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.


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London pollution and toxic air worsened by pollution from fresh food delivery 


Pollution is being made worse by London’s increasing reliance on fresh food bought online and home-delivered by diesel-powered trucks, the boss of a clean tech firm warned today.

Toby Peters, founder of Croydon-based Dearman, spoke out after a new report found refrigerated delivery trucks “emit disproportionate amounts of toxic pollutants”.

Mr Peters, whose company is already working with Sainsbury’s to trial a new zero-emission lorry, said supermarkets must act to reduce their reliance on diesel fleets to improve air quality.

The report, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Dearman and the Clean Air Alliance pressure group, found refrigerated truck journeys to London homes and supermarket depots emitted the annual equivalent exhaust fumes of a car driving 2.4 million laps around the M25.

Pollution being pushed into London’s skies from delivery lorries is often worsened by a second diesel engine used to power large on-board fridges.

It is claimed that these diesel-powered fridges storing fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish can emit nearly 30 times as much toxic particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide than a lorry engine.

The report said: “Refrigerated vehicles are a vital link in our food supply, but can also emit disproportionate amounts of toxic pollutants, whose significance has not yet been recognised in the policies being developed to tackle air pollution in Britain’s cities. In trucks and articulated trailers, cooling is usually powered by a secondary engine that is poorly regulated, inefficient and can emit far more particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen than the main engine pulling it around.”

Commenting on the report, Mr Peters said: “The way we buy food is changing by the day. Supermarkets are delivering our weekly shop to our door, we’ve seen a boom in convenience stores and we are eating more and more chilled food.

“All that requires more polluting, diesel-powered refrigerated trucks on the streets where we live. But if we are going to clean up the air we breathe, we have to tackle the most polluting diesel engines first — and that includes the ones that keep our food cold.”

Of the Londoners interviewed for the report, more than three quarters backed the introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone. The zone means vehicles must meet exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge to travel inside.

As part of Dearman’s Sainsbury’s trial, they have built the world’s first delivery truck with a zero emissions air-cooled refrigeration unit powered by liquid nitrogen.

The vehicle is undergoing a three-month test, during which it is expected to save up to 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 37kg of nitrogen oxides and 2kg of particulates.

Source: London pollution and toxic air worsened by pollution from fresh food delivery | London | News | London Evening Standard

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Essential oils could counter lung and liver ailments caused by air pollution, research suggests: Extracts from plants such as cloves, aniseed, fennel and ylang-ylang studied

Certain ingredients in essential oils made from plants such as cloves, anise, fennel and ylang-ylang could serve as a natural treatment of lung and liver conditions caused by air pollution, according to a new study.

Certain ingredients in essential oils made from plants such as cloves, anise, fennel and ylang-ylang could serve as a natural treatment of lung and liver conditions caused by air pollution. This is according to Miriana Kfoury of the Unité de Chimie Environnementale et Interactions sur le Vivant, Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale in France and the Lebanese University in Lebanon. She is the lead author of a study in Springer’s journalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters. It is the first of its kind to evaluate the value of using certain essential oil compounds to treat inflammation caused by the fine particles that are typical of hazy, polluted air, and that are known to be carcinogenic.

Plants naturally contain various essential oils that are made up of different compounds. Some of these have been found to have antioxidant value, and to also be able to fight inflammation. A group of organic compounds called phenylpropanoids are found in the essential oils of some plants, and show promise as possible anti-inflammatory substances. Among these are trans-anethole (a flavor component of anise and fennel), estragole (found in basil), eugenol (which occurs in clove bud oil) and isoeugenol (contained in ylang ylang).

Kfoury and her collaborators first collected air pollutant samples containing fine particles in Beirut, Lebanon. In laboratory tests, the samples were then introduced to human cell cultures of normal bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) and cancer derived hepatic cells (HepG2). The fine particle matter was found to induce inflammation in the cells — these started to secrete the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL-8 (substances that are secreted during infections and tissue damage). Cytokin levels normally increase when the body’s immune system is fighting a specific infection.

Next, the researchers established that the trans-anethole, estragole, eugenol and isoeugenol all have so-called cytotoxicity, which means that they could cause cell death at relatively high concentrations. In this evaluation, they were able to determine the level of cytotoxicity of these oil compounds. This was important in order to establish the maximum dose to be selected in the next step, namely the assessment for anti-inflammatory properties. In the second round of tests, the four compounds were introduced to the combination of cell lines and air pollutants to see whether these could protect liver and lung cells damaged by fine particle air pollutants. It was found that the essential oil compounds tested decrease the levels of the two types of cytokines in the samples. The levels of cytokine IL-6 decreased up to 96 percent, and the levels of cytokine IL-8 by 87 percent.

“The findings provide the first evidence that natural essential oil components counteract the inflammatory effects of particulate matter, such as that contained in polluted air,” says Kfoury.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Springer. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Source: Essential oils could counter lung and liver ailments caused by air pollution, research suggests: Extracts from plants such as cloves, aniseed, fennel and ylang-ylang studied — ScienceDaily

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Commonly Used 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.

The study, published in the Journal of Exposure & Environmental Epidemiology, showed that inexpensive cloth mask, about 10 to 15 cents each, performed poorly compared to standard hygiene mask known as the N95, which costs about $3 to $4 each.

“This has clear public health risk,” said Richard Peltier, an environmental health scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and co-author of the study, in a statement. “Especially if an individual makes personal choices not to avoid high concentration environments because they assume they are protected from these contaminants.”

For the study, the researchers conducted a series of experiments on various types of mask: one pleated surgical type, two cloths and one cone-shaped cloth with exhalation flaps. The researches simulated real-world conditions and tested the effectiveness of each mask in filtering out five different synthetic aerosol particle sizes plus three particle sizes of diluted whole diesel exhaust.

The cloth mask with exhaust valves is the best performing one among the tested, with 80 to 90 percent reduction of synthetic particles and about 57 percent of diesel exhaust.

On the other hand, the least expensive cloth mask only removed 39 to 65 percent of standard particles of 30, 100 and 500 nanometers, and 1 and 2.5 micrometers. Plain cloth mask performed better than the others in removing larger particles size, but performed poorly in smaller particles, which are about 2.5 micrometers and often considered to be more harmful than the larger particles due to their ability to penetrate the lungs deeper.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that effectiveness of the masks to filter air pollution rely on its shape and ability to mold to the face. The cone-shaped mask and snug-fitting surgical mask performed better than the looser-fitting masks.

Their findings are very significant because people who are wearing cloth mask are oftentimes given false sense of security. Because they feel secure and protected by their mask, people sometimes walk freely in highly polluted areas, leading to unwanted health risks.

Source: Commonly Used Cheap Cloth Mask Not Very Effective Against Air Pollution : News : Nature World News

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Health 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.

The researchers estimated air pollution from past and projected future wildfires in 561 western counties, and found that by mid-century more than 82 million people will experience “smoke waves,” or consecutive days with high air pollution related to fires.

The regions likely to receive the highest exposure to wildfire smoke in the future include northern California, western Oregon, and the Great Plains.

Their results, published in the journal Climatic Change, point to the need for new or modified wildfire management and evacuation programs in the nation’s high-risk regions, said Jia Coco Liu, a recent Ph.D. graduate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the study.

“Our study illustrates that smoke waves are likely to be longer, more intense, and more frequent under climate change,” Liu said. “This raises critical health, ecological, and economic concerns. Identifying communities that will be most affected in the future will inform development of fire management strategies and disaster preparedness programs.”

Other authors include Michelle Bell, the Mary E. Pinchot Professor of Environmental Health at F&ES; Keita Ebisu, a former doctoral student with Dr. Bell; as well as colleagues at Harvard, Colorado State University, and the University of Michigan.

Smoke from wildfires, which are becoming more frequent and intense in the U.S. West as the climate changes, contains large amounts of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which can have profound impacts on human health.

Interactive Map

smoke wave map liu etal

But while wildfires are estimated to contribute about 18 percent of the total PM2.5 emissions in the U.S., many questions remain on how these emissions will affect human populations, including how overall air quality will be affected, how these levels will change under climate change, and which regions are to most likely to be impacted.

Using sophisticated atmospheric and climate models, the researchers estimated the levels of PM2.5 directly attributable to wildfires during a recent six-year period, 2004 to 2009, as well as under projected future climate change conditions (2046-2051).

Twenty counties that are currently free from smoke waves are expected to experience at least one in the future six-year period. The length of the smoke wave season, the period between the first and last smoke wave day, is estimated to increase by an average of 15 days in more than 62.5 percent of the counties.

About 56 percent of the counties currently affected by smoke waves — including most located in the forests of the northern Rocky Mountains and coastal counties — will likely face more intense smoke waves in the future. (About 19 percent will have less intense smoke waves.)

The researchers also developed an interactive map to illustrate their findings.

“We hope these results will advance the understanding of the impacts of an increasing threat of wildfire smoke, and aid in the design of early warning systems, fire suppression policies and public health programs,” said Liu.

Source: Health Risks from Wildfires in U.S. West To Increase Under Climate Change

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Iraqi 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

Air pollution caused by war may be a major factor in the numbers of birth defects and cancers being reported in Iraq and other war zones, a study has suggested.

Human exposure to heavy metals and neurotoxicants from the explosion of bombs, bullets, and other ammunition affects not only those directly targeted by bombardments but also troops and people living near military bases, according to research published in the scientific journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an Iranian toxicologist and lead author of the report, said “alarming” levels of lead were found in the “baby” or “deciduous” teeth of Iraqi children with birth defects, compared with similar teeth donated from Lebanese and Iranian children.

“Deciduous teeth from Iraqi children with birth defects had remarkably higher levels of Pb [lead],” she said during a recent visit to London. “Two Iraqi teeth had four times more Pb, and one tooth had as much as 50 times more Pb than samples from Lebanon and Iran.”

The study is important, because there has been scant research on how years of warfare across the Middle East have impacted local civilian populations, and data is hard to collect.

However, the few investigations that have been conducted suggest sharp increases in congenital birth defects, premature births, miscarriages and leukaemia cases in Iraq and other war zones, a finding supported by interviews with doctors.

The study supports claims that the long-term health of many thousands of former US soldiers was devastated by air pollution caused by the unregulated burning of huge volumes of military waste in hundreds of open air “burn pits” during the Iraq war.

More than 85,000 US Iraq war veterans who have signed a government registerhave been diagnosed with respiratory and breathing problems, cancers, neurological diseases, depression and emphysema since returning from Iraq. About half have stated that they were exposed to the burn pits.

The toll among soldiers has been documented in testimonies given to the US Department of Veterans Affairs and in a new book, The Burn Pits, based on interviews with 500 veterans exposed to pollution. They record how foam, electronics, metal cans, rubber tyres, ammunition, explosives, human faeces, animal carcasses, batteries, asbestos insulation and heavy metal waste were doused in jet fuel and set on fire during the Iraq war.

“There were 270 of these pits burning 24/7, sometimes for years. Some are still burning today. These materials converged in a toxic plume that hovered over bases, and seeped into soldiers’ sleeping and working quarters, which were often a mile or less away,” said former US Marine and Army sergeant Joseph Hickman, author of the book.

“The vets told me that they were told the smoke was a nuisance but not a hazard. Some of the pits were worse than others. One, at Balad air base, covered 10 acres and burned 50 tonnes of trash a day. There were no regulations on what could be burned, anything that was considered trash went in there.”

An air sampling study by the US Department of Defense at Balad base in 2008 detected high levels of particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, as well as Agent Orange-type dioxins and furans.

Thousands of tonnes of herbicides containing deadly dioxins were dropped on Vietnamese and Laotian forests in the 1970s, but the health effects on veterans and local communties were not officially admitted for 27 years.

“The open-air bonfires [in Iraq] – which violated not only Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards, but the Pentagon’s own regulations – were supposed to be used only as a temporary measure, until incinerators could be put in place. But they continued to operate throughout most of these wars, with a number still running as late as 2015,” said Hickman.

Evidence of the pollution effects on Iraqi communities is barely known because little research has been done. But Savabieasfahani said the toxicological effects of the air pollution would inevitably have been damaging.

“We know that they burned pesticides, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, solvents, medical waste and toxic heavy metals. All are extremely polluting to the environment. Thick black clouds of pollution were common, day and night,” she said.

“I was alerted to the pollution when living close to Basra when the invasion started and several women at the university where I was teaching spontaneously aborted.

“But getting tissue samples out of Iraq has proved nearly impossible and little research into the pollution’s effect on people living close to the burn pits has been conducted.”

“We found very high levels of mercury, lead, titanium and various toxic metals in hair of children and parents of children with disorders or severe birth defects, showing metal contamination has happened since 2003 – with increased disorders and defects.”

She added: “We could see that when the bombing started so did the birth defects. In May 2010, 15% of 547 babies born at the [Basra] hospital had severe birth defects. This is in contrast to 2% to 4% that is normal,” she said.

Later in 2010, rates of babies being born with birth defects were as high as 30%, said Savabieasfahani. “Pollution all ends up in the body. People were breathing in high levels. Major damage was being done to people,” she said.

The full scale of the pollution from years of war in the region may never be known.

Source: Iraqi children pay high health cost of war-induced air pollution, study finds | Global development | The Guardian

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NASA’s Satellite Photos Of Rio Show Something Troubling In The Air 

Rio’s Olympic Games are in full force as 10,000 athletes from around the world traveled to the Brazilian city last week to compete, and the games are certainly off to a strong start for some. However, just days before the 2016 Olympics opening ceremony, NASA was recording imagery of Rio and the surrounding region with a satellite that passed over the city. And what NASA’s satellite imagery of Rio found reveals something troubling.

The satellite used what’s called a Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) to collect the images, which were used to measure the level of particulate matter in the atmosphere — or in simpler terms, to estimate the level of air pollution just ahead of the games. The device measures the pollutants, which are “tiny airborne droplets or pieces of soot and dust that can end up in the lungs,” and which is a problem facing many cities around the world that struggle with poor or polluted air quality, according to NASA.

The imagery measures and displays the “aerosol optical depth” — which measures “how much incoming light from the sun is blocked” by air pollution — of the coastal waters and inland in Rio and the surrounding region. The levels varied between values of 0.15-0.25. For reference, NASA’s report suggests that a light haze corresponds to “an optical depth of 0.2.,” noting that Rio’s optical depth is “slightly elevated compared to its surroundings, most likely due to the presence of air pollution.” The highest value on the scale is 0.3 so Rio’s optical depth is definitely up there.

Check out the imagery below:

The lefthand image shows the satellite imagery of Rio on the coast, and the surrounding area — the black asterisk marks the Maracaña Stadium, where the opening ceremony was held, according to the NASA report. The report suggests that the “elevated levels of particulate matter” were present in the region for weeks leading up to the August 5 opening ceremony.

In order to host such a wide-scale sporting event, the World Health Organization (WHO) reportedly offers public health guidelines to which the hosting city is supposed to adhere. When Brazil entered the bid to host the Olympics, the country reportedly claimed that the air quality was “within the limits recommended by the World Health Organization,” according to Reuters. Reuters also noted that the claim was false in 2009 when Rio won the bid and it remains false at this point. And based on NASA’s satellite imagery, it would appear that the air quality is probably not within those limits.

In fact, according to the Reuters report on Rio’s air pollution levels, it found that based on statistics from the city’s environmental protection agency, called Inea, “Since 2011, Rio’s [particulate matter] 2.5 levels surpassed WHO’s annual limits 83 percent of the time.”

Unfortunately, and as Reuters also noted, while the Olympic athletes from around the world only have to experience Rio’s air pollution during the two-week period of competitive sporting events, the rest of the city’s occupants will still be living with high levels of particulate matter even after the games are over. And for them, it’s especially important to work toward clean air.

Image: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL-Caltech, MISR Team (1)

Source: NASA’s Satellite Photos Of Rio Show Something Troubling In The Air | Bustle

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Map reveals which London parks have illegal pollution levels


Hundreds of London’s green spaces, including Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, have potentially hazardous air pollution levels which exceed the European legal limit, according to new research.

Nearly a quarter of the capital’s open parks have over 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air, which represents the EU limit, with some having more than double that quantity.

Green Park, St James’s Park, Clapham Common and Kensington Gardens are among the other well-known green spaces which currently have illegal pollution levels.

The report was commissioned by data science company ASI and brought together air quality data from over 100 sensors spaced across the capital. The organisation has created a detailed pollution map, labelling parks with dangerous levels with a red circle.

According to ASI, the most polluted green space in London is Whittington Garden near St Paul’s Cathedral, which reportedly has a nitrogen dioxide rate of 99.5 micrograms per cubic metre.

Other parks making up the top five are the gardens at the rear of Langham Mansions; St Mary’s Square; Redbridge Roundabout; and the Royal Crescent Mews Amenity Area. All five spaces are situated near major tube stations.

Meanwhile the least polluted open spaces tended to be on the outskirts of the city, with Hampton Court in the south west and Dagnam Park in the north east being among the cleanest.

ASI’s Pablo Mosteiro helped produce the research to inform London’s 8.7 million population of the dangers of air pollution in parks.

“Huge numbers of Londoners are unknowingly going for walks, playing with their children and having their lunchtime sandwich in open spaces with appalling air quality,” he said.

“Our new website will allow them to see whether there are any better and cleaner alternatives nearby.”

ASI chief executive Marc Warner added: “The city’s parks are often referred to as the ‘lungs of London’. We now know that these lungs aren’t as healthy as we’d hoped.”

“The new Mayor is going to have to prioritise clean air policies so that we can make our parks and open spaces the healthy places they’re meant to be.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan made the improvement of the capital’s air quality a central part of his manifesto and has been praised for swiftly introducing new proposals to that end.

In June it was announced plans for an extended ultra-low emission zone to be introduced as part of a major public consultation by City Hall, after it emerged almost 10,000 Londoners die from long-term exposure to air pollution every year.

Discussing the new proposals, Mr Khan said: “Just as in the 1950s, air pollution in London today is literally killing Londoners. But unlike the smoky pollution of the past, today’s pollution is a hidden killer.

“The scale of the failure to tackle the problem is demonstrated by the failure of the Government and the previous Mayor to meet legal pollution limits.  Urgent action is now needed to ensure Londoners no longer have to fear the very air we breathe.”

Approximately 47 per cent of the capital city is thought to be green space.

It took the city just eight days in 2016 to surpass the annual cap on nitrogen dioxide concentrations, and the World Heath Organization estimates air pollution costs the UK £62bn annually.

Source: Map reveals which London parks have illegal pollution levels

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