees sick; it also ruins one of the parks’ main attractions: the views. Smog affects vistas in all of the parks; on average, air pollution obstructs 50 miles from view. Here are some examples of how far visitors can see in miles today compared to “natural” levels, when air isn’t affected by human activity.

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The NPCA didn’t look into specific causes of air pollution in each location, but generally, the report attributes it to the usual suspects: coal-fired power plants, cars, and industrial and agricultural emissions. Under the regional haze program, developed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1999, states are required to implement air quality protection plans that reduce human-caused pollution in national parks. The NPCA contends that loopholes prevent power plants and other big polluters from being affected by the rules.

Ulla Reeves, the manager of the NPCA’s clean air campaign, maintains that if enforcement for the regional haze program isn’t improved, only 10% of the national parks will have clean air in 50 years. “It’s surprising and disappointing that parks don’t have the clean air that we assume them to have and that they must have under the law.”

via The most polluted US national parks | Environment | The Guardian.

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Feds introduce stringent new standards to cut air pollution from on-road vehicles

The Government of Canada has adopted stringent new standards for cleaner vehicles and fuels, aligning the country with the U.S. in an effort to cut air pollution from on-road vehicles. The move is part of an ongoing commitment to improve air quality for Canadians.

The government said Canada’s Tier 3 regulations will introduce more stringent air pollutant emission standards for new passenger cars, light-duty trucks and certain heavy-duty vehicles – such as delivery vans – starting with the 2017 model year. They will also lower limits on the allowable sulphur content of gasoline beginning in 2017, all moves that align Canadian standards with those of the United States.

“Our Government is continuing to move forward with responsible regulatory measures that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector while maintaining Canada’s economic competitiveness and protecting good, high-paying jobs in sectors of the economy integrated with the United States,” Environment Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, said in a statement.

The transportation sector is currently responsible for nearly a quarter of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and is a major source of smog-forming air pollutants.

Air pollutant emissions from vehicles and fuels have continued to decrease as a result of regulatory actions, however. Specifically, total emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from passenger vehicles and light trucks operated on Canadian roads have decreased by almost 40 percent from 2006 to 2013.

The government noted common Canada–United States standards deliver significant health and environmental benefits.

By 2030, the government estimates the Tier 3 vehicle and fuel standards will result in cumulative health and environmental benefits of $7.5 billion and cumulative fuel and vehicle related costs of $2.7 billion. Accordingly, the projected benefits would exceed the projected costs by a ratio of almost three-to-one.

The projected health benefits from the Tier 3 vehicle and fuel standards are also significant. Between 2017 and 2030, it is estimated that reductions in air pollutants from vehicles will prevent about 1,400 premature deaths, nearly 200,000 days of asthma symptoms and 2.8 million days of acute respiratory problems in Canada.

via Feds introduce stringent new standards to cut air pollution from on-road vehicles – Canadian Manufacturing.

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Air pollution is the scourge of the City: We all have a role to play in tackling it

London’s air pollution is making thousands more people die early each year” and “time to transform London’s air quality” have been some of the more stark headlines in recent weeks. As air quality in London – and the impact on the health of the capital’s residents and workers – continues to pique the interest of the public, media and politicians, I am certain this issue will be even more prominent in the months and years to come.

The City can and should be playing an integral role in helping to tackle this challenge. For starters, it adversely affects the Square Mile more than other London boroughs. Our central location in the capital, our levels of traffic and the density of our buildings don’t help the matter. That is why we encourage developers to adopt green designs in their planning proposals, in particular green roofs and walls to make buildings in the City more environmentally-friendly.

On top of this, we have banned idling vehicles in the Square Mile’s streets, which reduces the amount of emissions. We’ve pushed for companies to cut back on vehicle deliveries and use more hybrid taxis. And we can’t forget our much-publicised app in the City, which helps people find the least polluted way to work or for other journeys, whether they are walking, jogging, cycling or driving.

But the question rightly being asked now is: should we be more radical in our approach? This comes in the context of a recent King’s College, London study, suggesting that the death toll from air pollution in the capital could be hitting nearly 10,000 a year.

At the City of London Corporation, we have asked the government to move more quickly in reviewing policies like the Vehicle Excise Duty, which encourages people to drive diesel rather than petrol cars. The mayor of Paris has taken the bold step of saying that diesel cars will be banned in the city centre from 2020, and now surely is the time for policy-makers to put this on the table in London and carefully consider it as a viable option.

In the meantime, the government also needs to put more resources into assisting the transition from low to zero emission vehicles, particularly taxis. And the Clean Air Act needs to be reviewed to ensure that it is fit for purpose for the fuels and technology we use today.

But City workers also have an important role to play. We want to encourage them to use more efficient modes of transport, walk and cycle whenever possible, and for companies to reduce their emissions of air pollutants in any way possible – particularly when considering fleet operations and deliveries. Only through a co-ordinated approach by government, the mayor’s office, boroughs, businesses and Londoners can we truly address this issue head on. We cannot afford to duck it anymore.

via Air pollution is the scourge of the City: We all have a role to play in tackling it | City A.M..

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The grey area over air pollution

Statistics recently released by the World Bank claim the UAE has the highest mean average of air pollutants of any other country on the list, including China and India. But how have these figures been gathered, and are they reliable?

Air pollution is a murky business. Every year new rankings are released, often with conflicting results that leave some people scratching their heads.

Last month the World Bank released its Little Green Data Book, with more than 230 pages of numbers broken down by environmental topic and geography.

The figure that grabbed the world’s attention was the amount of very small particulate matter (PM) in the air we breathe. Measured by size, PM is the tiny particles of sand, chemicals or dust that float around the air, a lot of it invisible to the naked eye.

It is associated with heart disease and attacks, cancers and strokes. In its smallest form it is known as PM2.5. A PM10 is less than the width of a human hair.

“Particulate matter is particularly important because it is linked to premature mortality,” says professor Ranjeet Sokhi, director of the Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research (Cair) at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.

“There is mounting evidence that finer particles, represented by PM2.5, are particularly hazardous to health, although coarse fractions are also of health importance.

“While the focus has been on people with pre-existing respiratory or cardiac health problems, new evidence is showing links with diabetes, neurological development in children and neurological disorders in adults.”

According to the World Bank report, the UAE has an annual mean of 80 PM2.5 micrograms for each cubic metre. This is higher than any other listed country, including China and India, and eight times the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines.

To those that have visited cities such as New Delhi in India and Beijing in China, the figures seem hard to believe. A blanket of grey hangs above those cities and the toxic contents of the air are almost palpable.

China’s reading, which excludes Hong Kong and Macau, was 73, seven points lower than the UAE. India’s reading was only 32.

The data for the report was provided by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, from 2010.

In response to the report and its worldwide coverage, Fahad Hareb, director of air quality at the Ministry of Environment and Water, said pollution levels in the UAE were safe for residents and that the World Bank figures were inaccurate.

Mr Hareb said the ministry was trying to find out what kind of data-gathering model the institution had used.

The WHO released its own rankings last year, featuring data from more than 1,600 cities in 91 countries and producing a very different result.

In this measure, the city with the worst level – of 153 PM2.5 micrograms for each cubic metre of air – was New Delhi.

In fact, Indian cities occupied 10 of the top 15 spots.

The worst offending city in the Middle East was Khorramabad, in western Iran, which is the agricultural capital of the Zagros Mountains region.

The next Middle East city to feature on the extensive list was Doha, Qatar, with PM2.5 levels of 93 micrograms per cubic metre.

Al Gharbia in the UAE, took slot number 51 and Abu Dhabi number 55, with a reading of 64.

The aim of the database, which WHO calls the largest of its kind, was “not to rank cities or countries but to reflect the monitoring efforts undertaken in those countries”.

A report last year by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, or Ead, offered a breakdown of the sources of PM2.5. It said between 54 and 67 per cent came from man-made sources.

Almost half of these particles were a secondary aerosol of sulphate and ammonia, from oil production and refining. A quarter were from mineral dust; between 13 and 15 per cent were from traffic, and 11 per cent originated in industry and shipping.

“PM2.5 is monitored in Abu Dhabi due to its effect on public health, but there are no established federal limits,” Ead said.

“However, it is known that the pressures on air quality are increasing with rising transport, water and electricity demand, expansion of the oil and gas sector, industrialisation, and increase in construction and demolition activities.”

Prof Sokhi says the desert environment in the UAE means the air will always contain significant amounts of windblown dust, especially during dust storms.

“This dust does have a health burden despite being naturally occurring,” he says. “It is likely that the most effective way of tackling this natural burden is through education aimed at encouraging people to stay indoors when there are high levels of PM in the air.”

Even estimates about the concentration of causes in cities and countries do not seem to explain the difference in figures.

As of March this year there were about 9 million registered vehicles on the roads in New Delhi. The most recent government figures also revealed there were more than 160 million registered motor vehicles in the country.

Figures from the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi’s 2014 year book show there were 785,076 motor vehicles registered in the emirate in 2011. No more recent information is available.

Comparing air quality even within a single country is complex, says Prof Sokhi.

“In other areas, natural sources can be important as in the case of cities near desert areas. Meteorological processes play a key role too, for example photochemistry leading to urban smog and high concentrations when anticyclonic conditions prevail with stable atmospheric conditions.

“Similarly, differences in precipitation and seasonal changes will affect air pollution levels. The combination of these effects will be very different for cities such as London and Abu Dhabi.”

A recent study by United States researchers revealed that meeting the WHO’s air quality guidelines could prevent 2.1 million deaths a year.

The public health researchers said outdoor particulate air pollution resulted in 3.2 million premature deaths each year, more than the combined impact of HIV-Aids and malaria.

The calculations were specifically based on numbers for PM2.5, taken from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease report. Author Joshua Apte, of the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas, said the results should be used to shape better public health policies.

According to the study, published in Environmental Science and Technology magazine, if air pollution levels remain the same as they are today, deaths per capita from air pollution will increase 20 to 30 per cent over the next 15 years in India and China, the two countries marked as having the worst levels.

The regional office of the WHO last year said there were 1,450 estimated premature deaths in the UAE in 2010 resulting from ambient PM pollution.

Some other Middle East countries had much higher figures, with Saudi Arabia at 8,550 and Iran at 32,288.

In January 2013, the US embassy in Beijing recorded levels of PM2.5 as high as 526 micrograms per cubic metre. So high it is known as “beyond index”.

Airlines were forced to cancel flights because the visibility was so bad and the city’s inhabitants were warned not to go outside.

The city has taken a number of measures to reduce its air pollution and the premature deaths resulting from it. They include limits on car emissions and coal burning, and yearly quotas for local governments and individuals. There are also fines for those breaking the rules.

“A number of measures are already in place in UAE,” says Prof Sokhi. “Measures which improve the quality and which reduce the quantity of fossil fuels burnt in the UAE and its cities should be considered.”

via The grey area over air pollution | The National.

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Stagnant Summer Days on the Rise in U.S.

Those long, hot, sultry days of summer, the ones where the air seems so still it wouldn’t disturb a leaf, are also days where air quality can take a nosedive. With winds barely above a whisper and atmosphere-scouring rains nowhere in sight, pollutants can build up in the air we breathe, with potentially serious health consequences.

Since climate change is expected to usher in more oppressive heat waves, the number of days with stagnant air will likely go up, which could mean more days with bad air quality, if nothing is done to combat pollution. A recent Climate Central analysis suggests they already have.

Days with less than stellar air quality can of course happen at any time of year. They’re a regular occurrence during winter in Salt Lake City, where so-called inversions (featuring a layer of cold air trapped below a warm layer) allow pollutants to build up in the valley where the city sits.

But summer is when days with stagnant air are most likely to happen around most of the country, as areas of intense high pressure in the atmosphere can park over a region for days at a time, keeping away the winds and rains that could give the air a good cleaning.

When such events happen, it can mean that ozone and other harmful pollutants emitted by cars and industry can accumulate, irritating lungs and throats even in healthy people, but particularly causing issues for those with lung conditions like asthma.

Climate Central looked at how the number of summer “stagnation days” for cities across the U.S. had changed since 1973 using the National Centers for Environmental Information’s Air Stagnation Index. The ASI uses a combination of upper air wind, surface wind and precipitation data to determine days when conditions are ripe for pollutants to build up in the air.

The analysis found that stagnation days had increased across much of the country, most noticeably in the Southwest and Southeast. For example, in San Francisco there are on average 23 more stagnant air days each summer now than there were 40 years ago, while in New Orleans there are 28. See how your city has fared in the interactive graphic below.

Separately, a group of researchers has looked at how those trends might change by the end of this century with additional warming.

In one study, published in 2012, they looked at how the number of stagnation days (following the ASI) would change assuming the world adopted a mix of fossil fuel and renewable energy sources, while the follow-up study, published in 2014, looked at the same question assuming fossil fuel emissions continued on the same path they’re on now.

They found the largest U.S. increases in the eastern portion of the country, but with some other hotspots in the central and western regions. The changes were around six to nine more stagnation days compared to the late 20th century, but the reasons behind the changes varied between regions.

In the West, increases came from having more days without precipitation to scour the air, while in the Southeast it was due to weak winds that would keep pollutants from being dispersed.

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee worse air quality in the future, as steps can be taken (as they have been in recent decades) to reduce the amount of pollutants getting into the air in the first place, as well as to combat the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to warming.

via Stagnant Summer Days on the Rise in U.S. | Climate Central.

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