TOP STORIES

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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Dozens hospitalised as rubbish dump fire burns for fourth day

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Firefighters are yet to extinguish a blaze at Yangon’s largest rubbish dump that has caused major air pollution problems in several townships on the city’s outskirts.

The fire broke out at Htein Bin rubbish dump in Hlaing Tharyar Township on Saturday, the authorities said. While it has been brought under control, Yangon City Development Committee official Aung Myint Maw said they were struggling to put it out completely.

“Since Monday evening the firefighters have been able to stop the fire from spreading and there are no new fires until now,” Aung Myint Maw, the deputy head at YCDC’s Environmental Conservation and Sanitation Department, told reporters earlier today.

“However, it’s not easy to extinguish the fire completely because it’s burning from the inside … Obviously it will keep burning for a few days.

“We are not very clear on the cause of the fire. At the moment our focus is on extinguishing it as soon as possible.”

A pall of smoke has descended over neighbouring townships, including Insein, Hlaing and Shwepyithar.

Health authorities have set up temporary clinics in some badly affected Hlaing Tharyar wards to provide assistance to residents.

A nurse at a temporary clinic set up in 20th quarter on Sunday, told Frontier they are providing free medicine and treatment. Most patients are suffering headaches and some have respiratory problems.

“We transferred about 40 people to hospital last night. Today though we’ve only received two patients,” said the nurse, who asked not to be named as she was not authorised to speak to the media.

When Frontier visited the site this morning fire department officials said they were employing 20 fire engines and 12 tankers to fight the blaze.

“It’s not that easy,” said U Myint Oo, chief of Hlaing Tharyar’s fire brigade. “When you try to extinguish it at the front, the flames go up at the back.

“At the moment we’re trying to ensure it doesn’t spread and then we’re soaking one spot after another with water.”

He said it was impossible to know when the fire would be completely extinguished.

“It seems like it will take some time,” he said. “The best thing would be if it rains. Even then, the rain will have to be rather heavy and it should last at least half a day.”

via Dozens hospitalised as rubbish dump fire burns for fourth day | Frontier Myanmar

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Smog rings alarm bells in Chiang Mai

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Amid ‘very dangerous’ air pollution, children and elderly told to stay inside

The North continued to choke in smog, as air pollution level soared in an increasing number of hotspots after the end of the ban on burning. The level of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in many provinces of the northern region, especially in Chiang Mai, continued to rise yesterday to 100 microrams per cubic metre of air by 6am, as measured by the Pollution Control Department (PCD).

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The Chiang Mai University’s DustBoy app disclosed that by 10am yesterday, all of its PM2.5 monitoring stations had reported harmful level of air pollution, with four reporting a PM2.5 AQI (Air Quality Index) over 300, or hourly PM2.5 level over 250 micrograms – a level considered “very dangerous to all people’s health”. The four stations with a critical red level of PM2.5 AQI were: Debaratana Hospital in Mae Chaem District, which had PM2.5 AQI at 320; San Kamphaeng Hospital (304); Chom Tong Hospital (331), and Chai Prakan Hospital (317).

Another two stations at Chiang Dao Public Heath Office (280) and Chiang Mai Night Bazaar (202) were reported to have orange levels of PM2.5 AQI or “very harmful to health”. DustBoy’s single PM2.5 monitoring station in Chiang Rai – at Mae Fah Luang University – reported a very harmful level of PM2.5, at 219 as of 10am.

All people within the areas of PM2.5 AQI red and orange zones are warned to avoid all outdoor activities, while sensitive groups of people such as children, the elderly or respiratory disease patients should ensure they remain in clean and air-purified rooms.

The prolonged period of haze problem in the North, which dragged on beyond Songkran Festival, was considered to have been caused by the increasing number of hotspots after the burning ban was ended in most provinces on April 20.

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This speculation was confirmed as accurate by data on hotspots from a NOAA satellite, according to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC). The satellite imagery tracked the increase in the number of hotspots in Thailand increasing from one on April 20 (the final date of the burning ban in Chiang Mai and Lamphun) to 39 the next day and 82 on April 22.

According to the previous records of northern haze, the smog season normally ended after Songkran Festival in mid-April, due to wetter condition from summer storms and the approaching rainy season.

With worsening air pollution lingering longer than expectation, PCD has issued a warning for all related agencies and local authorities in the North to continue to control open burning in their area, especially roadside burning and lighting of fires near or on forestland.

PCD also asked that people refrain from outdoor burning of garbage and leftover materials on their farms to help lower the amount of pollution in the air. It also recommended that people with sensitivity to air pollution wear facemasks at all time when outside.

The department also warned that the air pollution was likely to continue, and even intensify, today. People should strictly avoid burning especially during the night and morning during this period.

Chiang Mai University’s Climate Change Data Centre (CCDC) also reported that NASA, GISTDA, and ASMC satellite data has similarly indicated that the transboundary haze from hotspots outside the country was intensifying the smog problem in Thailand’s North.

CCDC concluded that a large number of hotspots have been documented in Myanmar during the past weekend, with hotspot pollution counts reaching as high as 210, according to ASMC data. The smog from these hotspots is tending to drift toward Thailand due to the westerly wind, said the CCDC.

via Smog rings alarm bells in Chiang Mai

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Air Pollution promotes rheumatoid arthritis

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A study in mice showed that air pollution is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis.

Air pollution is an aggravating risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study published in the medical journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The conclusions were obtained on mice.

Researchers at the University of Michigan in the United States conducted a study to understand whether there was a link between rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory joint disease and environmental factors such as pollution. This pathology affects about 1% of the population, especially women between 40 and 60 years old.

During the study, scientists observed the association between the HLA gene and other environmental pollutants such as air pollution. However, the HLA gene has already been noted as a risk factor for smokers to develop this disease in a more severe form, with greater pain and bone degeneration.

The researchers have isolated dioxin, a toxic pollutant from the hydrocarbon family, resulting from industrial processes but also vehicles and highway traffic as a risk factor for an autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis.

“We have found a particular enzyme acting as a “channel in the cell” bringing the HLA gene into contact with dioxin. The two culprits would therefore walk together to do more damage, including bone destruction,” said Dr. Joseph Holoshitz, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, author of the study.

via Pollution promotes rheumatoid arthritis

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Smothered by Smog, Polish Cities Rank Among Europe’s Dirtiest

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Burning coal is a part of daily life in Poland. As a result the country has some of the most polluted air in the European Union, and 33 of its 50 dirtiest cities.

High atop the ski lift at Zar Mountain in southern Poland, the villages below disappear. At first, they seem obscured by morning fog. But the yellow haze does not lift. It hangs heavy, the contrast with the white snow making it clear that something is off.

What is off is the air. Poland has some the most polluted air in all of the European Union, and 33 of its 50 dirtiest cities. Not even mountain retreats are immune.

The problem is largely a result of the country’s love affair with coal. Like elsewhere in Poland, most of the homes in the villages below Zar Mountain are still heated by coal. Some 19 million people rely on coal for heat in winter. In all of the European Union, 80 percent of private homes using coal are in Poland.

Coal, commonly referred to as “black gold,” is seen as a patriotic alternative to Russian gas in this country, which broke away from Soviet control three decades ago and remains deeply suspicious of its neighbor to the east. Burning coal is part of daily life.

Many street corners, near bus and tram stops, feature containers known as braziers that burn coke, a coal derivative that is chiefly carbon. On a recent morning in Swietochlowice, to the north, children threw in sticks and paper, sucking in the fumes.

 Outdated furnaces burn coal, too. Andrzej Machno, who lives in the small city of Skawina, northeast of Zar Mountain, has used the same furnace for more than three decades.

He has been waiting for local government funding to change to a newer, cleaner-burning model. But it is not clear when the money will arrive, or if he will qualify.

“I think all the promises come with elections,” Mr. Machno said. But once the campaigns are over, he said, all the grand ideas fade away.

In the meantime, the smog is everywhere.

Driving through small villages near Rybnik, about two hours to the northwest of the mountain and one of the cities ranked as the European Union’s most polluted, smoke poured out of the houses that hug the main road.

It was evening, but strangely bright as smoke particles diffused the light from street lamps, creating an eerie orange glow. “This doesn’t look right,” a father said as he hurried past with his son, his jacket pulled above his mouth.

In Krakow, with its majestic castle looming over the old town, many of the buildings are still equipped with furnaces dating back decades. At the beginning of the winter, coal deliverymen make the rounds.

But now so do eco-consultants for the local government, which has undertaken one of the most ambitious projects in the country to wean people off burning coal or wood.

The Krakow government has outlawed the use of the cheapest, most polluting coal, and by 2019, aims to ban all burning of coal and wood.

The government workers try to help residents with the transition to cleaner fuel and furnaces, and guide them to available funds to pay for it.

If the effort succeeds, it may provide a model for other cities around the country. Already it has cut the number of outdated furnaces to about 10,000, from more than double that several years ago.

Other municipalities, like Katowice, about an hour’s drive west of Krakow, are using drones to monitor household emissions.

But overall action has been lacking from the national government of the Law and Justice party, which has long championed the politically powerful coal industry.

In December, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki used one of his first speeches to announce plans to build two new coal mines in Silesia, the industrial region in southwest Poland.

As the toll mounts from the pollution problem, especially for children, the government is also coming under greater pressure, including the prospect of fines for violating European Union standards.

Some 48,000 Poles are estimated to die annually from illnesses related to poor air quality. Greenpeace estimated that 62 percent of Poland’s kindergartens are in heavily polluted areas.

In response, the government announced that it will spend $8.8 billion by 2028 to combat smog.

“We don’t want our children to associate winter with masks on their faces, but with snow and sleds and snowmen,” Mr. Morawiecki said.

Industry and transportation are also big contributors to the smog. Poland is infamous for having the oldest cars in the European Union, with the average age of the car 13 years.

A social movement has sprung up across the country to combat pollution and educate people, especially children.

A physiotherapist by profession, Jolanta Sitarz-Wojcicka became an activist two years ago, when she had a baby and realized that the air outside was so bad she could not leave her home without risking the health of her newborn.

She took up the cause in her hometown of Zakopane, the southeast of the mountain, and now it is her sole focus. Winning the war on smog requires changing habits deeply embedded in the culture. She starts with educating school children.

At a primary school in Nowe Bystre near Zakopane, she showed the kids different pictures of trash and asked them which is O.K. to burn in a furnace.

“The smaller the village, the more interesting the responses,” she said. It is not what they are taught, she said, but what they see. And they often see people burning anything that will burn.

Thanks to a grant from the European Union, she can dedicate herself full time to the cause. But she is worried.

If the situation does not improve in the next few years, she said, she plans to move to Sweden.

Others already move to escape the pollution. Andrzej Bargiel, a well-known Polish mountaineer, used to live in downtown Zakopane, where the air gave him constant headaches. He feels better since relocating above the city, he said.

Aneta Seidler, a local leader of a Smog Alert group in Nowy Targ, in southern Poland, who has one child and is pregnant with a second, tries not to let her family leave the house, where they have plenty of air filters. They often leave the country in the winter.

“To breathe,” she said.

Oliwer Palarz, an activist with the Rybnik Smog Alert group, makes his children Antoni and Tymon wear anti-smog masks while outside. He is suing the Polish government, claiming that its lack of action on pollution has violated his civil rights.

Many are not optimistic things are headed in the right direction. The European Court of Justice ruled that Poland infringed air quality laws between 2007 and 2015 by continuously exceeding pollution values.

While the European Union continues to play a leading role in action to limit global warming, Poland is likely to be an outlier for some time.

Poland’s appetite for coal is so great, it is even importing more and more of it from the United States, where Trump administration has been trying to revive its own coal industry.

In Belchatow, Poland maintains Europe’s largest coal-fired utility plant, at the edge of a coal mine eight miles long and two miles wide.

It shows no signs of slowing, and continues to belch out carbon at an astounding rate. It the largest carbon emitter in Europe.

via Smothered by Smog, Polish Cities Rank Among Europe’s Dirtiest – The New York Times

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Air Pollution Linked To Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: What Parents Need To Know

Air pollution could be linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death, a study has found.

The research, carried out by University of Birmingham and funded by The Lullaby Trust, found evidence suggesting an association between SIDS and exposure to airborne pollutants: PM10 and nitrous dioxide (NO2). Other pollutants were not found to be associated with SIDS.

Researchers looked at levels of air pollution the day before a SIDS death and compared them to levels on a previous reference day. The study involved over 200 SIDS cases in the West Midlands, between 1996 and 2006.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the harmful effects of air pollution cause 3.7 million premature deaths each year. Children are more vulnerable than any other group and recent increases in fossil fuel emissions mean that understanding the effects of air pollution on child heath is more relevant than ever.

When it comes to what parents can do to reduce the effects of exposure to pollution on their child, the study’s authors draw attention to advice that suggests:

:: Staying indoors on days with higher levels of pollution

:: Cleaning systems for air in the home such as air purifiers.

You can find out the current level of air pollution in your region by heading to the Defra website; click a coloured area on the map to view information. The results are based on the maximum air quality index measured across all stations in each region. The colour code highlights whether the level is “low”, up to “very high”. Click here to find out what the pollution level is where you live.

Francine Bates, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust, said the charity advises parents to follow safer sleep guidelines which are known to reduce the risk of SIDS. These include:

:: Sleeping their baby on their back on a firm, flat surface

:: Ensuring the cot is clear and free of teddies and blankets

:: Not exposing them to secondhand cigarette smoke.

The study was published in the BMJ Open.

via Air Pollution Linked To Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: What Parents Need To Know

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Spain gets blame for high air pollution levels forecast in UK today

fce83d4e1ccc52ae7e7c69b94e3115e3_XLHIGH air pollution levels that have been forecast in parts of the UK today have been blamed on ‘toxic air’ from the south of Europe.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said, “Thursday and Friday have the chance of localised high pollution levels near east coasts of England, with isolated pockets also possible in busy urban areas in southern and eastern England.

“Areas of moderate air pollution are expected across southern parts of the UK, with more isolated moderate levels in the North, mainly close to coasts.”

Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, have been warned to reduce strenuous physical activity – particularly outdoors – as a combination of high temperatures and polluted are forecast.

People prone to hay fever may also need to be careful, with the pollen count the highest it has been this year.

The ‘toxic air’ is being blamed on pollution coming in from France and Spain.

via Spain gets blame for high air pollution levels forecast in UK today

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Bushfire Holsworthy: Smoky haze covers Sydney

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SYDNEY residents with breathing difficulties are being warned to stay indoors as a thick haze blankets the city following backburning to contain a major blaze in Sydney’s southwest.

SYDNEY is being blanketed by a smoky haze as firefighters continue to backburn following a major blaze which threatened homes in Sydney’s southwest this week.

The fire currently burning within the Holsworthy Range and around Barden Ridge is now contained but crews will remain on scene throughout the day to monitor and consolidate containment lines around the fire.

Smoke from previous backburning operations is affecting the south west as well as the greater Sydney region and the Blue Mountains.

Liverpool and Chullora are the worst affected areas, recording a ‘poor’ air quality rating. Chullora also has poor visibility.

The haze has prompted a warning from NSW Health that children, older adults and people with heart and lung conditions are most susceptible to the effects of air pollution and excessive smoke.

“If you have asthma or a lung condition, reduce outdoor activities if smoke levels are high and if shortness of breath or coughing develops, take your reliever medicine or seek medical advice.

“Asthma sufferers need to follow their Asthma Action Plan and take their relieving medication where necessary. If symptoms get worse, seek medical advice.

TIPS TO STAY SAFE DURING BACKBURNING

* Keep doors and windows closed to prevent smoke from entering your home.

* Remove washing from clotheslines.

* Ensure pets have a protected area.

* If you’re driving through a smoky area, slow down, keep your windows up and turn your headlights on.

* Don’t call triple-0 just to report that it’s smoky. Save triple-0 for emerged

via Bushfire Holsworthy: Smoky haze covers Sydney

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Beijing issues yellow alert for air pollution

Beijing issued a yellow alert for air pollution Tuesday.

Yellow alert means the average daily air quality index (AQI) in the city will exceed 200 for at least two days.

Beijing will see its air moderately or seriously polluted from Tuesday night. Cold air and rain on Friday are expected to improve the air quality, according to Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.

China National Environmental Monitoring Center said that the central and southern areas of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei would be affected.

Response measures including dust control in construction sites, suspension of construction work and heavy vehicle restrictions will be taken from Wednesday.

Under China’s four-tier warning system, red is the most severe, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

via Beijing issues yellow alert for air pollution – Xinhua | English.news.cn

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