REVIEW: Respro® Ultralight™ Mask: Best cycle mask for hot conditions

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Respro® is the world leader in bike pollution mask sales, and while its masks might look a little sinister, their N99-rated filtering technology certainly does the job. The Ultralight is our favourite from Respro’s range: its mesh-like stretchy fabric keeps you cool when it’s hot and humid, and a double-valve filter makes it easy to breathe, even when you’re pedalling hard to get to the office on time. The Hepa Sport 2.5 PM filters on the Respro® Ultralight are replaceable, and you can buy specialised filters designed to reduce allergic reactions or eliminate bad smells.

by expertReviews

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Asian residents are exposed to nine times more air pollution than Americans or Europeans According to the World Health Organisation, about 88 percent of premature deaths in low- and middle-income countries in Asia can be attributed to air pollution.

Car cabin pollution scare prompts calls for new air conditioning rules Experts have called for the regulation of car air conditioning systems after new trials revealed that popular models are letting in dangerous amounts of pollution.

The dangers of smoke inhalation Smoke can irritate air passages, the skin and the eyes, leading to coughing and wheezing, breathlessness and chest pain. It can also exacerbate asthma and, in some cases, the pungent smell and air pollution can cause headaches, nausea and dizziness.

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Roman beekeepers study air pollution using honey

Italian beekeepers are working with the country’s Carabinieri police to learn more about the state of the air in the Eternal City.

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On the roof of a building in the heart of the capital that houses the Italian Federation of Beekeepers (FAI), 15 beehives are abuzz with activity.

“This is an experimental urban hive that we are using to collect data of scientific interest, in order for example to devise a plant biodiversity map of Rome,” FAI president Raffaele Cirone told AFP.

“However, we are also studying the adverse effects of being in the centre of a big city,” added Cirone, who is looking for the harmful residue of fine particles PM10 and PM2.5, heavy metals and micro-plastics.

Instruments measuring the number of fine particles in the air are placed a few steps away from the rooftop hives.

Data taken from the instruments will be compared with the honey produced in the hives, which is periodically removed and analysed by the scientists.

“The scientists will be able to better understand the movements of these particles, if and how much they rise from the ground and whether they settle,” Cirone said.

In total around a dozen roofs in the centre of Rome house the hives, including one at the top of a Carabinieri building.

The aim is to move towards a larger colony of high rise helpers, Davide De Laurentis, deputy Commander of the force’s forestry, environmental and agri-food unit, told AFP.

De Laurentis, who describes bees as “nature’s sentinels”, says that the initiative could be rolled out in other major Italian major cities that suffer from problems with pollution.

via Roman beekeepers study air pollution using honey — Italianmedia

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Tweets prove to be reliable indicator of air quality conditions during wildfires

tweetsprovetTweets originating in California during the state’s 2015 wildfire season suggest that social media can improve predictions of air quality impacts from smoke resulting from wildfires and have the potential to improve rescue and relief efforts, according to research by two USDA Forest Service scientists.

The study by Sonya Sachdeva of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Sarah McCaffrey of the Rocky Mountain Research Station, “Using Social Media to Predict Air Pollution during California Wildfires,” was recently published by the International Conference on Social Media & Society.

Whether it is caused by wildfire or prescribed fire, smoke can have serious health ramifications, including aggravating respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. In a previous study, Sachdeva looked at 700 tweets related to the King Fire in California and found that they were a reliable predictor of air quality related to that fire. In new research, Sachdeva and McCaffrey evaluated 39,000 tweets that included the names of the state’s most destructive wildfires of the 2015 season.

“With wildfire seasons becoming longer and more people living in fire-prone areas, smoke is becoming a greater public health concern,” Sachdeva said. “Models for predicting the extent and range of impact of smoke dispersion from wildfire events can be a critical tool in safeguarding public health, and we’re finding that information people share in social media has great potential for improving those models.”

Sachdeva and McCaffrey combined ground-based monitoring of fine particulate air pollution levels obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) AirData air quality database with a topic model mapping the content of citizens’ tweets. Tweets were geocoded so they could be associated with specific air quality monitoring stations. Tweets and air quality data were connected in time by using the date of the tweet and the daily fine particulate air pollution report by the EPA.

Twitter also offered insight into people’s perspective on wildfire. When people were near a fire, their tweets were often focused on the status of the firefighting effort, concern for firefighters, and the status of evacuation orders. Further away, people were interested in the cause of fire. The study suggested that social media could help predict air quality in remote areas that are not monitored for air quality, and that tweets could also have potential in linking people who need help with people who have the resources to offer assistance.

via Tweets prove to be reliable indicator of air quality conditions during wildfires

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Sadiq Khan triggers high pollution warning in London amid sweltering heatwave

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The sweltering heatwave gripping the UK has triggered a high pollution warning as forecasters predict the mercury could reach 37C by the end of the week.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he triggered the capital-wide warning for Thursday amid concerns over “extremely high” temperatures.

He added that it is only the second time this year that the high alert has been used.

An amber heat health watch warning is also in place for much of east and south-east England, with people being urged to try to stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.

Mr Khan said: “This week has seen London experience extremely high temperatures.

“The heat, combined with London’s toxic air, a lack of cloud cover and emissions travelling from the continent, means I am triggering a ‘high’ air pollution alert today, for tomorrow, under our comprehensive alert system.

“This is the second time in six months that we have had to use the ‘high’ alert system and shows just why air pollution is a public health crisis.”

Air quality alerts will be displayed at bus stops, river piers, on busy roads and at the entrances to London Underground stations.

In high pollution episodes, adults and children with lung problems and adults with heart problems should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors.

People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often, and older people should also reduce physical exertion.

Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.

Temperatures at set to peak at about 35C on Thursday before increasing to a possible 37C on Friday.

This would see the previous July record of 36.7C, recorded at Heathrow Airport on July 1, 2015, toppled.

Paul Gundersen, chief meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “The heatwave conditions will continue across much of England, with temperatures into the mid to high-30s Celsius in many places from the Midlands eastwards on Thursday and Friday and it’s possible that we could break the all-time UK record of 38.5C if conditions all come together.”

The all-time UK high pf 38.5C was set in August 2003.

Despite ever increasing temperatures, yellow weather alerts have been issued over fears of torrential downpours by the weekend.

Mr Gundersen added: “There is the chance of thunderstorms breaking out over some eastern parts of England on Thursday, but it is Friday when we see intense thunderstorms affecting many central and eastern areas.

“Whilst many places will remain dry and hot, the thunderstorms on Friday could lead to torrential downpours in places with as much as 30mm of rainfall in an hour and 60mm in 3 hours.

“Large hail and strong, gusty winds are also likely and combined could lead to difficult driving conditions as a result of spray and sudden flooding.”

via Sadiq Khan triggers high pollution warning in London amid sweltering heatwave | London Evening Standard

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Fire-choked Yosemite has dirtier air than Beijing

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A major wildfire burning on the western edge of Yosemite National Park has generated so much smoke that air pollution levels in Yosemite Valley are worse than in Beijing, one of the world’s most polluted cities.

At the height of summer tourist season, choking levels of soot have exceeded U.S. federal health standards in the valley — in some cases up to seven times higher than the recommended limit, and well above what is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “hazardous” for all people, even healthy adults, to breathe.

“I’ve never seen numbers this high, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” said Dave Conway, deputy officer for the Mariposa County Air Pollution Control District, on Monday.

The Ferguson fire began July 13. It has now burned an area larger than the city of San Francisco. And as flames ravage through brush and dead trees from California’s recent drought, the fire is generating an enormous amount of soot.

Air quality monitoring equipment at the Yosemite Visitor Center has registered particulate pollution in the valley every day since July 15 at levels at least twice the concentration measured by as the air monitor on top of the U.S. embassy in Beijing over the same time period. Last Wednesday, the peak particulate levels in Yosemite Valley were nearly five times as high as in China’s capital city — 518 vs. 106 micrograms per cubic meter of particulates in the air. The EPA classifies anything over 35 averaged over 24 hours to be unsafe.

What should visitors do?

“Go home,” said Conway. “I hate to be that blunt about it, but it is not going to be the experience they want and the air is going to be hazardous at times. If people have any known heart concerns, breathing concerns or if they have kids, people should avoid the park.”

Exposure to particle pollution can cause serious health problems, including asthma attacks, acute bronchitis and heart attacks. It also can increase the risk of respiratory infections.

In addition to an advisory from Mariposa County’s Health Department, the San Joaquin Valley air pollution control district issued an air quality alert last Tuesday for the foothills and mountain areas of Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, and Tulare counties due to the Ferguson fire.

On Monday Yosemite National Park remained open. But that could change.

Already, one of the main roads into the park, Highway 140, is closed, as is Glacier Point Road. Views of the Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and other landmarks are all but gone, and tourists in the valley increasingly are wearing bandannas and medical masks. Bike rentals and open tram tours have been limited, and restaurant hours are being cut back, said Scott Gediman, a Yosemite park spokesman.

“It’s summer in Yosemite,” Gediman said. “We have lots of international visitors. People have been planning their trips for months and years. But if people can make alternate plans they should consider that at this point.”

The fire jumped Highway 140 near El Portal on Friday afternoon and now is burning north toward Highway 120. If it keeps advancing and closes Highway 120 or Highway 41 in the south, Gediman said, that would leave only one road in and out of Yosemite Valley, a dangerous situation that he said could prompt officials to temporarily close the park for a few days, as they did in March for two days during flooding in Yosemite Valley.

On Monday afternoon, the fire was burning four miles from Yosemite’s Arch Rock entrance on Highway 140. It blackened steep terrain in the Stanislaus and Sierra national forests as temperatures neared 100 degrees. More than 3,000 firefighters battled the blaze, which was at 33,743 acres and only 13 percent contained.

Fire crews positioned engines around Yosemite View Lodge, Cedar Lodge — both of which were under mandatory evacuation — and other businesses near El Portal along Highway 140.

“I wish I could say it will be completely contained tomorrow, but I think we’ll be here for at least another week, maybe longer,” said Alex Olow, a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest.

In addition to 3,066 firefighters, there are 199 engines, 46 water tenders, 16 helicopters, 66 crews, and 43 bulldozers battling the blaze, which is the biggest fire around Yosemite since the massive Rim Fire burned 257,000 acres in 2013. Because of the remote terrain, with steep canyons and ridges in national forest land, no homes have burned, although some communities, including Yosemite West, are at risk.

One firefighter has died. Braden Varney, 36, a bulldozer operator for CalFire, died July 14 when his bulldozer rolled down a hill while he was cutting fire lines. Varney, a Mariposa resident who leaves behind a wife and two small children, was honored Monday at a ceremony in Modesto attended by firefighters from across California.

via Fire-choked Yosemite has dirtier air than Beijing

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China includes more cities in air pollution rankings to pressure local officials

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China extended monthly air quality rankings to 169 cities from 74, including in the high-pollution region of Shanxi-Shaanxi in the country’s northwest, adding pressure on local authorities as it intensifies its campaign against air pollution.

Cities in the Fenwei plains area of Shanxi, Shaanxi and Henan provinces, the Sichuan-Chongqing region and middle reaches of the Yangtze River were added to the previous rankings, which had focused mainly on 28 northern cities and provincial capitals known for their smog-filled skies.

“By including more cities in the ranking, it will strengthen public supervision on air pollution and urge local governments to adopt effective measures to improve air quality,” said the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) in a statement on Monday.

The country earlier this month expanded its anti-pollution fight to 82 cities across China in a long-awaited 2018-2020 pollution action plan published earlier this month.

The ranking system is part of an effort included in the anti-pollution action plan to pass pollution-control pressure over to local governments.

The MEE also said as part of the ranking that every month it will publish the 20 cities with the best air quality and the 20 cities with the worst pollution across the country.

Tangshan, top steelmaking city in Hebei province, was named as the worst place for air quality in the new list of 169 cities in June, according to the MEE. Coal-producing hub Linfen performed worst for the first half of the year.

Capital Beijing also appeared as one of the 20 worst offenders for air pollution in June, with its concentration of small particulate matter (PM2.5) jumping 14.3 percent from a year ago. This is the second month in a row for Beijing to be found as one of the nation’s most polluted cities.

On Friday, Tangshan started six weeks of production curbs at steel mills, coke producers and coal-fired power plants to deepen reductions in toxic emissions.

Average PM2.5 concentrations in 338 prefecture-level cities that are closely monitored by the central government were at 44 microgram per cubic meter in January-June this year, down 8.3 percent from same period last year but still above the national target of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

via China includes more cities in air pollution rankings to pressure local officials – Business Insider

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Allergies: Mugwort pollen as main source of airborne endotoxins

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This is a reflection electron microscope image of an Artemisia pollen. Credit: J. Buters / Technical University of Munich

A wide range of airborne substances can cause respiratory problems for asthma sufferers. These include bacteria and their components, which can trigger inflammations. How they become airborne has not been fully explained up to now. A science team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) has shown that pollen from the mugwort plant is the main vector for bacteria and that this combination renders the pollen more aggressive. This, however, is not the case in certain Alpine regions such as Davos.

Over a period of five years, the TUM team along with colleagues from CK-CARE (Christine Kühne — Center for Allergy Research and Education, Davos) took daily measurements of the air in Munich’s inner city and in the Alpine surrounds of Davos. Their two-fold task involved analyzing the different kinds of airborne plant pollen and measuring the concentration of endotoxins in the air. These chemical compounds, which are found on the surface of bacteria, can trigger inflammations in some people. Endotoxins are also released when bacteria die and disintegrate into their component parts.

Lower air pollution in Davos

When the scientists compared the pollen and bacterial constituents of the air in Munich with each other, they noticed a clear result: The volume of endotoxins in the air only ever increased if the pollen concentration of the mugwort plant also rose — regardless of climatic changes. Control measurements at the Alpine resort of Davos revealed significantly lower concentrations of pollen and endotoxins in the general air pollution. Even here, though, there was a clear correlation between mugwort pollen and the bacterial toxins.

Source of endotoxins identified

The two professors Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann and Jeroen Buters from TUM and HMGU oversaw the study. “We were able to demonstrate that the pollen acts as a ‘taxi’ for bacteria and thus also for their toxins. The pollen produced by mugwort, which is already aggressive enough, then becomes even more of a problem for allergy and asthma sufferers,” they explain.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is widely distributed throughout Europe and can grow up to two meters of height. Its pollen has long been recognized as a trigger for hay fever. The team also studied the bacterial growth on mugwort plants to narrow down the endotoxin type on the pollen. They discovered just one species of bacteria as the main source of the endotoxins: Pseudomonas luteola, which was present on 95 percent of the plants.

Bacteria magnify allergic effects of pollen

The research team was then able to confirm its findings with the help of a complex allergy model. They demonstrated that mugwort pollen together with small amounts of endotoxins from the identified bacterium triggered strong signs of inflammation in the respiratory tract. The same severe effects were not observed with lower doses of the endotoxin or with the endotoxin respectively the pollen by themselves.

“In the future, we will be able to indirectly use the pollen count to forecast very high levels of airborne endotoxin pollution. This will provide a useful warning for allergy and asthma sufferers,” explains Jose Oteros, lead author of the study, which has been published in the “Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.”

via Allergies: Mugwort pollen as main source of airborne endotoxins — ScienceDaily

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US national parks have just as much air pollution as major cities

Study finds that the air in areas such as Yosemite National Park isn’t as pristine as it seems.

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The air in US national parks contains just as much ozone pollution as the air in many of the country’s largest cities, according to a study1 published on 18 July in Science Advances.

The findings raise important health questions for people who visit the parks, says Ivan Rudik, an environmental economist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and a study co-author. That’s because exposure to ozone pollution can irritate the nose and throat, lead to chest pain or exacerbate conditions such as asthma2.

Ozone starts to form when nitrogen oxide gases — often emitted by cars — or particulates from coal-fired power plants combine with organic compounds given off by vegetation such as trees, Rudik explains. Sunlight reacts with this mixture to then produce ozone.

Rudik and his colleagues compared ozone levels in 33 national parks and in 20 of the largest US cities between 1990 and 2014. After controlling for weather and the season, the team found that pollution levels in the parks and cities were similar. In fact, before 2000, summer ozone levels in the parks increased before they started to drop. And even then, the decrease was modest when compared to the cities. The researchers aren’t sure what caused this pattern.

“That’s something I didn’t expect at all,” Rudik says. This is because an amendment to the Clean Air Act in 1970 generally resulted in cleaner air across the US, he explains.

Although the US National Park Service has tracked ozone levels over national parks since 2008, they didn’t comment on the study’s findings.

via US national parks have just as much air pollution as major cities

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