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Air pollution linked to much greater risk of dementia Risk in over-50s increases by 40% where highest nitrogen oxide levels exist, study shows

Air pollution particles found in mothers’ placentas New research shows direct evidence that toxic air – already strongly linked to harm in unborn babies – travels through mothers’ bodies

Air pollution is ‘biggest environmental health risk’ in Europe Governments are failing to tackle the crisis that causes 1,000 early deaths a day, says damning EU report

Posted in Air Quality

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

Posted in Air Quality, Cycling, Respro® Mask Reviews, Respro® Products | Tagged , ,

Air Pollution in cities damaging insects and ecosystems

High levels of pollution found in many of the world’s major cities are having negative effects on plants and insects, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.

The study, published in Nature Communications, reveals that plants exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — similar to levels recorded in major urban centres — are able to better defend themselves against herbivorous insects.

Led by Dr Stuart Campbell from the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, the research has discovered that plants exposed to increased levels of pollution produce more defensive chemicals in their leaves.

Results from the study show that insects feeding on these leaves grew poorly, which suggests high levels of air pollution may be having cascading negative effects on communities of herbivorous creatures.

Dr Campbell, who is also part of the P3 Centre — a centre of excellence for translational plant science at the University of Sheffield, said: “Nitrogen dioxide is a pollutant that causes severe health problems in humans, but our research has found that it may also be having a significant impact on plants and insects.

“Insects are a crucial part of nature and the world we live in. Insects are critical to the healthy functioning of ecosystems.

“Many people may be aware that insect pollinators, such as the thousands of species of bees, along with flies, moths and butterflies, are crucial for food production — but they also ensure the long-term survival of wildflowers, shrubs and trees.”

Dr Campbell added: “Insects that feed on plants (herbivorous insects) help return plant nutrients to the soil, and are themselves food for wild birds, reptiles, mammals, and yet more insects. Insects are also immensely important for decomposing decaying organic matter and maintaining healthy soils. Scientists are warning about massive declines in insect numbers, which should be incredibly alarming to anyone who values the natural world and our sources of food.

“Nitrogen dioxide is a major component of smog and is an example of pollution caused from human activity, particularly our reliance on fossil fuels. Levels of this pollutant in the atmosphere remain particularly high in cities, and especially in the UK. Our research shows another example of the dangers of pollution to our environments and the reasons why we need to make a united effort to tackle it.”

The international team of scientists, which includes a researcher now based at the US Environmental Protection Agency, also looked at whether insects have an effect on the ability of plants to absorb NO2 from the environment.

Plants that had been fed on by insects absorbed much less NO2, according to the study. The authors believe this indicates that insects could be influencing the amount of pollution removed from the air by urban green spaces. Urban trees can absorb gaseous pollutants like NO2, but the effects appear to vary between species and locations, and this may be due in part to the actions of leaf-feeding insects. Dr Campbell emphasised, however, that the primary concern would be for the insects themselves, and that further research is needed: “Research suggests that urban vegetation plays a modest role in taking up NO2. More work is needed, because many factors may influence the effect of urban plants on air quality, including herbivory. Plant feeding insects, however, face a number of different human threats, potentially including air pollution.”

The study, Plant defences mediate interactions between herbivory and the direct foliar uptake of atmospheric reactive nitrogen, is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences is a leading department for whole organism biology, with the UK’s highest concentration of animal and plant researchers.

It is among the top five animal and plant research centres in the country for research excellence, according to the last Research Excellence Framework in 2014.

Animal and plant scientists at Sheffield study in locations from the Polar Regions to the tropics, at scales from within cells up to entire ecosystems. Their research aims both to understand the fundamental processes that drive biological systems and to solve pressing environmental problems.

via Pollution in cities damaging insects and ecosystems — ScienceDaily

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12 stations flash red pollution alerts in central, southern Taiwan

taiwanDue to poor diffusion conditions and an accumulation of pollutants, the air quality in central and southern Taiwan is still poor with harmful levels of pollution reported in 30 air quality monitoring stations, 12 of which are flashing red alerts.

As of 9 a.m. this morning, Taiwan’s Air Quality Monitoring Network is reporting harmful levels of pollution across much of western Taiwan, with more than half of the air quality monitoring stations flashing orange and red alerts for high levels of PM 2.5 concentration.

The 12 stations which have flashed a red alert are  Mailiao, Chiayi, Xinying, Annan, Tainan, Qiaotou, Fengshan, Renwu, Zuoying, Qianjin, Shanhua, and Qianzhen.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that the lack of wind in the early morning has led to an accumulations of pollutants. In the afternoon northeastern winds are expected to increase, possibly bringing in more pollution from neighboring countries.

Northern Taiwan may see orange alerts within a short period of time. As diffusion conditions remain poor, southern and central Taiwan will likely continue to see red alerts throughout the day. The EPA predicts that red alerts will continue to be seen in Yunlin, Chiayi and Tainan counties, while orange alerts will be seen in central Taiwan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Matsu, Kinmen, and Penghu. Other parts of Taiwan should see moderate to good air.

In response to the poor air quality in Yunlin, Chiayi, and Tainan, Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) has instructed the coal-fired Taichung power plant to reduce power generation from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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via 12 stations flash red pollution alerts i… | Taiwan News

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Small-particle air pollution may raise glaucoma risk in some

In people who already have a genetic vulnerability, small-particle air pollution known as black carbon may raise the risk of developing glaucoma, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that in older men with genetic variations that made them especially susceptible to oxidative stress, long-term exposure to black carbon, a pollutant linked to vehicle emissions and other products of combustion, was associated with higher pressures in the eye, according to the study published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

“Oftentimes, when we think about glaucoma we think about risk factors like age and genetic predisposition and we don’t think about the environment,” said the study’s lead author, Jamaji Nwanaji-Enwerem, an MD/PhD candidate at the Harvard Medical School in Boston. “But one thing we’re starting to appreciate more is how the environment impacts health outcomes.”

One area in which there hasn’t been a lot of research is the impact of the environment on eye disease, Nwanaji-Enwerem said. So, he and his colleagues decided to look at the effect of the tiny particles of black carbon, which are smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter and can penetrate deep into the lungs, and from there, into the bloodstream.

The researchers analyzed data from 419 older men from the Boston area who had been participating since the 1960s in a larger U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs aging study. They came in for health exams every three to five years after joining the study and as part of those exams intraocular pressure was measured.

Glaucoma, which can eventually result in blindness if not treated, is most often caused by high intraocular pressure, or high fluid pressure within the eye.

“When eye pressure is too high, it causes damage to the optic nerve, the cable that connects our eyes to the brain and visual pathways,” explained Dr. Christopher Starr, an ophthalmologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, who was not involved in the new research. “If you lose cells in that nerve, you lose vision. It usually starts with peripheral vision loss and as time goes on you lose more and more.”

For the study, Nwanaji-Enwerem’s team determined the men’s pollution exposure using a modeling program that included black carbon levels gleaned from 83 monitoring sites and weather data.

The researchers then analyzed the pollution results along with each man’s eye pressure readings and a host of other health and lifestyle factors, including BMI, smoking status, heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes.

Overall, they found no link between pollution and eye pressure. But when they looked just at men who had certain gene versions that made them vulnerable to oxidative stress, the researchers found an association between higher pollution levels and a slight increase in eye pressure.

While interesting, the new study’s findings will need to be duplicated, Starr noted, adding that even if proven, the effects seen in this study are small. “They may not even be clinically significant in the context of glaucoma,” he said.

The differences in intraocular pressure might have been more striking if the men in the study had lived in a place that had high levels of black carbon pollution, Starr said.

While it’s clear that family history can raise your risk for glaucoma, studies of other possible variables have been mixed, said Dr. Julia Polat, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the new research.

“When patients ask, ‘what can I do to modify my risk?’ unfortunately I don’t have a lot of definitive information to give them,” Polat said. “I tell them to eat healthy, exercise and stop smoking, not necessarily because it will help with glaucoma, but because these changes can make them healthier overall.”

Glaucoma is especially insidious because it generally develops with no symptoms, Starr said. That’s why people should be getting their pressures checked on a regular basis, he added.

“One of the ironic things, if you look at global surveys in almost all societies and cultures vision is by far what people cherish and value most,” Starr said. “And yet, people see their GP for yearly checkups, but don’t see an eye doctor regularly.”

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2JNqelK and https://bit.ly/2FlnQnE JAMA Ophthalmology, online November 8, 2018.

via Small-particle air pollution may raise glaucoma risk in some – Business Insider

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Pollutionwatch: fireworks increase UK air pollution for several days

Guy Fawkes events caused five days of particle pollution problems, reaching maximum levels in several locations

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This year, Guy Fawkes events caused five days of particle pollution problems. Fireworks caused increased air pollution on Friday and Saturday evening across the eastern half of England, including London, Southampton and Hull. On Sunday firework smoke was measured across northern England, Coventry and Chesterfield, and in Derry in Northern Ireland. On Bonfire Night itself particle pollution reached the maximum level of 10 on the UK air pollution scale in Chesterfield, Leeds, Sheffield, Stockton-on-Tees and York, and lingered overnight to cause further problems the next day.

In India, Diwali fireworks have been implicated in the severe smogs that affect the Delhi region each year. In 2016, the Indian capital was enveloped in a severe smog for more than a week after Diwali, leading to a ban on firework sales that has split public opinion. This year the courts have relaxed the rules to allow the sale of less polluting “green” fireworks that produce less smoke and do not contain metals such as lead and mercury. This may help, but it will not cure Delhi’s chronic post-monsoon smogs, which are mainly caused by burning of rice stubble in the surrounding region. So, in addition to firework restrictions, there is a clear need for alternative ways to clear crops to improve the air quality breathed by more than 63 million people in the area.

via Pollutionwatch: fireworks increase UK air pollution for several days | Environment | The Guardian

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Air pollution skyrockets to hazardous levels in India

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Toxic clouds descended upon New Delhi on Thursday, forcing residents indoors and posing significant health concerns. The lethal smog came just hours after celebrations to mark Diwali, the Hindu “festival of the lights.”

Commemorating the triumph of good over evil, the holiday happens every fall — but this year the atmosphere threw a wrench in the plan. The city of more than 18 million awoke Thursday morning to a shroud of hazardous haze, spurred by construction activity and vehicle emissions and exacerbated by fireworks detonated the night before.

The air pollution soared to 20 times safe levels.

Delhi

For the second year in a row, India’s 31-member Supreme Court banned the sale of most fireworks leading up to the festivities. Only “green” fireworks were to be sold, a prohibition that extended to online merchants — including Amazon. The court also set a fixed time, from 8 to 10 p.m., for them to be set off.

Despite the strict regulations, poor enforcement may have been inevitable in a city so large. Residents continued to ignite fireworks after midnight while donning face masks and coughing up ashen soot. Last year, New Delhi’s chief minister likened the debacle to a “gas chamber,” according to The Guardian.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is based on the concentrations of five air pollutants: ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. The latter describes fine particles in the air between 2.5 and 10 microns across, roughly 1/28th the diameter of a strand of human hair.

AQI values lower than 50 are considered good. When they exceed 100, they are considered to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” Big concerns come around 150-200. Anything over 300 is deemed “hazardous.” New Delhi’s AQI hit about 1,000 in the early morning hours Thursday, the worst conditions found just south of Safdarjung Airport.

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A weather balloon launched from the hub at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night shows a strong inversion present just a thousand feet above the surface. This layer of warm air acted as a “ceiling” to the atmosphere, trapping all pollutants below. The smoke can’t rise, so it becomes penned. It’s like leaving a vehicle idling with your garage door shut. The consequences can be deadly.

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Particulate matter can come from natural sources — like dust storms in the Sahara — but is a more common byproduct of vehicle emissions, construction and “dirty combustion.” Its concentrations proved to be less during the daytime as the inversion lifted and allowed the air to mix out. Other gases — like ozone — feed off sunlight and reach their highest levels in the early afternoon.

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This is the third year consecutive data has been collected to show an alarming spike following Diwali. Pollution levels have historically tripled or quadrupled overnight, making Diwali peak date of the year for pollution.

India is infamous for its pollution, rivaling China as the greatest polluter of greenhouse gases and particulate matter by gross domestic product. A 2015 study warned that nearly half of all New Delhi schoolchildren would develop irreversible lung damage before reaching adulthood.

This latest pollution episode comes 10 days after the World Health Organization released a report concluding that 93 percent of children worldwide breath toxic air daily. The chilling findings link the toxic gases we release to “lower cognitive test outcomes,” compromised “mental and motor development” and issues with “neurodevelopment.”

via Air pollution skyrockets to hazardous levels in India – The Washington Post

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World’s Worst Air Pollution Spikes as Indians Go Firecracker Crazy

diwaliAir pollution levels skyrocketed in New Delhi and left India’s capital shrouded in toxic smog as millions of Indians set off firecrackers on Wednesday evening for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

The air quality index, or AQI, hit 980 at 4:30 a.m. Thursday, according to website AirVisual, which monitors air pollution around the world. The levels surged as people violated an order of the Supreme Court and burst firecrackers before and after a two-hour window set for the purpose. Readings below 50 are considered safe, while anything above 300 is considered hazardous.

The air quality is just about as bad as it was in 2017 a day after Diwali, when levels exceeded 1,000, roughly ten times worse than the air pollution in Beijing. The levels on Thursday came down from their peak, with the gauge reading 622 as of 6:30 a.m. The smog last year led the capital’s chief minister to declare his city had become a “gas chamber.”

Toxic air is estimated to kill more than 1 million Indians each year, according to the nonprofit Health Effects Institute.

New Delhi was ranked the most polluted city in the world on Thursday, according to AirVisual’s global rankings. Lahore in Pakistan was at second place with AQI at 273 as of 8 a.m. local time. By comparison, New York had readings of just 29 as of 10 p.m. on Wednesday local time.

With different air quality monitors showing varied readings across the capital, it was still clear that New Delhi’s air was the worst in the world. Levels of dangerous PM 2.5 — the fine, inhalable particles that lodge deep in the lungs, where they can enter the bloodstream — were pushing close to 1,400 in some parts of the Indian capital early on Thursday morning, according to a website run by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, a government agency.

Burning Crops

Delhi’s air pollution is a toxic mix of vehicular exhaust, smoke from burning crops in the nearby states of Punjab and Haryana, road dust and billowing sand from thousands of construction sites. The pollution is intensified by winter weather patterns and hemmed in by the towering Himalayas to the north.

Severe air pollution — which has been linked to serious ailments including lung cancer and heart disease — affects dozens of cities across South Asia.

Nearby Lahore, over the border in the Pakistani province of Punjab, has been one of the worst affected in recent weeks as agricultural crop burning intensified. Afghanistan’s Kabul and Nepal’s Kathmandu have also been near the top of the pollution rankings.

India alone, according to the World Health Organization’s 2016 rankings, accounted for the world’s 10 most-polluted cities as measured by PM 2.5.

The Lancet estimates that 6.5 million people die annually around the world because of air pollution, mostly in India and China.

via World’s Worst Air Pollution Spikes as Indians Go Firecracker Crazy – Bloomberg

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The when, where and what of air pollutant exposure

Scientists have linked air pollution with many health conditions including asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and premature death. Among air pollutants, fine particulate matter is especially harmful because the tiny particles (diameter of 2.5 ?m or less) can penetrate deep within the lungs. Now, researchers have integrated data from multiple sources to determine the personal exposure of people in peri-urban India to fine particulate matter. They report their results in Environmental Science & Technology.

According to the World Health Organization, 11 of the 12 cities with the world’s highest levels of fine particulate matter are located in India. Human sources of these air pollutants include factory emissions, car exhaust and cooking stoves. Countries with limited resources often have increased air pollution compared with other countries, and their sources of exposure are likely different. However, few studies have been conducted to measure personal exposure to air pollutants in these regions. Cathryn Tonne and colleagues wondered if they could use a combination of techniques to measure the contributions of time (when?), location (where?) and people’s activities (what?) to personal exposure to fine particulates in peri-urban India.

The team characterized the personal exposures of 50 study participants in South India over several 24-hour periods. To do so, they integrated data from GPS devices, wearable cameras, questionnaires, and ambient and personal measurements of fine particulate matter. The researchers found significant differences between men and women, with men showing higher levels of personal exposure throughout the day. For women, exposures were mostly related to cooking. For the men, who largely did not engage in cooking, higher exposures were linked to their presence near food preparation, smoking or industry.

The authors acknowledge funding from the European Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.

via The when, where and what of air pollutant exposure — ScienceDaily

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Air pollution linked to autism

The study of children in Shanghai, from birth to three years, found that exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) from vehicle exhausts, industrial emissions and other sources of outdoor pollution increased the risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by up to 78%. The study included 124 ASD children and 1240 healthy children (as control) in stages over a nine-year period, examining the association between air pollution and ASD.

The study, published today in Environment International, is first to examine the effects of long-term exposure of air pollution on ASD during the early life of children in a developing country, adding to previous studies that have already linked prenatal air pollution exposure to ASD in children.

“The causes of autism are complex and not fully understood, but environmental factors are increasingly recognised in addition to genetic and other factors,” Associate Professor Guo said.

“The developing brains of young children are more vulnerable to toxic exposures in the environment and several studies have suggested this could impact brain function and the immune system. These effects could explain the strong link we found between exposure to air pollutants and ASD, but further research is needed to explore the associations between air pollution and mental health more broadly.”

Air pollution is a major public concern and is estimated to cause up to 4.2 million deaths (WHO) every year globally. Outdoor pollutants contribute to a high burden of disease and pre-mature deaths in countries including China and India, especially in densely populated areas.

Even in Australia where concentrations are typically lower, air pollution from burning fossil fuels and industrial processes causes about 3,000 premature deaths a year — almost three times the national road toll and costing the economy up to $24 billion.

Associate Professor Yuming Guo, from Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, says global air pollution is rapidly becoming worse and there is no safe level of exposure.

“The serious health effects of air pollution are well-documented, suggesting there is no safe level of exposure. Even exposure to very small amounts of fine particulate matter have been linked to preterm births, delayed learning, and a range of serious health conditions, including heart disease.”

The study examined the health effects of three types of particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5, PM10) — fine airborne particles that are the byproducts of emissions from factories, vehicular pollution, construction activities and road dust. The smaller the airborne particles, the more capable they are of penetrating the lungs and entering the bloodstream causing a range of serious health conditions.

PM1 is the smallest in particle size but few studies have been done on PM1 globally and agencies are yet to set safety standards for it.

“Despite the fact that smaller particles are more harmful, there is no global standard or policy for PM1 air pollution.”

“Given that PM1 accounts for about 80% of PM2.5 pollution in China alone, further studies on its health effects and toxicology are needed to inform policy makers to develop standards for the control of PM1 air pollution in the future.”

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Materials provided by Monash University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

via Air pollution linked to autism — ScienceDaily

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