Blood pressure risk for children exposed to air pollution in womb Children exposed to air pollution when in the womb are more likely to have high blood pressure, researchers have found.

Study: Street-level air pollution increases health risk among elderly  A new study published today in the journal Environmental Health shows that differences in traffic-related air pollution are associated with higher rates of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease in the elderly.

Hawaii’s silent danger: Volcanic smog, otherwise known as ‘vog’ The recent eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea has generated apocalyptic scenes of bright red lava exploding hundreds of feet into the sky and burning buildings consumed by the molten rock. But there’s another danger, silent and often unseen, that has been with Hawaiian residents and visitors forever in varying degrees. In Hawaii they call it “vog,” short for volcanic smog.


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Could Your Shampoo Be the New Car Exhaust?

Shampoo. Air freshener. Countertop cleaner. Nearly everything in your medicine cabinet or under your kitchen sink is a source of air pollution.

Regulators and scientists have known this for years, but recent studies led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration find that gases emitted from these fragrant products could be a greater source of air pollution than previously thought.

One study found that these volatile organic compounds (VOCs), often derived from petrochemicals, now rival cars as a source of air pollution in urban areas. When VOCs mix with nitrogen oxide and sunlight, they create ozone and particulate matter, which can trigger health and respiratory problems, especially for children and the elderly.

“The issue of VOCs is a topic that the entire cosmetics industry is focused on right now,” Kate Babb Shone, vice president of public relations for Paris-based Chanel, told Bloomberg Environment.

“All of our products strictly comply with the international regulations regarding VOCs,” she said. “In addition, most of the sprays we use for our products are natural sprays and we do not use any propellant classified as VOC.”

But not all companies can make the same claim.

“We now see that emissions from personal care products are one of the largest sources of emissions—things like shampoos, deodorants, lotions,” Brian McDonald, lead author of the NOAA study, told Bloomberg Environment. “Followed by coatings like paint, adhesives, printer inks and cleaning products. We’re really just now starting to understand what’s actually in our air, and the variety of sources that contribute to urban air quality.”

Focus Shifts From Cars to Kitchens
Fuel-related exhaust from cars has long been considered the main source of these kinds of air pollutants. But thanks to advances in catalytic converters and improvements in fuel economy, the proportions of human-created VOCs in some urban areas may have changed significantly, McDonald said.

The study, published in the journal Science, found that household products in Los Angeles produced the same amount VOCs as cars in the famously polluted city. That means government regulators are likely underestimating emissions from these products by 60 to 70 percent, while overestimating car emissions by 40 percent, the study found.

VOCs are in a different category of air pollution from greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which is also produced by cars and is a major contributor to climate change.


“In the past, these chemicals were difficult to measure. They’re made to evaporate quickly, and often contain oxygen, which made it difficult for the instrumentation to pick up,” McDonald said. “But the technology has gotten much better over the last 10 years, and we now have a much better idea of what is in the atmosphere.”

Even so, McDonald admits scientists have a lot research and modeling to do before they understand the full environmental effects of different categories of VOCs.

But in cases where the connection is clear, companies have responded quickly to consumer concerns—as was the case with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in hairspray, or by swapping out petrochemicals for latex in paint, McDonald said.

Consumer Product Groups: VOCs Decreasing

Trade associations speaking on behalf of consumer product manufacturers points out that many companies have already reformulated their products to be more environmentally friendly.

“One thing not fully addressed in these recent studies is that VOCs in consumer products have been regulated and reduced alongside automobile sources, if not more so,” said Steve Bennett, vice president of scientific affairs for the Household and Commercial Products Association.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed the country’s first VOCs emissions standard for aerosol-based antiperspirants and deodorants in 1989.

Since then, the EPA also passed national limits on VOC’s in 1998 as part of its mandate under the Clean Air Act. The limits apply to products including air freshener, glass cleaners, insecticides, and many others. States are also free to set their own VOC regulations, as long as they don’t fall below the limits set by the EPA.

“In fact, the CARB regulations are much more rigorous the VOC limits laid out in the current EPA national regulation,” Bennett said.

Bennett maintains that the CARB rules essentially function as a national standard for most companies, and the rules are continually strengthened and expanded to cover other products as well.

The agency recently completed a survey of more than 400 categories of consumer products sold in California between 2013 and 2015. CARB plans to release the 2013 and 2014 results in the next few weeks. The 2015 survey results are expected this fall.

Eco-Friendly at a Cost

In recent years programs have emerged to help companies choose ingredients with a greener chemical and emissions footprint—programs such as the EPA’s Safer Choice and GreenBlue’s CleanGredients labeling programs.

Both programs test and pre-certify chemicals for low toxicity, health-hazard and pollution risk. But getting chemicals on the list also comes at significant cost.

“Everybody’s looking for ways to say that your product is made from natural ingredients,” said David Leonard, director of research and development for Lemi Shine, a cleaning products manufacturer based in Austin, Texas.

Leonard told Bloomberg Environment that many of the natural oils and extracts that go into fragrances are more expensive than synthetic ingredients. And even the synthetic chemicals approved by CleanGredients or Safer Choice aren’t equally available in the marketplace.

“If a chemical gets listed on CleanGredients, Dow or BASF, they’re going to pass those certification costs on to us,” he said. “But someone like Procter & Gamble is going to pay less per pound, because they’re buying chemicals by the barge, when all I can afford is one drum.”

The Safer Choice program has been targeted for cuts by the Trump administration, but industry groups have vowed to fight to keep it.

Emissions Higher in Rush Hour

Another recent study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found that emissions of D5 Siloxane, short for decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, actually spike during rush hour commuting times.

D5 Siloxane is a VOC often added to personal care products like shampoos and lotions to give them a smooth, silky feeling.

“By using D5 as a marker, we were able to detect emissions patterns in Boulder, Colo., that coincide with human activity,” said Matthew Coggon, a University of Colorado scientist working with the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory.

“People apply these products in the morning and then leave for work. So emissions spike during commuting hours,” he told Bloomberg Environment.

The European Union has deemed D5 as hazardous under its REACH chemical regulation. After a multi-year review, Canada concluded that “D5 is not entering the environment in a quantity or under conditions that constitute a danger to the environment.”

D5 is not regulated in the U.S. D4 Siloxane, however, also used extensively in cosmetics and silicone polymers, is subject to an Enforceable Consent Agreement in which manufacturers are subject to testing to determine whether the chemical is showing up in the environment.

via Could Your Shampoo Be the New Car Exhaust? | Bloomberg Environment

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Westminster schools to be protected by new ‘no-pollution zones’

Primary schools in Westminster will be protected by “no-pollution zones” under plans announced today.

The council has promised to invest £1 million in creating pollution barriers around its primary schools.

The clean air fund aims to cut harmful emissions by bringing in road closures, banning polluting vehicles, replacing old boilers and planting gardens around the schools.

The zones will be funded by Westminster City Council’s D-charge — a surcharge of £2.45 an hour for pre-2015 diesel vehicles parking in areas of the city. The surcharge has raised more than £1 million in its first nine months and reduced the number of polluting vehicles driving through the borough by 14 per cent.

The council said it will also extend its D-charge across the whole borough in phases.

Council leader Nickie Aiken said: “As parents we all want to ensure our children can grow up in a safe and healthy environment.

“Air quality is the number one concern for our residents and it is crucial that we tackle poor air quality for the young people in our schools.
“Introducing the first no-pollution zones in Westminster will cut the number of vehicles around schools, encourage cleaner, greener habits and make a big difference locally.”

This morning a letter was due to go out to all 45 primary schools in Westminster telling them they can apply for no-pollution zones in their area.

Each school will need to pick the measures that will work best for their area. The zones are expected to be implemented in the next couple of months.

Road transport contributes to more than half of the most deadly emissions and the majority of the measures are aimed at reducing the number of vehicles on the roads near schools at the start and end of the day.

via Westminster schools to be protected by new ‘no-pollution zones’ | London Evening Standard

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Kilauea Eruptions Creating Harmful Breathing Conditions and Skin/Eye Irritation


On Sunday, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) issued a new Kilauea volcano air quality warning about laze.

But if you don’t know what laze is – or vog – you’re not a resident of Hawaii’s Big Island.

Laze Appearing on Hawaii’s Southeast Coast
Laze is short for lava haze, a hazardous condition that results when hot lava comes into contact with cold seawater. “The combination produces a dense white plume of steam laced with hydrochloric acid and glass particles. That is what is happening now on the island’s southeast coast,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The plume of laze was expected to reach 15 miles along the southeast coastline on Monday. Officials have warned people to stay away.

The hydrochloric acid is created by the chemical reaction between the lava and the seawater, observatory spokeswoman Janet Babb told United Press International. The glass particles are formed when lava touches seawater and then breaks apart.

While a store-bought respirator can block the glass particles, it will not filter out hydrochloric acid. The acid can irritate skin and eyes and cause breathing difficulties, Babb added.

Vog from Volcanic Gases Affects Breathing
Kilauea erupted twice over the weekend, with one eruption sending ash up to 10,000 feet in the air. It prompted two volcanoes of 4.9 and 5.0 magnitude, as well as over 2,000 smaller earthquakes observed on the island since the start of the volcano’s activity.

But the volcanic air quality hazard of greatest concern on the Big Island is vog, a hazy mix of moisture and volcanic gases that can affect breathing, the Star-Advertiser noted.

According to The University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH), these gases come out of the molten lava rock at varying pressures. They consist of water vapor, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen, and a variety of other acid and inert gases.

“Once these gases enter the atmosphere, many react very quickly. Hydrogen reacts with oxygen in the air to form water vapor, and sulfuric acid aerosols (from sulfur dioxide) produce the fume clouds that are carried by the wind and become dispersed into an unpleasant cloud of vog,” UHH explained.

Big Island Has the Highest Rate of Sulfur Dioxide Emissions in US
The island of Hawaii (commonly referred to as the Big Island) has the highest rate of sulfur dioxide emissions in the nation. That distinction was established even before the current toxic eruptions from Kilauea’s East Rift Zone.

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency rated Hawaii County as having “the highest one-hour rate of sulfur dioxide in the U.S.” A study led by Dr. Elizabeth Tam, chair of medicine at the University of Hawaii Medical School, found that the “air pollution output from Kilauea was equal to one-tenth of the annual pollution for all of China,” the Star-Advertiser said.

Vog Results in Headaches and Irritation to the Lungs and Eyes
At higher concentrations, vog can result in headaches and irritation to the lungs and eyes. UHH warns, “For people with asthma and other respiratory problems, the effects are much more serious, causing a tightening of the airways in the lungs and making it very difficult to breathe.”

To date, however, there’s been no clear scientific evidence that vog causes lingering damage to normally healthy individuals.
Precautions Against Vog
The university cites several strategies to reduce the amount of vog and gases in indoor air and to minimize the irritation from these compounds:

When possible, stay indoors with windows and doors closed and sealed.
Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier. They condense water and remove particulate sulfur compounds and acid gases from indoor air.
Reduce your indoor exposure using something as simple as a fan. Take a hand towel or a piece of cheesecloth. Saturate it with a thin paste of baking soda and water. Drape the cloth over the fan and turn it on at a low or medium speed. The baking soda will neutralize the sulfur compounds and the moisture will help remove particles from the air.

via Kilauea Eruptions Creating Harmful Breathing Conditions and Skin/Eye Irritation

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Air pollution fourth biggest threat to health


The number of people exposed to high particle pollution will be halved by 2025 if government plans are realised.

There will be an attempt to curb smoke from solid fuel fires and wood-burners; pollution from diesel machinery will be reduced.

Farmers, who have largely evaded pollution controls so far, will be told to buy new equipment to reduce ammonia from slurry.

Campaigners welcome the consultation, but say it does not go far enough.

They accuse the government of passing on tough decisions to local councils.

The government has been obliged to publish this Clean Air Strategy under an EU rule. It’s in addition to the legislation which has seen the UK taken to court over high levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Ministers estimate that their plans will reduce the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030.

They describe air pollution as the fourth biggest threat to public health after cancer, obesity and heart disease.

The Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Air quality has improved significantly since 2010 but sixty years on from the historic Clean Air Act a clear truth remains – air pollution is making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment.

“This clean air strategy sets out the comprehensive action required across all parts of the government to improve air quality.”

New powers

All EU nations will have to submit similar plans to cut pollution but Mr Gove says the UK’s policies will be carried out beyond Brexit.

The planned legislation will give new powers to local councils to tackle bad air quality. Some councils welcome this approach whilst others think they’re being left to do the government’s dirty work.

Campaigners are pleased, though, that the plan will be embedded in new primary legislation.

They applaud the decision to halve the number of people in the UK exposed to levels of particulates above the World Health Organization limit of 10 microgrammes/m3.

But they say the consultation document so far doesn’t say how the government will deal with the on-going problem of NOX emissions from cars.

Alison Cook from the British Lung Foundation said: “We can’t lose focus on transport as a main culprit for pollution.”

Critics also accuse ministers of passing the buck to local councils.

Doug Parr from Greenpeace told BBC News: “The ambition is impressive – but how is it going to be achieved? Lots of councils simply don’t have the resources to deal with these issues.”

The government has avoided other potentially controversial decisions. The document promises that only the cleanest of solid fuels will be allowed to heat people’s homes.

No ban

But a Defra spokesman told BBC News that open fires, coal-burning and wood-burning would not be nationally banned.

Instead, new stoves – including wood-burners – would have to be cleaner. And people would also be encouraged to burn dry wood, because it emits fewer particulates.

Mr Parr said this was far too vague: “Will hard-pressed environmental health officers really be checking on wet wood in forecourts?” he asked.

Meanwhile, farmers will be supported to cut ammonia emissions through the proposed new farming funding system known as public money for public goods.

One technologically-difficult issue is also acknowledged – the contribution to microplastic air pollution and water pollution from vehicle brakes and tyres wearing on the road. The government says it will work with international partners to research and develop new standards.

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said: “Michael Gove has become the Secretary of State for Consultations – with over 25 consultations published by his department since the General Election and not a single piece of primary legislation brought forward.”

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said: “It’s good to see a strategy finally published – but the details of this plan look extremely underwhelming. The Government is using a water pistol to put out the air pollution wildfire.”

via Air pollution fourth biggest threat to health – BBC News

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Ozone exposure at birth increases risk of asthma development


A long-term study of the health of Canadian children has found that exposure to ozone (O3), a common air pollutant, at birth was associated with an 82 percent increased risk of developing asthma by age three. The study, which was a 10-year follow-up to the 2006 Toronto Child Health Evaluation Questionnaire (T-CHEQ), was presented at the 2018 American Thoracic Society International Conference.

“Our findings show that the hazard ratios for ozone measured at birth as a single pollutant showed statistically significant higher risks for development of asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema,” said lead author Teresa To, PhD, senior scientist, Child Health Evaluative Services at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto, Ontario, Canada. “The results of our study are important because the study examines the effect of pollution on health outcomes in early childhood, and has the longest longitudinal follow-up of a cohort of school-aged children in Canada.”

A hazard ratio is a statistical formula used to determine risk.

For this part of the T-CHEQ study, 1,881 children were followed from birth to 17 years of age, on average. Amongst these children, 31 percent developed asthma, 42 percent had allergic rhinitis and 76 percent had eczema. An 82 percent higher risk of developing asthma was associated with each 10 parts per billion, or ppb increase in exposure to ozone at birth. A similar risk was not observed in association with exposure to nitrogen dioxide or PM2.5, a type of pollutant.

The researcher team took annual average concentrations of pollutants from fixed monitoring stations across Ontario. They assigned these measurements based on study participants’ postal codes at birth. Development of asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema were determined based on any records of health services used for these conditions. The researchers adjusted for variables such as parental history of asthma and early home exposure to pollutants.

Some studies have shown that ozone depletes antioxidant activity and increases indications of inflammation in the respiratory tract fluid lining and affects lung growth.

“We examined O3 and NO2, as well as particulate matter PM2.5 and ultrafine particulates (UFP – not discussed in this abstract), because these are the key pollutants that have been suggested in the literature to exacerbate asthma, diabetes, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),” said Dr. To, who is also a professor in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. “It is well supported by research findings that short-term and long-term exposure to NO2 and particulate matter can increase asthma exacerbations, respiratory symptoms, hospitalizations and even mortality. Similarly, short-term exposure to O3 can decrease lung function and increase the risk of respiratory infections in children.”

Children are at a higher risk because their lungs and other respiratory organs are smaller, and they spend more time in outdoor physical activities that make them breathe faster and more deeply. Poor air quality may have a larger impact on them.

“The quality of air in Ontario, Canada is relatively good on most days of the year, yet we observed an adverse effect on health outcomes in children who were exposed to air pollution at birth and in early life,” said Dr. To. “This has significant implications for other countries that have higher levels of pollution. It is well established that short-term exposure to pollutants such as ozone can decrease lung function, exacerbate asthma and increase the risk of respiratory infections. There is now mounting evidence that long-term exposure can lead to disease progression, such as from asthma to COPD and could increase the risk of death.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2016 report on air pollution and health indicated that 92 percent of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceeded WHO limits. According to WHO, one in eight deaths in the world is a result of air pollution exposure, making air pollution the single largest global environmental health risk.

“Air pollution isn’t only one or a few countries’ problems, but rather a global public health concern,” Dr. To said. “While there are individual actions one can consider to reduce exposure to air pollutants, it also requires action by public authorities at the national, regional and international levels. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.”


The study was funded by Health Canada and the SickKids Foundation.

via Ozone exposure at birth increases risk of asthma development | EurekAlert! Science News

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Hamburg prepares for diesel driving ban with signs warning motorists


The city of Hamburg this week put up signs on its streets warning motorists of diesel restricted zones – an indication to residents that they are taking the diesel driving bans seriously.
Limited diesel driving bans were introduced for two busy roads in the Hanseatic city after a top court in February ruled that German cities could impose the bans to combat air pollution.

Almost immediately after the verdict, the port city became the first to announce plans for a driving ban on Max-Brauer-Allee and Stresemannstrasse in the Altona district from late April.

The city subsequently made signs which warn people of diesel restricted zones and possible alternative routes. This week the signs started to make an appearance in the Altona district.

The ban in Max-Brauer-Allee applies to all vehicles that do not meet the Euro 6 emissions standard, while the ban in Stresemannstrasse only bars trucks which are below the Euro 6 standard.

Excluded from the driving ban are residents and their visitors, as well as ambulances, garbage trucks and delivery vehicles.

Nonetheless, the ban has not officially started and an exact start date has not yet been set, reports Spiegel Online.

The Hamburg Ministry of the Environment and Energy (BUE) expects the ban in Hamburg to be implemented the week after next.

Motorists in breach of the ban can expect to cough up fines of €25 for cars and €75 for trucks.

There are no plans for further diesel driving bans in Hamburg, according to the BUE.

But when the Hanseatic’s city’s bans are officially put in place, it will be the first German city to implement diesel driving bans, meaning that other cities could follow.

As the ruling obligates Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) to consider driving bans, the two smog-clogged state capitals of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf must seek to control air pollution limits as quickly as possible.

Stuttgart expects initial diesel driving bans to be implemented at the end of the year.

via Hamburg prepares for diesel driving ban with signs warning motorists – The Local

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Diverting diesel trucks spared lungs in Sao Paulo


The positive health outcomes of the intervention could guide the formulation of similar transport polices in other cities.

In densely populated cities like Sao Paulo, many vehicles running on diesel such as commercial trucks, vans, and buses circulate right by where people live, causing constant exposure to high levels of diesel emissions. The fuel emits highly pollutive particulate matter and nitrogen oxides that increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, among other illnesses.

In 2010, Sao Paulo constructed a beltway along sparsely populated areas that are about 15 miles away from the city center. The original intent of building the beltway was to enable heavy-duty vehicles to bypass the densely populated neighborhoods, and thereby ease traffic congestion in the inner-city roads.

While the intervention did immediately relieve road congestion by 20 percent, researchers from the National University of Singapore found that the effect was short-lived, as passenger cars quickly replaced the inner-city road space which the heavy-duty vehicles had left behind.

However, the researchers also found that the replacement of heavy-duty diesel vehicles with gasoline-ethanol passenger cars on the inner-city roads resulted in a sustained drop in the level of nitrogen oxides in the air, reducing air pollution in the city even after the traffic congestion rebounded.

The improved air quality in Sao Paulo also translated into long-lasting positive health outcomes for its residents. The researchers observed that the compositional change in traffic in the inner-city roads resulting from the beltway’s diversion of diesel vehicles led to an overall estimated reduction of 5,000 hospital admissions associated with respiratory and cardiovascular illness every year. The researchers quantify about one annual premature death for every 100-200 diesel trucks using inner-city roads.

“The unintentional improvement in air quality and public health resulting from the Sao Paulo beltway demonstrates how judicious transport policies can benefit public health,” says study leader Alberto Salvo, associate professor in the economics department at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

“Other world megacities such as London, Paris, New Delhi, and Singapore may stand to gain similarly by limiting the circulation of diesel vehicles in the cities, particularly during the day when people are out and about.”

Nearly 40 percent of London’s total nitrogen oxides emissions are attributed to diesel vehicles. Relative to North America, Europe’s households have significantly adopted diesel cars over gasoline and alternative fuels.

Different cities may adopt different abatement strategies, such as the Ultra-Low Emission Zone charge in London and the temporary ban on diesel cars in Oslo, and thus it is crucial that policymakers evaluate a range of policies in order to select a combination of strategies most effective for their cities.

Sao Paulo’s beltway construction provides a rare intervention, at the scale of a real-world metropolis, of the air and health benefits from shifting the urban transportation fuel mix away from diesel. Policymakers in other cities where human exposure to diesel runs high may learn from Sao Paulo’s experience.

The study appears in the Journal of the European Economic Association. Coauthors are from NUS and the University of Sao Paulo.

Source: National University of Singapore

via Diverting diesel trucks spared lungs in Sao Paulo – Futurity

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WHO States Cairo Second Most Polluted City in World

Cairo has been ranked as the second most polluted large city in the world, according to a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), which studied air pollution globally from 2011 until 2015.

In 2017, the United Nations Environment Programme stated in a report that 40,000 people in different parts of Egypt all died from pollution. The report pointed to the absence of trees within Egypt’s capital as leading to the increase of air pollution.

The U.N. report explained that Cairo is similar to Iran’s capital Tehran and the U.S. city of Los Angeles in their air pollution ratios. The situation in Cairo differs slightly as the topography allows for an effective decrease in air pollution compared to the other two cities.

India’s city of New Delhi topped the list at first place while two other Indian cities, Kolkata and Mumbai, occupied the fourth and fifth places on the list. Turkey’s city of Istanbul came in at the eighth place.

The WHO report noted that seven million people worldwide die from exposure to polluted air, addeding that nearly 4.2 million people died in 2016 from air pollution; pollution from fuel exhaust also resulted in the death of 3.8 million people in 2016.

Being that it is the capital of the country, hosting a population of 19.5 million, Cairo is considered to be the most congested city in Egypt. The Qalyubia, Giza and Cairo provinces together represent what is known as Greater Cairo.

via WHO States Cairo Second Most Polluted City in World | Al Bawaba

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