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One million premature deaths linked to ozone air pollution Scientists at the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) have released new figures showing long-term exposure to ozone air pollution is linked to one million premature deaths per year due to respiratory diseases – more than double previous estimates.

Air pollution ‘nearly as bad’ for baby as smoking during pregnancy AIR pollution can lead to babies being born with shorter bodies and smaller heads, according to Scottish research which found that high exposure to toxic fumes during pregnancy is nearly as harmful as smoking.

Air pollution deaths expected to rise because of climate change New research predicts that air pollution worsened by climate change will cost tens of thousands of lives if changes are not made.

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Timaru to clear the air: Council brings in burner ban 

A plan to tackle air pollution in Canterbury has been approved by the regional council, but councillors say it will not be fining people straight away.

It includes a ban on log burners more than 15 years old in Timaru.

The council’s Canterbury Air Plan said some areas suffer from poor air quality, partly because of the burning of wood and coal. In 2016 the World Health Organisation found that Timaru had the worst air pollution in Oceania.

About 100 Timaru residents met Environment Minister Nick Smith earlier this week to voice their concerns about the ban, with many saying their log burners are not responsible for poor air quality.

But councillor Peter Scott said the council would not be immediately fining people who do not replace their old burners.

“We’re not going to chase people, we’re not going to come down hard on people.

“We know that it is an issue, it’s an issue in terms of the people in Timaru – how soon they can put those burners into those houses – and we know that is taking a long time.

“There’s a lot of burners to be replaced down there, between 2000 and 3000 possibly.”

Councillor Peter Skelton told today’s meeting the plan has been worked on for several years, and has gone through a substantial review process.

The plan, and the log burner ban, comes into effect at the end of next month.

Source: Timaru to clear the air: Council brings in burner ban | Radio New Zealand News

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Air pollution: A threat to your heart and longevity? 

New research links “safe” levels of air pollution to premature death.

Every day, you inhale thousands of gallons of air — mostly nitrogen, oxygen, and a smattering of other gases. But that air also contains tiny particles spewed from power plants, industrial factories, and vehicles. These pollutants can trigger heart attacks, strokes, and irregular heart rhythms, especially in people who already have or who are at risk for heart disease.

And even though the air we breathe is much cleaner today than it was in the 1970s, there’s still room for improvement. In fact, a major Harvard study recently found that air pollution kills thousands of people in the United States each year, even at pollution levels currently allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (see “Something in the air: Regulating pollution”).

“If we cleaned up the air even more, we could prolong people’s lives,” says Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, where the study (and an editorial he co-authored) was published on June 29, 2017.

Something in the air: Regulating pollution

In 1970, the Clean Air Act was amended to institute National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which set exposure limits for six major air pollutants. Most comes from car and truck exhaust, power plants, refineries, and other industrial factories. Wildfires and wood-burning stoves also contribute to air pollution.

From a health standpoint, the most worrisome pollutants are tiny soot particles that are so small that 100 could sit side-by-side across the period at the end of this sentence and still have room for more. They are called particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers, or PM2.5 for short. Ground-level ozone, which forms when gas pollutants react with heat and sunlight, is also a concern.

The current NAAQS for particle pollutants, last updated in 2012, set the yearly average level of PM2.5 at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. In 2015, the ozone standard was set at 70 parts per billion (ppb), but the study described in the main text used a cutoff of 50 ppb.

Air pollution’s deadly toll

The study included data from nearly all of the nation’s Medicare recipients — some 60 million people, all ages 65 or older. Using information from federal air monitoring stations and satellites, researchers compiled a detailed picture of air pollution levels, pinpointing areas down to individual ZIP codes. They then analyzed the impact of very low levels of air pollution on death rates.

The results suggest that lowering the levels of tiny particulate matter (known as PM2.5) nationwide by just one microgram per cubic meter of air below current standards could save as many as 12,000 lives each year, the researchers concluded. Similarly, lowering ozone levels by just one part per billion nationwide could save an estimated 1,900 lives each year.

While the researchers didn’t report the causes of death, cardiovascular disease accounts for one of every three deaths in this country. And there’s a clear, established biological link between air pollution and heart disease, notes Dr. Drazen. Fine particles pass through the lungs into the circulation, activating immune cells called macrophages. These cells are intimately involved in the creation of artery-clogging plaque, which interferes with blood flow, potentially triggering a heart attack or stroke, says Dr. Drazen, who is also a professor of environmental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The evidence is strong enough that the American Heart Association has advocated for measures that lower Americans’ exposure to air pollution and for more research on the impact of air pollution on public health.

Steps toward solutions

To limit your exposure to air pollution, avoid exercising outdoors near busy roads or industrial areas. Older people and those with asthma or other lung conditions may want to keep tabs on the local air quality index, a color-coded scale for pollution levels that’s often reported by local news outlets; you can also find it at http://www.epa.gov/airnow.

In addition, you can take steps to reduce pollution by bicycling or walking instead of driving when possible, and by purchasing a hybrid or electric car, says Dr. Drazen. Another suggestion: choose nonpolluting renewable energy from your local electricity supplier — an option that’s available many places in the United States. “If we all work together to support legislation that helps clean up the air, that will be in everyone’s best interest,” says Dr. Drazen.

Invisible but audible: Noise pollution hazards

Trains, planes, and automobiles generate not only air pollution, but also a lot of noise. A number of studies suggest that chronic exposure to environmental noise — such as traffic and aircraft noise — may raise blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular events. A 2015 report in Environmental Research that pooled findings from 10 studies suggested that every 10-decibel (dB) increase in noise above that of an average conversation noise level (50 dB) might slightly raise a person’s risk of heart disease. The cumulative effect of excess noise may increase stress hormones and may also disrupt sleep, both of which can contribute to heart disease, experts say.

Source: Air pollution: A threat to your heart and longevity? – Harvard Health

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Korea has worst air of advanced economies, report shows

Korea has the worst air quality of any advanced country, with its fine dust level soaring over the past 17 years, according to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report released Sunday.

The report shows Korea had the worst level 12 times over the period with a fine dust level of 32 micrograms per cubic meter in 2015, compared with a 13.7 micrograms average for the OECD countries.

The fine dust exposure level refers to ultrafine particles or particle matter in one cubic meter of air.

Poland was second worst, with 23.4 micrometers, which is 8.6 micrometers lower than Korea.

At the other end of the scale, Iceland and Norway recorded 2.9 and 4.4 micrometers respectively as clean countries, the report said. The countries recorded low level of ultrafine particles, reflecting a significantly high level of reliance on renewable energy.

Iceland is 88.5 percent reliant on renewable energy and Norway is 44.6 percent. Korea figure is just 1.5 percent.

President Moon Jae-in pledged in August to expand the development and use of clean energy technologies, replacing aging coal and nuclear power plants by 2030.

The ministry will no longer give licenses to build or operate coal plants.

Source: Korea has worst air of advanced economies, report shows

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5,000 deaths annually from dieselgate in Europe 

Excess emissions from diesel cars cause about 5,000 premature deaths annually across Europe, a new study shows.

Since the late 1990s the share of diesel cars in the EU has risen to around 50% in the fleet, with important variations between countries. There are now more than 100 million diesel cars running in Europe, twice as many as in the rest of the world together. Their NOx emissions are however 4 to 7 times higher on the road than in official certification tests. Modern engine controls have been optimized by manufacturers for the specific laboratory testing but underperform in real-driving. In this new study, researchers at IIASA and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute have calculated the premature deaths from these excess NOx emissions for the population in all European countries.

Health effect estimates           
About 425,000 premature deaths annually are associated with the current levels of air pollution in EU28, Norway and Switzerland. More than 90% of these premature deaths are caused by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases related to exposure to fine particulate matter. NOx is a key precursor to this fine particulate matter. This new study estimates that roughly 10,000 premature deaths annually can be attributed to NOx emissions from diesel cars, vans and light commercial vehicles. About half–around 5,000 premature deaths annually–are due to NOx emissions being much higher than limit values in real-world driving. Petrol cars have much lower emissions.

“If diesel car emissions were as low as petrol car emissions, three quarters or about 7,500 premature deaths could have been avoided” says IIASA researcher Jens Borken-Kleefeld.

The countries with the highest number of premature deaths attributable to fine particles from diesel cars, vans and light commercial vehicles are Italy, Germany and France. That is because of both their large populations and a high share of diesel cars. However, the risk per capita is almost twice as high in Italy as in France.

Number of premature deaths due to excess NOx emissions from diesel cars, vans and light commercial vehicles in Europe (left column). Almost 50% could be have been avoided if diesel emission limits had been respected on the road (center column). Almost 80% could have been avoided had diesel cars emitted no more NOx than petrol cars (right column).

“This reflects the very adverse pollution situation, particularly in highly populated Northern Italy”, says research leader Jan Eiof Jonson from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. The lowest risks are in Norway, Finland and Cyprus where risks are at least fourteen times lower than the EU28+ average.

The researchers note that is not the very first calculation of health impacts for Europe. Notably the Nature paper came up with about 7,000 premature deaths due to excess NOx from LDDV. Their results were discussed and reported widely, but there was less focus on results in Europe, which are presented in detail in the new study. 

The study was conducted by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in cooperation with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, and the Dept. Space, Earth & Environment at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. In this study the Norwegian Meteorological Institute has calculated the pollutant concentrations and depositions based on NOx emissions from LDDVs from different countries and model years provided by IIASA. IIASA has also made the health effect calculations.

This map shows the concentration of fine particulate matter due to excess NOx emissions from diesel cars, vans and light commercial vehicles across Europe. Blue colours indicate low concentrations, orange and red indicates high extra pollution. Unit: microgram PM2.5 per cubic metre, annual average 2013. © Jonson et al 2017

Source: 5,000 deaths annually from dieselgate in Europe – 2017 – IIASA

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North China moves to fight winter air pollution 

Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei have rolled out measures to fight air pollution as the most heavily polluted season, winter, is coming.

The port city of Tianjin will restrict production in heavily polluting industries, including steel, casting, construction materials and coking, according to a local government action plan to curb air pollution during the four-month central heating season that usually starts on November 15.

Steel output will be slashed by half, it said.

Data showed that pollutants from the burning of coal increase by 30 percent during winter, said Yang Yong, an official with Tianjin Environmental Protection Bureau.

Without output limits, one of the most effective ways to reducing pollution, the amount of pollutants would exceed the environmental capacity, said Yang.

Most of the industries affected are suffering from overcapacity and the limits would not lead to a marked shortage of supply, he said.

Hebei, home to several of cities in China’s top 10 most polluted, has issued similar measures for heavily polluting industries.

The province is also ordering its rural regions near Beijing to use electricity and natural gas to replace burning coal, a major cause of smog in winter.

In Beijing, developers will even be banned from land auctions if three or more of their projects are found to be failing to control dust.

The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region sits at the heart of the North China Plain where air pollution, particularly winter smog, often occurs as a result of the high concentration of industrial and vehicle emissions, limited air circulation and the burning of coal.

Local governments are taking harsher measures to fight air pollution with more residents increasingly worried about the health impacts, particularly of PM2.5, airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter.

China has set a target to reduce the level of PM 2.5 pollution by at least 15 percent in the cities around the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region between October 2017 and March 2018.

Source: North China moves to fight winter air pollution – Xinhua | English.news.cn

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Dodgy diesel emissions kill 5000 a year in Europe

The test-dodging tricks of some diesel car manufacturers result in extra pollution that is responsible for around 5000 premature deaths a year, according to a new study.

A smoggy haze hangs over Warsaw. Credit: GALLO IMAGES / GETTY

About 5000 people across Europe die prematurely every year because of discrepancies between certification tests and real-world driving conditions for diesel vehicles.

That’s the disturbing conclusion arising from a study by scientists from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (NMI), Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

The finding is the latest to emerge from separate research teams that have all established that diesel vehicle emissions standards are engineered to meet exacting laboratory test standards rather than authentic driving conditions.

As a result, diesel engine contributions to air pollution are much higher – in some cases, the latest study finds, up to seven times higher – than their official certification states.

And this discrepancy, the scientists report, costs thousands of lives each year.

The research, led by the NMI’s Jan Eiof Jonson, found that air pollution in Europe accounts for 425,000 premature deaths every year. Most of these deaths are through respiratory and cardiovascular failure caused by exposure to fine particulate matter – of which various nitrogen oxides (known collectively as NOx) are a key precursor and the principle pollutant emitted by diesel engines.

Nitrogen oxides from diesel engines are responsible for 10,000 premature deaths every year – but Jonson and colleagues found that roughly half of these were caused by the discrepancy between claimed and actual emissions.

Vehicles in this category are emitting way above the maximum legal limits, but are permitted to do so because their certified emission levels fall beneath the threshold in highly artificial test conditions.

Although over-emitters are being driven across Europe, the particulate matter density differs from region to region. The study found it was at its worst in Germany and Italy.

“This reflects the very adverse pollution situation, particularly in highly populated northern Italy,” says Jonson.

Diesel-powered vehicles are increasingly popular, but especially so in the EU, which is now home to more than 100 million of them – twice as many as the rest of the rest of the world put together.

Ironically, the petrol-driven vehicles they are replacing are, in the matter of NOx emissions at least, much less toxic.

“If diesel car emissions were as low as petrol car emissions, three quarters, or about 7,500, premature deaths could have been avoided,” says co-author Jens Borken-Kleefeld.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, adds detail to findings from previous research into NOx emissions and diesel vehicles.

Notably, in the journal Nature in 2016, a team led by Susan Anenberg of Environmental Health Analytics in Washington DC, US, found that one-third of heavy diesel vehicles and half of light ones in 11 markets across the globe exceeded emissions certification limits.

The geographic markets covered by Anenberg’s team accounted for about 80% of annual sales of new diesel vehicles.

The scientists calculated that if lab-test emissions limits were effectively enforced in the real world then diesel-related NOx emissions could be nearly eliminated.

If this was done, they calculated, approximately 174,000 premature deaths could be avoided in the year 2040.

Source: Dodgy diesel emissions kill 5000 a year in Europe | Cosmos

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Air pollution in Barcelona rises by 48% on public transport strike days, study reveals

Air quality in the Spanish city of Barcelona deteriorates by as much as 48% during public transport strikes, researchers have found. The study found that alterations in public transport could trigger a rise in the number of private vehicle trips, which in turn increases air pollution levels.

The study was undertaken by Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), working. with the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC). They studied changes in air pollution concentrations during strikes affecting public transport in the city of Barcelona. The researchers say their findings clearly indicate the important role-played by public transport services in curbing urban air pollution in the city.

Their study was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

The researchers measured daily levels of various pollutants – including nitrogen monoxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5 and PM1),black carbon (BC) and carbon monoxide (CO) – on the 208 days between 2005 and 2016 where public transport stoppages were caused by strikes on the city’s underground, rail and bus system.

On days when the public transport system in Barcelona was affected by strike action, the researchers found a mean daily and citywide rise in air pollution levels ranging from 4% in the case of NO2, and to 8% in the case of NO compared to days when the system was running normally.

Stoppages affecting the underground metro system had the greatest influence on air quality. The researchers suggest this is probably because the metro is the most used mode of public transport in the city. On days when the metro service was interrupted, increases in mean daily levels ranged from 8% for (PM 10) to 48% for nitrogen monoxide.

Xavier Basagaña, ISGlobal researcher and co-author of the study, said: “These findings highlight the essential role played by public transport in curbing high levels of urban air pollution. Almost half of all inter-urban trips to and from Barcelona are still made in a private vehicle, so there is an ample margin for increasing public transport use and improving air quality.”

Xavier Querol, a researcher at IDAEA-CSIC and co-author of the study, said: “The increases were detected above all in pollutants emitted mainly by cars (black carbon, nitrogen monoxide, carbon monoxide) and less in those produced by other sources as well as road traffic.”

According to data published by Barcelona’s city council, some 73% of daily trips in the city are internal. Of these, more than half are made on foot or by bicycle, with 29% on public transport and 14% in private vehicles. Of the other 27%, which are trips made to and from other towns, 3% are made on foot or by bicycle, 50% on public transport and 47% in a private vehicle.

Source: Air pollution in Barcelona rises by 48% on public transport

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People of color exposed to more pollution from cars, trucks, power plants over 10 years

A new nationwide study finds that the U.S. made little progress from 2000 to 2010 in reducing relative disparities between people of color and whites in exposure to harmful air pollution emitted by cars, trucks and other combustion sources.

The groundbreaking study led by University of Washington researchers estimated exposure to outdoor concentrations of a transportation-related pollutant — nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — in both 2000 and 2010, based on neighborhoods where people live. It found disparities in NO2 exposure were larger by race and ethnicity than by income, age or education, and that those inequities persisted across the decade.

While absolute differences in exposure to the air pollutant dropped noticeably during that time period for all populations, the relative difference — or the gap between pollution levels to which white people and people of color were exposed — narrowed only a little.

The study will be published Sept. 14 Environmental Health Perspectives. The researchers developed a first-of-its-kind model that combines satellite and regulatory measurements with land use data to predict pollution at a neighborhood level throughout the United States.

The positive news is that across the U.S., average exposure to NO2 for all races and income levels dropped from 2000 to 2010. Measured in parts per billion (ppb), estimated average annual NO2 exposure decreased from 17.6 to 10.7 ppb for nonwhite populations, and from 12.6 to 7.8 ppb for white populations.

Yet people of color were consistently exposed to more air pollution than their white non-Hispanic counterparts during the decade. Considering relative differences, nonwhites experienced 40 percent higher exposures than whites in 2000; in 2010, that gap shrunk only slightly, to 37 percent. Furthermore, in 2000, concentrations of NO2 in neighborhoods with the highest proportion of nonwhite residents were 2.5 times higher than in neighborhoods with the lowest proportion of nonwhite residents. In 2010, that value increased slightly, to 2.7 times higher.

The study concludes that if people of color had breathed the lower NO2 levels experienced by whites in 2010, it would have prevented an estimated 5,000 premature deaths from heart disease among the nonwhite group.

“The finding that shocks us is that when it comes to how much NO2 a person breathes, it’s still race that matters,” said senior author Julian Marshall, UW professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“At any income level — low to medium to high — there’s a persistent gap by race, which is completely indefensible. It says a lot about how segregated neighborhoods still are and how things are segregated,” Marshall said.

NO2 comes from sources such as vehicle exhaust, power plants and off-road equipment and is one of six important “criteria air pollutants” monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency. It has been linked to asthma symptoms, increased susceptibility to respiratory problems and heart disease.

The research team, which began their work at the University of Minnesota, previously analyzed NO2 concentrations for the year 2006 by race, income and other demographic factors identified in the U.S. Census. The team’s air pollution model, which combines existing EPA air quality monitoring and satellite data with detailed land use information, allows them to accurately predict pollution concentrations across the country at the U.S. Census block level — information previously unavailable at that scale.

In this first longitudinal study of its kind, researchers wanted to examine how much progress was made in addressing inequities in NO2 exposure over a decade. They compared environmental injustice metrics in 2000 and 2010 on a national basis and by region, state, county and urban areas.

On the whole, researchers said, policies to reduce NO2 air pollution are working. But the finding that exposure differences are larger by race and ethnicity than by income, age or education was equally true in 2010 as in 2000.

“Everyone benefited from clean air regulations and less pollution; that’s the good news,” said lead author and UW civil and environmental engineering doctoral student Lara Clark. “But the fact that there is a pervasive gap in exposure to NO2 by race — and that the relative gap was more or less preserved over a decade — is the bad news.”

The UW study did not explore the underlying reasons for that gap, but its findings are consistent with previous research. Both racial minorities and low-income households are disproportionately likely to live near a major road where transportation-related pollution is typically highest. U.S. cities, in general, also tend to be more segregated by race and ethnicity than by income.

The UW team did conclude that the narrowing of the racial gap in NO2 exposures was driven more by improving air quality than by demographic changes over the 10-year period.

“That suggests that air pollution is coming down faster than cities are becoming less segregated,” Marshall said.

Next steps for the research team include looking at how changes in demographics, industry and urban form at the city level affect NO2 exposure, and developing similar models for other EPA criteria air pollutants.

Source: People of color exposed to more pollution from cars, trucks, power plants over 10 years | EurekAlert! Science News

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