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Smog engulfs Indian capital as winter pollution worsens

Thick smog engulfed India’s capital New Delhi on Tuesday as air pollution worsened with the setting in of winter, shooting up concentrations of fine particles in the air three times above the acceptable limits.

The world’s most polluted capital city struggles to breathe easy every winter as cold temperatures and calm winds trap pollutants closer to the ground.

“As the minimum temperature is dropping, gradual fog occurrence during early morning hours is likely to increase, leading to deterioration of air quality index (AQI),” said the federal government’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) in a daily bulletin.

The AQI in parts of the city shot up above 400 on Tuesday, which is classified as the ‘severe’ category of air pollution, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The level of fine particles measuring 2.5 micrograms or PM2.5 was 180 micrograms per cubic metre of air as of 10am in the Delhi National Capital Region, CPCB data showed, three times above the 24 hour acceptable limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Authorities have brought in several measures over the years to improve the city’s air quality, including switching Delhi’s fleet of public transport to cleaner fuel, spraying water from on top of towers and on roads and controlling burning of firewood and waste during cold weather.

But experts have said these measures need to be applied across northern India and in cities and towns around New Delhi that form the wider National Capital Region, which also suffer from poor air quality, to effectively control pollution.

Smog engulfs Indian capital as winter pollution worsens | Reuters
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Air pollution killed 238,000 Europeans prematurely in 2020: EU watchdog

Fine particle air pollution led to 238,000 premature deaths in the European Union in 2020, the bloc’s environmental watchdog said Thursday, a slight rise from the previous year. At the same time, the overall rate for EU countries in 2020 was 45 percent lower than in 2005, the agency said, noting that “if this rate of decline is maintained, the EU will reach [its] zero pollution action plan target before 2030.”

Across the 27-nation bloc that year, “exposure to concentrations of fine particulate matter above the 2021 World Health Organization guideline level resulted in 238,000 premature deaths,” the European Environment Agency said in a new report.

That was slightly more than those recorded in 2019 in the EU, despite a fall in emissions due to Covid curbs.

Fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, is a term for fine particulates that are typically the by-product of car exhausts or coal-fired power plants.

Their tiny size enables them to travel deep into the respiratory tract, worsening the risk of bronchitis, asthma and lung disease.

Also in 2020, exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) above the WHO’s recommended threshold led to 49,000 premature deaths in the EU, the EEA said.

Acute exposure to ozone (O3) caused 24,000 people to die early.

“When comparing 2020 to 2019, the number of premature deaths attributable to air pollution increased for PM2.5 but decreased for NO2 and O3,” the agency said.

“For PM 2.5, falls in concentrations were counteracted by an increase in deaths due to the pandemic.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the deaths of some people already living with diseases related to air pollution.

The EU wants to slash premature deaths related to fine particulate matter pollution by 55 percent in 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

Overall, the rate for EU countries in 2020 was 45 percent lower than in 2005, the agency said.

“If this rate of decline is maintained, the EU will reach the aforementioned zero pollution action plan target before 2030.”

According to the WHO, air pollution causes seven million premature deaths per year worldwide, putting it on par with smoking or poor diets.

Air pollution killed 238,000 Europeans prematurely in 2020: EU watchdog
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Polish city top’s global air pollution ranking as winter smog sets in

The Polish city of Kraków has topped a global air pollution ranking today, with Warsaw and Wrocław also in the top ten, after a cold snap prompted homeowners to burn more coal and other substances for heating, which is the main cause of Poland’s smog.

Poland – where coal generates 70% of electricity and heats around one third of households – is regularly found to have some of Europe’s worst air pollution, resulting in tens of thousands of premature deaths annually.

There have been concerns that this winter could be even worse than usual as the energy crisis may lead to the burning of lower-quality coal and to more people than usual burning illegal materials, such as household waste.

While the autumn has been relatively warm so far, since the middle of last week temperatures have dropped below zero. That has resulted in the level of harmful air particulates caused by home heating rising significantly.

The live air quality map produced by Airly – which uses sensors across Europe – shows Poland, and in particular the south of the country, as a red and purple spot in the middle of a mostly green continent.

This morning, another air-monitoring firm, IQAir, showed that Kraków had the world’s most polluted air among major cities while Warsaw was in seventh place and Wrocław in tenth.

Although Kraków has taken major steps to tackle its air pollution – including banning the burning of coal and wood – settlements in its immediate surroundings do not have such measures in place.

Yesterday, residents of Rybnik and Zabrze, two cities in Poland’s coal heartlands of Silesia, received SMS warnings from the Government Security Centre to “avoid outdoor activities” because harmful air quality levels were forecast. Local authorities also issued air quality warnings in a number of other municipalities.

Monitors in Zabrze this morning showed that the level of PM10 – a harmful type of airborne particulate – was 154 µg/m3, which is around three times the statutory maximum safe level in Poland of 50µg/m3 (with the World Health Organisation recommending a maximum of 45µg/m3).

Meanwhile in Kraków, the level of PM2.5 – another type of particulate – was 800% above the maximum safe level and in Warsaw it was 400% above it, reports news website Wirtualna Polska.

Polish city top’s global air pollution ranking as winter smog sets in | Notes From Poland
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Air Pollution with particulate matter about 2.5 micron increases lung damage

A new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association shows that sulfate, ammonium, and nitrate elements of Particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) were linked to the most damage and were associated with baseline severity, illness progression, and death among patients with fibrotic interstitial lung diseases (fILDs), underscoring the need for reductions in pollution from human sources.

Particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 m or less is linked to poor outcomes for people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, but its links to other fibrotic interstitial lung conditions and the composition of PM2.5 are yet unknown. As a result, Gillian Goobie and colleagues carried out this study to look at the relationship between fILD patients’ exposure to PM2.5 and their mortality and lung function.

Patients in this worldwide multicenter, prospective cohort research were enrolled in the Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease Registry at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh; 42 sites of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Registry; and 8 sites of the Canadian Registry for Pulmonary Fibrosis. A total of 6683 individuals with fILD were enrolled in the study. The data was examined from June 1, 2021 to August 2, 2022. PM2.5 and constituent exposure was calculated using hybrid models that used satellite-derived aerosol optical depth, chemical transport models, and ground-based PM2.5 observations.

The key findings of this study were:

1. The median follow-up across the three groups was 2.9 years, with 28% of patients dying and 10% undergoing lung transplantation.

2. The cohort included 3653 men, 205 Black people, and 5609 White people.

3. The median age at enrolment was 66 years across all cohorts.

4. A hazard ratio for death of 4.40 was found in the Simmons cohort, 1.71 in the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation cohort, and 1.45 in the Canadian Registry for Pulmonary Fibrosis cohort.

5. Higher exposure to sulfate, nitrate, and ammonium PM2.5 components was related with higher mortality across all cohorts, and multi-constituent models revealed that these constituents were associated with the most unfavorable mortality outcomes.

6. Meta-analyses indicated consistent relationships between sulfate and ammonium exposure and mortality, as well as the rate of decline in forced vital capacity and carbon monoxide diffusion capacity, and a link between rising levels of PM2.5 multi-constituent mixture and all outcomes.

Air Pollution with particulate matter about 2.5 micron increases lung damage: JAMA
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Low levels of air pollution deadlier than previously thought: Study suggests fine particulate matter causes an additional 1.5 million premature deaths annually

Study suggests fine particulate matter causes an additional 1.5 million premature deaths annually

The World Health Organization’s most recent estimates (2016) are that over 4.2 million people die prematurely each year due to long-term exposure to fine particulate outdoor air pollution (often referred to as PM2.5,). A recent study involving McGill researchers now suggests that the annual global death toll from outdoor PM2.5 may be significantly higher than previously thought. That’s because the researchers found that mortality risk was increased even at very low levels of outdoor PM2.5, ones which had not previously been recognized as being potentially deadly. These microscopic toxins cause a range of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancers.

“We found that outdoor PM2.5 may be responsible for as many as 1.5 million additional deaths around the globe each year because of effects at very-low concentrations that were not previously appreciated,” said Scott Weichenthal, an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health at McGill University and the lead author on the recent paper in Science Advances.

Canadian data advances global understanding of effects of outdoor pollution

The researchers arrived at this conclusion by combining health and mortality data for seven million Canadians gathered over a twenty-five-year period with information about the levels of outdoor PM2.5 concentrations across the country. Canada is a country with low levels of outdoor PM2.5, making it the perfect place to study health impacts at low concentrations. Knowledge gained in Canada was then used to update the lower end of the scale that is used to describe how mortality risk changes with outdoor PM2.5 levels. The result? An improved understanding of how air pollution impacts health on a global scale.

The WHO recently set out ambitious new guidelines for annual average outdoor fine particulate air pollution, cutting its earlier recommendations in half, from concentrations of 10 to concentrations of 5 micrograms (ug) per cubic metre. The current United States Environmental Protection Agency standard of 12 (ug) per cubic metre is now more than double the value recommended by the WHO.”

One take away is that the global health benefits of meeting the new WHO guideline are likely much larger than previously assumed,” adds Weichenthal. “The next steps are to stop focussing only on particle mass and start looking more closely at particle composition because some particles are likely more harmful than others. If we can gain a better understanding of this, it may allow us to be much more efficient in designing regulatory interventions to improve population health.”

Story Source:Materials provided by McGill University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Low levels of air pollution deadlier than previously thought: Study suggests fine particulate matter causes an additional 1.5 million premature deaths annually — ScienceDaily
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Iran: Air pollution kills over 20,000 people a year

Air pollution in Iran has killed 20,800 people during 2021, an official announced yesterday.

“Iran recorded 20,800 deaths last year due to air pollution-related diseases,” the head of Air Quality and Climate Change at Iran’s environment ministry, Abbas Shahsavani, told Etemadonline, adding that 6,400 of the cases were registered in the Iranian capital city of Tehran.

During 2020, Shahsavani pointed out, Iran had registered a total of “41,700 fatalities from air pollution, 3,751 of which were in Tehran.”

Environmental experts say air pollution in Tehran is caused by a lack of air ventilation, population density and old vehicles’ exhausts.

The announcement came as Iran’s state environment department chief, Ali Salajegheh, arrived in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh to participate in the COP27 UN climate summit, where world leaders are currently convening to discuss pressing environmental issues.

Iran: Air pollution kills over 20,000 people a year – Middle East Monitor
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Indian capital battles dangerous levels of air pollution

Indian authorities have shut factories and construction sites, restricted diesel-run vehicles and deployed water sprinklers and anti-smog guns to control haze and smog enveloping the skyline of the capital region.

The Delhi government closed primary schools and restricted outdoor activity for older students as the air quality index exceeded 470, considered “severe” and more than 10 times the global safety threshold, according to the state-run Central Pollution Control Board.

In NOIDA, short for New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, a city on the outskirts of New Delhi, many schools shifted to online classes to meet the public health crisis.

The haze enveloped monuments and high-rise buildings in and around New Delhi.

India’s environment minister Bhupender Yadav blamed the northern Punjab state, ruled by the opposition Aam Admi Party, for its failure to stop the burning of crop residues, a key contributor to the pollution, at the start of the winter wheat-sowing season.

“There is no doubt over who has turned Delhi into a gas chamber,” Mr Yadav tweeted.

The state’s top elected official, Bhagwant Mann, defended himself by saying that his government took office only six months ago and that the federal and state governments needed to tackle the pollution crisis together.

Sarvjeet Singh, a 48-year-old autorickshaw driver, said the smog was hurting his eyes and he was finding it difficult to breathe.

“There are problems, especially in the morning. It’s difficult to drive my vehicle because of the pollution. My autorickshaw is open. It will affect us more than people in cars. We have to work, what can we do?”

Rahul Azmera, 29, a software engineer who works in the United States and is visiting New Delhi with his parents, said: “I feel like if I stay here for one month, I would be hospitalised, definitely. That would scare me a lot.”

“I feel a lot of heavy breathing here because of the pollution. I could barely see up to 100 metres (328ft) or 200 metres (656ft),” he said.

A full closure of schools, colleges, educational institutions and non-emergency commercial activities, and a restriction on private vehicles, is being considered in case the pollution level does not come down this weekend, a government statement said late on Thursday.

The government advised children, the elderly and those with respiratory, cardiovascular and other health problems to avoid outdoor activities and stay indoors as much as possible.

New Delhi tops the list almost every year among the many Indian cities gasping for breath after the Diwali festival celebrations with their massive lighting of firecrackers.

The crisis is exacerbated particularly in the winter when the burning of crop residues in neighbouring states coincides with cooler temperatures that trap deadly smoke.

That smoke travels to New Delhi, leading to a surge in pollution in the city of more than 20 million people.

The government ban on construction and demolition activities includes projects such as motorways, roads, flyovers, overhead bridges, power transmission and pipelines.

The government also asked authorities in the Indian capital region covering New Delhi and parts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh states to decide whether to allow public, municipal and private offices to work at 50% strength and ask others to work from home.

The federal government is also considering whether to permit working from home for its offices.

It said the overall air quality in New Delhi is likely to remain in the “severe” or “very severe” categories until Saturday.

An Environment Ministry review will be held on Monday.

Emissions from industries with no pollution control technology and coal, which helps produce most of the country’s electricity, have been linked to bad air quality in other urban areas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the country will aim to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by 2070 – two decades after the US and at least 10 years later than China.

Indian capital battles dangerous levels of air pollution | Redditch Advertiser
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