Baby born in area with ‘dangerously polluted air’ every two minutes in UK, study finds

Every two minutes in the UK a baby is born in an area with “dangerously polluted air”, a study has found.

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WHO slashes guideline limits on air pollution from fossil fuels Level for the most damaging tiny particles is halved, reflecting new evidence of deadly harm

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Long-term exposure to air pollution linked to metabolic-associated fatty liver disease

Metabolic-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) is a growing global health challenge and poses a substantial economic burden. A large-scale epidemiologic study in China has identified links between long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and MAFLD. These links are exacerbated by unhealthy lifestyles and the presence of central obesity, report scientists in the Journal of Hepatology, the official journal of the European Association for the Study of the Liver, published by Elsevier.

The incidence of MAFLD has increased steadily since the 1980s, currently affecting a quarter of the global population and a majority of patients with adult-onset diabetes and poses a substantial global burden. In Asia, MAFLD increased to 40% between 2012 and 2017. Formerly known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), it may progress to end-stage liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, liver transplantation and liver-related death.

Accumulating animal studies have shown that breathing air pollutants may increase the risk of MAFLD. For instance, fine particulate matter exposure may trigger a nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)-like phenotype, impair hepatic glucose metabolism, and promote hepatic fibrogenesis.

“The MAFLD epidemic corresponds to environmental and lifestyle changes that have occurred alongside rapid industrialization worldwide, especially in many Asian countries. A growing number of studies have suggested that ambient air pollution, which is the biggest environmental problem caused by industrialization, may increase the risk of metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and dyslipidemia, and related diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome. However, epidemiologic evidence for the association was limited, so we conducted this research to improve our understanding of the effects of air pollution on human health and also to help reduce the burden of MAFLD.” – Xing Zhao, PhD, Lead Investigator, West China School of Public Health and West China Fourth Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Investigators conducted an epidemiologic study on the potential role of ambient air pollution in the risk of MAFLD in approximately 90,000 adults in China based on the baseline survey of the China Multi-Ethnic Cohort (CMEC), a prospective cohort that enrolled nearly 100,000 participants in southwest China from 2018 to 2019. The CMEC collected participant information including sociodemographics, lifestyle habits, and health-related history through verbal interviews performed by trained staff and subsequently assessed anthropometrics, biosamples (blood, urine, and saliva), and imaging data.

Researchers found that long-term exposure to ambient air pollution may increase the odds of MAFLD, especially in individuals who are male, smokers, and alcohol drinkers, and those who consume a high fat diet. Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors and an excess accumulation of fat in the abdominal area may exacerbate the harmful effects.

“Our findings add to the growing evidence of ambient pollution’s damaging effects on metabolic function and related organs,” commented Dr. Zhao and his co-investigators. “However, physical activity did not seem to modify the associations between air pollution and MAFLD. We suggest that future studies explore whether the timing, intensity, and form of physical activity can mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution.

The investigators propose that air pollution should be recognized as a modifiable risk factor for MAFLD. Populations at high risk should be aware of the air quality in the areas where they live and plan their activities to minimize their exposures to air pollution.

In an accompanying editorial, Massimo Colombo, MD, San Raffaele Hospital, Liver Center, Milan, Italy, and Robert Barouki, MD, PhD, University of Paris, Inserm Unit T3S, Paris, France, noted that the assessment of the major determinants of mortality worldwide by WHO showed that global pollution topped the list, ranking higher than smoking, alcohol consumption, and major infectious diseases, and that air pollution, the most critical component of global pollution, is likely to be responsible for millions of deaths per year worldwide.

“A better characterization of the liver exposome is expected to improve prevention and precautionary counseling,” commented Dr. Colombo and Dr. Barouki. “Indeed, whereas physical activity together with a healthy diet stand as a primary pillar in the fight against metabolic syndrome associated morbidities, including MAFLD, the findings that ambient pollution could exacerbate MAFLD risk might offer new clues to refining the counseling of these patients, for instance by restricting exposure of risk populations to open air settings at high level of pollution, as is recommended for patients suffering from severe asthma. It also constitutes an additional incentive for decision makers to speed up the efforts to conform with the WHO guidelines and limits on air pollution, as many cities in Europe and worldwide are still well above those limits.”

Long-term exposure to air pollution linked to metabolic-associated fatty liver disease
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Air pollution body to crack down on black carbon

A picture taken with a drone shows a farmer’s grass field burned in a controlled manner outside the town of Lellinge, south of Copenhagen, Denmark, 23 August 2021. EPA

The convention on air pollution is due to issue voluntary measures this week to curb black carbon emissions.

The convention on air pollution will be meeting from 6 to 8 December in Geneva, where it will adopt guidelines on how to reduce emissions from agricultural waste burning, including black carbon – a gas that is 680 times more heat trapping than CO2.

Since October 2019, 25 of the 51 pan-European parties to the air convention that have signed the amended Gothenburg Protocol– including Switzerland, the EU, the US and Canada – are legally required to reduce their fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions.

The measures, which are voluntary, are part of a growing shift of attention towards the need to bring down greenhouse gas emissions other than carbon dioxide in order to keep the world from warming up. Last week, the International Maritime Organization also agreed on non-binding measures to reduce black carbon emissions from the shipping industry in the Arctic.

What is black carbon and why does it need attention?

Black carbon, or soot, are tiny dark particles that rise from chimneys, wildfires and fossil fuel burning. As they go up in the atmosphere, they mix with water droplets and other elements, degrading air quality but also absorbing sunlight.

As a powerful heat trapping gas, studies suggest black carbon could also possibly be the second main driver of climate change right after CO2. Black carbon only stays a few weeks in the atmosphere, unlike CO2 which accumulates and remains in the air for decades, making the argument that slashing black carbon emissions would be a quick and easy fix to limit the rise in temperatures.

Agricultural waste burning and wildfires are the largest source of black carbon, making up roughly a third of emissions. However, practices such as open crop burning or forestry residue burning have long been viewed as a harmless and cheap way for farmers to clear land.

“In terms of CO2 emissions, agricultural residue burning was long considered essentially ‘carbon neutral’, because it was assumed the same amount of carbon lost to fire would be fixed by the subsequent year’s crop,” the report points out.

“As understanding of soil carbon cycles has grown, however, it has become clear to the vast majority of researchers that, due to loss of humus, soil structure and the soil itself, more carbon is lost from the soil annually than can be replaced by any subsequent crop.”

The deterioration of the soil can also have negative economic effects by causing nutrient loss and soil productivity, not to mention the impact on biodiversity, according to the document.

Among the issued guidelines, the air quality regulating body recommends that countries use fire-free alternatives, such as conservation agriculture, and chopping and spreading of the excess harvest residue or repurposing it off-field. These can in turn help build up climate resilience.

Air pollution body to crack down on black carbon – Geneva Solutions
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Air quality panel for Delhi issues new orders; edu institutions to be shut

In a new set of directions to prevent further deterioration of air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), the Centre’s air quality panel on Friday ordered shutting of educational institutions, allowing only online mode of education.

In a new set of directions to prevent further deterioration of air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), the Centre’s air quality panel on Friday ordered shutting of educational institutions, allowing only online mode of education.

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) also directed that industrial operations and processes in NCR, not running on Piped Natural Gas or other cleaner fuels, shall be allowed to operate only up to eight hours a day from Monday to Friday and shall not be allowed to run on weekends.

“All schools, colleges and educational institutions in the NCR shall remain closed, allowing only online mode of education, except for the purpose of conduct of examinations and laboratory practical,” the commission said.

It also said its earlier directions on industries shall continue. According to these directions, all industries in NCR, still using unapproved fuels, shall be closed by the respective governments with immediate effect. Also the NCR states and the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) shall enforce a strict ban on use of diesel generators, except for emergency services.

In its new directions, the commission also stopped the entry of trucks in Delhi, except the electric ones and those running on Compressed Natural Gas, besides trucks carrying essential commodities.

The commission directed that the chief secretaries of the respective states and the Delhi government shall ensure implementation of these directions.

“Strict enforcement of these directions as also the directions/orders issued by the commission from time to time since its inception shall be ensured by the respective agencies and implementation, compliance of the same shall be monitored by the chief secretaries of the respective state/GNCTD,” the commission’s order stated.

“In view of the compelling need to prevent further deterioration of environment and towards improvement of air quality in Delhi and NCR, the commission, in exercise of its powers conferred upon it (by)… the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Act 2021, directs that these measures shall be implemented with strict force with immediate effect, until further orders,” it read.

The CAQM, an executive body set up by the Ministry of Environment earlier this year to oversee measures to curb air pollution in the NCR, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, also constituted task forces for each of these states to implement, enforce, monitor and report compliance status of its orders. 

Air quality panel for Delhi issues new orders; edu institutions to be shut | Education – Hindustan Times

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As LA traffic slowed amid the pandemic, researchers gained new insight into air pollution

As coronavirus cases popped up across California in March 2020, the previously impossible happened in Los Angeles County: The region’s normally bumper-to-bumper traffic slowed by roughly 24%. Lucky drivers were now, suddenly, able to make it from Burbank to Santa Monica at rush hour on the 101 and 405 in less than 50 minutes.

A team of scientists led by CU Boulder are using the once-in-a-lifetime event to answer an unusual question: How much do vehicles in a city like Los Angeles add to the ammonia emissions that can hang in the air and sicken residents?

The group’s findings, published Nov. 23 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, may spell bad news for a region that loves its cars. Ammonia is a common pollutant that can react to form small particles in the air that are a major cause of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, especially in densely populated areas. The researchers show that city vehicles may spew a lot more of these molecules than state and federal agencies have believed.

The study is the first to explore how vehicles churn out ammonia across an entire urban center using satellites in space.

“The tricky question has always been: How do we separate out ammonia concentrations owing to traffic from the ammonia emitted from sources like agriculture?” said Daven Henze, a co-author of the new study and professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at CU Boulder. “Then the COVID lockdown suddenly provided us with a natural experiment.”

In other words, the pandemic gave the researchers an accidental before and after picture—with a smoggy, car-filled Los Angeles on one side and a clearer, relatively empty urban area on the other.

Henze and his colleagues took advantage of that situation by drawing on satellite images to track the ammonia concentrations in the air above Los Angeles before and during the lockdown of March 2020. The team discovered that cars may churn out as much as 95% of this harmful pollutant throughout the city at any one time.

“Our estimates for vehicle ammonia emissions are higher than federal and state inventories by a factor of two to five,” said Hansen Cao, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at CU Boulder.

Hidden chemical danger

The research sheds light on what may be an underappreciated pollutant: Molecules of ammonia, the odor you detect when you pass a smelly farm.

Henze explained that scientists have long known that agricultural operations, from corn fields to chicken farms, churn out huge amounts of this chemical. Once in the air, ammonia can mix with nitrogen oxides to form what researchers call “fine particulate matter.”

“Those emissions come from, to put it politely, the downstream processes,” Henze said. “The feedlots, poultry and swine manure—they all give off a lot of ammonia.”

There’s another source of that pollution, too: Your car’s tailpipe. Estimates suggest that ammonia emissions from vehicles can lead to roughly 15,000 premature deaths across the United States every year. Recent research has also hinted that those numbers may miss the real toll of urban pollution. 

Ammonia hotspots

Henze and his colleagues tapped data from two satellites, the United States’ Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership and Europe’s Sentinel-5 Precursor to further explore the ammonia question.

In early March 2020, the team spotted two clear hotspots for ammonia in the Los Angeles region—one above downtown L.A. and one just north of Riverside, California, a hub for livestock and agriculture. By the end of the month, the hotspot over downtown had all but disappeared as traffic petered out.

“I think we were almost surprised that we could see the downtown hotspot and the impact of the pandemic,” Henze said. “We weren’t just taking measurements at one road. We were looking at the entire urban area from space.”

That ultimate bird’s eye view paid off. The team calculated that vehicles produce at least 60% of the ammonia emissions in urban Los Angeles. Estimates from state and national regulators, in contrast, had pegged those numbers at less than 25%. Next, Cao said she and her colleagues want to apply the same techniques to explore the effects of the pandemic on the air above other cities.

The results could underscore the importance of regulating cars and their engines so that they churn out less of this dangerous pollutant, she said. 

“Vehicles can be the dominant sources of ammonia emissions over urban areas,” she said. “If we’re underestimating those emissions, then previous estimates of premature deaths owing to ammonia emissions might also be underestimated.”

As LA traffic slowed amid the pandemic, resea | EurekAlert!
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Health consequences of air pollution on populations

What are the health consequences of air pollution on populations?

Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a variety of adverse health outcomes. It increases the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease and lung cancer.  Both short and long term exposure to air pollutants have been associated with health impacts.  More severe impacts affect people who are already ill.  Children, the elderly and poor people are more susceptible.  The most health-harmful pollutants – closely associated with excessive premature mortality –  are fine PM2.5 particles that penetrate deep into lung passageways. 

What can citizens do to protect themselves?

Fighting air pollution is everybody’s responsibility. We all need to do more, a lot more. Swiftly and proactively to reduce air pollution. Concerted and coordinated efforts with active involvement of all the sectors is imperative. This includes the Government (national, state and local governments), cities, community at large and individuals.

To national governments: reduce emissions and set national standards that meet WHO air quality guidelines. Invest in research and education around clean air and pollution – they are an essential tool.

To cities and local communities: Public policies across sectors must factor in public health from the beginning, followed up with sufficient data and tools to assess them.

To individuals: Continue to stand up for your right to healthy and sustainable environments. Hold your governments accountable.  

All of us – in government, business, and individual – we are all accountable. Think and rethink, about the way you live and consume and make sustainable choices for yourself, your children and your children’s children.

What is particulate matter, or PM?

Particulate matter is the term for particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. Large concentrations of particulate matter are typically emitted by sources such as diesel vehicles and coal-fired power plants. Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) pose a health concern because they can be inhaled into and accumulate in the respiratory system. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are referred to as “fine” particles and pose the greatest health risks. Because of their small size (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair), fine particles can lodge deeply into the lungs.

What are some of the major sources or causes of ambient air pollution?

Major sources of ambient air pollution include inefficient modes of transport (polluting fuels and vehicles), inefficient combustion of household fuels for cooking, lighting and heating, coal-fired power plants, agriculture, and waste burning.

What can countries do to reduce air pollution?

Interventions to reduce air pollution include developing sustainable transport in cities; implementing solid waste management; providing access to clean household fuels and cookstoves; developing market for renewables energies and energy efficiency,  and implementing industrial emissions reductions.

How is WHO working with countries to reduce air pollution?  

WHO’s main function is to identify and monitor those air pollutants with the greatest impact on people’s health. This helps the WHO Member States to focus their actions on the most effective way to prevent, or reduce health risks. WHO’s task is to review and analyze the accumulated scientific evidence, and use expert advice to draw conclusions on how much different air pollutants affect health as well as identify effective measures to reduce the air pollution burden.  

WHO Member States adopted in 2015 a resolution to “address the adverse health effects of air pollution”. The following year, Member States agreed on a road map for “an enhanced global response to the adverse health effects of air pollution”. WHO is working on four pillars:

Expanding the knowledge base

Monitoring and reporting

Global leadership and coordination

Institutional capacity strengthening

Health consequences of air pollution on populations
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Lahore is again world’s most polluted city today

The capital of Punjab Lahore has been declared the most polluted city globally again. 

Lahore had an air quality ranking of 398, well over the hazardous level of 300, according to IQAir, the technology company that operates the AirVisual monitoring platform.

According to details, the worst quality of air was recorded in Gulberg as AQI reached 728, followed by Kot Lakhpat 652, Model Town 572, Thokar Niaz Baig 523 and DHA Phase 8 at 449.

Residents choking in acrid smog pleaded with officials to take action. Air pollution has worsened in Pakistan in recent years, as a mixture of low-grade diesel fumes, smoke from seasonal crop burn off, and colder winter temperatures coalesce into stagnant clouds of smog.

Lahore, a bustling megacity of more than 11 million people in Punjab province near the border with India, consistently ranks among the worst cities in the world for air pollution.

In recent years residents have built their own air purifiers and taken out lawsuits against government officials in desperate bids to clean the air — but authorities have been slow to act, blaming the smog on India or claiming the figures are exaggerated.

Lahore is again world’s most polluted city today – SUCH TV
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Pakistan orders three-day weekends in Lahore amid ‘deadly’ air pollution

Private offices and schools will close on Mondays in Lahore in a bid to tackle toxic levels of smog in the city.

Private offices and schools will stay closed on Mondays in Pakistan’s second-largest city in a bid to tackle toxic levels of smog. 

The measure will be in place until 15 January, after Lahore was this week declared the most polluted city in the world by an air quality monitor – with residents suffering from shortness of breath, stinging eyes and nausea from thick pollution.

Last week, an air quality index ranked Lahore at 348 for air pollution, much higher than the threshold at which pollution is considered hazardous. It has since been overtaken by Delhi, which was scored at 422.

Health effect

Diesel fumes, seasonal crop burning and colder winter temperatures have contributed to worsening air quality in Lahore.

Residents have been feeling that their city is harder and harder to live in, filing petitions against the government, according to The Guardian.

One resident, Abubaker Umer, felt compelled to send his elderly parents to another town because of their high sensitivity to air pollution – and his worsening skin allergy and throat irritation prompted him to stop going for walks. 

“When you open the window or step outside you see no sky. Smog is everywhere,” he said. 

He added: “People don’t even wear masks and they don’t know how deadly the weather is. They lack awareness but this is the responsibility of the government to share awareness and find solutions.”

Pulmonary doctor Aamir Iqbal confirmed Umer’s health fears, saying the smog is “making it very hard for people to breathe” and highlighting the damage it does to the throat, eyes and lungs.

While Pakistanis on average lose approximately two years of their lives to air pollution, Lahore residents lose more than five years of their lives because of it according to a report by the University of Chicago. 

UK found to have ‘consistently’ breached air pollution limits

Fawad Chaudhry, the information minister in Pakistan, has blamed previous local leaders for Lahore’s serious pollution problem. 

“We see Lahore engulfed by fog every winter due to the past rulers of the city, who had cut trees for erecting a jungle of concrete there which badly affected the green cover of Lahore and its surroundings,” he said last week. 

Earlier this year, the UK was found guilty of “systematically and persistently” breaching air pollution limits by the European Court of Justice – which Britain’s ministers want to scrap after Brexit.

The damning judgement came just months after a coroner found that Britain’s illegal levels of air pollution contributed to the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in south east London in 2013.

EU judges later found that the UK failed to follow through on a legal obligation to put in place adequate plans to tackle the growing problem of nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Nitrogen dioxide – or NO2 – is emitted by gas-heating boilers and cars; across Britain, the level of pollution exceeded the legal annual average limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air in 33 out of 43 air quality assessment zones in 2019.

Pakistan orders three-day weekends in Lahore amid ‘deadly’ air pollution
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