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Brisbane smoke haze expect to linger for 2-3 days as air quality readings rated ‘very poor’

Some readings of air pollution concentrations have been rated ‘very poor’.

Air quality has fallen in Brisbane, with some readings of pollution concentration rated “very poor” as a smoke haze caused by hazard reduction burns engulfs the city.

And it’s expected the haze that has sparked health warnings could linger for days.

According to Brisbane City Council readings at 9am on Tuesday, air quality across the city was being rated “poor”.

At individual monitoring stations in the Brisbane CBD and South Brisbane, air quality is rated “very poor” based on readings of concentrations of airborne particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5).

Stations in Woolloongabba and Cannon Hill are rated “poor” based on PM2.5.

The state government’s readings have rated the air in Upper Kedron as “very poor” under PM2.5, while the air in Deagon, in Brisbane’s outer north, is “poor” based on PM2.5.

The deteoriation has been caused by hazard reduction burns at Brookefield in Brisbane’s west.

Authorities have warned people with respiratory illnesses in “poor” and “very poor” air quality areas to stay indoors when possible and keep windows and doors closed, as well as actively monitor for symptoms.

Other people are warned to reduce or avoid outdoor physical activity if they develop symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath.

7NEWS Brisbane meteorologist Tony Auden said the smoke haze could linger in the city until later in the week.

“The winds will be fairly light. We can expect more smoke haze probably for the next day or two,” he said.

“As we move into Friday and the weekend, we can expect a change in wind direction and a bit more moisture, and even showers.

“So the air will definitely clear up from Friday. If not a little bit earlier.

“But we need to be prepared for a bit more smoke for the next couple of days at least.”


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Here’s What Wildfire Smoke Does To Your Body

At a Glance

  • Wildfire smoke is mainly made up of microscopic particulate matter.
  • When inhaled, it can go deep inside the lungs and bloodstream.
  • Smoke from wildfires can impact air quality thousands of miles away.

Wildfire smoke is linked to a host of medical problems, even in people who are otherwise healthy.

Why is wildfire smoke so bad for us?

-Wildfire smoke is made up mainly of microscopic particulate matter 30 times smaller than the diameter of a strand of hair.

-The particles are made up of things like acids, chemicals, metals, soil and dust from whatever the fire is burning – including vegetation, buildings and vehicles.

-When inhaled, they can go deep inside the lungs and bloodstream.

-Research has shown smoke from wildfires is 10 times more hazardous to humans than similar pollution from other sources.

-The CDC says breathing in wildfire smoke can cause coughing, shortness of breath, increased heart rate and other immediate effects, even in healthy people.

-It can also aggravate chronic heart and lung conditions, increase the risk of stroke and heart attack, damage vital organs and shorten a person’s lifespan. meteorologist Danielle Banks adds:

-“Air quality can be affected hundreds or thousands of miles away from the actual fire.”

-“Small particles of smoke can stay in the air and move through the atmosphere for weeks depending on how long the fires last.”

-“Pets can also be affected by unhealthy air and if possible, should be brought indoors.”

What can you do to protect yourself?

-There are a few ways to track your local air quality index (AQI), including the federal government’s AirNow website and The Weather Channel app.

-NOAA says: “The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.”

-For some people, health issues can start with relatively low AQI. The higher the number gets, the worse the effects.

-It may be necessary to stay indoors with windows and doors closed and avoid outdoor activities.

Why Wildfire Smoke Is Bad For Your Health |
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Acute exposure to air pollution may increase risk of symptomatic arrhythmia

Does air pollution affect your heart? Acute exposure to air pollution was found to be associated with an increased risk of arrythmia -; irregular heartbeat -; in a large study of 322 Chinese cities published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The common arrhythmia conditions atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter, which can progress to more serious heart disease, affect an estimated 59.7 million people globally. Air pollution is a modifiable risk factor for heart disease, but the evidence linking it with arrythmia has been inconsistent.

To determine whether there is a link, Chinese researchers evaluated hourly exposure to air pollution and the sudden onset of symptoms of arrythmia using data from 2025 hospitals in 322 Chinese cities. Air pollution in China is well above the World Health Organization’s guidelines for air quality, and the researchers conducted their analyses using air pollutant concentrations from monitoring stations closest to the reporting hospitals.

“We found that acute exposure to ambient air pollution was associated with increased risk of symptomatic arrhythmia. The risks occurred during the first several hours after exposure and could persist for 24 hours. The exposure–response relationships between 6 pollutants and 4 subtypes of arrhythmias were approximately linear without discernable thresholds of concentrations.” – Dr. Renjie Chen, School of Public Health, Fudan University, Shanghai, China, with coauthors

The study included 190 115 patients with acute onset of symptomatic arrythmia, including atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, premature beats (originating in either the atria or ventricles of the heart) and supraventricular tachycardia.

Exposure to ambient air pollution was most strongly associated with atrial flutter and supraventricular tachycardia, followed by atrial fibrillation and premature beats. Additionally, among 6 pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) had the strongest association with all 4 types of arrythmias, and the greater the exposure, the stronger the association.

“Although the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood, the association between air pollution and acute onset of arrhythmia that we observed is biologically plausible,” write the authors. “Some evidence has indicated that air pollution alters cardiac electrophysiological activities by inducing oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, affecting multiple membrane channels, as well as impairing autonomic nervous function.”

The authors note that the association was immediate and underscores the need to protect at-risk people during heavy air pollution.

“Our study adds to evidence of adverse cardiovascular effects of air pollution, highlighting the importance of further reducing exposure to air pollution and of prompt protection of susceptible populations worldwide,” they conclude.

Source:Canadian Medical Association JournalJournal reference:Xue, X., et al. (2023). Hourly air pollution exposure and the onset of symptomatic arrhythmia: an individual-level case–crossover study in 322 Chinese cities. CMAJ.

Acute exposure to air pollution may increase risk of symptomatic arrhythmia

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Air pollution is killing 1,200 children and teenagers in Europe each year, EEA warns

Air pollution kills more than 1,200 children and teenagers per year in Europe, according to a report released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on Monday.

It also significantly increases the risk of disease later in life.

Despite improvements made in recent years, the level of key air pollutants in many European countries remain “stubbornly above” World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, the report warns.

Central-eastern Europe and Italy are particularly severely affected.

Why are young people so vulnerable to air pollution?

Children and adolescents are especially vulnerable to air pollution because their bodies and immune systems are still developing.

Exposure to nitrogen dioxide and ozone in the short term, and fine particulate matter – also known as PM 2.5 – in the long term can affect children’s lung function and development. This can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, including asthma, which affects nine per cent of young people in Europe.

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy is additionally linked to low birth weight and risk of preterm birth.

The report estimates that air pollution causes more than 1,200 premature deaths per year among those under age 18 across the EEA’s 32 member countries, which do not include the UK, Switzerland or Ukraine.

Although this number is still low compared to overall deaths from air pollution, which was estimated at 311,000 in 2021, the impact of death or chronic illness in early life is considered greater.

Among the wider population, heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of premature deaths from air pollution, followed by lung diseases and lung cancer.

How bad is air pollution in Europe?

In 2021, more than 90 per cent of the EU’s urban population was exposed to harmful levels of air pollution, the report says.

Exposure to PM 2.5 – the most damaging pollutant to human health – was even higher at 97 per cent. Fine particulate matter is a leading cause of stroke, cancer and respiratory disease.

Data shows PM 2.5 levels are the worst in central-eastern Europe and Italy, mainly due to the burning of solid fuels like coal in homes and industry. Areas deemed to have ‘very poor’ air quality include Piotrków Trybunalski and Nowy Sacz in Poland, Slavonski Brod in Croatia and Cremona in Italy.

Monitoring showed ozone and nitrogen dioxide levels exceeded WHO guidelines in all countries, while the highest ozone levels were seen in the Mediterranean region and central Europe.

Faro in Portugal and Umeå and Uppsala in Sweden were ranked as the cleanest European cities with the lowest average levels of PM 2.5.

How can we reduce harm from air pollution?

Part of the Green Deal, the EU’s Zero Pollution Action Plan aims to limit emissions and slash air pollution across the bloc. By 2030, it aims to reduce the number of PM 2.5-related deaths by 55 per cent compared to 2005 levels.

But until it is reduced to safe levels, improving air quality around schools can help reduce harm to children.

This may include improving cycling infrastructure and imposing traffic bans or speed limits when children are commuting to school or playing outdoor sports.

Air pollution is killing 1,200 children and teenagers in Europe each year, EEA warns | Euronews
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Nearly 120 million people in US exposed to unhealthy levels of soot and smog – report

American Lung Association’s study also found great disparity between coasts, with 10 of 11 most polluted counties in California

The climate crisis has upended progress on improving air quality, with one in three Americans currently living in areas with harmful levels of pollutants known to increase the risk of medical emergencies, pregnancy complications and premature death, new research reveals.

Almost 120 million people in the US are still exposed to unhealthy levels of soot and smog, according to the annual report by the American Lung Association (ALA), which found that people of color are almost four times more likely to live in the most polluted places than white Americans.

The extent to which access to clean air is racialized is stark; people of color account for 54% of those living in counties with failing air quality, despite accounting for just over 40% of the general population.

The zip code lottery spotlights decades of racist housing and environmental policies, which have incentivized and enabled polluting infrastructure like highways and railroads, fossil fuel projects and manufacturing plants to be located close to Black, Latin and Indigenous communities.

And despite overall improvements in air quality and pollution-related deaths over the past 50 years, the report also highlights a widening disparity between air quality in eastern and western states, especially for soot particles – scientifically known as fine particulate matter or PM2.5.

Ten of the 11 most polluted counties are in California where the climate breakdown is fueling wildfires and rising temperatures that are undermining efforts to improve air quality in places like Fresno, San Bernardino, Tulare and Los Angeles.

“It is striking and distressing that 120 million people are still at risk from unhealthy air pollution, said Katherine Pruitt, lead author and the ALA’s national senior policy director. “Since around 2017, heat and drought driven by climate change has been undoing some of the progress that we should have made and been able to retain.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was mandated by the 1970 Clean Air Act to set health-based limits for six toxins: fine particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead. Since then, overall emissions have fallen by 78%, according to the EPA, yet progress has stalled and poor air quality continues to cut tens of thousands of lives short in the US every year.

“Since around 2017, heat and drought driven by climate change has been undoing some of the progress that we should have made and been able to retain” – Katherine Pruitt

Globally, air pollution is responsible for almost 7m premature deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization.

The ALA’s 24th annual state of the air report uses data from 2019 to 2021 to grade city- and county-wide exposure to the most widespread air toxins – ozone, AKA smog, and PM2.5 or soot – using three measures: year-round levels and daily spikes of PM2.5 and ground-level ozone pollution. (Seventy-one million people live in counties which do not monitor air quality and so are excluded from the report.)

Overall, almost 64 million people lived in areas that experienced unhealthy daily spikes in PM2.5 pollution, the highest number in a decade.

Eight of the 10 worst performing counties for daily particle spikes were in California which in 2021 recorded almost 9,000 wildfires – a major source of these microscopic particles which are blown for miles and can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, as well as lung cancer. Other sources include fossil fuel-powered cars and trucks, power plants, wood-burning stoves and agricultural burns.

Pittsburgh and Lancaster in Pennsylvania are the two worst metro areas for daily PM2.5 spikes east of the Mississippi River. While several urban, industrialised eastern and midwestern states such as New Jersey, New York and Ohio which once dominated the ALA dirtiest air list, have cut emissions.skip past newsletter promotion

Ground ozone – or smog – is a potent respiratory irritant emitted by fossil fuel- powered vehicles, oil refineries and chemical plants, and can cause a sunburn type of effect on the lungs. Inhaling smog can cause breathlessness, coughing and asthma attacks, as well as cutting life expectancy. Higher temperatures driven by the climate breakdown facilitates the formation of ozone – and makes it harder to clean up.

Nationwide, 103 million people – including 24 million children – are exposed to unhealthy smog levels, a staggering number, yet almost 20% less than reported last year. Los Angeles is the country’s smoggiest city by a long way, but the top 10 also includes Phoenix, Denver, Houston and Salt Lake City.

There is hope of fighting back against the climate-fueled regression.

Despite little progress in curtailing fossil fuel extraction, incentives to electrify the transport system in the Inflation Reduction Act plus several proposals by the EPA to tighten the outdated smog and soot standards and mandate lower emissions from vehicles and power plants are in the works.

Pruitt said: “The current standards need to be stronger to protect public health. If the EPA acts to reduce community level exposure, that along with proposals for new regulations to reduce emissions could be hugely significant in cleaning up pollution sources and reducing health inequities.”

Meanwhile, the report ranks Wilmington, North Carolina; Bangor, Maine; Lincoln, Nebraska; Rochester, New York and Honolulu, Hawaii among the country’s cleanest cities.

Nearly 120 million people in US exposed to unhealthy levels of soot and smog – report | US news | The Guardian
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Sandstorms bring air pollution concerns for Asian countries

Recent sandstorms have brought a thick covering of yellow dust to cities from China to South Korea.

Yellow dust is a seasonal problem for millions in North Asia, but this year the dust has been able to spread even further east to Japan.

The dust comes as a result of sandstorms in the Gobi desert that borders China and Mongolia, with the resulting dust catching on springtime winds to reach other countries.

But Chinese authorities have said that sandstorms in the region have been happening more and more often since the 1960s, due to rising temperatures and low in levels of rain the Gobi wilderness.

Many European countries also experienced something similar earlier this year when sandstorms from the Saharan desert brought dust to countries including Spain, Switzerland and the UK – but it is a much more common problem for Asian countries.

This year, sandstorms started bearing down on parts of China in March, while in two weeks of April alone, there have been four sandstorms.

The most recent one left cars, bikes and houses coated in dust, while another on 11 April reduced the view of the towering buildings in Shanghai’s Pudong district to mere outlines in the night sky.

Twelve provinces were placed under a sandstorm warning the following day.

What is the problem with yellow dust and what can be done to help?

The dust aggravates air pollution and puts people at greater risk of breathing problems, as the particles are small enough to be inhaled into the lungs.

At the height of the most recent sandstorm, the concentration of fine dust (also known as PM 10) in Beijing, China’s capital city was 46.2 times more than the World Health Organization’s guideline value.

In Seoul South Korea’s capital, PM 10 levels were double the level at which government would start to consider it very bad for health.

In the city of Ulsan, southeast of the capital, it was even higher.

The health risk from PM 10 particles is immediate as they’re invisible to see, and so in a polluted area it’s difficult to prevent breathing them in.

People wear face masks and hooded jackets to try and reduce how much they inhale, and exercise is often avoided as this could cause people to breathe more deeply – and therefore breathe in more of the dust.

Eom Hyeojung, a 40-year-old teacher from Seoul, said there appears to be “no realistic way to avoid yellow dust”.

She sends her daughter to school despite the health risks, saying: “As it happens so often, like every year, I just let her go. It’s sad, but I think it became just a part of our life.”

Others have said that as the sky appears to be getting murkier by the day, they have been avoiding going out as much as possible.

Sandstorms bring air pollution concerns for Asian countries – BBC Newsround

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Examining the factors in air pollution that can lead to lung cancer

A large international team of researchers has found that most lung cancers that result from exposure to air pollution are not due to induced mutations but are instead the result of inflammation inciting cells that are more likely to develop into cancer.

In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes their extensive study of the means by which air pollution can cause lung cancer. Allan Balmain, from the University of California, San Francisco, has published a News & Views piece in the same journal issue outlining the work done by the team on this new effort.

Prior research has shown that there is a strong link between exposure to some types of air pollution and lung cancer. But because of the wide variety of particles in air pollution, medical scientists have not been able to definitively describe how breathing air pollution can lead to the development of lung cancer. In this new effort, the researchers set themselves the task of finding that answer.

The researchers analyzed medical records in databases for patients living in Canada, Taiwan, South Korea and the U.K., focusing specifically on patients who developed lung cancer and who also had a gene mutation called EFGR—it had previously been tied to an increased likelihood of developing lung cancer. They found that lung cancers in such patients were more likely to occur in those exposed to particles that were 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less—a size that allowed them to make their way deeply into the lungs.

The team next engineered test mice to carry the EFGR mutation. This made them more likely to develop lung cancer when exposed to fine particulate air pollution. But as part of their study, they also found that the mice did not experience an increase in the number of cell mutations in their lungs. This suggested that the air pollution itself did not cause new mutations, but instead contributed to conditions that induce cells predisposed to mutation to begin doing so.

The researchers suggest that air pollution in general is not a direct cause of mutations in the lungs leading to lung cancer, but instead incites preexisting cells to begin to mutate due to the inflammation that results. This theory was bolstered by giving the test mice IL-1β-blocking drugs, which reduced their chances of developing lung cancer.

More information: William Hill et al, Lung adenocarcinoma promotion by air pollutants, Nature (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-05874-3

Allan Balmain, Air pollution’s role in the promotion of lung cancer, Nature (2023). DOI: 10.1038/d41586-023-00929-x

Heidi Ledford, How air pollution causes lung cancer—without harming DNA, Nature (2023). DOI: 10.1038/d41586-023-00989-z

Journal information: Nature

Examining the factors in air pollution that can lead to lung cancer
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