krakow_smogKrakow’s air quality among the worst in the world According to the air-pollution activism group Krakowski Alarm Smogowy (Krakow Smog Alarm), the city has some of the poorest air quality in the world.

ctvoormwoaa8dypAirpocalypse now: China pollution reaching record levels Residents of north-eastern China donned gas masks and locked themselves indoors on Sunday after their homes were enveloped by some of the worst levels of smog on record.

1x-1Even moderate air pollution could trigger severe heart attacks: study Even moderate levels of air pollution have now been linked to increased risk of heart attacks in people with heart disease.


08corton-facebookjumboThe Return of London’s Fog In January, researchers at King’s College London announced that pollution levels on Oxford Street, in central London, had exceeded limits set for the entire year in just the first four days of 2015.

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High humidity worsening air pollution, say experts 

On Thursday morning, humidity levels in the city peaked, hitting 98% in south Mumbai and 80% in the suburbs. Peaked moisture levels have high potential to hold pollutants, say experts.

According to the India Meteorological Department, the humidity in south Mumbai was almost 22% above normal. This dropped to 79% by evening. In the suburbs, the humidity fell from 80% in the morning to 55% in the evening. The humidity levels on Wednesday morning in south Mumbai and the suburbs was 87% and 77% respectively.

The minimum temperatures in the city too remained almost 3 degree Celsius above normal. The IMD recorded 26 degree Celsius at Colaba, 3.7 degree Celsius above normal and 23.4 degrees at Santacruz, a deviation of 3.3 degree Celsius. Weathermen said this could be due a day-to-day fluctuation. “There is no weather system which could affect the city so much, so this could be a result of a day-to-day fluctuation. The rain last weekend could have resulted in depositing moisture along the coastline,” said V K Rajeev, director, western region, IMD.

The high humidity levels also indicated that the air quality levels in the city took a hit as there was a thick haze in the sky on Thursday evening. According to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), Mumbai recorded an Air Quality Index (AQI) on 152 on Thursday. This is expected to worsen to 165 on Friday. AQI between 101 and 200 is acceptable for general public but moderate health concern for sensitive people.

AQI is measured for particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) – particles between 2.5 to 10 micrometers in size which get lodged into the respiratory system. “After the rain in Mumbai, there is lot of moisture in the air which is having high potential to hold the particles emitted from transport sector. That is the reason that PM levels are increasing in Mumbai. The wind is very calm and temperature is dropping,” said Gufran Beig, scientist, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and project director, SAFAR.

Source: High humidity worsening air pollution, say experts – The Times of India

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South Africa’s air pollution hotspots

According to statistics urban air pollution is linked to up to 2 million premature deaths world-wide each year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution database collected data on the outdoor (or ambient) air quality of 1600 cities from 91 countries. The database revealed that unsurprisingly, as the most populated city in South Africa, Johannesburg is highly polluted with the Highveld and the Vaal listed as priority area. Durban may have one of the best air pollution ratings but it is still above the global average.

Take a look at South Africa’s air pollution stats:


Source: South Africa’s air pollution hotspots | News24

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For women with diabetes, air pollution has higher heart risks 

Particle pollution like soot is a known health hazard and linked to the risk of heart disease and stroke, but women with diabetes are even more vulnerable than most people, according to a new U.S. study.

“There is a convincing literature that long-term air pollution is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Jaime E. Hart of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, adding, “a number of studies of short-term air pollution exposures have suggested that individuals with diabetes are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The researchers studied 114,537 women in the decades-long Nurses’ Health Study for whom there was data on pollution exposure and health outcomes. Between 1989 and 2006 there were 6,767 cases of cardiovascular disease, 3,878 cases of coronary heart disease and 3,295 strokes in the group.

Cardiovascular disease risk rose slightly for all women with increasing exposure to the kind of tiny pollution particles that come from engine combustion, power plants and road dust.

For the women with diabetes, however, the risk increases were greater – for every additional 10 micrograms of pollution particle exposure, there was a 19 percent increase in the odds of cardiovascular disease and 23 percent increase in the odds of having a stroke.

The finest particles, known as PM 2.5, which typically come from vehicle exhaust and power plants and can enter the bloodstream after being inhaled raised risk the most. Exposure to an additional 10 micrograms of PM 2.5 pollution led to a 44 percent increase in heart disease and 66 percent increase in stroke risk, according to the results in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safe exposure limit for PM 2.5 particles outdoors is an average of 12 micrograms, or 12 millionths of a gram, per cubic meter of air over a 24-hour period. The World Health Organization puts the limit at 20 micrograms.

Pollution was also particularly harmful for women age 70 and older, those who were obese and those living in the Northeast or South. Risks were highest in relation to pollution exposure within the previous 12 months.

“There is some evidence to suggest that when women with diabetes are exposed to air pollution that they have higher levels of air pollution and oxidative stress than women without diabetes, but I think this is an area where more research is needed,” Hart told Reuters Health by email.

“Most of the evidence suggests that the results would be similar in men, but interactions with hormones can’t be ruled out,” he said.

Diabetes is an inflammatory disease, and air particles may cause further inflammation, putting more stress on the cardiovascular system, said Dr. Bart Ostro of the Air Pollution Epidemiology Section of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, who was not part of the new study.

“I know diabetics already have a lot to think about and worry about,” but taking the same steps they already take to manage their diabetes, like diet, exercise and medications, may reduce heart disease risk as well, Ostro told Reuters Health

“People downwind from power plants are definitely going to have a higher risk,” he said. “I don’t know if I would tell people to move immediately, but it’s a risk to be taken into account.”

Major roadways are also important pollution sources, he said.

“Given the vast literature on the adverse health effects of air pollution, I do believe that people should be concerned about air pollution exposures,” Hart said. “I think the recommendations for women with diabetes would be similar to advice for all women: don’t smoke cigarettes, eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and, when practical, avoid being outside in areas of high pollution.”

SOURCE: Journal of the American Heart Association, online November 25, 2015.

Source: For women with diabetes, air pollution has higher heart risks | Reuters

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Delhi November air quality threatened by Punjab farm fires 

In October and November, farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn their fields to cheaply clear paddy stubble, raising PM2.5 levels in neighbouring Delhi

Since September 2015, an ecological and public health disaster has been unfolding in Indonesia, as fires burn out of control. Such fires spread a haze over the region every autumn; this year is different only in severity and because it has caught international attention, with Indonesia surpassing China and the USA for several weeks as the world’s biggest carbon emitter.

North India – and, in particular, Delhi – has its own version of this public-health disaster unfolding right now. Once winter sets in, the PM2.5 pollution levels across Delhi are routinely more than 20 times above safe levels mandated by the World Health Organisation. In October and November, farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn their fields as this is the cheapest and easiest way to clear paddy stubble after harvest. This practice has been steadily rising since the advent of mechanised harvesting in the mid 1980s.

Wind carries the smoke across the region and particularly to Delhi. A few weeks ago NASAreleased satellite images of the plume of smoke they create.

In a recent article, our colleagues at Evidence for Policy Design showed how Delhi pollution rises and falls in patterns, over the course of the day, the week, and the year. The article showed that October – which is when the burning of paddy stubble starts – marks the onset of high winter pollution in Delhi.

High-quality satellite imagery makes it possible to examine this link more closely. The top two panels of Figure 1 below uses NASA satellite imagery from 2003 to 2015 to map how much average pollution in any given week deviates from the annual average for Delhi (top panel) and for Punjab (middle panel).

Figure 1: Punjab farm fires and percentage change in pollution from annual mean levels in Punjab and Delhi (based on data from 2003–2015)

The bottom panel of Figure 1 plots the monthly distribution of crop fires in Punjab (using the same NASA imagery): the paddy stubble burning period between the first week of October to the third week of November accounts for about 40% of crop-burning occurrences through the year. And, alongside, relative to the annual average, pollution levels increase by more than one and a half times in Delhi and roughly double in Punjab by the last two weeks of October. In contrast, stubble burning following wheat harvesting in the summer has relatively less impact, possibly because the wind and monsoon rains clear the air.

The last month has seen a flurry of policy activism around crop-burning. On November 4 the National Government Tribunal directed Delhi and four adjacent states to ban crop burning and announced fines for offenders. But there was little thought paid to what it would take to make these policies implementable; it is clear that no state government has enough agents on the ground to chase down every fire.

Rather, we need more nuanced policies. First, government – and perhaps civil society – should invest in data infrastructure that makes better information available to regulators and those on the ground. Satellite data such as that presented in this article can both help predict the onset of crop burning and identify areas where crop-burning is very high.

Figure 2 below uses the same NASA satellite imagery to map the incidence of farm-fire events across Punjab districts for the two main burning seasons. While the practice is widespread and decentralised, there is a clear geographical distinction in the distribution of paddy and wheat farm fires.

Figure 2: Autumn and spring farm fires in Punjab (based on data from 2003–2015)

More than 60% of paddy farm fires are concentrated in the five districts of Sangrur, Firozepur, Moga, Ludhiana and Patiala – and all five districts rank high on rice production. In contrast, wheat farm fires are more evenly distributed with the exception of the district of Firozepur that alone accounts for one sixth of all fires.

This regional variation suggests potentially high returns from prioritising targeted interventions in high-incidence districts. But for such interventions to be effective, it is critical that they acknowledge, and account for, individual incentives. It is difficult to get someone to give up a practice when it is others, and not them, who face the externalities of that practice.

The Punjabi farmer must breathe in smoke – but only in the short term, and this small cost is far outweighed by the benefit of having his land cleared at a low price. The negative externalities of his actions are distributed among millions of citizens living in distant Delhi and other cities in the region, where the cumulative effect of air pollution causes a staggering loss of life years.

Regulators need to identify and enforce policies that will cause farmers to internalise the externalities. If fines are to be used, the authorities have to be willing to invest the resources needed to make them implementable – for instance, provide local agents with satellite imagery that will allow them to target the big offenders.

At the same time, we need to recognize that if many fires are started by poor famers with very small plots then small fines will be politically infeasible and administratively impossible to implement.

In such situations, the high health cost of crop burning in regions further away such as Delhi creates a clear economic case for the government to assume some of the cost–for example, by subsidising cleaner ways of clearing fields and making profitable the use of agricultural wastes as fuel. There is anecdotal evidence that in some cases such policies have worked but we need rigorous pilots followed by swift large-scale rollout.

Finally, clearly not all farmers are equally reliant on crop burning across Punjab. Despite comparable paddy production, farmers in districts like Ludhiana and Patiala appear less likely to burn fields than Moga, Firozepur, and Sangrur. Can policy build on this? For instance, policymakers could use pilot projects to examine whether using social incentives such as rewarding blocks that reduce burning to below the district average can change the norm.

Today, the advent of daily satellite data makes it possible to monitor and evaluate the impact of these policies. The key is to recognise the need to design policies that align farmer incentives with the social good and then creates the data infrastructure needed to make these policies implementable.

Source: Delhi November air quality threatened by Punjab farm fires | Business Standard News

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APH compares air pollution levels in some of the most popular holiday destinations 

According to research published by Nature*, over three million people around the world die prematurely each year from outdoor pollution. For those holidaymakers concerned about air quality when travelling abroad, Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) has put together a guide comparing the air pollution levels in some of the world’s top holiday destinations.

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Source: APH compares air pollution levels in some of the most popular holiday destinations – APH Parking News

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Air pollution linked to asthma in children and teens 

Exposure to air pollution early in life may contribute to the development of asthma in childhood and adolescence, a European study suggests.

Researchers followed more than 14,000 children from birth through ages 14 to 16 and found those born in communities with more polluted air were more likely to develop asthma than other kids, particularly after age 4.

While previous research has linked asthma to air pollution exposure in early childhood, the current study offers new evidence that this connection extends into adolescence, said lead author Dr. Ulrike Gehring, a researcher at Utrecht University in The Netherlands.

“Exposure to air pollution is thought to cause asthma by effecting the size and structure of the developing lung as well as the developing immune system,” Gehring said by email. “The exact mechanisms behind the association between air pollution exposure and asthma in children, however, are not clear.”

To look at the link between asthma and air pollution, Gehring and colleagues examined concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, a byproduct of fossil fuels that can contribute to smog, and so-called particulate matter, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets that can include dust, dirt, soot and smoke.

Then, they examined questionnaire data about the children’s respiratory health that was collected several times during childhood. Parents were asked if kids were diagnosed with asthma, prescribed asthma drugs or experienced wheezing. Parents were also asked if kids had sneezing, congestion or itchy, watery eyes when they didn’t have colds.

The study included kids from Germany, Sweden and The Netherlands.

Overall, the risk of asthma by ages 14 to 16 increased with increasing exposure to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter at the birth address, but not with exposure levels for the address at the end of the study.

Researchers didn’t find a link between air pollution exposure and allergies.

One limitation of the study is that researchers used air pollution measurements from 2008 to 2010 for the entire duration of follow-up, the researchers acknowledge in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Researchers also didn’t look at air quality at school or daycare centers, which might differ from where the children lived.

It’s also possible that children growing up near major, heavily trafficked roadways, who are at the greatest risk for exposure to air pollution, may differ from kids who grow up in other locations like suburbs in other respects, such as lower socioeconomic status, that also increase asthma risk, said Steve Georas, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center who wrote an accompanying editorial.

Even so, the findings add to a growing body of research linking asthma to pollution, Georas said by email.

“It is probably time to doubt no more that early life air pollution exposure is a risk factor for asthma for some children,” Georas said. “What we need now are more studies to understand (why) some children are particularly susceptible to these adverse effects.”

SOURCE: The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, online November 10, 2015.

Source: Air pollution linked to asthma in children and teens | Reuters

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Shipping causes hazardous levels of air pollution along coastlines, study finds 

The air along coastlines is being heavily polluted by hazardous levels of nanoparticles from sea traffic, a new study has found.

Almost half of the measured particles stem from sea traffic emissions, while the rest is deemed to be mainly from cars but also biomass combustion, industries and natural particles from the sea.

“This is the first time an attempt has been made to estimate the proportion of nanoparticles stemming from sea traffic. The different types of nanoparticles have previously not been distinguished, but this new method makes it possible”, says Adam Kristensson, researcher in Aerosol Technology at the Lund University Faculty of Engineering in Sweden.

“Previously, we thought that land-based pollution from northern European countries and emissions of natural particles from the surface of the sea accounted for a much larger proportion”, he says.

Nanoparticles can be hazardous to our health as they, because of their small size, can penetrate deeper into the lungs than larger particles contributing to both cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. A cubic centimetre can contain several thousand nanoparticles.

To arrive at these results, he and his colleagues have studied the air flow from their measuring station in southern Sweden as it passes over the Baltic Sea, all the way to the measuring station on the Lithuanian coast. The wind often travels towards the east, and the particles can travel long distances before they are trapped in our lungs or washed away by the rain. They have also studied the air flow from a station in the Finnish archipelago towards the Lithuanian station.

By comparing levels of nanoparticles, the researchers can draw conclusions about the respective proportions that stem from cars and other emissions, and sea traffic.

Particles from sea traffic in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are expected to contribute to 10,000 premature deaths every year, but Adam Kristensson stresses that this estimate is very uncertain, and believes that it is important to continue to conduct these types of measurements.

He also advocates stricter legislation. “It is especially important to continue to set stricter caps on nitrogen oxides and sulphate content from ship fuel.”

“It is especially important to continue to raise the caps on emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulphate content from ship fuel.

Future regulations will hopefully reduce the emissions of harmful nanoparticles, especially soot particles, which are considered the most hazardous.

“This year a new regulation was introduced for the North Sea and the Baltic Sea that limits the sulphate content in fuel to 0.1%. As researchers, we still have to look at what positive effects this has had so far with regard to the particle levels.”

Source: Shipping causes hazardous levels of air pollution along coastlines, study finds > Trends > Research | Click Green

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Air pollution death toll – 698 people died prematurely in South Yorkshire in a year 

Air pollution caused the premature deaths of an estimated 698 people across South Yorkshire in a year, according to statistics highlighted today.

The figures for Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley were revealed by charity Brake as it called on people to ‘drive less and live more’ in a new campaign for the launch of Road Safety Week .
Sheffield had the highest number of estimated deaths in 2010 – 269 people aged over 25, while Doncaster had 160 people, Rotherham 145 and Barnsley 124.

A Brake spokesman said: “The figures for premature deaths as a result of air pollution come as a shock to us.

“If anything we believe these figures are under reported, which is why we call on Government to increase their investment in alternative fuel sources for vehicles.”

Earlier this year analysis before Sheffield Council’s health and wellbeing board said there was a ‘strong correlation’ between hospital admissions for circulatory and heart diseases and average levels of pollution.

Road transport is the largest contributor to Sheffield’s nitrogen dioxide emissions, the city is missing its EU air quality targets and is not likely to be below the legal limit until 2020.

The council’s own action plan said poor air quality causes an estimated 500 premature deaths a year.

It is also now running an Air Aware campaign, which the council said had increased the number of people describing themselves as aware of air pollution by 27 per cent.

An electric vehicle project has supported firms to switch cars and installed rapid vehicle charging points while a feasibility study into a scheme to increase the number of low emission taxis is underway.

Sheffield is also in the running to become one of the UK’s first ‘Go Ultra Low’ cities, which are leaders in electric vehicle uptake.

If the city is successful in its bid for funding, more than 50 new charging points will be installed and 300 vehicles purchased for use by the council. car clubs and others.

A council spokesman said: “The number of deaths in Sheffield due to poor air quality is too high but we are not complacent and are actively working with partners to drive down pollution levels.

“We know there is more to be done, but are already taking this issue very seriously and hope thatby working with the public, businesses and partners together we can drive down air pollution.”

Barnsley Council said several areas were subject to an air quality action plan with measures like building bypasses to move traffic away from housing or creating bus corridors used.

Coun Roy Miller, cabinet member for place, said: “These locations are constantly monitored by regulatory services who report progress annually to Defra.

“We are pleased the number of air quality management areas in Barnsley is reducing each year.

“The council is working hard to lower emissions with the aim of improving air quality and health.”

Other Barnsley projects include encouraging staff to choose sustainable travel and running council vehicles as efficiently as possible.

In Doncaster, tackling emissions is a consideration for new planning applications and the council has invested in new efficient street sweeping vehicles.

Assistant director of environment Gill Gillies, said: “As is the case in many areas of the UK we know that there are parts of Doncaster, typically near busy roads, which have poor air quality.

“We have developed detailed air quality action plans for these areas and take a range of measures to reduce pollution in the borough.

“We also have the highest percentage of residents who cycle to work in South Yorkshire, emphasising that local people are becoming increasingly passionate about protecting the environment.”

Read more:

Source: Air pollution death toll – 698 people died prematurely in South Yorkshire in a year – The Star

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