Blood pressure risk for children exposed to air pollution in womb Children exposed to air pollution when in the womb are more likely to have high blood pressure, researchers have found.

Study: Street-level air pollution increases health risk among elderly  A new study published today in the journal Environmental Health shows that differences in traffic-related air pollution are associated with higher rates of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease in the elderly.

Hawaii’s silent danger: Volcanic smog, otherwise known as ‘vog’ The recent eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea has generated apocalyptic scenes of bright red lava exploding hundreds of feet into the sky and burning buildings consumed by the molten rock. But there’s another danger, silent and often unseen, that has been with Hawaiian residents and visitors forever in varying degrees. In Hawaii they call it “vog,” short for volcanic smog.


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Blood pressure risk for children exposed to air pollution in womb


Children exposed to air pollution when in the womb are more likely to have high blood pressure, researchers have found.

They believe that tiny particles from car exhausts and factories can cross the placenta and cause long-term harm.

Their study – the first of its kind – looked at 1 293 mothers and their children aged three to nine. Youngsters exposed to the highest level of pollution in the last three months of pregnancy were 61 % more likely to have high blood pressure.

The researchers looked at ‘fine particulate matter’, which is produced by cars and the burning of coal. Dr Noel Mueller, who led the study at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, said the results – published in the journal Hypertension – showed the need for clean air regulations. But he said it was too early to say for sure that pollution caused the high blood pressure.

Oliver Hayes of Friends of the Earth said the study was the latest to highlight the risks of air pollution to unborn babies. He added: ‘We need urgent Government action to protect society’s most vulnerable from diesel fumes.’

via Blood pressure risk for children exposed to air pollution in womb | IOL Lifestyle

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Study: Street-level air pollution increases health risk among elderly

A new study published today in the journal Environmental Health shows that differences in traffic-related air pollution are associated with higher rates of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease in the elderly. Scientists from Environmental Defense Fund and Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Division of Research combined data from the nonprofit’s block-by-block study of air pollution in Oakland, CA, with 6 years of electronic health records from more than 40,000 local residents to evaluate the impacts of air quality between neighbors, people who live on the same street or within a few blocks of each other at an unprecedented resolution.

Specifically, the study shows that 3.9 parts per billion higher NO2 concentrations are associated with a 16 percent increased risk of diagnosed heart attacks, surgery or death from heart disease among the elderly and 0.36 microgram per meter cube higher black carbon concentrations are associated with a 15 percent increased risk of having a cardiac event and/or dying from coronary heart disease among the same population.

The effect estimates of street-level neighborhood differences in long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution on cardiovascular events in the general population of adults, were consistent with results found in previous studies, though not statistically significant. The associations among the elderly add to a growing body of evidence indicating higher susceptibility to air pollution.

In 2017, EDF revealed the results of our work with Google Earth Outreach, which deployed Google Street View cars to create one of the largest, most spatially precise datasets of mobile air pollution measurements ever assembled and mapped the differences in air quality within Oakland It also revealed unexpected variation in air pollution within smaller neighborhoods and even individual city blocks. This latest study combines that highly resolved air map with Kaiser Permanente’s health records to determine the health impacts of unhealthy air on the streets outside residents’ homes.

EDF is also visualizing these results in new maps, which show pollution associated relative risk for residents living in specific parcels.

“With 80 percent of the US population living in urban areas and cardiovascular disease contributing to one in six heath care dollars spent, it is critical that we better understand what is driving health disparities in cities,” said Ananya Roy, EDF Health Scientist and a co-author of the study. “Local action requires local information. While researchers have been able to study air pollution and health effects across populations in large neighborhoods, towns or cities, accurately evaluating and quantifying risks from air pollution at street level has been elusive until now.

“Our study shows the power of comprehensive health records for conducting cutting edge environmental health research,” said Stacey Alexeeff, lead author of the study and Research Scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research. “We’ve broken new ground by analyzing the health impact of air pollution on the city block scale for the first time.”

This research is part of EDF’s effort to advance the science behind air quality monitoring, using an emerging wave of environmental innovation to make pollution not only visible but actionable. EDF is not only tracking and measuring air pollution, but also bringing academia, industry, community groups and the public sector together to develop solutions and take these ideas to scale. EDF is already working on future air pollution mapping projects and will assess the health impacts of local pollution in new locations as well.

“As EDF builds on our research by expanding to other communities and exploring other kinds of data we can collect and analyze, we’ll be able to more accurately pinpoint environmental threats and do so in a way that’s scalable,” said Steven Hamburg, Chief Scientist at EDF. “We hope to empower people with this new information, driving solutions that improve the health of millions.”

via Study: Street-level air pollution increases health risk among elderly | Environmental Defense Fund

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Seoul to ban old diesels cars on air-polluted days

Old diesel cars will be banned from being driven in Seoul when heavy fine dust alerts are issued.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government ordered that diesel vehicles, registered before Dec. 31, 2005, will be restricted in downtown Seoul from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. when emergency action against heavy air pollution is needed. Any violators will be fined 100,000 won ($94).

The restriction will take effect next month after a regulation review.

According to government data, 200,000 vehicles are subject to the restriction in Seoul and 2.2 million nationwide. Given that 22.69 million cars were registered as of March, one out of 10 will be affected.

The city government initially considered restricting diesel-powered cars registered before December 2005 that weigh 2.5 tons or above.

However, through public hearings and discussions, Seoul reached a conclusion to expand the number of cars to be controlled.

Diesel vehicles that were registered outside Seoul and weigh less than 2.5 tons and those driven by the disabled will have a grace period until February next year to install emission reduction devices on their vehicles.

“We considered giving some exceptions to some vehicles driven by those who make a living using aged diesel cars. However, we decided to minimize the exemption range to increase the efficiency of the initiative,” said an official of the city government.

Diesel cars have taken heavy flak for polluting the air, with the government announcing measures aimed at reducing fine dust emissions.

Meanwhile, the city government recently withdrew its plan to provide free public transportation on days fine dust warnings are issued.

via Seoul to ban old diesels cars on air-polluted days

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Short trips and cold starts double air pollution

Modern vehicles can emit twice as much pollution in the first five minutes of running, according to new research.

Analysis of the EQUA Index data shows that the average daily distance driven in urban areas is not sufficient for a vehicles pollution control system to warm up and function effectively.

Global Action Plan is calling on drivers to ditch their cars on Clean Air Day (June 21), in favour of walking or cycling shorter trips.

More than half of car trips nationally are less than five miles. In urban areas such as inner London, a third of car trips are less than two miles

The combination of the pollution burst that is being created as cars warm up in the first five minutes of journeys, together with the large proportion of journeys being short ones, is making a significant contribution to the UK’s air pollution challenge.

Drivers are suffering the worst effects of this pollution burst as there can be up to double the amount of pollution inside vehicles.

Larissa Lockwood, head of health at Global Action Plan, the organisers of Clean Air Day, said: “Taking collective action to tackle air pollution every day can make a massive difference, particularly if we cut down on using the car for these short, polluting journeys, many of which can be walked or cycled instead.

“Imagine if more people left the car at home every day, particularly for these short journeys. We could achieve similar levels of clean air on a daily basis as we did when the roads closed during the London Marathon which led a massive 89% drop in air pollution. We would suffer far fewer health problems from air pollution and we would also reduce levels of congestion and free up our streets, making them safer.

“Let’s take action together on Clean Air Day, 21 June, to make a real difference to the air we breathe. Clean Air Day has developed a range of advice, top tips, and information on the actions that everyone can take to protect themselves from pollution and reduce their impact.”

via Short trips and cold starts double air pollution | Environment News

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Air pollution linked to increases in crime


Several reports reveal how pollution affects behaviour

Air pollution can directly affect behaviour and dramatically increase crime levels, a series of studies conducted over several years have proven.

While the impact of bad air on human health is well-documented, “there is growing evidence to suggest that air pollution does not just affect our health – it affects our behaviour too”, says Gary Haq, writing in The Conversation.

Haq, an associate professor at the University of York, says a decision to remove lead in petrol in the US in the 1970s has been linked with a 56% drop in violent crime in the 1990s.

Two other reports directly link air pollution with antisocial behaviour. Short-term exposure to air pollution, especially sulphur dioxide, has been associated with a high risk of hospital admissions for mental disorders in Shanghai, while in Los Angeles, higher levels of particulate matter pollution were found to increase teenage delinquent behaviour in urban neighbourhoods.

It is now believed that exposure to air pollution can cause inflammation in the brain and increase anxiety levels, both of which lead to a rise in criminal or unethical behaviour and a spike in crime.

By comparing 1.8 million crimes recorded in London over two years with pollution data, researchers at the London School of Economics found that a 10-point rise in the air quality index increased the crime rate in the capital by 0.9%.

While the study relies on observational data and therefore cannot make definitive conclusions, The Independent says “it adds to a small but growing body of evidence linking pollution and crime”.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about how individual air pollutants can affect health and behaviour, and how this differs with gender, age, class, income and geographic location,” admits Huq. With the World Health Organisation estimating nine out of ten people worldwide are now regularly exposed to toxic air, the link between air pollution and crime could have wide-ranging and potentially devastating effects for society in the years to come.

via Air pollution linked to increases in crime | The Week UK

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Hawaii’s silent danger: Volcanic smog, otherwise known as ‘vog’

GH3Z3WPTCU44HE6W7WWK3YEKAUThe recent eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea has generated apocalyptic scenes of bright red lava exploding hundreds of feet into the sky and burning buildings consumed by the molten rock. But there’s another danger, silent and often unseen, that has been with Hawaiian residents and visitors forever in varying degrees.

In Hawaii they call it “vog,” short for volcanic smog. It’s not a killer, in and of itself.

But it has made tens of thousands sick over the years, feeling as if they have pneumonia or a horrible headache or bronchitis. For those with asthma or other respiratory conditions, it’s worse.

In most of Hawaii, most of the time, there is no vog. People can breathe easy.

But if the winds are unfavorable, vog can spread far from the volcano on the Big Island to affect people as far away as Oahu, 200 miles to the northwest, as it did in 2008 and 2016.

The original source of vog is the sulfur dioxide now spewing from the fissures and vents near Kilauea, according to the Hawaii Interagency Vog Information Dashboard. When sulfur dioxide reacts in the atmosphere with sunlight, oxygen and other gases, the result is a form of air pollution not unlike that given off by sulfurous coal-burning power plants.

Where vog goes depends on the wind. When Hawaii’s famous tradewinds are active, it can be dispersed out to sea.

When tradewinds are light or disappear altogether, the sulfur dioxide “sort of pancakes out” from the fissure, Janet Babb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Service, told The Washington Post.

Vog, which mainly consists of water vapor, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, can appear as “hazy air pollution.” It can also contain several other compounds such as hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen fluoride and carbon monoxide, all of which are harmful to people, according to the Geological Service. However, of the three primary gases, sulfur dioxide, which has an acrid smell reminiscent of fireworks or a burning match, is the “chief gas hazard in Hawaii,” the service reported.

Vog is nothing new to people living on the Big Island or the surrounding islands. The summit of Kilauea has been emitting high levels of sulfur dioxide for the past 10 years, Babb said.

In past years when vog has plagued the islands, many reported suffering from debilitating symptoms.

To understand the health impacts of vog, try a Google search or a search of TripAdvisor.

Jennifer Griswold, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, told KHON-TV in 2017 about her reaction to vog when she first moved to Hawaii.

“It felt like I had really severe tooth pain, or like I needed a root canal, or like someone was stabbing me in the face,” Griswold said. “I ended up going to a dentist who told me that my sinuses were so inflamed from the vog that they were essentially crushing the nerves of my teeth.”

On TripAdvisor, one visitor to Hawaii Island posted in 2016 asking for help after “suffering badly” from vog.

The user’s symptoms included a headache, a raw swollen sore throat and lethargy.

“We are planning on going to VNP [Hawaii Volcanoes National Park] today and if I had an oxygen tank I’d wear it!” the user wrote. “My question is will this get any better or should we just take our losses and leave?”

One day later, the same user provided a status update: “We are leaving today for Oahu. Hopefully I can recover enough to redeem the rest of our vacation. This has indeed been brutal!”

A Washington Post editor who frequently visits the Big Island coughed and wheezed for two weeks in 2016 before finally going for medical treatment. He was told he had all the symptoms of a bad case of pneumonia, thanks to vog.

According to the Hawaii Interagency Vog Information Dashboard, short-term symptoms could include eye, nose, throat and skin irritation; coughing and phlegm; chest tightness and shortness of breath; increased susceptibility to respiratory ailments; and in some cases, fatigue and dizziness.

Exposure is especially dangerous for people who have respiratory conditions such as asthma or emphysema, because they are more sensitive to the effects of vog, Jeffrey Kam, head of allergy and immunology at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu, told The Post. When vog occurs, Kam said he sees an influx of patients.

Studies have shown increased health risks stem from higher-than-usual amounts of sulfur dioxide emissions. According to an article published in 2010 in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, researchers found that a local clinic saw “three times as many headaches and twice as many severe sore throats” after Kilauea erupted in 2008. The researchers also reported a “six-fold increase in the odds of having acute airway problems,” which are more serious respiratory issues usually requiring immediate breathing treatments or transfer to the nearest hospital for emergency care, according to a news release.

Concentrations of sulfur dioxide, of course, are highest near fissures and immediately downwind, Babb said. In some areas, the acidic gas has exceeded 100 parts per million, she said.

“That’s in the dangerous zone,” she said. “That’s a very high concentration.”

Breathing the gas for even a short period of time can lead to long-term irritation and damage to a person’s nasal passages, throat, and even lungs and breathing tubes, Kam said.

Given these health effects, it would seem surprising anyone would choose to stay near sources of volcanic gases, but Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder told The Post there are at least a dozen people in the affected area who have yet to evacuate. She added that authorities are continuing to urge these people to leave.

However, leaving areas where there are high concentrations of volcanic gases can only do so much since the noxious fumes can be spread by wind, Kam said.

“These poor people are stuck down there,” he said. “You try to evacuate, but some of these evacuation centers are now getting inundated with the chemical smells and stuff and they have to relocate them.”

Other preventive measures, such as gas masks, also have limitations, Kam said.

To be safe in areas where there are toxic levels of gas, standard store-bought dust particle masks won’t cut it, Babb said.

Masks need to be properly fitted and equipped with the right cartridges to filter gases, she said. She added that even before purchasing a high-quality mask, people should still take a lung function test to ensure their lungs are “sufficiently robust and healthy.”

“People think oftentimes that they can put on those dust particle masks that you use when painting or sanding wood. That doesn’t work,” she said. “There’s more to it than just going to the local store and buying a gas mask.”

As scientists cannot predict when the eruptions will stop, Kam said, it’s important for people with respiratory illnesses to take proactive measures, such as stocking up on medication. Healthy people, he said, should simply avoid the pollutants as much as possible.

For people refusing to evacuate, Kam said the decision is “not wise.”

“They’re taking their life into their own hands,” he said.

via Hawaii’s silent danger: Volcanic smog, otherwise known as ‘vog’ – The Washington Post

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Estonia’s air is one of the cleanest in the world – WHO

Kauksi-beach-Estonia-Jaak-NilsonAccording to the data by the World Health Organisation, Estonia is among the countries with the cleanest air.
According to the WHO, the countries with the cleanest air are Finland, Estonia, Sweden, Canada, Norway and Iceland.

The worst air quality in the world, according to the WHO, are the continents of Asia and Africa. Worldwide, nine out of ten people are breathing polluted air. The air quality is the worst in Uganda, Mongolia, Qatar, India and Cameroon.

“Updated estimations reveal an alarming death toll of 7 million people every year caused by ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution,” the WHO said in a statement.

“In general, ambient air pollution levels are lowest in high-income countries, particularly in Europe, the Americas and the Western Pacific,” the WHO noted. “In cities of high-income countries in Europe, air pollution has been shown to lower average life expectancy by anywhere between 2 and 24 months, depending on pollution levels.”

Pia Anttila of the Meteorological Institute of Finland, the country with the cleanest air in the world, told the Finnish national broadcaster, YLE, that the Nordics, Canada and Estonia are all far away from concentrations of polluting industry – this being the reason for these countries’ clean air.

via Estonia’s air is one of the cleanest in the world – WHO – Estonian World

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