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12_pollution_2WHO: Pollution Kills 1.7 Million Children Every Year Exposure to environmental pollutants kills 1.7 million children under the age of five each year, according to two new reports released by the World Health Organization. Worldwide, more than one in four deaths among children under the age of five are attributable to environmental hazards such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, contaminated water, and poor sanitation, the WHO reports.

methode2ftimes2fprod2fweb2fbin2f390d4204-17fa-11e7-a725-c619aa6571c2Living in polluted cities is blamed for older men’s loss of brainpower  Air pollution may take a much heavier toll on the mental abilities of men than it does on women, according to a study.

 

pollution2Air pollution may lead to dementia in older women Tiny particles that pollute the air — the kind that come mainly from power plants and automobiles — may greatly increase the chance of dementia, including dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, according to USC-led research.

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During heat waves, urban trees can increase ground-level ozone 

Planting trees is a popular strategy to help make cities “greener,” both literally and figuratively. But scientists have found a counterintuitive effect of urban vegetation: During heat waves, it can increase air pollution levels and the formation of ozone. Their study appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Previous research has shown that planting trees in cities can have multiple benefits, including storing carbon, controlling storm water and cooling areas off by providing shade. This has spurred efforts in cities across the U.S. and Europe to encourage the practice. However, it’s also known that trees and other plants release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that can interact with other substances and contribute to air pollution. And when it’s hot, plants release higher levels of VOCs. Galina Churkina and colleagues wanted to investigate what effects heat waves and urban vegetation might have on air pollution.

The researchers compared computer models of air pollutant concentrations in the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan area in Germany in the summer of 2006, when there was a heat wave, and the summer of 2014, which had more typical seasonal temperatures. The simulation showed that during the summer of 2006, VOCs from urban greenery contributed to about 6 to 20 percent of the ozone formation, and that during the heat wave period, the contribution spiked to up to 60 percent. The researchers suggest that in addition to tree-planting campaigns, efforts to improve cities’ environments should include other measures such as reducing vehicular traffic, a major source of nitrogen oxides that can react with VOCs and form ozone.

Source: During heat waves, urban trees can increase ground-level ozone — ScienceDaily

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Air pollution linked to poor sleep, study finds

Exposure to nitrogen dioxide and airborne particles affects sleep efficiency, says medical professor

Air pollution might be linked to poor sleep, say researchers looking into the impact of toxic air on our slumbers.

The results reveal that greater exposure to nitrogen dioxide and small particulates known as PM 2.5s are linked with a greater chance of having low sleep efficiency. That, researchers say, could be down to the impact of air pollution on the body.

“Your nose, your sinuses and the back of your throat can all be irritated by those pollutants so that can cause some sleep disruption as well as from breathing issues,” said Martha Billings, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington and co-author of the research. Billings added that pollutants entering the blood could have an effect on the brain and hence the regulation of breathing.

The study, presented at the American Thoracic Society’s annual international conference, drew on air pollution data captured for nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5 levels over a five-year period in six US cities, including data captured near the homes of the 1,863 participants. The data was then used to provide estimates of pollution levels in the home.

Researchers then captured data from medical-grade wearable devices worn by the participants on their wrists over a period of seven consecutive days to monitor fine movements while they slept – an approach that offers insights into how long each participant spent asleep or awake.

From the results, the team grouped the participants according to their sleep efficiency, finding that the top quarter of the participants had a sleep efficiency of about 93% or higher, while the bottom quarter had a sleep efficiency of 88% or less.

The team then took all of the participants and split them into four groups based on their exposure to air pollution.

After taking into account a host of factors including age, smoking status and conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, the team found that those who were exposed to the highest levels of air pollution over five years were more likely to be in the bottom group for sleep efficiency than those exposed to the lowest levels.

More specifically, high levels of nitrogen dioxide increased the odds of having low sleep efficiency by almost 60%, while high levels of PM2.5s increased the odds by almost 50%. Higher levels of pollution were also linked to greater periods of time spent awake after going to sleep.

However, it is not clear whether the pollution itself was affecting the participants’ sleep or whether the poorer sleep quality might be down to other factors linked to pollution, such as the noise generated by traffic. In addition, data from one week’s sleep might not reflect an individual’s typical sleep pattern.

Scott Weichenthal, an epidemiologist from McGill University in Canada who was not involved in the study, said the research did not prove that air pollution caused poor sleep, but he added: “There is certainly increasing evidence that air pollution affects our body in ways that we didn’t appreciate before.”

Roy Harrison, professor of environmental health at the University of Birmingham, said a link between pollution and sleep was not unexpected. “Previous research has shown associations between nitrogen dioxide exposures and effects upon various physiological and biochemical functions in the body, as well as hospital admissions and mortality,” he said. “It should therefore come as no surprise that such exposures also affect sleep patterns.”

Source: Air pollution linked to poor sleep, study finds | Life and style | The Guardian

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Dirty diesel: why ships are the worst offenders

In all the controversy over toxic air pollution from diesel cars, little is heard of a worse source of pollution – shipping. Large ocean-going ships tend to use bunker fuel, the world’s dirtiest diesel fuel – a toxic, tar-like sludge that usually contains 3,500 times more sulphur than the diesel used for cars. And it’s also cheap.

Shipping accounts for 13% of annual sulphur oxide emissions worldwide. A few countries, including the UK, insist that ships in their national waters use more costly low-sulphur fuel. And although new global rules for shipping to cut sulphur pollution are due to come into force in 2020, the sulphur content of shipping fuel will still be 500 times more than road diesel.

Shipping is the only sector in the world not subject to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and was left out of the UN’s Paris accord on this pollution. When the EU Parliament recently outlined plans to tackle shipping greenhouse gases in Europe Union waters, the shipping industry was not keen on any change.

The industry says no worldwide targets should be set until they have done more monitoring of emissions – which means no action is likely to be taken before 2023.

Source: Dirty diesel: why ships are the worst offenders | UK news | The Guardian

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Mexico City faces worst air pollution in two decades

Mexico City is facing the worst air pollution in almost two decades, prompting the authorities to maintain environmental protection measures for the fifth day in a row.

The city’s environmental commission said in a statement that the alarm against the high level of ozone would stay in place on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The pollution arose from the high-pressure system over the metropolis, which, along with a lack of wind to disperse the contamination, caused intense solar radiation and the formation of ozone, the statement said.

Mexico City has issued traffic restrictions which prevented the circulation of 1.5 million vehicles.

Industrial plants have been requested to reduce their emissions by 30 to 40 per cent, while 20 per cent of gas stations and liquid petroleum distributors will have to suspend operations.

The last time Mexico City maintained an environmental alert for five days or more was in May 1998.

In 2016, the Mexico City government passed stringent new laws for vehicular emissions as well as encouraging the use of public transport.

Source: Mexico City faces worst air pollution in two decades

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Edinburgh’s bid for low emission zone 

Edinburgh is to bid to have Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone to tackle air pollution.

Councillors have agreed to approach the Scottish government, which has said it will fund one pilot by 2018.

Lorries, vans and buses which did not meet emission standards could be fined for driving within the designated area.

Glasgow has already declared an interest in the idea. Friends of the Earth said it was the frontrunner to host the first one.

‘Deadly pollution’

A City of Edinburgh Council spokeswoman said: “We are committed to addressing air pollution as a priority through a range of integrated projects, including reducing congestion and investment in improved public transport, cycling infrastructure and active travel, in addition to exploring the potential for a low emission zone.

“We now intend to write to the Scottish government expressing our interest in establishing the country’s first low emission zone, as part of our work with the Scottish government, Transport Scotland, Health Boards and Scottish Environment Protection Agency to assist with the development of the Scottish National Low Emission Framework.”

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “It’s great to see Edinburgh keen to create a low emission zone to protect people’s health from deadly traffic pollution.

“With its bigger death toll, Glasgow is the front runner but this is a very serious offer from the capital.

“With air pollution coming rapidly up the agenda, the Scottish government need to spell out how and when they will help councils create the second, third and subsequent low emission zones.

“Low emission zones are a really important tool in reduce emissions from traffic, by keeping the dirtiest vehicle out of the most polluted areas.

“They are likely to apply to buses, lorries and vans initially. The council have wisely pointed out that they need the Scottish government to commit finances to making Low Emission Zones happen.”

Source: Edinburgh’s bid for low emission zone – BBC News

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Air pollution kills more people in the UK than in Sweden, US and Mexico 

WHO figures show people in Britain are more likely to die from dirty air than those living in some other comparable countries

People in the UK are 64 times as likely to die of air pollution as those in Sweden and twice as likely as those in the US, figures from the World Health Organisation reveal.

Britain, which has a mortality rate for air pollution of 25.7 for every 100,000 people, was also beaten by Brazil and Mexico – and it trailed far behind Sweden, the cleanest nation in the EU, with a rate of 0.4.

The US rate was 12.1 for every 100,000, Brazil’s was 15.8 and Mexico’s was 23.5, while Argentina was at 24.6.

The figures are revealed in the WHO World Health Statistics 2017 report, published on Wednesday, which says substantially reducing the number of deaths globally from air pollution is a key target.

The report reveals outdoor air pollution caused an estimated 3 million deaths worldwide, most of these in low- and middle-income countries.

Wealthy European nations had high levels of air pollution from fine particulate matter. The UK had an average of 12.4 micrograms of fine particulate pollutants (PM 2.5) for each cubic metre of air, which includes pollution from traffic, industry, oil and wood burning and power plants in urban areas. This is higher than the pollutant levels of 5.9 in Sweden, 9.9 in Spain and 12.6 in France. Germany had higher levels of particulate pollution than the UK at 14.4 and Poland’s was 25.4.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the report confirmed that deaths from air pollution were higher in the UK than many other comparable countries.

She said: “It is deeply tragic that around 3 million lives are cut short worldwide because the air we breathe is dirty and polluted. In the UK, air pollution is a public health crisis hitting our most vulnerable the hardest – our children, people with a lung condition and the elderly.

“Yet, we are in the fortunate position of having the technology and resources to fix this problem. It’s time to use what we have to sort this problem out as a matter of urgency and clean up our filthy, poisonous air. The next government needs to bring in a new Clean Air Act to protect the nation’s lung health.”

The worst countries for toxic air included India, where 133.7 deaths for every 100,000 people are attributed to air pollution, and Myanmar, where the rate was 230.6 deaths.

WHO said: “Outdoor air pollution is a major environmental health problem affecting everyone in developed and developing countries alike.

“Some 72% of outdoor air pollution-related premature deaths were due to ischaemic heart disease and strokes, while 14% of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or acute lower respiratory infections, and 14% of deaths were due to lung cancer.”

The World Health Organisation said it was up to national and international policymakers to tackle the toxic air crisis

“Most sources of outdoor air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers in sectors like transport, energy, waste management, buildings and agriculture,” the WHO said recently.

Source: Air pollution kills more people in the UK than in Sweden, US and Mexico | Environment | The Guardian

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Air pollution: Why and how it kills 

Air pollution – indoor and outdoor – killed an estimated 6.5 million people in 2012, the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.

Exposure to high levels of air pollution, especially over the long term, can affect human respiratory and inflammatory systems, and can also lead to heart disease and cancer.

Scientists also say air pollution, caused largely by burning fossil fuels, not only contributes to climate change but is also exacerbated by it, as air stagnation linked to warmer, drier conditions allows soot, dust and ozone to build up in the lower atmosphere.

Here are some key facts about air pollution:

* Air pollution is responsible for about one in every nine deaths annually, with almost two-thirds of those deaths in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia, the WHO says.

* By 2040, Asia will account for almost 90 percent of the rise in premature deaths attributable to air pollution.

* Ninety-four percent of deaths are due to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular problems, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

* Air pollution also increases the risk of acute respiratory infections.

* Major sources of outdoor air pollution include fuel use by vehicles, dust from construction and landfill sites, coal-fired power plants, agriculture and waste-burning.

* Air pollution comes in many forms. Two particle sizes are widely monitored: PM10, coarse particles of 10 microns or less in diameter; and PM2.5, fine particles of 2.5 microns or less in diameter.

* PM2.5, about one-thirtieth of the width of a human hair, can penetrate deep into the lungs and the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health.

* Only one in 10 people lives in a city that complies with the WHO air quality guidelines, which is a PM2.5 annual average of 10 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3).

* The air pollution in Delhi is 12.2 times the WHO safe level, while in Beijing it is 8.5 times higher.

* As millions more people move to cities in the coming decades, the number of people exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution will increase.

* In 2013, exposure to outdoor and household air pollution cost global labour income losses of $225 billion. Lost income for South Asian countries alone topped $66 billion.

* It is projected that global healthcare costs related to air pollution will increase to $176 billion in 2060, from $21 billion in 2015.

* The annual number of lost working days due to sickness linked to air pollution is projected to reach 3.7 billion for the world in 2060, up from 1.2 billion now.

* The cost of air pollution – as a result of reduced labour productivity, additional health expenditure and crop yield losses – could lead to annual economic costs of 1 percent of global GDP by 2060. Sources: WHO, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Clean Air Asia, International Energy Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Natural Resources Defense Council, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Source: FACTBOX-Air pollution: Why and how it kills | Reuters

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Cities need to ‘green up’ to reduce impact of air pollution: The harmful impact of urban air pollution could be combated by strategically placing low hedges along roads in a built-up environment of cities instead of taller trees, a new study has found 

The harmful impact of urban air pollution could be combated by strategically placing low hedges along roads in a built-up environment of cities instead of taller trees, a new study has found.

The study, just published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, points out that low hedges reduce the impact of pollution from vehicles in cityscapes where there are large buildings close to roads, far more effectively than taller trees. In some environments, trees actually make the pollution more concentrated depending on prevailing wind conditions and built-up configurations.

The study is a collaborative effort by partners from the UK, Europe and USA, led by the University of Surrey’s Professor Prashant Kumar, under the umbrella of H2020 funded project, iSCAPE: Improving Smart Control of Air Pollution in Europe.

Higher trees only have more of an impact in reducing air pollution in areas which are more open and are less densely populated by taller buildings.

Urban air quality continues to be a primary health concern as most of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas (54% in 2014), and percentage is projected to rise to 66% by 2050; this is coupled with the fact that one of the main global sources of air pollution in cities is traffic emissions.

Professor Prashant Kumar, who is Chair in Air Quality & Health at the University of Surrey, said future urban planning need to consider designing and implementing more “green infrastructure,” such as trees or hedges in the built environment to create a more healthy urban lifestyle.

Green infrastructure in cities is an urban planning solution for improving air quality as well as enhancing the sustainability of cities for growing urban populations. These green solutions include street trees, vegetation barriers (including hedges), green (or living) walls, and green roofs. They act as porous bodies which influence local dispersion of pollution and aid the deposition and removal of airborne pollutants, making the air cleaner.

Professor Kumar said: “We all know air pollution is a major factor of everyday urban life. This comprehensive review highlights that trees and hedges, as well as other green infrastructure, must be used strategically to help create healthier, less polluted cities that are also more pleasant for everyone to live and work in.

“Our other research study into London’s air quality, published this week in Atmospheric Environment, investigated the underlining factors responsible for the air pollution exposure in urban environments. The other aspects, such as time of day and wind speed, emerged as important predictors of air pollution exposure for the above-ground modes (car, bus, walk) compared with openable/non-openable windows for the underground trains.

“Our earlier study showed the weathering impact of air pollution on the building materials such as limestone, sandstone and carbon steel, used in many heritage buildings and built infrastructure. This is why we need to protect buildings as well as humans in cities in future urban planning, so the strategic placing of hedges, trees and other green infrastructure can have a direct benefit as an air pollution control measure in cities.”

The study also highlighted that green infrastructure has both positive and negative impacts on air quality at street levels, depending on the urban location it is in as well as its vegetation characteristics.

In a “street canyon” environment, where buildings like skyscrapers are close together on either side of the street, high-level green infrastructure (such as trees) generally have a negative impact on air quality. Instead, low-level hedges reduce air pollution exposure in such places. In a similar way, green walls and roofs act as a sink to effectively reduce pollution.

In open road conditions, thick, dense and tall vegetation barriers restrict the freshly emitted vehicle emissions from reaching roadsides in high concentrations where people walk, cycle or live nearby.

Apart from air pollution reduction, other benefits of urban green infrastructure include urban heat island mitigation, the potential reduction in energy consumption, better stormwater management, and climate change mitigation.

Professor Kumar added: “Under the framework of the iSCAPE project, we are currently performing targeted field investigations to quantify the effects of different types of green barriers along the busy open-road sides. This will help to develop evidence-based guidelines to support future urban planning and the public to make informed choices to “green up” their surrounding environments.”

 

Source: Cities need to ‘green up’ to reduce impact of air pollution: The harmful impact of urban air pollution could be combated by strategically placing low hedges along roads in a built-up environment of cities instead of taller trees, a new study has found — ScienceDaily

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