Diesel cars pump out 50 per cent more toxic emissions than they should, major report finds  Diesel cars are pumping out 50 per cent more toxic emissions than they should be if all were complying with pollution laws, researchers have found.

140624_webHigh level of prenatal air pollution exposure and stress increase childhood asthma risk  A new study has found that children, especially boys, whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of outdoor particulate air pollution at the same time that they were very stressed were most likely to develop asthma by age six.

170519153547_1_540x360Traffic related air pollution linked to DNA damage in children Children and teens exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution have evidence of a specific type of DNA damage called telomere shortening, reports a study

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Munich to ban diesel vehicles from city following court order

Munich has announced it will implement a ban on diesel vehicles, in its ongoing attempt to combat illegal air pollution. The mayor of the German city, who made the announcement, said he saw “no other way” to resolve the issue in the shortest possible timeframe.

The move follows a court judgment ordering the city to improve its air quality plans, the result of legal action pursued by Deutsche Umwelthilfe and ClientEarth.

The environmental lawyers and campaigners welcomed the move as a step in the right direction, but warn that excluding Euro 6 vehicles from the ban, as the mayor plans to, will present its own set of problems.

The trouble with Euro 6

CEO of Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) Jürgen Resch said: “The diesel ban in Munich should actually apply to most Euro 6 diesel vehicles. Current measurements show even the latest Euro 6 models chart record nitrogen dioxide emissions – often these newer models are in fact many times more polluting than 10-year-old Euro 4 diesels. If the Bavarian government really intends to exempt Euro 6 diesel vehicles from the ban, we will address this in our ongoing legal action.”

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “Announcing a diesel ban is progress – Munich is heading in the right direction. Diesel vehicles are the main culprit for the high levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution that chokes our towns and cities. However, more ambition is needed. Authorities must be bolder and face up to the realities of Euro 6 vehicle emissions.”

DUH plans to release new data in the coming days about the true extent of pollution from Euro 6 vehicles. Resch added: “The vast majority of the Euro 6 diesels currently in circulation are many times over the legal limit for nitrogen oxides (NOx). Those who want to keep driving in cities must under no circumstances buy a diesel car.”

Thornton added: “The mayor’s announcement today is testimony to the effectiveness of litigation in defending public health and achieving real change.”

Source: Munich to ban diesel vehicles from city following court order

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Diesel charge trial launched in central London 

Diesel car drivers will be charged an extra £2.45 an hour from today to park in parts of central London, in an attempt to combat toxic air.

Westminster council is launching a trial of the “D-charge” on pay-to-park bays in Marylebone, and parts of Fitzrovia and the Hyde Park area. It is the first town hall in Britain to impose the surcharge on parking bays.

The hourly charge for all pre-2015 diesel vehicles will be £7.35. All other vehicles will continue to be charged £4.90 per hour.

Announcing the charge in January, councillor David Harvey, Westminster’s cabinet member for environment, sports and community, said: “Additional charges for diesel vehicles will mean people think twice about using highly polluting cars and invest in cleaner transport that will make a real difference in the quality of air we breathe.”

The 50 per cent surcharge is intended to deter the heaviest polluting vehicles from parking in the area, which has some of the city’s highest levels of air pollution.

It has support of community groups including the Marylebone Association.

Sadiq Khan is introducing a £10 “T-charge” for older, more polluting cars, on top of the congestion charge, on October 23.

Source: Diesel charge trial launched in central London | London Evening Standard

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New annual air quality targets already exceeded in Christchurch and Kaiapoi

Christchurch and Kaiapoi have already exceeded new annual air quality targets just four weeks into winter.

Christchurch and Kaiapoi have already exceeded new annual air quality targets just four weeks into winter.

Christchurch has recorded four high air pollution nights since May 14 and Kaiapoi has notched up six since May 23.

New national compliance targets, introduced in September last year, allow for three high pollution nights each year. From 2020, it will reduce to one.

Both locations have already recorded almost as many high pollution nights this year as they did for all of last year, when Christchurch had five and Kaiapoi seven.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) air portfolio director Katherine Trought said home heating was the major contributor to winter air pollution in the region.

On Sunday night, when temperatures plummeted below freezing, Christchurch air pollution levels hit 63 micrograms of particulate per cubic metre of air at a monitoring site in St Albans. Kaiapoi hit 61 on Sunday night. The health guideline is 50 PM10.

PM10 particles are used to measure air quality levels. The particles are so small they can get into the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems.

Trought said given the number of high pollution nights already experienced this year, it was likely last year’s figure would be exceeded, but the long term trend was falling and the level of the pollution had dropped.

ECan figures show 32 nights exceeded pollution guidelines in Christchurch in 2011 and were often in concentrations of more than 100 PM10. In the early 2000s, the number of high pollution nights exceeded 50 and levels were more than 200 PM10.

Trought said ECan had been working for a long time to get people to upgrade their heating technology and to reduce the amount of smoke produced by their wood burners.

It was encouraging to see the uptake of low and ultra-low emission burners and, by January 1, 2019, any new burner installed must be an ultra-low emission burner, she said.

ECan has also deployed investigators to trawl Christchurch’s streets looking for chimneys producing visible smoke for longer than 15 minutes.

Trought said 100 letters and bundles of kindling had already been handed out to residents with smoking chimneys.

“We prefer to go out early in winter to make sure people get the message rather than leaving it to August.”

Residents could face $750 fines if chimneys continued to belch smoke after receiving warnings, but ECan has so far opted for education over penalties.

Source: New annual air quality targets already exceeded in Christchurch and Kaiapoi |

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Latest diesel car models remain highly polluting, tests show 

Six new vehicles including Land Rover and Suzuki are adding to air pollution crisis, despite stricter rules coming in months

The latest diesel car models are failing to meet pollution limits when on the road, just three months ahead of stricter new tests, independent tests have found. Results show that none of six new 2017 diesel cars met the EU standard for toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution in real-world driving.

The updated Equa Index, produced by the testing firm Emissions Analytics, shows that 86% of all diesel models put on to the British market since the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal failed to meet the official limit on the road, with 15% producing at least eight times more NOx emissions.

Levels of NOx, emitted mostly by diesel vehicles, have been illegally high in 90% of the UK’s urban areas since 2010. The toxic fumes are estimated to cause 23,500 early deaths a year and the problem has been called a public health emergency by a cross-party committee of MPs.

The government has indicated that any charging plans would exempt cars meeting the latest Euro 6 standard. But while some new Euro 6 diesel cars, for example the BMW 5 Series, meet the official limit when on the road, others pump out far more pollution, with the Nissan Qashqai, for example, emitting 18 times the official limit.

“These high-emitting vehicles will leave a long legacy and a dilemma for the proposed clean air zones: how can you change on the basis of Euro standards if there is such a wild divergence in performance?” Molden said.

The latest Equa Index update, which adds 20 new models to its database, shows that 70% of the diesels launched in 2016 and 2017 emit at least double the official NOx limit when on the road. That level of emissions was the standard set for Euro 4 in 2005. The most polluting of the new 2017 models tested are Land Rover Discovery, Maserati Quattroporte and Suzuki Vitara models, though all meet current legal standards.

The current official test for NOx emissions from diesel cars is laboratory-based, and carmakers have adapted their vehicles to pass this while emitting far more NOx in real-world driving. Volkswagen was caught cheating the test and other carmakers are still being investigated.

Molden said software upgrades from manufacturers would quickly and significantly cut the emissions of many existing diesel cars. But apart from VW cars, few vehicles in Europe have been recalled.

She said the latest Equa Index data showed a continuing failure by regulatory authorities: “Only three months from the new rules and almost two years after Dieselgate exposed widespread cheating on diesel emissions, regulators continue to approve vehicles that are up to 12 times more polluting than the legal limit. This demonstrates the corrupt system where the purse of carmakers rules over public health.”

From September, new diesel models will have to pass stricter, more realistic driving tests, although they will still be allowed to emit double the official limit to allow for suggested uncertainties in the measurements.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which represents the UK motor industry, said: “What has been proven by official UK government emissions tests is that new cars meet legal requirements. A new, official and robust emissions test will be in place this September, with cars tested on the road for the first time, meaning industry is meeting the toughest standards in the world.

He said: “Industry is committed to improving air quality across our towns and cities, and we look forward to working with government to encourage the uptake of the latest, low-emission vehicles, regardless of fuel type.”

Source: Latest diesel car models remain highly polluting, tests show | Environment | The Guardian

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California named state with the worst air quality (again) 

High ozone levels and a quickly growing population are making it tough to implement regulations to reduce pollution, says a professor.

The quality of the air in California may be improving, but it’s still dire.

That’s according to the American Lung Association’s recent “State of the Air 2017” report, which labeled the state and region a leader in air pollution, with the highest ozone levels.

The annual study ranks the cleanest and most polluted areas in the country by grading counties in the U.S. based on harmful recorded levels of ozone (smog) and particle pollution. The 2017 report used data collected from 2013 to 2015.

The top three regions in the country with the worst smog levels were Los Angeles-Long Beach; Bakersfield; and Fresno-Madera; Salinas, though, was recognized as one of the cleanest cities in the state and the country.

“The Los Angeles basin is exposed to the highest ozone levels in the country,” explains Steve LaDochy, Ph.D., professor of geography and urban analysis at California State University, Los Angeles, an expert in air pollution and climate. “It is getting better here, but it’s still the worst.”

The air quality in the state was significantly better in northern California, found the report. Nonetheless, more than 90 percent of Californians still live in counties with unhealthy air.

The Price of a Growing Population​​

Dr. LaDochy says implementing eco-friendly air regulations are key to lowering pollution levels and that the rise in electric vehicle (EV) use and renewable energy sources have helped to improve air quality.

That said, he stresses that efforts to reduce pollution shouldn’t slow because some progress has been made. “There are a lot of people still living in unhealthy areas and there is still a need for improvement,” says LaDochy, who has conducted studies of L.A.’s air quality and climate, many with the help of student researchers at Cal State LA.

The federal Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, first addressed the emissions of hazardous air pollution and researchers have long linked poor air quality to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and premature death.

LaDochy suspects that California’s continuously growing population is largely to blame for the state’s failing grades on “State of the Air” reports and more residents is also behind the Central Valley’s recent drop in air quality, according to the report.

“Population in [the Central Valley] has really bloomed; it’s nearly doubled,” he says. “The coast is so expensive, so more and more people are moving to central California.” The rise and growth of agriculture in the area has also led to a boom in population.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California’s population rose from 15.8 million in 1960 to 39.2 million in 2016.

While the state has some of the strictest environmental regulations in the U.S., keeping regulations in full effect is a challenge given the increase in residents, LaDochy adds.

What is Ozone?

California, and more specifically the Los Angeles region, is especially susceptible to high ozone levels. Says LaDochy, “Our geography and our climate are two very big factors.”

Ozone, a highly reactive gas, is produced when the sun’s rays split oxygen molecules. “It is a byproduct of our sunny weather and so many cars on the road,” he explains. “So when the ozone levels go up, it is basically because there are a lot of cars and sunlight present.”

Ho​​t days are especially bad for smog. “The higher the temperature, the worse the ozone levels,” he continues. “So if our city keeps getting hotter, that is going to cause higher levels of ozone.”

LaDochy believes that recent proposed federal cuts to environmental programs will have a direct impact on the state’s air quality. “One thing we can do is cool down these cities, and Los Angeles is trying to do different things to do that,” says the air pollution expert, citing the city’s efforts in planting trees and implementing cool roofs.

“We can take a lot out of the ​[“State of the Air”] report,” he says. “It is telling us that yes, we are improving, but there is still a lot to do. We need to be more sustainable, we need to live less consumptive lives. Everyone needs to do their part, every little bit counts.”

To help reduce pollution, the American Lung Association suggests driving less (carpool, walk or bike when you can), switching to electric transportation, avoiding burning wood, and using less energy overall.

Source: California named state with the worst air quality (again) — ScienceDaily

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Air quality action plan for Kathmandu soon 

The government is preparing an action plan to tackle air pollution in Kathmandu Valley.

The Air Quality Management Action Plan for Kathmandu Valley is being finalised and will soon be launched, said Durga Prasad Dawadi, director general at the Department of Environment.

He added that the action plan was prepared after a series of discussions with environment experts and stakeholders.

“Experts and stakeholders from government and non-governmental agencies were invited for their contributions during the drafting of the action plan,” said Dawadi.

The action plan proposes an Integrated Urban Air Quality Management Framework to keep check on air quality of the Kathmandu Valley, a separate strategy on assessment of impact of air pollution on environment, health and economy, and recommendations for hospitals, industries and brick kilns to reduce waste and pollution.

Similarly, the Ministry of Health will set up a public health surveillance system to determine the impact of air pollution on public health in Kathmandu Valley.

Regular epidemiological studies will also be carried out with other international health agencies to observe the air pollution impact.

The action plan also proposes a strategy on development and evaluation of Clean Air Implementation Plan, which will be enforced by the proposed High Level Committee on Air Pollution.

“The action plan will have several short-term, mid-term and long-term plans to deal with the problem of air pollution in the Valley. The department has also formed a steering committee to provide feedbacks and suggestions,” Dawadi said.

Environmentalist Bhusan Tuladhar said that the action plan was fairly comprehensive, but its success will rely on its implementation.

“We have had some action plans in the past as well. Implementation of such action plans with institutional and financial backing is imperative for their success,” he said.


Source: Air quality action plan for Kathmandu soon – Capital – The Kathmandu Post

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Wildfires pollute much more than previously thought: Data from flights through plumes reveal three times the fine particle levels than officially inventoried 

Wildfires are major polluters. Their plumes are three times as dense with aerosol-forming fine particles as previously believed. For the first time, researchers have flown an orchestra of modern instruments through brutishly turbulent wildfire plumes to measure their emissions in real time. They have also exposed other never before measured toxins.

Summer wildfires boost air pollution considerably more than previously believed.

Naturally burning timber and brush launch what are called fine particles into the air at a rate three times as high as levels noted in emissions inventories at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new study. The microscopic specks that form aerosols are a hazard to human health, particularly to the lungs and heart.

“Burning biomass produces lots of pollution. These are really bad aerosols to breathe from a health point of view,” said researcher Greg Huey from the Georgia Institute of Technology, which led the study. The research also describes other chemicals in wildfire smoke, some never before measured, and it raises the estimated annual emission of particulate matter in the western United States significantly.

The previous EPA data had been based on plume samples taken in controlled burns ignited by forestry professionals. Measuring plumes so thoroughly, from the sky, directly in the thick of a wildfire had not been possible before this study.

Plunging into plume

Unique research missions deployed planes to plow through the plumes of three major wildfires, including the 2013 Rim Fire, the third-largest wildfire in California history. An ensemble of instruments bristling from the flanks of NASA and U.S. Department of Energy aircraft allowed teams of researchers on board to measure chemicals and particles in real time and cull masses of data, upon which the new study is based.

“We actually went to measure, right above the fire, what was coming out,” said Huey, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, which he also chairs.

Bob Yokelson, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Montana has taken a leadership role in many aspects of the research and was in a group of about 20 scientists who selected the instruments to be installed on the large NASA plane. “We really didn’t have to go without anything we wanted really badly,” he said. Yokelson also helped design the flight paths.

Georgia Tech had instruments and scientists on the NASA DC-8 plane. Researchers associated with a total of more than a dozen universities and organizations participated in data collection or analysis. The scientists published their peer-reviewed results on June 14 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

“This paper is expected to serve as a basis for the next NASA fire chemical monitoring mission,” Huey said.

Refinery in flames

Methanol, benzene, ozone precursors and other noxious emissions collected from wildfire plumes may make it sound like an oil refinery went up in flames. That’s not so far-fetched, as oil and other fossil fuels derive from ancient biomass.

“You can see the smoke, and it’s dark for a reason,” Huey said. “When you go measuring wildfires, you get everything there is to measure. You start to wonder sometimes what all is in there.”

The study found many organic chemicals in the wildfire plumes, and technological advancements allowed them to detect certain nitrates in the smoke for the first time. But burning biomass does not appear to be a dominant source of these chemical pollutants, and the major findings of the study involved the fine particles.

Particulate matter, some of which contains oxidants that cause genetic damage, are in the resulting aerosols. They can drift over long distances into populated areas.

People are exposed to harmful aerosols from industrial sources, too, but fires produce more aerosol per amount of fuel burned. “Cars and power plants with pollution controls burn things much more cleanly,” Huey said.

Various aerosols also rise up in the atmosphere, but their net effect on global warming or cooling is still uncertain, as some aerosols reflect sunlight away from Earth, and others, in contrast, trap warmth in the atmosphere.

Prescribed burnings

As global warming expands wildfires in size and number, the ensuing pollution stands to grow along with them. Stepping up professional human-initiated burnings may help cut these emissions, the study suggested.

So-called prescribed burnings prevent or reduce wildfires, and they appear to produce far less pollution per unit area than wildfires, the study said.

“A prescribed fire might burn five tons of biomass fuel per acre, whereas a wildfire might burn 30,” said Yokelson, who has dedicated decades of research to biomass fires. “This study shows that wildfires also emit three times more aerosol per ton of fuel burned than prescribed fires.”

While still more needs to be known about professional prescribed burnings’ emissions, this new research makes clear that wildfires burn much more and pollute much more. The data will also help improve overall estimates of wildfire emissions.

Fire prevention professionals follow stringent rules to carry out prescribed burns to avoid calamity and sending pollution downwind into populated areas. The researchers do not recommend that inexperience people burn biomass, as this contributes to air pollution and can trigger tragic blazes, including wildfires.

Daunting flights

Experiments like these in real natural disasters are uncommon not only because of the rarity of assembling such great instruments and taking them airborne. The flights can also be dangerous. Plumes are not only filled with toxins, but their turbulence tosses planes around, shaking up technology and researchers.

“The smoke leaks into the cabin and makes you nauseous,” said Yokelson, who started flying plume missions many years ago. “You’re trying to take notes, run your instrument, look at the fire, talk on the headset, and get pictures. And at the same time, it’s crazy bumpy. Normally, if you’re in a smaller plane, your stomach is not too happy.”

Also, wildfires pop up unannounced, so flight schedules must be hammered out on short notice around strict regulations that normally prohibit flights near wildfires. Research aircraft also have to coordinate with regional authorities to avoid crossing paths with fire-fighting planes.

The rare data the flights from NASA’s SEAC4RS mission and the Department of Energy’s BBOP mission have provided stand to greatly increase understanding of the pollutants naturally burning biomass flings into the air.

Source: Wildfires pollute much more than previously thought: Data from flights through plumes reveal three times the fine particle levels than officially inventoried — ScienceDaily

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BMW’s Hometown Munich Mulls Diesel Ban to Fight Air Pollution

BMW AG’s hometown of Munich is considering outlawing older diesel cars, the latest European city to crack down amid mounting evidence that the technology’s not that clean after all.

BMW AG’s hometown of Munich is considering outlawing older diesel cars, the latest European city to crack down amid mounting evidence that the technology’s not that clean after all.

The driving ban was floated after a government study detected hazardous pollution levels in the Bavarian city’s air, especially of cancer-causing nitrogen oxide, said a spokeswoman for Mayor Dieter Reiter. Exemptions would apply for buses, taxis and diesels that meet Europe’s latest Euro 6 emissions standards.

Diesel’s image as a better-burning fuel has been tarnished by Volkswagen AG’s emissions-cheating scandal and a growing body of research showing that the engines spew harmful pollutants that can cause smog and cancer. Cities from London and Paris to Mercedes-Benz’s hometown of Stuttgart are making moves to restrict older diesels. Consumers worried about future bans are increasingly switching to gasoline autos.

In Europe, carmakers for years relied on fuel-efficient diesel to meet ever-tightening emissions standards and governments offered tax incentives to spur demand. The technology’s demise adds to manufacturers’ challenge of complying with environmental laws as they’re already struggling to convince drivers to buy electric cars instead of gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles.

Even though diesel’s popularity is waning, the engines still account for 50 percent of European new-car sales. Gasoline autos are less fuel-efficient and emit higher levels of carbon dioxide.

Munich’s proposal comes after a German appeals court ruled that the city acted unlawfully by allowing high levels of nitrogen oxide pollution. Munich’s deliberations, which were reported earlier by Sueddeutsche Zeitung, could be finalized this year.

‘Unfair’ Rules

Diesel’s decline is particularly tough for luxury brands including Audi and Mercedes, whose line-up is filled with heavy vehicles such as the S-Class sedan and Audi Q7 SUV. Diesel cars accounted for 71 percent of BMW’s total sales in Europe in the first four months, down 4.2 percent from a year earlier.

Munich’s proposal won’t solve pollution problems in the long-term, a BMW spokesman said on Wednesday. In May, the company warned that carmakers won’t be able to meet the EU’s 2020 targets on CO2 emissions without diesel, which uses about 20 percent less fuel than gasoline engines.

Mercedes parent Daimler AG has complained that such bans are unfair to customers who bought their cars as recently as 2015, before Euro 6 kicked in.

“There are better, more intelligent measures like incentives for car sharing and electric mobility that would lead to a sustainable improvement,” said BMW spokesman Glenn Schmidt.

Source: New U.S. Carrier Hobbled by Flaws in Launching, Landing Planes – Bloomberg

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