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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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2017 smog season packing a punch, with worst ozone levels since 2008

If our air seems terrible, well, it is. Smog season 2017 has arrived with a vengeance.

So far this year, Southern California has endured 27 days with unhealthful levels of ozone, the hallmark pollutant of smog, making this spring the worst start of a smog season since 2008, according to state data.

Ozone forms when volatile organic compounds, such as gasoline fumes, react with nitrogen oxides from diesel trucks and other machines with internal combustion engines.

In the past week, brush fires in Redlands and Reche Canyon near Moreno Valley made things worse.

Ozone is harmful because it is an unstable gas that burns the moist tissues in the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. It aggravates cardiac and respiratory conditions and causes nausea, coughs, burning eyes and runny noses. It’s also associated with a rise in early deaths.

Early this week, officials at Community Hospital of San Bernardino said they had more asthma cases than they had seen in weeks.

In the Long Beach area, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach also can contribute to smoggy skies, as thousands of diesel trucks zip in and out of the mammoth cargo hubs.

VEHICLE POLLUTION DOWN

Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said emissions from trucks, cars, factories and other tracked sources are declining.

But, he added, ozone levels depend greatly on the weather.

This spring has seen a series of high-pressure systems with temperature inversion layers that trap the air pollutants in Southern California’s sea-to-mountain air basin, said Derek Schroeter, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

“The inversion acts like a lid and keeps the air pollutants close to the ground,” he said.

Atwood said that as emissions from vehicles and factories go down, the number of days meeting the federal health standard of no more than 70 parts per billion of ozone averaged over eight hours each day should also improve. And, overall, the region’s air quality has been improving since the 1970s.

Southern California is classified by the federal government as an “extreme non-attainment area” for ozone pollution. But don’t expect healthful air anytime soon.

That designation is expected to give the region until 2037 to clean up ozone, though an official deadline hasn’t been set, Atwood said.

ON THE COAST

Air officials call the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the largest stationary source of air pollution in the region, though the cargo hubs have reduced their emissions in recent years. Earlier this year, AQMD regulators imposed voluntary emission standards as part of a region-wide air strategy.

Environmentalists, however, think the plan didn’t go far enough to push port officials to clean up dirty air.

“We have had decades of voluntary time to clean up the pollution and now is the time to make it mandatory and required,” said Adrian Martinez, an attorney with Earthjustice.

But port planners believe they can reduce the harmful emission and point to a plan in the works that is expected to decrease the reliance on dirtier old trucks and update diesel-fueled equipment with cleaner burning equipment.

“We have had focused efforts over the last decade that have met with a lot of success,” said Heather Tomely, an environmental specialist at the Long Beach port.

“We recognized there is still a lot of work to do,” she said, “and we are working on the developing strategies we need to continue to get the reductions we need into the future.”

Source: 2017 smog season packing a punch, with worst ozone levels since 2008

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35 million dirty #Diesels are driving on Europe’s roads today, new research finds 

More than one-and-a-half years after the dieselgate scandal erupted the number of dirty diesels poisoning the air Europeans breathe keeps growing. New T&E research shows that there are 35 million of these diesel cars and vans driving on Europe’s roads today, six million more than in 2015. These Euro 5 and 6 diesel cars and vans were sold in Europe between 2011 and 2016 and exceed the nitrogen oxides (NOx) limits by at least three times.

Carmakers cheats are the sole reason why diesel cars and vans surpass NOx limits on the road with emission control technology mostly switched off or down.  These excess NOx emissions alone caused nearly 7,000 early deaths in Europe in 2015. Air pollution is Europe’s biggest environmental health problem. In total, nitrogen oxides are estimated to kill 70,000 Europeans every year.

Unlike the US, dirty diesels on our roads keep growing because no national government in Europe has penalised or fined any carmaker nor taken grossly polluting diesels off the road.

Julia Poliscanova, clean vehicles and air quality manager at Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “There has been no progress in Europe over a year after dieselgate: carmakers cheats continue to kill people. The air pollution crisis in European cities is mainly caused by the unwillingness or inability of national authorities to act to recall and repair cars unfit for the road or even stop more rolling off production lines. It’s high time for lawmakers to put citizens’ health above the purse of carmakers.”

The top car manufacturing countries in Europe have the highest numbers of grossly polluting diesels. The number in Germany grew to 6.5 million in 2016. 5.3 million are driving on UK roads; Italy has almost 4 million and Spain counts 2.4 million.

The discredited car approval system is at the heart of dieselgate. On May 29th ministers of the 28 member states will meet in Brussels to agree a common position on how to reform the system abused by carmakers. Both the European Commission and European Parliament want a better, independent system to prevent future dieselgates. But the German government is the only one to be actively blocking the reform as it opposes new EU-wide checks and oversight of car approvals.

“The current reform is one-in-a-decade chance to fix Europe’s broken system for approving cars that is allowing dieselgate to continue. If Chancellor Merkel insists on protecting VW, Daimler, Audi and BMW interests and blocking progress, ministers of the 27 member states must remain equally firm in protecting Europeans health. At stake are the 70,000 early deaths each year.”

Source: 35 million dirty #Diesels are driving on Europe’s roads today, new research finds : EU Reporter

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High levels of prenatal air pollution exposure and stress increase childhood asthma risk 

A new study has found that children, especially boys, whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of outdoor particulate air pollution at the same time that they were very stressed were most likely to develop asthma by age six. The study was presented at the 2017 American Thoracic Society International Conference.

The team, led by senior investigator Rosalind Wright, MD, MPH, co-director of the Institute for Exposomics Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, conducted this study because of their overarching interest in understanding how these and other environmental factors interact to produce respiratory health disparities.

“We know from prior research that lower income, ethnically mixed urban populations are more greatly burdened with asthma and other respiratory health problems,” said lead author Alison Lee, MD, MS, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Given that populations disproportionately exposed to ambient air pollution are also more likely to be exposed to social stressors such as financial strain, discrimination, housing difficulties, and crime or violence, we were particularly interested in combined effects of both factors starting in early development, even in pregnancy.”

Dr. Lee and colleagues looked at the daily exposure of 736 primarily African American and Latina, urban pregnant women to ambient particulate matter, a type of air pollution caused mainly by traffic and industrial emissions. They also looked at the women’s prenatal stress levels through a survey that gave a “negative life event” score. The women reported a greater number of negative events characterized as experiencing more stress. Their full-term infants were followed to the age of six years.

The researchers found associations between high particulate exposure during the second trimester of pregnancy and increased odds of developing asthma for all children. Further examination found that boys born to mothers reporting higher levels of prenatal stress, who were also more highly exposed to air pollution, were particularly affected.

“Our data are the first to show that when they occur together, the effect is multiplied,” said Dr. Lee. “It isn’t clear at this point why boys are more impacted, but scientists think it may be related to the fact that boys’ lungs mature at a slower rate compared to girls. This, coupled with male fetuses’ increased risk for specific types of injury, such as oxidative stress, may increase the risk of respiratory disease when co-exposure to ambient air pollution and stress occurs during the prenatal period.”

Dr. Lee concluded: “Our data suggest that all children born to women experiencing increased levels of air pollution and stress during the prenatal period are particularly at increased risk of developing asthma in early childhood. As we continue efforts to reduce outdoor air pollution, our study suggests that we must also focus on co-exposures such as stress. Prevention is not a matter of eliminating stress but rather, we need to develop strategies to reduce stress to more normative levels – for example, implementing prenatal programs that provide resources to address the more prevalent stressors or to promote better coping strategies, particularly among disadvantaged, high-risk populations.”

Source: High levels of prenatal air pollution exposure and stress increase childhood asthma risk | EurekAlert! Science News

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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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