Public at risk from ‘daily cocktail of pollution’  People are being exposed to a daily cocktail of pollution that may be having a significant impact on their health, England’s chief medical officer says.

Jakarta enforces odd-even traffic policy to counter jams  Jakarta officials have introduced a rush-hour odd-even traffic control system on Jakarta-Cikampek Toll Road, the main toll road leading into the city, in order to cut traffic by 25 percent.

Rome will ban diesel cars by 2024  Rome, one of Europe’s most traffic-clogged cities and home to thousands of ancient outdoor monuments threatened by pollution, plans to ban diesel cars from the center by 2024, its mayor said.

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Blacks have more exposure to air pollutants raising heart disease risk, death

Blacks often have higher exposure to air pollution than whites, which may partially explain their higher risk heart disease and death compared to whites, according to new research in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, an American Heart Association journal.

Exposure to air pollution is associated with elevated blood sugar levels, poorly functioning blood vessels, heart disease events and death.

“Previous studies showed chronic exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) — a component of air pollution emitted from vehicles, factories, power plants, fires and second-hand smoke — is associated with increased cardiovascular risk and death,” said Sebhat Erqou, M.D., Ph.D., study lead author and fellow in cardiovascular disease at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

“Data also indicates that minorities are more likely to live in areas close to pollution sources, including heavy roadway traffic areas,” Erqou said. “However, racial differences in the exposure to air pollution and their role in disparities in cardiovascular risk and death have not been fully explained.”

Researchers merged data on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon — a component of ultrafine particulate matter — from a Pittsburgh-area monitoring and modeling campaign, with data from the Heart Strategies Concentrating on Risk Evaluation (HeartSCORE), an ongoing community-based study that included 1,717 participants (66 percent women, 45 percent black, average age 59) in western Pennsylvania. Participants were assessed by questionnaires and during annual follow-up study visits for heart-related hospitalizations, heart attacks, acute coronary syndrome, stroke, coronary revascularization or cardiac death.

Researchers found fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution exposure was associated with elevated blood glucose, worse blood vessel function, cardiovascular events and death from all causes. In addition, blacks compared to whites had:

higher average exposures to fine particulate matter air pollutants;
higher average exposures to black carbon air pollutants; and
45 percent higher risk of cardiovascular events and death from any cause, after considering traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Researchers said about 25 percent of the association between race and cardiovascular events and death may be explained by exposure to fine particulate matter pollutants. However, greater income and education lessened the impact of air pollution.

The study has limitations including that it was conducted at a single institution in one city, so the range of exposure might have been narrower when compared to other localities.

“Further larger-sized, multicenter studies can help to better understand the role and mechanisms of environmental pollution exposures in racial differences in cardiovascular risk and clinical outcomes,” Erqou said.

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Heart Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

via Blacks have more exposure to air pollutants raising heart disease risk, death — ScienceDaily

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Pollutionwatch: Cold snap worsens particle load of air

Particle pollution increases as the wind slows down and chilly weather prompts the lighting of more wood fires


The last days of the “beast from the east” cold spell caused air pollution problems across large parts of the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Within the UK particle pollution reached between five and 10 on the UK government’s 10-point scale over parts of south Wales and areas of England south of a Merseyside to Tyneside line, except the far south-west.

Pollution from industry, traffic and home wood and coal burning can stay in the air for a week or up to 10 days. This means that pollution emitted in one part of Europe can cause problems hundreds of miles away. If the wind slows down then particle pollution can build up over a whole region.

The particle pollution itself has been coming from many sources, including from coal burning in eastern Europe (Poland) and domestic heating in the UK and in other parts of western Europe.

Normally wood smoke is measured during the evenings, but many people choose to keep warm in that cold period in front of a wood fire at home during the day. Wood smoke particles were measured throughout day-time hours across southern England from 1 March into the weekend.

Over a timescale of hours and days wood smoke can undergo chemical reactions and produce more particle pollution. There is evidence that this added to the air pollution over England. A change of wind direction bought milder and fresher air on 4 March.

via Pollutionwatch: Cold snap worsens particle load of air | Environment | The Guardian

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Smog to linger in Beijing, nearby regions

Smog will linger in Beijing and nearby regions from Tuesday night to Wednesday, China’s national observatory forecast Tuesday.

Moderate to heavy smog will be seen in central and southern parts of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and nearby areas, with severe smog in parts of Hebei and Tianjin, the National Meteorological Center (NMC) said.

In Beijing, authorities issued an orange alert, the second highest level, for air pollution from Monday to Wednesday, advising children and the elderly to stay indoors.

From Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, heavy fog will blanket parts of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Liaoning, Henan, Sichuan and Shandong. Visibility could be reduced to below 500 meters in some areas.

The smog and fog will disperse gradually from Thursday morning due to rainfall and the arrival of cold air, according to the NMC.

via Smog to linger in Beijing, nearby regions – Xinhua |

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Jakarta enforces odd-even traffic policy to counter jams

Officials aim to cut traffic coming into the city by 25 percent by the move.


Jakarta officials have introduced a rush-hour odd-even traffic control system on Jakarta-Cikampek Toll Road, the main toll road leading into the city, in order to cut traffic by 25 percent.

The policy was implemented on Monday and the first morning saw traffic moving at 60kmph and not the snail’s pace that motorists are used to.

More than 1.3 million people commute into Indonesia’s capital every day. In addition to cutting down the number of cars, officials aim to force commuters to use public transport by this move.

Only an estimated 20 percent of people in Jakarta use buses or trains.

A recent study done by Uber showed that Jakartans spend an average of 22 days a year stuck in traffic jams, more than any other city in Asia.

On odd dates, only plate numbers ending in odd numbers are allowed to enter the toll road between 6am and 9am. On even dates, it is the same for vehicles with plates ending in even numbers.

Drivers who violate the rule are forced to turn back and encouraged to take one of the busses the government has prepared at a nearby location.

“I’m now forced to take the bus and I don’t mind that,” Gaffy, a regular commuter, said.

“It’s a nice bus and this is a good method to convince people to use public transport.”

Others, however, feel the policy is discriminatory to people living in Bekasi, so far the only suburb of Jakarta where the policy applies.

As a spokesman for Indonesia Police Watch told local media, “the hellish traffic jams will only move elsewhere”.

Effective policy

It is a policy that has been used inside the city with mixed results, where the government said traffic has reduced by 15 percent.

But Tito Karnavia, the national police chief, admits the policy is not a solution to Jakarta’s notorious traffic problem.

“We have to do something than nothing. It’s not a silver bullet to erase the problem.”

While the construction of Jakarta’s first subway, an elevated toll road and a monorail is causing serious traffic jams, the government promises that these will reduce as soon as these projects are finished.

The jams not only eat up a lot of time, air pollution has been on the rise and business are losing an estimated $5bn annually.

via Jakarta enforces odd-even traffic policy to counter jams | News | Al Jazeera

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Air pollution in the south 20 times above safe levels


Air pollution in the south of Malta has been more than 20 times above safe levels for the last week, according to European Environment Agency data. Experts who spoke to the Times of Malta, however, could not pinpoint an immediate cause for the apparently worsening conditions and warned that the data may be misleading.

Readings from the Żejtun air monitoring station – retrieved from the European Air Quality Index – show concentrations of fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, averaging around 500 micrograms per cubic metre since at least March 4.

According to World Health Organisation guidelines, 25 micrograms is the limit for healthy exposure over a 24-hour period.

Fine particulate matter has a major impact on human health, according to the EEA, aggravating heart and lung disease and posing a serious threat to respiratory health for the general population.

The US Environmental Protection Agency defines anything above 250 micrograms as “hazardous” and recommends that everyone should avoid outdoor exertion, while those with respiratory or heart disease, as well as the elderly and children, should remain indoors.

The data should set alarm bells ringing
Martin Balzan, a respiratory health expert, told the Times of Malta PM2.5 readings at the Żejtun station were typically low due to the gas-fired power station and prevailing winds in the area.

He noted that the cause of the spike was unlikely to be traffic, as nitrogen dioxide levels had not increased, and cautioned that the readings could be an error or the result of an extremely localised event, such as a traffic detour or fireplace output close to the monitoring station’s sensors.

Engineer Arthur Ciantar, who has studied air quality in the area, said he could not recall such high levels of fine particulate matter before. Increases, he said, were most often caused by traffic, highlighting marine traffic and trans-boundary pollution as other contributing factors.

He added that, if accurate, the data should set alarm bells ringing and highlight the consequences of the region’s significant increase in traffic density.

A European Environment Agency report published last October found that Malta had the fourth worst levels of particulate matter in the EU – 50 micrograms per cubic metre, right at the European daily limit.

The report also found air pollution was responsible for 250 premature deaths in Malta in 2014.

A 2016 study by Dr Balzan and Michael Pace Bardon from the Department of Medicine at Mater Dei found pedestrians and cyclists in Fgura were exposed to three or four times more black carbon on the streets than indoors.

via Air pollution in the south 20 times above safe levels

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High air pollution levels prompt special weather statement for Calgary


Light winds paired with a change in temperature have trapped smog over Calgary, prompting a special weather statement alert from Environment Canada.

On Thursday at 5: 30 p.m., the agency warned that high levels of air pollution will remain over the city until westerly winds blow in later in the evening, dispersing the smog.

Environment Canada warned that people could experience symptoms including coughing, throat irritation, headaches and shortness of breath. Children, seniors and people with cardiovascular or lung problems are especially at risk.

The government’s Air Quality Health Index rated Calgary’s air as a high risk.

The risk is projected to drop to low by noon Friday.

via High air pollution levels prompt special weather statement for Calgary – Calgary – CBC News

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Air pollution linked to brain alterations and cognitive impairment in children

A study examines the relationship between air pollution exposure during fetal life, brain abnormalities and cognitive impairment

A new study performed in the Netherlands has linked exposure to residential air pollution during fetal life with brain abnormalities that may contribute to impaired cognitive function in school-age children. The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, reports that the air pollution levels related to brain alterations were below those considered to be safe.

“We observed brain development effects in relationship to fine particles levels below the current EU limit,” said lead author Mònica Guxens, MD, of Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Spain, a center supported by the “la Caixa” Foundation, and Erasmus University Medical Center, the Netherlands. This finding adds to previous studies that have linked acceptable air pollution levels with other complications including cognitive decline and fetal growth development. “Therefore, we cannot warrant the safety of the current levels of air pollution in our cities,” said Dr. Guxens.

Exposure to fine particles during fetal life was associated with a thinner outer layer of the brain, called the cortex, in several regions. The study showed that these brain abnormalities contribute in part to difficulty with inhibitory control — the ability to regulate self-control over temptations and impulsive behavior — which is related to mental health problems such as addictive behavior and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The study used a population-based cohort in the Netherlands, which enrolled pregnant women and followed the children from fetal life onward. Dr. Guxens and colleagues assessed air pollution levels at home during the fetal life of 783 children. The data were collected by air pollution monitoring campaigns, and included levels of nitrogen dioxide (a prominent air pollutant caused by traffic and cigarette smoking), coarse particles, and fine particles.

Brain imaging performed when the children were between 6 and 10 years old revealed abnormalities in the thickness of the brain cortex of the precuneus and rostral middle frontal region. Despite the relationship between these brain structure alterations and fine particle exposure, the average residential levels of fine particles in the study were well below the current acceptable limit set by the EU — only 0.5 percent of the pregnant women in the study were exposed to levels considered unsafe. The average residential levels of nitrogen dioxide were right at the safe limit.

“Air pollution is so obviously bad for lungs, heart, and other organs that most of us have never considered its effects on the developing brain. But perhaps we should have learned from studies of maternal smoking that inhaling toxins may have lasting effects on cognitive development,” said John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

The fetal brain is particularly vulnerable during pregnancy — it hasn’t yet developed the mechanisms to protect against or remove environmental toxins. The findings of the study suggest that exposure to levels even below those considered safe could cause permanent brain damage.

“Although specific individual clinical implications of these findings cannot be quantified, based on other studies, the observed cognitive delays at early ages could have significant long-term consequences such as increased risk of mental health disorders and low academic achievement, in particular due to the ubiquity of the exposure,” said Dr. Guxens.

via Air pollution linked to brain alterations and cognitive impairment in children: A study examines the relationship between air pollution exposure during fetal life, brain abnormalities and cognitive impairment — ScienceDaily

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