TOP STORIES

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 08.53.46Iraqi children pay high health cost of war-induced air pollution, study finds

Researchers identify exposure to toxic materials from explosion of munitions and burning of military waste by US army as cause of birth defects and cancers

forest-fire-california-browserHealth Risks from Wildfires in U.S. West to Increase Under Climate Change 

A surge in major wildfire events in the U.S. West as a consequence of climate change will expose tens of millions of Americans to high levels of air pollution in the coming decades, according to a new Yale-led study conducted with collaborators from Harvard.

Beijing Struck By SandstormCommonly Uses Cheap Cloth Mask Not Very Effective Against Air Pollution

A new study reveals that the cheap cloth masks, most commonly used in highly polluted areas in Asia and Southeast Asia, could not protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution.

 

Posted in Air Quality | Leave a comment

Now you can blame your snoring on traffic 

It’s been linked to everything from age to weight and smoking and booze. But research now suggests snoring – as well as tiredness – could be down to traffic pollution.

A study has shown those living close to busy roads or whose bedrooms are nearer highways are more likely to snore.

And the noise from vehicles rattling by is also believed to disrupt sleeping patterns, leaving us tired and restless.

The toxic gases and particles released by engines, particularly those powered by diesel, are said to be the cause.

A study of 12 000 people found 25 percent of men snored heavily at least three nights a week, with those exposed to traffic pollution being at the highest risk.

Around a quarter of woman admitted feeling sleepy during the day, which increased if exposed to traffic pollution.

Ane Johannessen, an epidemiologist at Bergen University in Norway, said: “We know that people exposed to secondary cigarette smoking are more likely to snore, so we wondered if the toxins from traffic pollution might also be linked to snoring.”

Men and women affected differently

Scientists at the university also discovered sexes were affected differently. Men who slept in bedrooms near to traffic-heavy roads, leaving them more exposed to airborne pollutants and noise had an increased chance of snoring. But women with similar sleeping arrangements were more susceptible to daytime sleepiness. The findings, based on data collected in cities across northern Europe, will be revealed to doctors and researchers at this week’s annual meeting in London of the European Respiratory Society.

Johannessen saidthe study showed how traffic pollution could disrupt lives and health but more research was needed to understand how it exerted such effects and to what extent.

Traffic pollution levels now needed to be measured in different areas to determine how they related to sleep disturbance for those living close by.

The study said:“It is likely that air pollution can cause snoring through airway inflammation … One could speculate whether women who have husbands who snore experience more daytime sleepiness but the key is understanding the impact of pollution.”

It’s like smoking cigarettes

Professor Stephen Holgate, the ERS’s science council chairman, added that living by a main road had the same impact as smoking ten cigarettes a day on a person’s lungs.

He demanded that Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom introduce a ‘Clean Air Act’ to force the motor industry to minimise vehicle emissions. He said: “Diesel in particular is the No 1 source of toxic air pollutants. Diesel particulates are carcinogenic and highly damaging to human organs.”

Professor Jorgen Vestbo, president of the ERS, said the UK government should issue guidance on how to reduce exposure to air pollution, which should include avoiding walking near main roads. He said: “We cannot stop breathing polluted air but we can limit our exposure.”

Source: Now you can blame your snoring on traffic | IOL

Posted in Air Quality, Health Effects of Air Pollution | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fires pollute the air in West Africa

West Africa is changing rapidly. An explosively growing population, massive urbanization, and unregulated deforestation modify the composition of the atmosphere, thus affecting weather and climate. How exactly these emissions are changing the region in the long term is not clear. The EU-funded project DACCIWA coordinated by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) therefore studied the air over the coastal region of West Africa with the help of research aircraft and ground stations.

“The air over the coastal region of West Africa is a unique mixture of various trace gases, liquids, and particles,” explains Professor Peter Knippertz of KIT’s Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, who coordinates DACCIWA. The sources of these particles and gases are monsoon winds with sea salt from the south, Sahara winds with dust from the north, charcoal fires and burning rubbish in cities as well as power plants, ship traffic, oil rigs, and outdated engines. “At the same time, multi-layered cloud covers frequently form in the atmosphere and strongly influence local weather and climate.” The composition of the particles in the air and what impacts they have on the formation and breakup of clouds has not yet been studied in detail. This information is not included in the weather and climate models presently used.

The EU-funded project DACCIWA (Dynamics-aerosol-chemistry-cloud Interactions in West Africa) investigates the relationship between weather, climate, and air pollution in West Africa. For the first time, a coordinated measurement campaign was launched recently to study the entire chain of impacts of natural and anthropogenic emissions on the West African atmosphere. In June and July, three research aircraft, the Falcon of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Twin Otter propeller plane “Ice Cold Katy” of the British Antarctic Survey, and the ATR of the Service des Avions Français Instrumentés pour la Recherche en Environnement (SAFIRE) of the French research institution CNRS, Météo France, and CNES, flew targeted missions over West Africa. The different aircraft were used in different ways based on their strengths, but all three had a comparable instrumentation generating a rich set of reference data.

Air pollution does not stay where it is produced, but extends inland by up to 300 km. For this reason, the aircraft followed the plumes of the big coastal cities of Accra, Abidjan, Lomé, and Cotonou on their way from the coast towards the inland forests, savannahs, and the Sahara. For the campaign, the scientists also set up three highly instrumented measuring sites inland. They measured urban emissions and evaluated health data. KIT climate researchers under the direction of Dr. Norbert Kalthoff were mainly active in Savé, Benin, where they used the “KITcube” measurement platform. The observation system integrates instruments for all relevant meteorological parameters and can measure a “cube” with an edge length of about ten kilometers as a part of the atmosphere. In parallel, a large weather balloon campaign was coordinated by Professor Andreas H. Fink, KIT expert for the African climate, in four West African countries. Optimal planning of the measurement flights and balloon launches was based on special forecasts with the COSMO-ART model developed by KIT. The project that has a duration of five years lays the foundation for new and more precise climate, weather, and air quality models for a more sustainable development of the region.

“Surprisingly, first results show that the plumes contain large fractions of organic materials,” Knippertz says. This finding points towards burning of charcoal, rubbish, and agricultural waste at low temperature. The particles from these fires lead to a considerable haziness in the atmosphere. Less sunshine reaches the ground, thereby changing the daily patterns of temperature, wind, and clouds. “For the first time, the measurements show an enormous complexity in the different cloud layers, the causes of which are still unclear.” Moreover, the air particles modify the formation of clouds and raindrops in the clouds.

Until 2018, the researchers will continue to study the impacts of atmospheric composition on cloud formation and air quality in West Africa, to evaluate the data measured, and to develop a new generation of climate and weather models. Work is also aimed at making more precise prognoses for West Africa, as strong impacts of climate change, such as water scarcity, heat waves or floods, are to be expected. Better prognoses will also be of benefit to other regions. “We know, for instance, that West African monsoon interacts with the Indian monsoon and it is an important factor influencing Atlantic hurricanes,” Knippertz says.

Source: Fires pollute the air in West Africa

Posted in Africa, Air Quality | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Emissions from new diesel cars are still far higher than official limit 

New diesel cars are still emitting many times the official limit for polluting nitrogen oxides when driven on the road, almost a year after the Volkswagen emissions scandal broke.

Renault, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda and Hyundai have all launched diesel models in 2016 with NOx emissions that are far higher than the official lab-based test when driven in real-world conditions, according to tests by Emissions Analytics (EA), a company whose data is used by the manufacturers of most cars sold in Europe.

Ironically, the only new model to meet the limit when on the road was a Volkswagen Tiguan.

Diesel cars must pass lab-based tests for NOx emissions but most cars perform far worse in the real world and in 2015 Volkswagen was caught using software to cheat the tests. Previous EA analysis showed 97% of diesels launched since 2009 exceeded the lab limit.

NOx pollution is a serious public health problem, causing the early deaths of 23,500 people a year in the UK alone. New research presented on Tuesday suggests the air pollution crisis in UK cities has not been tackled because politicians prioritise economic growth and road safety instead.

The EU has tightened emissions regulations and, from September 2017, diesels that emit more than double the lab limit for NOx on the road will be banned from sale.

The Emissions Analytics’ road test is very similar to the new test the EU is implementing and it found that 2016 Renault Megane (1.5l engine) and Espace (1.6l) diesel models emitted more than 12 times the NOx lab limit in real-world driving.

A Mercedes Benz CLA (2.1l) diesel emitted 8-12 times the limit on the road, while a Mazda 3 (1.5l) and Hyundai Sante Fe (2.2l) emitted 6-8 times the limit. Until the testing regime changes in 2017, it is legal to sell such high emitters. In contrast to the other vehicles, the road emissions of the Volkswagen Tiguan (2.0l) met the lab limit for new cars.

“Diesels can be clean,” said Nick Molden, the EA’s chief executive. “It is about getting a [regulatory] system that forces deployment of the technology.”

Molden said the continued sale of highly polluting diesels reflected the struggle of some manufacturers to catch up and implement the emissions-reducing technology. Other carmakers, he said, have the technology in their cars already but are calibrating their engines to maximise fuel efficiency, at the expense of high NOx emissions.

But some, such as VW, had already delivered on the most recent standard, called Euro 6, Molden said. “There is a massive irony, given that VW are the ones that have been caught. But their Euro 6 cars from the get-go have been very clean and they came in before ‘dieselgate’ blew. It is an even bigger irony than it first looks – they had already cleaned themselves up before they got found out.”

Julia Poliscanova, from the campaign group Transport and Environment, said: “The current regulatory climate in Europe sees testing authorities protecting carmakers and allowing polluting vehicles to be sold, even after dieselgate.”

“New on-road tests after 2017 will help and are the only way to measure accurate real-world emissions,” she said. “But more action is necessary. In the short term governments must stand up for their citizens’ health and order mandatory recalls to bring illegally dirty cars in compliance.

“In the long term, more independent oversight, transparency and robust testing over vehicles’ lifetimes are necessary for Europeans to finally enjoy the cleaner air promised to them almost 10 years ago.”

Tamzen Isacsson, from the UK trade body The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “We can’t comment on results from non-official tests where the robustness or methodology is unclear. However, SMMT and industry acknowledge the need for reform of the EU test process.

“We support the introduction next year of a more onerous lab test that better reflects real world driving, together with an on-road Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test. This will be the world’s toughest emissions testing regime.”

A spokeswoman for Hyundai said: “Hyundai Motor vehicles on sale in the UK meet all the current regulatory standards. New Euro 6 cars are built using the best available technology and they produce less NOx emissions than their predecessors.

“Hyundai Motor takes environmental compliance extremely seriously and is committed to meeting forthcoming new targets and to significantly improving the environmental performance of its vehicles.”

Spokesmen for Mercedes-Benz and Mazda said they were unable to comment on unofficial tests. The spokesman for Mazda added: “In compliance with the law, Mazda works hard to ensure that every petrol and diesel engine it makes fully complies with the regulations of the countries in which they are sold.”

Renault did not respond to requests for comment.

Molden said the new regime in 2017 would probably mean diesels at the smaller end of the range would no longer be sold: “Some of these cars will be discontinued because the after-treatment system will just be too expensive as a proportion of the total price to work commercially. But from mid-sized cars upwards it can be done. We are talking about adding hundreds of pounds per [car], not thousands.”

Source: Emissions from new diesel cars are still far higher than official limit | Environment | The Guardian

Posted in Air Quality, Europe, UK | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

UK air quality shows little improvement over past 20 years, says study 

Academics say planners are concentrating on reducing road deaths and promoting growth at expense of environment

There has been little improvement in air quality over the past 20 years as transport planners focus on preventing road deaths, according to a study.

Two university academics set out to try to understand why there has been little improvement in air pollution concentrations from road transport since the UK signed up to international air quality standards in 1995, as part of the Environment Act.

Dr Tim Chatterton and Prof Graham Parkhurst, from the Bristol-based University of the West of England, said their work concluded that UK transport planners were not taking the environmental impacts of transport choices sufficiently into account.

They said that current figures estimate that more than 50,000 deaths a year can be attributed to air pollution in the UK yet planners focus on reducing road accidents.

“Air pollution is perhaps the grossest manifestation of a general failure of UK transport planning to take the environmental impacts of transport choices sufficiently into account,” said Prof Parkhurst.

“Currently air pollution is a shared priority between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Department for Transport but shared priority does not mean equal priority.

“Environmental managers only identify and monitor the problems. Insufficient relevant priority has been given within the sector responsible for most relevant emissions – transport policy and planning – which has instead prioritised safety and economic growth.”

The academics also claimed there were limited regulatory and financial support for alternative transport and for local authorities seeking to introduce air improvement measures such as low emissions zones.

They also said there was a strong social equity issue, with households in poorer areas more exposed to much higher levels of air pollution, while contributing much less to the problem, mainly through driving less.

Prof Parkhurst and Dr Chatterton also called for poor air quality to be promoted as a public health issue.

“Air pollution-related morbidity and mortality are at epidemic levels and, although less obvious, are more significant than road transport collisions as a cause of death and injury,” Dr Chatterton said.

“Politicians at local and national levels must treat poor air quality as a public health priority, placing clear emphasis on the severity of the problem and the limitations of technological fixes.

“Existing approaches that focus on individual, voluntary, behaviour change and technological innovations are not sufficient to tackle poor air quality.

The findings are due to be presented at Royal Geographical Society annual international conference in London on Wednesday.

Source: UK air quality shows little improvement over past 20 years, says study | Environment | The Guardian

Posted in Air Quality, Europe, UK | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Haze Makes Unwanted Return in Kalimantan, Sumatra, Singapore and Malaysia 

Visibility levels in Sumatra and Kalimantan have decreased sharply as haze blanketed various parts of the islands and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia over the weekend.

In South Kalimantan, the cities of Banjarmasin and Martapura were blanketed by haze caused by forest fires.

According to state news agency Antara, visibility levels in Martapura stood at 200 meters, but it was even lower in the area closer to Banjarmasin.

“The haze was very thick and visibility was very limited as it was not even 10 meters,” Martapura resident Asyam said on Monday (29/08).

Forest fires in Riau spread smoke across a large part of Sumatra, with light haze spotted in Pekanbaru, Dumai, Rokan Hilir and Bengkalis.

“The smoke in Bengkalis is thick enough that citizens are beginning to fall ill,” said Jon Kenedy of the Riau Health Agency.

In Dumai, pollution levels were described as “hazardous” with an air pollution index of 369, resulting in a Pelita Air flight having to be diverted to Pekanbaru’s Sultan Sharif Kasim II International Airport.

“The Pelita Air flight had to be diverted to Pekanbaru as it was unable to land in Dumai due to the smoke,” Pekanbaru airport duty manager Bambang said on Sunday.

On Monday, the northern Malaysian town of Tanjung Malim in Perak recorded an unhealthy air pollution index of 119, with indices in several areas in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya nearing unhealthy levels, local media outlet Malay Mail Online reported.

According to Bloomberg, Singapore’s air pollution index stood at “very unhealthy levels” on Friday, with the Singaporean government advising its citizens to reduce prolonged outdoor activities.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said this year’s peatland and forest fire handling is much better compared to last year, with a 61 percent decrease to 12,884 compared to last year.

“We must keep a close eye and look out for potential fires until September in the provinces close to the equator, such as Riau, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Sutopo added that forest fire handling has improved this year thanks to the collaborative efforts of the central and regional governments and corporations to extinguishing the fires. Hotspots detected on Monday stood at 138 points, with 60 percent of them in the Riau region.

Fires were also reported in North Sumatera’s Samosir district, where it destroyed 2,400 hectares of forest and agricultural land. Sutopo said the Samosir district head did not declare an emergency despite the blaze continuing to spread.

“This area burnt between June and Aug. 20, but last Saturday it flamed up again,” Sutopo said. “The Samosir Disaster Management Agency has asked the Samosir district head to declare a state an emergency.”

He added that the fires are occurring in a newly expanded area of the district.

Source: Haze Makes Unwanted Return in Kalimantan, Sumatra, Singapore and Malaysia | Jakarta Globe

Posted in Air Quality, Asia, Singapore | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Riau air pollution reaches dangerous level 

Riau has grappled with severe air pollution for the past week as land and forest fires continue to spread. In the Mandau and Pinggir districts in Bengkalis regency, air pollution has already reached dangerous levels.

Based on Riau Land and Forest Fires Emergency Task Force data, the air pollution standard index (ISPU) in Duri Camp, Mandau district, stood at 361 PSI, a dangerous level, on Monday.  Three days before, the air pollution level in Duri even reached 460 PSI. Schools in Bengkalis gave their students a two-day vacation due to the worsening haze.

The air quality is considered good if the ISPU is below 50 PSI, moderate if 101-199 and unhealthy if 101-199. Meanwhile, air with an ISPU level of 200-299 PSI is considered very unhealthy and dangerous if it reaches beyond 300 PSI.

In Pekanbaru, haze has led to severe air pollution, in which the ISPU decreased to an unhealthy level of 162 PSI on Monday. The air quality in Dumai, Kampar and Rokan Hilir was also unhealthy, with ISPU readings of 166, 144 and 184 PSI, respectively.

On Sunday, the air pollution in Dumai reached a dangerous level, with the ISPU standing at 369 PSI. Despite the severe air pollution, schools in Dumai have not yet decided to close.

“We are still waiting for recommendations from the Dumai environment and health agencies. A temporary school closure can be applied only through a decree from the Dumai mayor,” the Dumai Education Agency’s secondary education head Misdiono said.

Source: Riau air pollution reaches dangerous level – The Jakarta Post

Posted in Air Quality, Asia | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

All is not pristine in New Zealand 

Most images of New Zealand show a pristine environment of great beauty. It therefore comes as a surprise that airborne particle pollution in many towns is above World Health Organisation guidelines. This is not due to the diesel cars that confound efforts to manage air pollution in Europe, or the density of cities and industry that contributes to problems in east Asia, Europe and parts of north America. It is due mainly to home heating.

With limited availability of natural gas and expensive electricity many New Zealanders, especially those in the South Island, rely on wood burning to heat their homes. National standards for particle pollution allow for one polluted day per year but Christchurch measured eight in 2015 and the city of Timaru breached standards on 26 days.

New Zealand’s poorly insulated homes and fuel poverty contribute to high winter deaths and children’s asthma. No heating is not an option. Better wood stoves or heat pumps are alternatives, along with insulation, but upgrading homes takes time and even with modern stoves the smoke produced depends on the user . Teaching people to burn wood better could help air pollution right away. TheWarmer Cheaper programme takes you step by step through lighting a fire and keeping it going for the evening with the least pollution. One of the main causes of smoke is insufficient kindling. Schools and community groups are therefore being harnessed to sell kindling and an award-winning invention, the Kindling Cracker, by Kiwi teenager Ayla Hutchinson can help people chop kindling easily and safely.

Source: All is not pristine in New Zealand | Environment | The Guardian

Posted in Air Quality, Australia & Oceania | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Singapore’s Air Quality Remains Unhealthy as Haze Worsens

Singapore’s air quality stood at unhealthy levels as haze from Indonesian forest fires intensified Friday, blanketing the city-state in a layer of smoke.

The three-hourly air pollution index peaked at 215 as of 2 p.m. before slipping back to 188 at 3 p.m., according to the National Environment Agency. Readings above 200 are classed as “very unhealthy” and the government advises people to reduce prolonged outdoor activities.

Fire hotspots have appeared over Indonesia’s Sumatra island and West Kalimantan, where the Indonesian government said last week it deployed fire fighters. It has also used cloud seeding and water bombing to try to extinguish the fires.

The number of hotspots is lower than 2015, when dry conditions from the El Nino weather phenomenon drove the pollution reading to a record, forcing the city-state and neighboring Malaysia to shut schools.

Satellite data showed a total of 1,950 hotspots from January through to Aug. 18, compared with 6,595 in the same period a year ago.

The haze caused by plantation land-burning has become an annual occurrence in Southeast Asia and leads to periodic tensions with the Indonesian government. Smoke from illegal burning to clear land for palm oil and paper plantations that blanketed Singapore, parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand last year briefly turned Indonesia into the world’s biggest climate polluter.

Smoke from Indonesian forest fires shrouded the city-state to such an extent last year that the pollution index went well above 300, forcing Singapore to close schools and cancel a number of public events. A reading exceeding 300 is deemed hazardous.

As Singapore distributed N95 masks to “vulnerable and needy” citizens and permanent residents across the island last year, there were concerns that rising pollution would affect the annual Singapore Grand Prix. The event went ahead and this year’s Grand Prix is scheduled for Sept. 16-18.

Source: Singapore’s Air Quality Remains Unhealthy as Haze Worsens – Bloomberg

Posted in Air Quality, Asia, Singapore | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment