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Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 08.22.15‘There’s no escape’: Nairobi’s air pollution sparks Africa health warning

Pollution in the Kenyan capital is ‘beyond imagination’. With Africa’s predicted rise in population – and a constant stream of dirty secondhand cars from Europe and Japan – this urban health crisis could kill 1.5 million within a generation

160706131924_1_900x600Bees’ ability to forage decreases as air pollution increases

Air pollutants interact with and break down plant-emitted scent molecules, which insect pollinators use to locate needed food, according to a team of researchers. The pollution-modified plant odors can confuse bees and, as a result, bees’ foraging time increases and pollination efficiency decreases. This happens because the chemical interactions decrease both the scent molecules’ life spans and the distances they travel.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 08.21.20Mexico City chokes on its congestion problem

Authorities are trying to reduce pollution in the capital but confused policy-making and rising car ownership are reducing the city to poisonous gridlock

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Major Study Links Air Pollution to Increased Mental Illness in Children

A ground-breaking new study from Sweden has highlighted a link between poor air quality and increased levels of mental illness in children. Though scientists have uncovered a growing body of evidence which had pointed to the link in the past, this study is the first to establish it outright.

Even more concerning, the study proves that mental illnesses are more likely to develop among young ones even in areas which suffer from fairly low but prolonged levels of air pollution.

What the study says

The study, first published in the science and health journal BMJ Open, is based upon the findings of a monitoring operation which kept track of pollution levels in areas affecting over half a million young Swedes aged 18 years or younger. This data was then cross-referenced with an analysis of the amount of medicines prescribed to the youngsters, including all types of medication from anti-psychotic drugs to sedatives.

What’s remarkable is that Sweden itself enjoys a good reputation when it comes to air quality, meaning that cities and countries with higher levels of pollution are likely at a higher risk of young ones developing mental health issues.

“The results can mean that a lower concentration of air pollution, first and foremost from traffic, may reduce psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents,” explained Anna Oudin, lead researcher on the study. “I would be worried myself if I lived in an area with high air pollution. In all the air pollution studies I have been involved in, the effects seem to be linear.”

A growing body of evidence

The Swedish paper might be the first to establish clear parallels between heightened pollution levels and an increase in mental illness, but it’s only the latest in a long line of research pointing to the harmful effects of poor air quality – especially with regard to children.

A Spanish study carried out last year monitored 2,715 children for one year to test how their cognitive and memory capabilities were affected over the course of 12 months. Those who lived in areas with higher air quality displayed greater percentages of improvement in both areas, drawing a parallel between pollution and intelligence.

Meanwhile, another year-long study was launched at approximately the same time, with the children from 1,200 families across Europe – and everything they came into contact during that time – monitored to determine how their exposure to pollution affected their development and health.

Bad news for the UK

The fact that the Swedish study uncovered these results even in areas with low air pollution levels which showed concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) below 15 micrograms per cubic metre (mcg/m3) means that young ones in Britain are almost definitely more at risk.

For reference, the recommended maximum level of NO2 (as advised by both the EU and the World Health Organisation) is 40mcg/m3. In certain parts of London, those levels can be many times higher, while earlier this year the Guardian reported that 433 schools in the capital were based in areas which exceeded legal limits for NO2.

With a concrete link between mental impairment and pollution now firmly established, it’s vital that the government and big business waste no time in improving air quality and transport-related pollution. The wellbeing of future generations depends upon it.

Source: Major Study Links Air Pollution to Increased Mental Illness in Children – Jul 27 2016 08:00 AM – Breaking News – Pollution Solutions Online

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Timaru’s 21st high air pollution day 

Timaru saw its 21st high pollution day on Tuesday – one more than the number of breaches recorded by the same time last year and the eighth consecutive time air quality standards were breached this month.

On Tuesday the 24 hour average PM10 concentration was 56 micrograms of suspended particulate per cubic metre of air.

PM10 refers to particulate matter in the air that is smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter. A reading over 50 micrograms indicates “high” pollution under the national environmental standard.

Since 2006, between 21 and 36 days of high pollution were recorded at the Anzac Square site by this date.

So far this year, the Timaru station has recorded the most high pollution days of all centres monitored by the regional council.

Kaiapoi has had seven high pollution days, Rangiora has had six, Christchurch has had five, and Ashburton has had two. The Geraldine and Washdyke stations recorded one breach this year. Waimate has not had a high air pollution night so far this year.

All but two of Timaru’s breaches this year happened in June and July.

ECan’s Canterbury Air Regional Plan, which will become operative later this year, ultimately aims for Timaru to have fewer than three high pollution nights per year.

Timaru’s PM10 readings this year:

July 26: 56mcgs (11C, -3C)

July 22: 51mcgs (12C, -4C)

July 12: 69mcgs (10C, -4C)

July 11: 57mcgs (8C, 4C)

July 4: 60mcgs (19C, 2C)

July 3: 88mcgs (16C, 0C)

July 2: 62mcgs (11C, -5C)

July 1: 58mcgs (9C, -4C)

June 29: 57mcgs (12C, -1C)

June 22: 67mcgs (15C, 4C)

June 21: 56mcgs (10C, 5C)

June 18: 58mcgs (11C, 0C)

June 17: 74mcgs (17C, -3C)

June 16: 55mcgs (14C, -2C)

June 9: 70mcgs (16C, -2C)

June 8: 70mcgs (10C, -5C)

June 7: 73mcgs (11C, -3C)

June 6: 59mcgs (13C, -2C)

June 4: 51mcgs (15C, -2C)

May 2: 51mcgs

March 10: 55mcgs

(Sources: Environment Canterbury, Metservice)

Source: Timaru’s 21st high air pollution day | Stuff.co.nz

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Why it’s time Africa features in global plans to manage air pollution

Two years ago the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified air pollution as the world’s worst environmental health risk. It estimated that more than seven million people die prematurely due to air pollution every year. That is a staggering one in every eight deaths globally.

More than half of these deaths are as a result of household air pollution, almost all of which occurs in low- and middle-income countries. Africa has the highest number of these deaths after South East Asia and the Western Pacific. This is driven, in part, by the large percentage of the population using domestic solid fuel. Sub-Saharan African countries are estimated to have among the highest rates of deaths related to indoor air pollution from domestic fuel use.

Yet the WHO has not put in place an air quality programme for its sub-Saharan Africa region, even though these exist for other regions. The programmes include reviewing evidence on the health effects of air pollution, developing methods to quantify health risks and helping countries develop sustainable air quality policies.

It is not clear why there is no WHO air quality programme in sub-Saharan Africa. A possible explanation may be that environmental health risk factors have always been overshadowed by other risk factors like malnutrition, HIV, TB and malaria.

Africa’s acute problem

The 2016 update of the WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database notes that people living in cities in low-income countries suffer the most from air pollution.

Onitsha, in Nigeria, has the highest calculated annual mean of PM10. PM10 are very small particles in the air and are so small that they can get into the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems. The country has a PM10 level of 594 micrograms per cubic metre, nearly 30 times higher than the WHO guideline of 20 micrograms per cubic metre. Although the calculation is based on limited data, there is no doubt that Nigeria has a serious problem.

Many areas of South Africa also have high levels of pollution. Particulate matter concentrations have been found to be up to 140% higher in township sites than in industrial sites. The average maximum PM10 value in these township sites on winter evenings is 200 micrograms per cubic metre.

A study conducted in Cape Town found that people faced a much higher risk of dying from heart and lung diseases than those living in developed countries. Outdoor air pollution levels in Cape Town are on average very similar to those of major European cities. The South African population may be more vulnerable due to high poverty and high rates of existing diseases such as HIV, TB, lung and heart disease.

Global action to improve air quality

Soon after the WHO released its report in 2014 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) adopted a resolution to promote air quality. This urged leaders to take action to improve air quality with the support of the United Nations body. It also developed an implementation plan that included activities focused on:

  1. Creating awareness;

    2. on climate, energy and health being formed in South Africa under the umbrella of the Public Health Association of South Africa.

    African scientists can also work to develop local regional working groups focused on air quality under initiatives like Future Earth.

    Ensuring all players work together towards more visibility, collaboration and support for air quality in Africa is crucial.

    The Conversation

    Janine Wichmann, Associate Professor, University of Pretoria; Caradee Yael Wright, Specialist Scientist (Public Health), South African Medical Research Council, and Rebecca Garland, Senior Researcher in Climate Studies, Modeling and Environmental Health Research Group, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Source: Why it’s time Africa features in global plans to manage air pollution

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Hot temperatures provoked air pollution alert in Maine over the weekend

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued on Friday an air quality alert due to unhealthy ground-level ozone concentrations in the air along the Maine Coast from Kittery to Acadia National Park.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday at 11:00 a.m. that parts of New England will suffer air pollution in coastal Connecticut, all Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts and southern and central coastal Maine.

The Federal air quality standard for ozone was surpassed and follows a shift in the weather pattern according to the National Weather Service. The change brings hot, and humid air from the south and temperature was expected to reach the 90 degrees on Friday with higher moist levels.

Ground-level ozone is a byproduct of emissions from factories, power plants and vehicles exhaust from their motors. It includes lawn equipment, household paints, stains, and solvents.

To help reduce emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency recommended people to use public transportation, carpool and limit the use of electricity on Friday. These actions will avoid increasing the levels of ground ozone.

The Maine DEP warned people that ground-level ozone could cause a lung function reduction and irritation, for everyone, especially for children and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). A person with reduced lung function and irritation will experience shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation, and it is possible to feel an uncomfortable sensation in the chest.

To avoid health problems, the Department urged people to stay indoors and avoid if possible working is exercising outdoors.

The DEP recommends consulting Maine CDC website for information on the health impacts of the extreme heat, to take appropriate actions. For those people suffering asthma, the Maine CDC Asthma Prevention and Control Program has information on the disease on its website. The EPA’s website also has information about what could trigger asthma and teaches on asthma management.

Ground-level ozone: very present on summer days

Ground-level ozone has nothing to do with the protective role that has layered in the atmosphere, also called ozone. Ozone Aware explains that ground-level ozone is a harmful air pollutant that forms when emissions from everyday items combine with other pollutants when the weather is hot and temperatures approach 80 to 90 degrees.

Prolonged exposure can cause a reduced resistance to lung infections and colds and can also trigger pre-existing conditions in individuals with asthma, bronchitis, and COPD.

The DEP asks people to stay alert to new air pollution alerts.

Ground-level ozone is a harmful air pollutant that forms when emissions from everyday items combine with other pollutants when the weather is hot and temperatures approach 80 to 90 degrees. Photo credit: City of Springfield

Source: Hot temperatures provoked air pollution alert in Maine over the weekend

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Mayor of London offers £11m to tackle air pollution

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is offering funding worth £11 million to tackle air pollution in the capital.

Eight of the most polluted boroughs will receive a share of the fund to implement measures to fight toxic air quality and filthy emissions fumes.

In addition, five ‘Low Emission Neighbourhoods’ will be set up across the eight boroughs, with pollution-busting measures including strict new penalties for the dirtiest vehicles, car-free days, green taxi ranks for zero emission-capable cabs and parking reserved for the cleanest vehicles.

Those hotspots will be in the boroughs of Westminster, Hackney, Greenwich, City of London and Redbridge and Newham.

The funding expands on former Mayor Boris Johnson’s Low-Emission Neighbourhoods initiative, which provided £2 million of funding to two London boroughs to test innovative measures to improve air pollution.

Mr Khan said: “Make no mistake: London is in the midst of an air quality crisis. Air pollution is permanently affecting children’s lung development and nearly 10,000 Londoners are dying early every year due to the long-term exposure of London’s dirty air. We need urgent and bold action and this includes targeted local initiatives to tackle some of the worst pollution hotspots in London.

“I’m also calling on government ministers to put in place incentives for people to switch to low emission vehicles as well as providing London with additional powers and funding to help tackle this public health crisis.”

Earlier this month the mayor proposed plans to charge £10 for the most polluting vehicles entering London.

Source: Energy Live News – Energy Made Easy – Mayor of London offers £11m to tackle air pollution

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Air pollution up in a third of Chinese cities: Greenpeace 

Air pollution levels rose in nearly a third of Chinese cities monitored in the second quarter, environmental campaign group Greenpeace said Wednesday.

China’s cities are often hit by severe pollution from coal-burning by power stations, heavy industry and vehicle use, and it has become a major source of discontent with the ruling Communist Party.

Air quality worsened year-on-year in 103 cities from April to June, nearly 30 percent of those monitored, Greenpeace said.

It cited pollution data collated from China’s environmental protection ministry, which makes live figures available but does not publish full historic or comparative statistics.

Communist authorities are looking to retool the economy away from heavy industry and exports to one led more by consumer demand, but the transition is proving bumpy.

“It is now clearer than ever that air pollution and coal-burning heavy industry are directly connected,” said Greenpeace’s East Asia climate and energy campaigner Dong Liansai.

China’s financial hub Shanghai saw its average PM2.5 level rise 6.1 percent to 48.4 micrograms per cubic metre in the April-June period, in comparison with the same period in 2015.

Exposure to the minute particles in the 2.5 size range can affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

But Beijing saw its PM2.5 level drop 6.9 percent to 59.2 micrograms per cubic metre in the same period, year-on-year.

The World Health Organization’s recommended maximum is an average 25 micrograms over 24 hours and 10 micrograms over a year.

The government has declared “war on pollution” and vowed to reduce the proportion of energy derived from coal and fossil fuels, but critics say efforts have fallen short of expectations.

Source: Air pollution up in a third of Chinese cities: Greenpeace | Daily Mail Online

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Shipping air pollution causes 24,000 deaths a year in east Asia – study 

Ship traffic is often overlooked compared to smog-producing cars and factories, but it has more than doubled off east Asia since 2005

A boom in shipping is aggravating air pollution in China and other nations in east Asia, causing thousands of deaths a year in a region with eight of the world’s 10 biggest container ports, scientists have said.

Ship traffic, often overlooked compared to cars and factories that are far bigger causes of smog, has more than doubled off east Asia since 2005 and some pollution from the fuel oil of ships wafts inland, scientists said on Monday.

The Chinese-led study estimated that sulphur dioxide, which generates acid rain, and other pollution from ships caused an estimated 24,000 premature deaths a year in east Asia, mainly from heart and lung diseases and cancer.

About three-quarters of deaths were in China, and others mainly in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea, according to the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change based on satellite data-tracking of almost 19,000 vessels.

The death toll is a tiny though rising share of an estimated one million deaths caused annually by air pollution in east Asia, the study found. Given many uncertainties, the number of deaths could be as low as 14,500 or as high as 37,500, it said.

“A few years ago in east Asia the levels of shipping just weren’t that large. Now they’re huge,” Drew Shindell, one of the study’s authors at Duke University in the United States, told Reuters.

China’s Shanghai container port is the world’s busiest and China will start to demand cleaner fuels for ships in coastal regions from 2019. Thousands of protests are sparked every year in China as a result of concerns about environmental degradation.

North America and parts of Europe already require that ships operating close to land use more costly, less polluting fuel with a sulphur content below 0.1%. The US Environmental Protection Agency expects the North American controls will prevent 14,000 premature deaths a year by 2020.

Worldwide, the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) plans to cut the sulphur limit for ships’ fuel to 0.5% from 2020 from a current 3.5%.

The curbs could be delayed to 2025 if member states decide that refineries are unable to adapt in time. Natasha Brown, an IMO spokeswoman in London, said a decision is due in October.

The study also found that emissions of carbon dioxide, the main manmade greenhouse gas, from shipping off east Asia had doubled in less than a decade to 16% of the industry’s global total in 2013.

Other air pollutants from ships have a cooling effect on global climate, however, by reflecting sunlight into space. The cooling is likely to predominate for about another eight years before warming takes over, it said.

Source: Shipping air pollution causes 24,000 deaths a year in east Asia – study | Environment | The Guardian

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UK Toxic Air Pollution Levels Rise as Temperatures Increase 

As UK temperatures reach their annual peak, air pollution rates will elevate to dangerous levels.

Certain pollutants react with sunlight to create ozone, a toxic gas that causes respiratory complications. Ozone levels are forecast to be ‘moderate to high’ this week – constituting a serious health risk.

But the government does not do enough to promote public awareness of the risk and it goes unrecognised.

The UK has recently come under pressure from ClientEarth and other campaign groups to create a new, modernised Clean Air Act. This comes just as the EU has finalised new rules which aim to limit five major pollutants, including two that combine to produce ozone in sunny conditions.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “The UK must implement new emission limits as fully as possible, to protect people’s health. Air pollution does not respect national borders, so it’s essential we continue to work closely with our European partners to reduce emissions.

“The government obviously cannot influence the weather, which helps create the conditions for these deadly smogs, but it can and must do far more to tackle deadly air pollution. The best way to do this is by coming up with a new, all-encompassing Clean Air Act.

This spike in pollution is bad news for all of Western Europe, and particularly those who suffer from respiratory illnesses like asthma.

“Without quick and appropriate action to clean up the air, incidents like these will only get more severe, and more dangerous.”

 ClientEarth is currently taking the government to court over its continuous failure to protect people from illegal levels of air pollution in the UK. The case is set to be heard on the 18th and 19th October this year in the High Court.

According to a recent report from the Royal College of Physicians, 40,000 people die early as a direct result of dirty air in the UK each year.

Responding to the Mayor of London’s announcement of increased funding for pollution hotspots, ClientEarth spokesperson Simon Alcock said, “we welcome the Mayor’s commitment to tackle London’s pollution hotspots and the much needed support for London’s boroughs. This will help tackle London’s public health crisis caused by air pollution but also needs to be combined with bold policies such as a bigger and better Ultra Low Emission Zone as proposed by the Mayor last month. The government need to stop dragging their feet too. We need a new Clean Air Act that is bold and ambitious so everyone can breathe cleaner air”.

Source: UK Toxic Air Pollution Levels Rise as Temperatures Increase – Blue and Green Tomorrow

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