TOP STORIES

1482895473375Forget Beijing, world’s worst air has Mongolians seeing red Levels of particulate matter in the air have risen to almost 80 times the recommended safety level set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – and five times worse than Beijing during the past week’s bout with the worst smog of the year.

cruise-pollution-siegerbild_2012-largeAir Quality on cruise ships ’20 times worse’ than in a busy city centre Passengers on a cruise ship could be inhaling “60 times higher concentrations of harmful air pollutants ” than they would in natural air settings, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), a German environmental association, has warned.

 

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.

Posted in Air Quality | Leave a comment

Delhi, Faridabad among 5 cities with worst air pollution: Government 

Delhi and Faridabad were among the top five cities with the worst air pollution in the country between 2015 and 2016, the Rajya Sabha was informed today.

“Cities can be ranked on the basis of different criteria pollutants with different results. Five cities where higher values of air quality index have been observed for the period between November 2015 to October 2016 are Delhi, Faridabad, Varanasi, Lucknow and Jaipur,” Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said in a written reply.

He was asked which were the top five polluted cities in the country.

Replying to another question, he said the National Air Quality Index transforms complex air quality data of various pollutants into single number, nomenclature and colour for effective communication of air quality status to people in terms which are easy to understand.

There are six AQI categories – good, satisfactory, moderately polluted, poor, very poor and severe.

“In general, AQI values observed for a period of November 2015 to October 2016 indicate poor air quality in Delhi, Faridabad, Varanasi, Lucknow, Jaipur, Kanpur, Patna and Muzzaffarpur, moderately polluted air in Agra, Jodhpur, Gurgaon, Gaya, Punem Solapur, Chandrapur and Chennai,” he said.

“Satisfactory air quality was in Aurangabad, Navi Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Vishakhapatnam, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Panchkula, Nagpur, Thane, Haldia, Tirupathi, Rohtak, Howrah and Nashik,” the minister added.

Replying to another question, Dave said out of 56 cities monitored for PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) by Central Pollution Control Board, the data for 2015 indicates that PM2.5 levels have exceeded permissible limits in Delhi, Bangalore, Bhopal, Gwalior, Singrauli, Angul, Balasore, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Talcher, Kalinga nagar, Tuticorin, Barrackpore, Durgapur, Howrah and Kolkata.

He said the analysis of monitored parameters of SO2, NO2 and PM10 in 300 cities during 2011-2015 indicates that SO2 levels were very low in Delhi, Faridabad, Pune, Ghaziabad, Barrackpore etc and ranged between 4ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter air) to 31ug/m3 against the National Annual Average Standard of 50ug/m3.

The NO2 levels were within the prescribed National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in cities except Delhi, Pune and Barrackpore during most of the years and fluctuating trends of NO2 in the range of 13ug/m3 to 74ug/m3 were observed in five years.

The PM10 levels have shown a fluctuating trend in all cities, Dave said.

Dave had earlier said in Lok Sabha that data collected by a government agency shows that ozone levels have not exceeded the permissible levels in India and reports indicating ozone pollution deaths in the country need to be “scrutinised”.

Posted in Air Quality, Asia, India | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When air pollution is bad, know how to protect yourself 

There are steps we can take to protect ourselves and our families from air pollution, which has well-documented negative consequences for childhood asthma, birth outcomes, pregnancy risks, cardiovascular health, and other diseases.

The World Health Organization reported this month that pollution and environmental risks are responsible for 1.7 million child deaths per year. Around the world, pollution is constantly taking a toll on our health — and oz one pollution is especially problematic when the weather gets warmer.

While cities and states need to implement top-down measures to combat air pollution, those who live in particularly susceptible environments — like around major roadways — may not have the luxury of waiting for such changes to take place.

Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, says there are steps we can take to protect ourselves and our families from air pollution, which has well-documented negative consequences for childhood asthma, birth outcomes, pregnancy risks, cardiovascular health, and other diseases.

Those steps include:

Understanding wind patterns. Wind changes throughout the day, helping to blow pollutants both toward and away from your home. In California, for example, the onshore and offshore sea breeze is predictable. Close windows when the wind is blowing from the freeway (or another pollutant source) toward your home. When the wind is blowing away from your home, you can open your windows.

Being aware of the time of day. As the weather gets warmer, ozone pollution — created when pollutants from cars, buses and factories react to sunlight — peaks in the early afternoon. If possible, avoid rigorous exercise outside during the early afternoon on summer days and do it another time.

Keeping your indoor air clean. Using a high efficiency (HEPA) air purifier in your house will reduce particle levels in your home, even if the air outside is heavily polluted.

Source: When air pollution is bad, know how to protect yourself — ScienceDaily

Posted in Air Quality, Health Effects of Air Pollution, USA & Canada | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lumbini chokes as pollution levels cross safe limits  

Data analysis of air quality monitoring stations set up last year in five places across the country shows that Lumbini is the most polluted city followed by Chitwan, Ratnapark (Kathmandu), Pulchowk (Lalitpur) and Dhulikhel (Kavrepalanchok).

Data collected from the air quality monitoring stations between October and February showed presence of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) in Lumbini five times higher than the World Health Organisation standard of 25 microgram per cubic metre (ug/m3) in a period of 24 hours. Nepal’s national air pollution standard is 40 ug/m3.

For the month of January, PM2.5 in Lumbini was measured at 173.035 ug/m3 followed by 113.32 ug/m3 in Chitwan and 109.08 ug/m3 in Ratnapark of Kathmandu.

“Brick kilns and cement factories in the Lumbini-Bhairahawa Corridor produce pollutants,” said Arnico Panday, senior atmospheric scientist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Coal burning and burning of other stuff like tyres and tubes add to the problem.”

In 2013, 62 percent of air pollution in Lumbini was due to the flow of toxic air originated in India, while 24 percent of air pollution was created within Nepal. Polluted air from Bangladesh and Pakistan also played a crucial role in increasing pollution in the Tarai, according to data maintained by ICIMOD.

There are around 1,000 brick kilns in Nepal and around 30,000 in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, two large bordering states in India. Toxic fumes produced by these brick kilns are collected in the skies and the wind blowing from those places bring about more fumes to the trans-border area making it tremendously polluted.

Biomass, garbage burning, agricultural residue fires, forest fires are other agents that add to air pollution.

As far as Kathmandu is concerned, air pollution varies depending upon the time of the day.

Pollution level during early mornings and evenings in Kathmandu shoots up dramatically, while it decreased in the afternoons. Also, Kathmandu tends to choke on pollution during winter months.

According to Shankar Prasad Poudel, senior divisional chemist at the Department of Education, the government is monitoring 30 brick kilns of the Valley to analyse their contribution to air pollution in the Valley.

The ongoing road-widening driving and Melamchi pipeline laying work to have been contributing to the Capial’s air pollution.

Source: Lumbini chokes as pollution levels cross safe limits – National – The Kathmandu Post

Posted in Air Quality, Asia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red alert: Medellin air pollution kills 6 times more people than guns

Breathing in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, has become such a health hazard that the local government on Wednesday declared a red alert.

The red alert seeks to lower smog levels that reportedly cost eight lives a day, more than six times the number of daily homicides in the city.

Medellin lies in the Valley of Aburra and, with the arrival of the cloudy rainy season, has slowly become covered in a fatal smog, causing respiratory problems among many in the city.

According to a study by epidemiologist Elkin Martinez, last year some 3,000 people died of causes related to air pollution, or one every three hours.

So far this year, the city declared an orange alert four times, but to no effect. With the arrival of the rainy season, the administration of Mayor Federico Gutierrez was forced to raise this to red.

The red alert allows the government to issue special decrees, banning heavy transport during peak hours.

Additionally, schools were told to stop all physical and outdoor activity to prevent the city’s children from breathing in too much poisonous air.

According to Gutierrez, the number of cars in the city has doubled since 2005, while the number of motorcycles grew a staggering 511% since that year, saturating the city’s ability to rid itself of the poisonous exhumes.

The mayor announced he would be preparing measures to eventually rid the city of small, privately-run buses that often use turbo chargers to be able to enter the neighborhoods located on the steep slopes of the Aburra valley.

In order to lower the current pollution level, the mayoral decree seeks an immediate reduction of 30%, or 450,000 vehicles, of the city’s motorized traffic.

The city had already asked state-run oil company Ecopetrol to deliver cleaner fuel and is now asking the national government to force the oil company to improve the quality of refined gasoline.

The red alert is expected to last at least until Saturday.

Source: Red alert: Medellin air pollution kills 6 times more people than guns

Posted in Air Quality, Latin America | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Here are some of the world’s worst cities for air quality 

Trying to get away from airborne ammonia? Don’t linger in Lagos or Delhi. If you’re bent on avoiding ozone, you might want to add Beijing, Karachi, and Los Angeles to your list. These are some of the cities with the world’s worst air quality, according to a new analysis of four major gasses associated with air pollution: ammonia, formic acid, methanol, and ozone. The findings could help scientists better understand how geography and other local conditions play a role in determining air quality.

“It is critical to better understand what is contributing to air pollution … to protect growing populations from negative public health impacts,” says Miriam Marlier, an environmental scientist at Columbia University not involved in the study.

Poor air quality can lead to a host of health problems, including respiratory and cardiovascular disease. But measuring air quality is hard: Many cities—especially those in developing countries—lack the ground- and aircraft-based sensors and the trained personnel to repeatedly monitor conditions over large areas.

So Karen Cady-Pereira, a remote sensing scientist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, an environmental consulting firm in Lexington, Massachusetts, decided to use a satellite to study air pollution above 18 of the world’s “megacities,” metropolitan areas with 10 million or more people. Since 2013, she and her team have measured levels of ammonia, formic acid, methanol, and ozone with an instrument called the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer aboard NASA’s Aura satellite, which studies Earth’s atmosphere. Aura passes over each megacity every 16 days at approximately the same local time. That’s an important point, since air quality varies over the course of a day. Observations are also collected under the same atmospheric conditions, which means that data across cities can be accurately compared.

The team has found that Karachi, Pakistan, holds the world’s title for ozone. Of the nearly 300 measurements collected over 1 year, roughly a third exceeded what the researchers considered a “harmful” threshold for ozone, which can lead to smog. Ozone is high in other cities as well. But when it comes to ammonia, a gas that helps form airborne particles that can trigger lung disease, some cities stand out: Kolkata, India, exceeds the “harmful” threshold 47.1% of the time, Dhaka, Bangladesh, exceeds it 51.6% of the time, and Delhi exceeds it 73.5% of the time. Ammonia, which comes from livestock excrement and fertilizer, is more common in cities surrounded by lots of agricultural activity.

But the researchers are only just beginning to analyze their results, and they’re continuing to collect data on the other gases. So far, they’ve come to one conclusion: that biomass burning, including forest fires, trash burning, and agricultural crop clearing using fire, is responsible for a seasonal uptick in harmful gases in Lagos, Nigeria, and Mexico City, they plan to report in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

The team also found that levels of ozone, ammonia, methanol, and formic acid—higher levels of which are associated with poorer air quality—all increased above Mexico City every year between March and June. That’s prime time for burning cropland to clear it for planting. Data from their study supports a link. One extreme pollution event in early May 2013 coincided with fires burning to the southwest of the city. Lagos, which has far higher levels of all four gases than Mexico City, is a booming metropolis grappling with an unreliable electrical grid and limited options for waste disposal. “Anybody who can afford it has a diesel generator, which is extremely polluting,” Cady-Pereira says. “And people burn a lot of trash just to get rid of it.”

Geography also plays a role. In Mexico City, mountains to the city’s north, east, and west act like a natural barricade against gases and particles from distant fires. In Lagos, intense sunlight near the equator drives reactions that produce ozone. Furthermore, sea breezes that repeatedly blow in and out above the coastal city trap pollutants.

Cady-Pereira and her team are looking for more patterns in their growing data set. Among those they’re currently exploring: unusually high levels of ammonia above Buenos Aires. She says that the large meat-slaughtering industry there may be the culprit. “[These maps] bring up a lot of things we could explore in more depth,” Cady-Pereira says.

Source: Here are some of the world’s worst cities for air quality | Science | AAAS

Posted in Africa, Air Quality, Asia, China, India, Latin America, Mexico, USA & Canada, World News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Renault and Jeep diesel cars are ‘biggest culprits for toxic fumes’, Which? car tests show 

More than 270 diesel cars were tested to find out which have the highest emissions

Diesel cars made by Renault and Jeep are the biggest culprits emitting the most toxic fumes into Britain’s air, according to a study by Which?

Cars from leading manufacturers around the world were tested by the consumer group for their levels of deadly nitrogen oxide emissions.

The results showed huge variations across the industry with Which? warning that car makers have “a long way to go” in reducing toxic gases from their models.

Thousands of people in London die every year as a result of particulate pollution which is caused largely by diesel engines, leading Mayor Sadiq Khan to introduce a new T-charge from October.

Earlier this year pollution in the capital hit the highest “black alert” with calls to keep children inside buildings to avoid the health risks of breathing toxic air.

Which? analysed 278 diesel cars from car manufacturers around the world over four years between 2012 and 2016.

The consumer group tested the cars’ average nitrogen oxide emissions alongside official Euro 5 and Euro 6 limits, directives from the European Union which define how much gas exhausts can emit.

The results showed Nissan’s emission levels were average while the 33 BMW and BMW-owned Mini cars in the experiment had some of the lowest emissions for diesel vehicles.

But Jeep produced some of the highest emissions, with the two cars which were tested emitting on average nine and a half times the Euro 5 limit.

All 16 Renault cars which were tested had nitrogen oxide emissions four times higher for Euro 5 and nine times above Euro 6 limits.

poll1a.jpg

But the watchdog found that despite the alarmingly high emission rates among some manufacturers, modern diesel cars are overall “cleaner than ever”.

Which? magazine editor Richard Headland said: “While our tests show that some car manufacturers are making progress on reducing the amount of toxic emissions from their models, many have a long way to go in cleaning up their act.

“We hope that the improved official tests being brought in later this year will more clearly name and shame those manufacturers that are failing to meet their obligation to lower emissions.”

The official Euro 5 limit is set at 0.18g/km and 0.08g/km for Euro 6.

pollutionprotest1012a.jpg

Which? is still continuing to test VW Group cars, which include VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda, but the ones they have tested already had “some of the lowest measured NOx averages”.

A Renault spokeswoman said all Renault and Dacia vehicles conform to the current standards, adding: “Groupe Renault (the brands Renault and Dacia) has been aware that there remains significant potential for improvement regarding the release of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in real use conditions.

“Since mid-2015, Groupe Renault has committed to improve the performance of its anti-pollution systems with the objective of reducing the gap between real driving emissions and standards based emissions.

“As a result, Groupe Renault has defined a range of actions that have been applied gradually in the production of Diesel Euro 6b vehicles since July 2016.”

cyclistpollution2501a.jpg

“Furthermore, customers who have already taken delivery of a Diesel Euro 6b vehicle will soon be able to benefit from these actions, free of charge, by booking a service with a Groupe Renault dealer. A letter detailing this is in the process of being sent to these customers.”

“Specifically in Europe, all our vehicles sold in Europe meet the Euro 5/6 emission standards. This report, which looks at the variation between lab and ‘real world’ conditions, shows significant variances for most brands tested.”

Jeep was contacted for comment.

Source: Renault and Jeep diesel cars are ‘biggest culprits for toxic fumes’, Which? car tests show | London Evening Standard

Posted in Air Quality, Europe, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter ozone problem returns to western Wyoming gas fields

Itchy eyes and scratchy throats blamed on high levels of wintertime ozone have returned to western Wyoming’s gas patch for the first time in six years, and so too has finger-pointing over who’s responsible for fouling the air.

The ozone results from atmospheric chemical reactions that occur in just the right mix of cold temperatures, sunlight, snow on the ground and air pollution.

The Upper Green River Basin is home to two of the largest onshore U.S. gas fields, the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline operated by Jonah Energy, QEP Resources and Ultra Petroleum. The companies have cut emissions of volatile organic compounds by almost 7,000 tons and nitrogen oxides by almost 2,000 tons since 2008, according to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

Those reductions in ozone-forming pollutants, coupled with a decline in drilling since last time ozone was a problem, leads John Robitaille with the Petroleum Association of Wyoming to suggest that other pollution sources, such as wood stoves, are to blame.

“We don’t currently know how many people were out warming up their vehicles for long periods of time in the mornings. There are multiple things going on out there that I think need to be looked at,” Robitaille said Monday.

The focus needs to remain on the gas industry, said Pinedale resident Elaine Crumpley with the group Citizens United for Responsible Energy Development.

“Industry has made some changes and that’s well and good. It isn’t, obviously, enough,” Crumpley said. “They have to come up with some solutions here.”

This winter, average ozone levels in the Upper Green River Basin exceeded the federal health-risk standard of 70 parts per billion for the first time since 2011. Eight-hour averages topped the standard on seven days — Jan. 18 and 19; Feb. 14, 15 and 17; and March 3 and 4 — though this year’s peak of 85 ppb was well below the 2011 high of 123 ppb.

Ozone above 100 ppb is more consistent with a big city with air pollution problems than a rural area known for migrating big game and a world-famous trout stream. Other gas-drilling hotspots in the West including Utah’s Uintah Basin have wintertime ozone problems.

This winter’s resurgence in Wyoming happened despite largely voluntary industry efforts in cooperation with state regulators, who declare “ozone action days” when forecasts call for ozone-forming conditions. Companies respond with steps including cutting back on nonessential truck traffic.

“We’ve been able to reduce the emissions that lead to ozone. And that’s a good step forward but we’re not done, we realize that. We’re still going to focus on this and try to curb those precursor emissions,” Wyoming DEQ spokesman Keith Guille said.

Snow cover helps ozone to form by reflecting sunlight back into the atmosphere. A record 15 inches or more of snow covered the basin through much of January and February.

Locals say they go cross-country skiing only to feel congested and wheezy, problems they can’t definitively connect to the ozone or a virus. But a cough that afflicted Pinedale resident Dave Hohl during the ozone six years ago was back again this winter, he said.

“I can’t be really sure that it was ozone,” said Hohl. “It seems like a little more than a coincidence.”

Source: Winter ozone problem returns to western Wyoming gas fields – San Francisco Chronicle

Posted in Air Quality, USA & Canada | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Four select committees launch joint inquiry into UK air pollution crisis 

MPs say unprecedented investigation will study harm caused by toxic air and scrutinise government efforts to tackle it

MPs from four influential committees are coming together to launch a joint inquiry into the scale and impact of the UK’s air pollution crisis.

In an unusual development, the environmental audit committee, environment, food and rural affairs committee, health committee and transport committee will hold four sessions to consider mounting scientific evidence on the health and environmental effects of toxic air.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, the health committee chair, said poor air quality was “affecting the health of millions of people across the UK”.

“Our joint inquiry will include an examination of the scale of the harm caused and the action necessary to tackle it,” she added.

Last month, the Guardian revealed the risk to children’s health posed by air pollution, identifying 802 educational institutions in London where pupils as young as three are exposed to illegal levels of air pollution.

The government says toxic air causes up to 50,000 early deaths – 9,000 of them in the capital – and costs the country £27.5bn each year.

The government’s own statistics show 38 out of 43 UK “air quality zones” breach legal limits for air pollution and last year the high court ruled ministers must cut the illegal levels of NO2 in dozens of towns and cities because their current policies to improve air quality were so poor they were unlawful.

The government has to announce its new plans before 24 April and the inquiry will examine whether these proposals go far enough to cut pollution “not only to meet legal limits but also to deliver maximum health and environmental benefits”.

Mary Creagh, chair of the environmental audit committee, said: “The UK courts have twice found that the government has failed to deal with our air pollution problem properly. Now ministers will face unprecedented scrutiny in parliament to ensure they finally step up to the mark to ensure adults, and children in particular, do not have their health damaged by filthy air.”

Much of the most dangerous pollution comes from diesel vehicles and there is growing pressure on the government to introduce a diesel scrappage scheme to encourage people to swap polluting diesel vehicles for cleaner alternatives.

Louise Ellman, chair of the transport committee, said the UK economy depends on an “efficient and flexible transport system” but added: “Emissions from vehicles are a significant problem and the standards that governments have relied on have not delivered the expected reductions. We will be asking what more can be done to increase the use of cleaner vehicles as well as to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport.”

Neil Parish, chair of the environment, food and rural affairs committee, said the joint inquiry was unprecedented.

“The solutions to cleaning up our air are not the responsibility of just one minister. That’s why we have taken the unprecedented task of convening four select committees so we can scrutinise the government’s efforts from every angle and look for holistic solutions that are good for health, transport and the environment.”

Source: Four select committees launch joint inquiry into UK air pollution crisis | Environment | The Guardian

Posted in Air Quality, Europe, UK | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment