London air pollution as bad as ‘smoking 154 cigarettes every year’

Air quality in London is so poor it is currently the equivalent of indirectly smoking 154 cigarettes a year, according to new research.

A number of measures have been implemented in London to try and reduce pollution, including the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which is set to expand later this year.

But the capital is still not yet leading the way when it comes to clean air. 

London has come in ninth place – with Northampton, Nottingham and Bristol scooping the top three places.

Levels of air pollution in the capital were showing as ‘very high’ in Greater London at the end of January, according to the Defra website.

Air pollution alerts are sent when levels rise high enough to affect health – but there aren’t any currently in place.

The study has found most of the worst culprits are located in the south east of England. 

Northampton was the highest, with residents inhaling the same as 189 cigarettes a year. 

According to one study by the British Heart Foundation, approximately one in every 20 deaths in Northampton can be linked to air pollution.

In the North, the most polluted city is Kingston upon Hull, where residents indirectly inhale the equivalent of 161 cigarettes annually. 

Number of cigarettes you’re indirectly smoking each year by city

  1. Northampton – 189
  2. Nottingham – 181
  3. Bristol – 163
  4. Southampton – 162
  5. Kingston Upon Hull – 161
  6. Cardiff – 160
  7. Southend-on-Sea – 157
  8. Norwich – 157
  9. Leeds – 155
  10. London – 154
  11. Stoke – 149

The number goes down drastically if you look further afield to Scotland.

Both Glasgow and Edinburgh possessed significantly better air quality, at 92 and 87 cigarettes indirectly smoked. 

HouseFresh, which compiled the data, said: ‘Berkeley’s Earth describes a rule-of-thumb that compares exposure to PM2.5 particles to cigarettes smoked: one cigarette per day is the rough equivalent of a PM2.5 level of 22 µg/m3. 

‘We converted that value to cigarettes as per Berkeley’s Earth rule-of-thumb and multiplied the result by 365 to obtain how many cigarettes you’ve indirectly smoked during a year.’

London air pollution as bad as ‘smoking 154 cigarettes every year’ | Metro News

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Air Pollution Linked to Depression in Older Adults: Study

Researchers from Harvard and Emory Universities have found a link between long-term exposure to air pollution and being diagnosed with depression after age 64.

“Depression in older adults is a concern and can be as important as dementia,” the authors write, noting that previous studies have shown the impact of air pollution on mental health.

The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open. Researchers analyzed Medicare data from 2005 to 2016 for 8.9 million people age 64 and older, of whom 57% were female and 90% were white. During the study, more than 1.5 million people were diagnosed with depression.

The researchers looked at air pollution data for the ZIP code associated with where each person in the study lived during a 16-year period. The three air pollutants studied were: 

Fine particulate matter, which are tiny particles such as those that can make the air look hazy when pollution levels are high.

Ozone, also known as smog, which comes from sources such as tailpipes and smokestacks.

Nitrogen dioxide, which is among the group of gases that form when fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas, or diesel are burned.

Prolonged exposure to each of the three pollutants was linked to an increased risk of a new diagnosis of depression. Researchers found that nitrogen dioxide exposure was particularly dangerous.

Depression later in life is often under diagnosed, according to the CDC, because “healthcare providers may mistake an older adult’s symptoms of depression as just a natural reaction to illness or the life changes that may occur as we age, and therefore not see the depression as something to be treated.”

“That’s one of the biggest reasons we wanted to conduct this analysis,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researcher Xinye Qiu, PhD, told CNN. “Surprisingly, we saw a large number of late-onset depression diagnoses in this study.”

The authors write that they hope both environmental regulators and public health officials will take the impact of air pollution into account when considering the prevention of depression in older people.

“We hope this study can inspire researchers to further consider possible environmental risk factors (such as air pollution and living environment) for the prevention of geriatric depression, to understand the disease better moving forward, and to improve the delivery of mental health care services among older adults,” they write.

Air Pollution Linked to Depression in Older Adults: Study
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Air pollution particles ‘linked to higher blood pressure in London teenagers’

Long-term exposure to tiny air pollution particles known as PM2.5 is linked with higher blood pressure in teenagers living in London – with stronger associations seen in girls, according to research.

Scientists from Kings College London, who analysed data from more than 3,000 adolescents, also found that exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a pollutant from diesel traffic in London – is associated with lower blood pressure in this group.

The team said that based on its findings, published in the journal Plos One, more research is urgently needed to assess how air pollution may be affecting the cardiovascular health of children and adolescents.

Senior author Seeromanie Harding, a professor of social epidemiology from King’s College, London, said their study “provides a unique opportunity to track exposures of adolescents living in deprived neighbourhoods”.

She added: “Given that more than one million under-18s live in neighbourhoods where air pollution is higher than the recommended health standards, there is an urgent need for more of these studies to gain an in-depth understanding of the threats to (and opportunities for) young people’s development.”

Tiny pollution particles are small enough to be inhaled into the body.

These pollutants can make their way into the bloodstream, causing damage to blood vessels and airways.

The findings highlight the potential detrimental role of exposure to higher concentrations of particulate matter on adolescents’ blood pressure levels – Dr Alexis Karamanos

For the study, the researchers examined the effects of air pollution on children attending 51 schools across London.

They analysed data from 3,284 adolescents, following up from ages 11-13 and 14-16 years old.

The results show Particulate Matter (PM2.5) – tiny pollutants that come from car exhaust fumes, building, and industry materials – was associated with higher blood pressure across all ages, particularly among girls.

Meanwhile, NO2 was associated with lower blood pressure.

Co-author Dr Andrew Webb, from King’s College London, said: “The effect of NO2 on blood pressure is similar to what we and other researchers have observed previously after ingesting green leafy vegetables or beetroot juice.

“These are rich in dietary nitrate (NO3-) which increases circulating nitrite (NO2-) concentration in the blood and lowers blood pressure, an effect which may also be sustained over weeks or months with continued ingestion of nitrate-rich vegetables.”

Researchers also found teenagers from ethnic minority groups were exposed to higher annual average concentrations of pollution at home than their white UK peers.

But, they added, the impact of pollutants on blood pressure did not vary according to ethnicity, weight, or economic status.

Corresponding author Dr Alexis Karamanos, from King’s College London, said: “The findings highlight the potential detrimental role of exposure to higher concentrations of particulate matter on adolescents’ blood pressure levels.

“Further studies following the same adolescents over time in different socio-economic contexts are needed to understand whether and how exposure to higher pollutant concentrations may affect differently the cardiovascular health of children and adolescents.”

Air pollution particles ‘linked to higher blood pressure in London teenagers’ | Times Series
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Sitting in traffic for just 2 hours can lead to brain damage

Breathing in diesel exhaust fumes while sitting in traffic could be disastrous for your brain, a new neuroscience study warns. A team at the University of British Columbia says brain scans show increased impairments in brain function after exposure to traffic pollution. In fact, signs of decreased brain function can start to appear in as little as two hours.

The study focused on a person’s functional connectivity — a measure that tests how well different brain regions interact with one another. According to the study authors, this is the first controlled experiment to show evidence of humans showing altered brain network connectivity as a result of air pollution exposure.

“For many decades, scientists thought the brain may be protected from the harmful effects of air pollution,” says Chris Carlsten, a professor and head of respiratory medicine and the Canada Research Chair in occupational and environmental lung disease at UBC, in a university release. “This study, which is the first of its kind in the world, provides fresh evidence supporting a connection between air pollution and cognition.”

The team briefly exposed 25 healthy adults to either diesel exhaust or filtered air in a lab. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure their brain activity before and after each exposure. One of the areas they looked at for possible changes is the brain’s default mode network (DMN). The DMN includes several brain regions connected together that play a part in people’s internal thoughts and memories. The fMRI scans show that people exposed to diesel exhaust have lower DMN activity compared to the air-filtered group.

“We know that altered functional connectivity in the DMN has been associated with reduced cognitive performance and symptoms of depression, so it’s concerning to see traffic pollution interrupting these same networks,” explains study first author Jodie Gawryluk, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria. “While more research is needed to fully understand the functional impacts of these changes, it’s possible that they may impair people’s thinking or ability to work.”

The good news is that the neurological effects from diesel exhaust were temporary. Every person exposed to air pollution had their brain activity return to normal. However, the study authors speculate that long-term exposure, like sitting in gridlock traffic every day, may cause more permanent damage. While we don’t know how much car exhaust could cause long-lasting brain damage, Dr. Carlsten says it’s better to minimize any exposure in the first place.

fMRI shows decreased functional connectivity in the brain following exposure to traffic pollution. (Credit: University of British Columbia)

“People may want to think twice the next time they’re stuck in traffic with the windows rolled down,” says Dr. Carlsten. “It’s important to ensure that your car’s air filter is in good working order, and if you’re walking or biking down a busy street, consider diverting to a less busy route.”

The study is published in Environmental Health.

Sitting in traffic for just 2 hours can lead to brain damage – Study Finds
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Air pollution warning for Bangkok

Unsafe levels of fine dust are forecast for the capital city from Tuesday to Friday due to stagnant air and extensive burn-off in Cambodia.

A high pressure systems from China would cover the country and cause stagnant air which would result in the accumulation of dust particles that could reach unsafe levels from Jan 31-Feb 3, Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt said on Monday.

“There are more hotspots due to biomass burn-off in Cambodia. Northeasterly winds are blowing the dust of burnt biomass to the Gulf of Thailand but on Feb 1 and 2 the wind direction will change. The easterly wind will bring more biomass dust to Bangkok,” Mr Chadchart said.

He advised people in the city to wear face masks when outdoors, but to try to avoid outdoor activities.

From Tuesday to Friday, businesses and employees should work from home where possible, to avoid the  pollution, the governor said.

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency reported 771 hotspots in Thailand, 1,996 in Cambodia, 683 in Laos, 647 in Myanmar, 384 in Vietnam and one in Malaylia on Sunday.

Air pollution warning for Bangkok
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Bangkok air pollution prompts advice to work from home

Thai capital’s already bad air made worse by forest fires and burning on farms

People in Bangkok have been advised to work from home and wear face masks due to air pollution that has worsened to unhealthy levels.

Officials urged people to use public transport rather than private cars for commuting, and said the authorities would seek to reduce sources of pollution such as outdoor burning and construction activities. Face masks would be distributed to vulnerable people, Bangkok authorities said.

The Bangkok governor, Chadchart Sittipunt, said pollution was expected to rise on Thursday but it did not require schools to be closed. “I would like to ask people to be prepared by checking the pollution level before planning a trip. The BMA [Bangkok Metropolitan Administration] and pollution department will control the sources of the dust and ask for cooperation from activities that generates dust such as construction sites or truck transportation,” he said.

If the situation worsened, he added, limitations on transport would be considered.

Agricultural burning and forest fires are a major cause of air pollution in Thailand between December and April, especially in the north-west. Pollution from these fires also affects Bangkok, which already struggles with bad air due to its factories, construction and traffic.

On Thursday morning, PM2.5 levels reached 63.2µg/m³ (micrograms per cubic metre), according to the Swiss air quality company IQAir – far higher than the WHO annual air quality guideline of 5µg/m³. Areas of Samut Songkhram, south-west of Bangkok, and Lampang, in the north, ranked worst in Thailand.

Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, the permanent secretary in the health ministry, said this week that all provincial public health services would monitor the situation and that emergency centres would be opened in provinces experiencing high levels of pollution for more than three consecutive days.

The number of patients experiencing pollution-related health problems more than doubled to nearly 213,000 this week, from about 96,000 last week, Opas said. Most were experiencing respiratory tract problems as well as symptoms such as dermatitis or eye inflammation.

Chadchart said the situation would be monitored closely throughout February and was expected to be better in March.

Bangkok air pollution prompts advice to work from home | Thailand | The Guardian
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Jet engine lubrication oils are a major source of ultrafine particles

Ultrafine particles form during combustion processes, for example when wood or biomass is burned, as well as in power and industrial plants. Alongside road traffic, large airports are a major source of these ultrafine particles, which are less than 100 millionths of a millimetre (100 nanometres) in size. Because they are so small, they can penetrate deep into the lower respiratory tract, overcome the air-blood barrier and, depending on their composition, cause inflammatory reactions in the tissue, for example. What’s more, ultrafine particles are suspected of being capable of triggering cardiovascular diseases.

Since several years, the Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology (HLNUG) has been measuring the number and size of ultrafine particles at various air monitoring stations in the vicinity of Frankfurt International Airport, for example in the Frankfurt suburb of Schwanheim and in Raunheim. Last year, scientists led by Professor Alexander Vogel at Goethe University Frankfurt analysed the chemical composition of the ultrafine particles and came across a group of organic compounds which, according to their chemical fingerprints, originated from aircraft lubrication oils.

The research team has now corroborated this finding by means of further chemical measurements of the ultrafine particles: the particles originated to a significant degree from synthetic jet oils and were particularly prevalent in the smallest particle classes, i.e. particles 10 to 18 nanometres in size. Such lubrication oils can enter the exhaust plume of an aircraft’s engines, for example through vents where nanometre-sized oil droplets and gaseous oil vapours are not fully retained.

In laboratory experiments, the researchers also succeeded in reproducing the formation of ultrafine particles from lubrication oils. To this end, a common engine lubrication oil was first evaporated at around 300 °C in a hot gas stream, which simulated the exhaust plume of an aircraft engine, and subsequently cooled down. The number-size distribution of the freshly formed particles was then measured.

Alexander Vogel, Professor for Atmospheric Environmental Analytics at the Institute for Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences of Goethe University Frankfurt, explains: “When the oil vapour cools down, the gaseous synthetic esters are supersaturated and form the nuclei for new particles that can then grow fast to around 10 nanometres in size. These particles, as our experiments indicate, constitute a large fraction of the ultrafine particles produced by aircraft engines. The previous assumption that ultrafine particles originate primarily from sulphur and aromatic compounds in kerosene is evidently incomplete. According to our findings, lowering lubrication oil emissions from jet engines holds significant potential for reducing ultrafine particles.”

The experiments show that the formation of ultrafine particles in jet engines is not confined to the combustion of kerosene alone. Potential mitigation measures should take this into consideration. This means that using low-sulphur kerosene or switching to sustainable aviation fuel cannot eliminate all the pollution caused by ultrafine particles.

A comprehensive scientific study by the Federal State of Hesse, which will start in 2023, will examine pollution from ultrafine particles and their impact on health. In this context, the results from the current study can help to identify airport-specific particles and derive possible mitigation measures.

Story Source:Materials provided by Goethe University Frankfurt. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Jet engine lubrication oils are a major source of ultrafine particles — ScienceDaily
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Gas stoves have given 650,000 U.S. children asthma, study finds

Gas stoves are responsible for 12.7% of U.S. childhood asthma cases, a new study in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has found. That proportion is much higher in states such as Illinois (21.1%), California (20.1%) and New York (18.8%), where gas stoves are more prevalent.

“When the gas stove is turned on, and when it’s burning at that hot temperature, it releases a number of air pollutants,” Brady Seals, a co-author of the study and the carbon-free buildings manager at the energy policy think tank RMI, told Yahoo News. “So these are things like particulate matter, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, along with others. So, for example, nitrogen dioxide is a known respiratory irritant. And the EPA, in 2016, said that short-term exposure to NO2 causes respiratory effects like asthma attacks.”

The study was based on a meta-analysis from 2013 on the correlation between gas stoves and childhood asthma, which found that living in a home with a gas stove corresponds to a 42% higher chance of current childhood asthma. Combining that with data on the prevalence of gas stoves, which are present in 35% of U.S. homes, the researchers estimated how many more childhood asthma cases exist because of their presence. As a result, the researchers found that 650,000 American children have asthma because of gas stoves in their home.

The new study follows other research showing gas stoves are harmful to indoor air quality. In 2020, UCLA public health researchers commissioned by the Sierra Club found that 90% of homes have unhealthy levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution after cooking with gas for one hour. A 2020 study by RMI found homes with gas stoves have 50% to over 400% higher nitrogen dioxide concentrations than homes with electric stoves. When burned, gas also emits harmful substances, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen.

In addition to the indoor air pollution at issue in this study, home gas use also contributes to outdoor air pollution, another primary driver of asthma. The same toxins that harm children’s lungs while they are indoors contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, also known as smog, which is toxic. In 2019, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that ozone is responsible for 11% of deaths from chronic respiratory disease. And natural gas is mostly methane, which is also an ingredient in smog formation.

Methane is also a very powerful greenhouse gas, accounting for 11% of planet-warming emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Global warming also worsens air pollution, as hotter weather contributes to smog formation.

Increasingly, cities looking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions are banning the installation of gas appliances in new construction. Liberal bastions such as Berkeley, Calif., San Francisco, Seattle and New York City have adopted such measures.

Researchers are also discovering that gas stoves and ovens may pollute indoor air when they’re not even in use. A January 2021 study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that gas stoves and ovens frequently leak, and it estimated that in the U.S. their leaked methane emissions are equivalent to the carbon emissions of half a million cars.

The UCLA study estimated that in California alone, if all residential gas appliances were transitioned to clean-energy electric appliances, the reduction of particulate pollution and nitrogen oxides would result in 354 fewer annual deaths and an even greater reduction in bronchitis.

The researchers in the newest study recommend two approaches to reducing indoor pollution from gas stoves: either improving ventilation or replacing them with clean alternatives such as electric stoves. They lean heavily towards the latter.

“Notably, ventilation is associated with the reduction, but not elimination, of childhood asthma risk,” they write.

Even many stoves with range hoods, they note, do not vent outdoors — which defeats the purpose — and people often forget to turn their vents on.

Last month, eight senators and 12 members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, signed a letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to take action to protect consumers from gas stove pollution. The letter did not call for banning gas stoves, but instead asking for regulation to require ventilation and performance standards to limit leakage. CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. said in a subsequent webinar that a ban on gas stoves would be a “real possibility.”

Gas stoves have given 650,000 U.S. children asthma, study finds
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