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More people dying early from air pollution in England

Premature deaths attributed to particulate pollution rose in 2013 after falling in previous years, government figures show

 

Warnings Are Given On Air Pollution Levels Across The UKThree maps that show just how bad air pollution is in Britain and around the world

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday said that air pollution now constitutes a “public health emergency” across the world.

 

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Nepal’s air pollution among worst

Nepal continues to rank among the worst four performers in protecting the human health and environment due to degrading air quality.

 

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The truth about London’s air pollution 

Invisible pollution kills up to 9,000 people a year in the capital. But under government plans, from school gates to shopping streets, Londoners will be breathing dangerous air until 2025. What more can be done?

In the morning, this traffic island is packed with children and pushchairs and they are about a metre from all the exhausts,” says Shazia Ali-Webber. She is walking her three boys to school in Hackney, the eldest of whom, Zain, is eight and asthmatic.

Crossing choked Mare Street, where the heavy traffic grinds slowly past, is her biggest concern. “Children’s lung development is affected by air pollution: they have smaller lungs for life,” she says. “The government’s new plan says pollutionwill not fall to legal levels till 2025. But I don’t have time to wait: Zain will be 18 by then. They are condemning a generation of children to ill-health.”

Ali-Webber, like a growing number of people, is alarmed by the illegally high levels of air pollution across London and other UK cities, largely caused by diesel vehicles that meet emissions limits in official lab tests but emit far more on the road.

The greatest problem is with nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a pollutant that inflames the lungs, stunting their growth and increasing the risk of respiratory diseases such as asthma and lung cancer. London has an acute problem with NO2, possibly the worst in the world. Putney high street broke its annual emission limits just eight days into the new year, with Knightsbridge, Oxford Street, Earls Court and Brixton all following suit before the end of January. Across the country, the government estimates 23,500 people die prematurely from NO2 pollution.

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Following Ali-Webber on her walk to school is Duncan Mounsor, of Enviro Technology Services, in the company’s brand new electric van, kitted out with £75,000 of the latest pollution monitoring equipment. The existing static network of monitors is vital, he says, but the van allows him for the first time to track the exposure of people in everyday life. “With the van we can really get amidst the hotspots and raise awareness,” he says. As the van crosses Mare Street, the NO2 reading spikes upwards.

Unlike the smoky pollution of the past, NO2 is a hidden killer. “These days you can’t see pollution, you can’t smell it or taste it, so you’d be forgiven for thinking there was no pollution – but there certainly is,” says Monsour.

His next stop is a primary school in Poplar, one of the 1,000 schools in London sitting just 150 metres or less from roads on which at least 10,000 vehicles go past. This school is just 10m or so from the roaring A12, where more than 100,000 HGVs, coaches, construction trucks and cars roar past, while others queue for the nearby exit to the equally busy A13.

Parents start arriving to collect their children, who stream out noisily. Most are walking but some are in cars – one has “Prince on Board” in the rear window – and the NO2 level rises. At a school in Cheltenham, where many children are picked up by car, Mounsor recently measured a tripling in NO2 levels during the school run.

But the more surprising discovery takes place when Mounsor moves off to simulate a car journey home from school. He finds that NO2 levels are 2.5 times higher inside the vehicle than outside. “There’s a concentrating effect of being in a confined space,” he says. Ali-Webber calls it “sweet justice”.

“The public health message is, you can’t hide from air pollution inside a car,” says Ben Barratt, an air quality expert at King’s College London (KCL). “We advise the public to leave the car at home whenever possible. This exposes you and your family to lower levels of air pollution, you’re not contributing to the problem, and you’re also getting the benefits of exercise. That’s tackling three of our biggest public health challenges in one go: air quality, climate change and obesity.”

Duncan Mounsor, with his van, measuring air quality and pollution outside a school in Poplar, east London. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

The parents at the Poplar school spoken to by the Guardian were unaware of the pollution hotspot and the school declined to comment. But the local MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, says: “Air quality is a huge issue. The new cruise ship terminal at Enderby Wharf [which people fear will increase pollution] is a big local issue and reducing emissions from vehicles is another.”

Awareness of the invisible problem is vital, says Barratt: “If you have awareness and concern then people are more likely to accept political strategies which will infringe upon their lives. If politicians come along and say they are going to restrict diesels in their city but the population doesn’t believe there is a problem, they will say no.”

One measure in place in London since 2008 is the Low Emission Zone, which charges highly polluting vans and lorries for entering London. But it has had no impact, according to Ian Mudway, another of KCL’s air pollution experts.

“We found the air quality did not change and when you look at the symptoms of the children [at schools in Hackney and Tower Hamlets], you can show no improvements year on year,” he said. “If anything is a marker that the diesel technology was not working, it was the fact that NO2 did not decrease.”

“I am a concerned parent too,” says Mudway. “The whole of central London is non-compliant with EU standards and I live there. I know it and I take precautions. I always take back routes. I always avoid, if I am with my children, walking down busy congested roads. It’s really important because although the individual risks [of one trip] are small they are additive across time.”

“The life-shortening effects of air pollution are equivalent if not greater than the risks of inactivity and obesity and alcoholism,” he says. “They should be in that bundle.”

Mudway says his litmus test for how seriously authorities take air pollution is if they put new schools, care homes for the elderly and affordable homes for young families by busy roads: “That drives me absolutely insane.” The school in Poplar was rebuilt recently – and moved closer to the heavy traffic on the A12.

Simon Birkett, director of the Clean Air in London campaign group, says: “Children are ultimately defenceless. They can’t vote but they are lumped with the health effects for life.” His research revealed that one-third of London’s schools are close to busy roads and suffer illegal levels of pollution: “That was one of the most upsetting things I ever discovered.”

Children campaigning for better air in Hackney, East London. Photograph: Kristian Buus

For the solution, Birkett cites the great smog of London, which killed 4,000 people over the course of a few weeks in 1952. It led to the landmark Clean Air Act of 1956, which rapidly improved air quality, but recent decades have seen air pollution climb again with the rise of diesel vehicles. “We are back where we were in a sense,” he says. “There were 4,000 deaths from the great smog and we did something about it. Now it’s 4,000-9,000 deaths a year in London.”

“We need to ban diesels as we banned coal 60 years ago. That is the only way we can comply with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines,” Birkett says. Paris is planning such a ban for 2020 and a ban on older diesels in Berlin started in 2010. An Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) coming into force in London in 2020 will charge – not ban – more polluting vehicles but only covers 300,000 people in the capital, not the 3 million living in polluted inner London boroughs.

Richard Howard, at the thinktank Policy Exchange, says a complete diesel ban is not feasible. “Diesel vehicles are worse than petrol, but we as a nation have gone out and bought 11m diesel vehicles.”

His report, which found a Londoner’s life expectancy is cut by about 16 months by air pollution, was published in December. It says that, on top of the legal and moral reasons for action, there is an equality case too, as poorer neighbourhoods are worst affected.

“There is a lot going on, but this is a very difficult problem to solve,” Howard says. “There are no silver bullets.” He says action is needed at EU level, to set and enforce tough vehicle emissions standards, at national level, to reform tax incentives for diesels, and at local authority level, to create low emissions zones.

Prof Sir Malcolm Green, founder of British Lung Foundation and an eminent respiratory physician, is in no doubt about the scale of the issue. “London certainly has significant pollution, enough to have effects on health. It is a hidden killer.”

In addition to NO2, particulate matter (PM) remains at double the WHO guideline levels. “It’s like inhaling little particles of tar,” says Prof Green. “They go right down into the lungs and can pass through the membrane into the bloodstream”, increasing the risks of strokes and heart attacks. Though levels in London are close to the higher EU limits for PM, no threshold has yet been established below which harmful effects end.

In July 2014 researchers from King’s College London found that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in Oxford Street are the worst on earth. Photograph: Nick Savage/Alamy

But while particulate traps have been fairly effective in cutting this type of pollution from vehicles, standards to cut NO2 emissions have been a huge failure. The Volkswagen scandal exposed devices enabling diesel cars to cheat their way through NO2 emissions tests but most other manufacturers found legal ways to circumvent the regulations, by tuning their cars to emit low levels of NO2 in test conditions but belch out far more when actually on the road.

“The car manufacturers told us their vehicles were very clean, but now we know that was not true,” says Prof Green. “I think the VW fiasco may be a blessing in disguise because it has brought the problem to everybody’s attention. I hope and pray it will cause a step change in the regulation of emissions and I really hope it will be a wake-up call for vehicle manufacturers that they will have to spend serious money and energy on improving the emissions from vehicles. I am absolutely convinced it is doable.”

On Wednesday the EU passed new standards for diesel emissions but these were heavily criticised for being double the legal limit and followed lobbying from the motor industry.

Birkett agrees that the issue is finally getting the attention it deserves and is starting to drive change: “I think we will see some quite dramatic changes by 2020, but anything can go backwards again, so we need to redouble our efforts.”

Back in Hackney, Ali-Webber and her small group of concerned parents are ramping up their campaigning ahead of the London mayoral elections. She wants the Ulez expanded to all inner London boroughs, protecting 3 million people, not just the 300,000 covered by the current plan.

But the air pollution is not only a political one for her, but also very personal. “I said to Zain don’t run around in the playground so much. But he loves football, so what’s he supposed to do?”

How to reduce your exposure to air pollution

The first step in reducing your exposure to air pollution is to be aware of peaks in pollution, via monitoring on websites, Twitter or via mobile phone apps.

On high pollution days, the government recommends adults and children with respiratory problems such as asthma, adults with heart problems and older people should avoid strenuous exercise.

But, across the year, London and other UK cities suffer average levels of air pollution above legal limits, meaning people may want to cut their exposure from day to day.

Air pollution largely comes from road traffic, so avoiding busy roads and junctions will help, especially if the street is flanked by high buildings and there is little wind.

“Walking along back roads rather than beside busy roads will reduce your exposure,” say the experts at KCL. One recent study also showed that air pollution can be a third lower on the inside of the pavement, compared to the kerbside.

Perhaps surprisingly car drivers can be exposed to higher levels of air pollutioninside their vehicle than on the pavement, suggesting that walking or cycling could be healthier. For those who need to drive, the British Lung Foundation (BLF) recommends keeping the windows closed and recycling the air in the car, rather than keeping air vents open.

The BLF also says: “There is little evidence to recommend the use of face masks. Wearing one can be uncomfortable and can make breathing more difficult.”

Choosing when to exercise may be important, say KCL: “The faster you breathe the more airborne pollutants are delivered to your lungs. By changing your exercise routine [to times or places with lower pollution] you can reduce your exposure.”

KCL also notes that diet is believed to help protect against pollution:A study conducted in Mexico City has shown that children eating more antioxidants, from fresh fruit and vegetables, are better protected against the oxidative effects of ozone and other ambient pollutants.”

Source: The truth about London’s air pollution | Environment | The Guardian

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Delhi air will never be safe because of its geographical disadvantage: Panel to High Court 

Incidentally, the DPCC report claimed that “trends” showed that levels of PM10 and PM2.5 in the city were “decreasing”.

A senior scientist with the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) told the Delhi High Court Thursday that pollution levels in the city will never come down to “safe limits” because of its “geographical disadvantage”.

Dr M P George of the DPCC told the bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva that due to the movement of air and dust storms in the Indo-Gangetic plain, Delhi was at a “geographical disadvantage”. The submission was made in response to a query from the bench on whether particulate matter levels in the city could “ever” be brought down to “safe” limits.

“Are we fooling ourselves then,” asked the bench, which then asked the scientist to give his opinion on the “realistic” air quality standards for the city. George told the court that “as a scientist” it was “his opinion” that particulate matter levels of “100-150” (micrograms per cubic meter) which fall under “moderate pollution” limits were an “achievable” target for Delhi. The submissions were made during a hearing on a suo motu PIL take up by the High Court on the issue of air pollution in the Capital.

The bench had asked George to explain details of the report submitted by the DPCC of its analysis of air quality trends in the city for the last five years. Incidentally, the DPCC report claimed that “trends” showed that levels of PM10 and PM2.5 in the city were “decreasing”.

Contrary to claims made by the DPCC and Delhi government during the debate on the odd-even car number policy, the DPCC report claimed that since 2012, the annual mean for PM10 and PM 2.5 was lowest in 2015. George informed the court that public perception was “contrary to scientific information”.

“The media looks at the highest peak level of the day and splashes it. People see fog in the thick of winters and call it smog. That is not correct,” he said.

According to the report, the average concentration of PM10 in the city has ranged between 245 to 509 microgram per cubic meter for the past five years. The maximum value observed by the air quality monitoring station at Anand Vihar was 1176 microgram per cubic meter in November 2013.

For pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, minimum values were observed in 2014 while maximum concentration of nitrogen dioxide was observed in November 2014. Taking up the issue of traffic snarls in the city, the bench asked the Centre to file a reply explaining the delay in implementation of a proposed “intelligent traffic management system”.

In February 2015, the traffic police had sent a proposal including redesign of roads, introduction of “smart” technology and coordinated traffic signals to the Home Ministry.

The bench asked the Centre to file a reply by next Wednesday on why no action had been taken so far on the proposal.

Meanwhile, Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra informed the court that the AAP government was considering a proposal for a “pilot project” to “completely redesign” ten roads which see serious traffic congestion.

He said the decision had been taken since most “congestion points” were due to “bad road design” where 6-8 lane roads suddenly narrowed into 4-lane roads. “If the pilot is successful, then all roads may be redesigned in the next five years,” he said.

Source: Delhi air will never be safe because of its geographical disadvantage: Panel to High Court | The Indian Express

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EU parliament fails to close loopholes in controversial car emission tests 

MEPs fail to veto proposal that will allow cars to emit twice the limit of NOx pollution following pressure from pro-car industry countries

MEPs have failed to veto loopholes in air pollution limits on new diesel cars, despite public anger in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions will now be allowed at twice the EU’s 80mg per km limit from 2019 and 50% more from 2021, despite the exemptions being deemed unlawful in a separate vote by the parliament’s legal committee last night.

At a Strasbourg vote today, MEPs rejected the proposal by 323 votes to 317 – 53 votes short of the absolute majority needed under EU voting rules.

The UK shadow transport minister, Richard Burden, said that MEPs had been put in “an impossible position” by implied threats from several countries – including the UK – to delay the introduction of the new Euro 6 regulations, unless the weakened limits were adopted.

“Government departments colluding in delays to the legislation at earlier crucial stages of this process is not acceptable,” he told the Guardian. “One part of this government appears not to know what the other part is doing.”

The issue of NOx pollution exploded as a political issue in September when Volkwagen was caught using sophisticated software programmes to cheat emissions tests, producing up to 40 times more pollution than allowed.

The RAC’s director, Steve Gooding, hailed today’s vote as “a step in the right direction” as it would cut average NOx emissions from seven times the legal limit to two times.

The automobile industry has argued that it needs “clarity” about the demands being placed on it under the new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) tests. Carmakers say the exemptions in the Euro 6 regulations offer them a vital margin of error in dealing with new measuring equipment.

However, the EU’s science wing, the Joint Research Centre, has estimated testing uncertainties at no more than 20%. Campaigners say that the decision to place the bar at 50% was thus political – and unlawful, given the regulations’ requirement that air quality laws be progressively tightened.

“There’s only one way out of this scandal and that is to have an early review of the flexibility in the new test in 2017,” said Greg Archer, an expert at theTransport and Environment thinktank.

Several MEPs credit pressure from several governments sensitive to car industry demands – and some trades unions – with splitting socialist and liberal groupings in parliament. Sixty-one lawmakers abstained from the RDE vote, enough to have swung the decision the other way.

“Today was a good day for dirty deals and a bad day for cleaner air but the close vote shows there remains strong opposition to the weakening of emission limits,” said the Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder.

The UK government said that it “strongly supports the current RDE agreement” in an advice document to MEPs seen by the Guardian. The deal would “significantly reduce real world NOx emissions from new diesel cars from 2017,” it argues, going on to say that any delay in its approval would be “likely to result in a significant delay to [its] implementation”.

Even countries with a higher environmental profile, such as Denmark, called on MEPs to back the new exemptions. A letter from the country’s environment minister, Eva Kjer Hansen, stressed that the “conformity factor” allowing a 50% breach of the NOx standard “will be reviewed by the commission and adjusted accordingly. This is a clear result of pressure from Denmark.”

Health professionals though reacted angrily to the news from Strasbourg. The UK’s annual death rate is thought to be about 4% higher because of respiratory illnesses caused by NOx, such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.

“Today’s vote in the European parliament is a disaster,” said Dr Penny Woods, the chief executive of the British Lung Foundation. “After the VW emissions affair, now is not the time to weaken legal limits on diesel cars. If the UK government is serious about cleaning up the air we breathe, this decision cannot go unchallenged.”

The Dutch Green MEP, Bas Eickhout, said that a legal petition to the Europeancourt of justice was still possible, and called on mayors and city leaders across the continent to take the lead.

“It would be positive if local authorities and mayors pushed their governments to act,” he said. “They are having to take drastic measures such as kicking cars out of city centres while at the same time we are allowing cars to double their emissions at the EU level. If I was mayor of London, I would certainly challenge that.”

Source: EU parliament fails to close loopholes in controversial car emission tests | Environment | The Guardian

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Brexit would return Britain to being ‘dirty man of Europe’ 

Leading group of environmentalists warns that leaving the European Union would mean a return to filthy beaches, foul air and weak conservation laws

Industrial pollution from Europe and dust from the Sahara region creates a layer of smog over London in April 2014. Photograph: Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Corbis

Britain risks becoming the “dirty man of Europe” again with filthy beaches, foul air and weak conservation laws if it leaves the European Union, a group of leading environmentalists warned on Wednesday.

The steering committee of the new E4E (Environmentalists for Europe) group includes former ministers, a former EU commissioner and a former head of the Environment Agency. It will work with green groups to persuade people that leaving the EU could set back the UK’s nature protection and prevention of pollution many years. The UK’s referendum on EU membership may come as soon as June.

“The EU has a strong track record of tangible environmental improvement,” said Green party MP Caroline Lucas, a former MEP and a member of the group that launched on Wednesday. “It was the EU’s political decision in 1990 to cap emissions of greenhouse gases by 2000 that formed the cornerstone of the 1992 UN climate convention.

“Britons have the EU to thank for [many of the] protections we have in place. It’s EU standards on air pollution that are forcing the government to clean up its act and key EU rules on healthy rivers, clean beaches and wildlife conservation have had a very positive effect,” she said.

E4E co-chair Baroness Young, a former chair of English Nature and chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “The environment doesn’t stop at country borders and UK air and water quality depends on agreement with our European neighbours on high standards. Europe’s environmental policy has grown to become the core framework in most areas of environmental policy.”

The green vote, which stretches across political parties and collectively represents up to 7 million people, has traditionally wanted strong European pollution and conservation rules. But, says E4E, in its mission statement, “far too often environmental issues have been brushed aside by national parliaments”.

Craig Bennett, director of Friends of the Earth and also part of E4E, said: “As a boy, trips to the coast were often spoiled by filthy beaches and sewage-filled seas. The prevalence of acid rain won us the title of ‘dirty man of Europe’. Thanks to EU action, this now a thing of the past. The UK cannot win the battles of the future – against climate change, air pollution and the destruction of the natural world – on its own.”

Britain was dubbed “the dirty man of Europe” after it joined the EU in 1973 because it was the only country in western Europe that failed to control pollution from cars, power stations and farming, tried to undermine European pesticide controls, and evaded nitrate regulations and bathing water directives. Legal pressure and the threat of unlimited fines forced it to clean up its act, but it still breaches laws on air pollution and water quality.

“A Britain outside the EU could in theory follow Norway and set high environmental standards,” said Stephen Tindale, a former head of Greenpeace who is not part of the group. “But most UK politicians regard them as ‘green frippery’. In practice, a UK outside the EU would be much more likely to return to being ‘the dirty man of Europe’.”

Former EU environment commissioner Stanley Johnson, a co-chair of the E4E group, said: “By being in [the EU], Britain benefits from environmental legislation and funding not only for the fight against climate change and pollution and in its efforts to preserve nature and wildlife, but also through the creation of jobs and financing for research and development here at home.”

“I personally believe that our country’s greatest resource – its nature – will be better protected and better preserved for future generations if we remain an active, full, partner within Europe,” he said.

“It is European directives which have forced the sewage out of Britain’s bathing waters and the acid rain out of Britain’s atmosphere; which are getting rid of the most dangerous chemicals in our environment and the carbon pollution of our motor vehicles; which are pushing the clean-up of our rivers and the switch to renewable energy; and which, of course, are watching over our wildlife, and that of the rest of Europe,” said nature author and journalist Michaelke McCarthy, also part of E4E.

Other members of the E4E steering committee include Lord Deben, chair of the UK Climate Change Committee which advises the government, former environment minister Richard Benyon MP, Matthew Spencer, director of the Green Alliance and conservationist and comedian Bill Oddie.

Source: Brexit would return Britain to being ‘dirty man of Europe’ | Environment | The Guardian

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Expert tips to deal with choking air pollution 

The city has been enveloped in a heavy layer of smog caused by a fire last week at the Deonar dumping ground. It released hazardous gases into the air, raising the pollution levels to a dangerous point and is causing breathing difficulties. The Municipal Corporation (BMC) shut down 74 schools for two days as the smoke engulfed the area and those commuting to work felt its effects, too. And the situation is not likely to abate any time soon, say officials.’

Very poor’ conditions

On Monday though the pollution level in Mumbai fell, the city’s Air Quality Index (AQI) was still said to be in the ‘very poor’ category and worse than that of Delhi. A report quotes the System for Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) saying the AQI for Mumbai in the morning recently was 308; it reduced only marginally by evening, to 304. Among among the most polluted areas in the suburbs were Chembur (363), which is close to Deonar and Andheri (355). According to the Regional Meteorological Department, it will be a few days before things improve. Says Shubhangi Bhute, director MET dept., Mumbai, “The air quality level is very poor in the city. PM (particulate matter) 2.5 is quite high at 329 (for Navi Mumbai) and for Deonar it is 366. This is quite alarming. The existing winter conditions, with prevailing northerly winds and pollution, is adding to the situation and it will take a while for this to settle.”

Doctors give out warnings

The deadly haze is adding to breathing discomfort and is worse for those with prevalent asthma and lung conditions. Says Dr Prashant Chhajed, “The cases of those suffering from bronchitis, allergic rhinitis, runny nose and watery eyes has increased in the last few days. This pollution level rise can be dangerous for breathing and individuals having asthma must continue with regular medication, especially at this time. Anyone with symptoms of chest tightness, cough and breathlessness must seek medical attention immediately,” he cautions. High levels of pollutants can raise carbon monoxide levels in the blood, which escalates illnesses. Adds Dr Hasmukh Ravat, senior interventional cardiologist, “For a city like Mumbai where we already have too much construction and vehicular pollution, any addition to this makes things worse, with kids and senior citizens having a greater chance of getting respiratory infection at this time. The hazardous smoke can lead to a spike in blood pressure, which in turn can lead to pressure on the heart. There has been a case of a person who got a heart attack owing to the smoke, and he had to immediately have angioplasty,” he warns.

Resembles a gas chamber

Meanwhile as per reports, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has expressed concern over the incident, saying if proper preventive measures were not taken, our cities could resemble gas chambers. “The situation could be similar to what was done by Hitler (whose regime built the infamous gas chambers for killing the people),” he said.

Source: Expert tips to deal with choking air pollution – Times of India

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Air pollution from Europe’s planes set to rise by nearly half 

EU study predicts 43% rise in NOx emissions from planes within two decades, due to increased air traffic

Air pollution from planes in Europe is to rise by nearly half in the next two decades, according to the EU’s first aviation environment report.

Aircraft emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are linked to lung damage, doubled since 1990 and are forecast to rise 43% by 2035.

The increase so far tracks a rise in the number of flights over the last 25 years, and a similar jump in the sector’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Airlines have reduced their planes’ NOx emissions in the last decade as the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) has tightened standards. But the improvements are coming too slowly, the report says.

“We expect that the increase in growth in the air transport sector is going to offset those technological and operational efficiencies, leading to an absolute increase in emissions,” an official with the European Aviation Safety Agency told the Guardian.

NOx is an indirect greenhouse gas created by fuel combustion, that can lead to the formation of health-damaging air pollutants such as particulate matter (PM).

Around 23,500 Britons die prematurely each year from exposure to NOx, according to provisional government figures. Another 29,000 people die early from the effects of PM pollution.

High NOx concentrations around airports are a particular public health concern with Heathrow airport breaching safety limits in several different locations and times in 2012, according to its own measurements.

The UK government has been in beach of EU air quality laws since 2010, but a cleanup plan published in December did not envisage cities such as London becoming compliant for another decade.
Campaigners say that increasing emissions standards during aircraft landings and take offs would have the double benefit of protecting people who live close to airports and cutting the cruise emissions of airplanes in the future, as better engines are developed.

“The doubling of NOx emissions from aviation since 1990 is having a huge impact on our health and climate,” said Andrew Murphy, the aviation and shipping officer for Transport and Environment. “EU and international policies need to be urgently strengthened to reverse this trend, and that must include tighter emissions standards.”

The EU’s transport commissioner, Violeta Bulc, said that the report was intended to feed into international discussions on reducing planes’ emissions.

“Aviation brings significant economic and social benefits to Europe, but also has an impact on the environment,” she said. “In 2016, the EU will reach out to its partners to take global and ambitious steps.”

That process will begin in earnest in Montreal next week when a committee of the UN International Civil Aviation Organization meets to discuss a new CO2 standard for planes, and market measures to drive emissions down.

Source: Air pollution from Europe’s planes set to rise by nearly half | Environment | The Guardian

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Exposure to high levels of air pollution associated with higher risk of preterm birth 

Exposure to high levels of small particle air pollution is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth — before 37 weeks of pregnancy, according to a new study published online in the journal Environmental Health.

The study, by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati, identified a 19 percent increased risk, with the greatest risk when high exposure occurred during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Diesel exhaust particles make up a substantial portion of particulate matter in urban areas. The size of particles is linked to their potential for causing health problems. Smaller particles have greater potential to be inhaled into the lungs and can cause serious health problems, including several heart and pulmonary diseases.

“Although the risk increase is modest, the potential impact is robust, as all pregnant women are potentially at risk,” says Emily DeFranco, DO, a physician-researcher at the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s and an associate professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Cincinnati. “We estimate that decreasing the amount of particulate matter in the air below the EPA’s standard threshold could decrease preterm birth in women exposed to high levels of small particulates by about 17 percent, which corresponds to a 2.22 percent decrease in the preterm birth rate in the population as a whole.”

The researchers studied birth records in Ohio between 2007 and 2010. The population included nearly 225,000 singleton (not multiples) live births. Of these, more than 19,000 births were preterm. The birth records were linked to average daily measures of fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in width. These measures were recorded by 57 EPA network air monitoring stations across the state. The vast majority of births, 97 percent, occurred in very urban areas, where most monitoring stations are located and exposure levels likely to be highest.

Preterm birth rates were higher among mothers exposed to high levels of airborne particle pollution above the EPA standard, as well as among mothers 40 or older, black mothers, and women with no prenatal care or with lower education level.

In 2015, Dr. DeFranco published a study in the journal PLOS One showing that exposure to high levels of particulate matter in the third trimester of pregnancy was associated with a 42 percent increased risk of stillbirth.

Also last year, the American Lung Association named the Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville statistical area as the nation’s 8th most polluted by year-round particle pollution. The Cleveland-Akron-Canton area ranked 10th.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Source: Exposure to high levels of air pollution associated with higher risk of preterm birth — ScienceDaily

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