Kenya blames air pollution for rise in respiratory diseases

Air pollution is a major contributor to respiratory diseases in Kenya, a government official disclosed on Wednesday.
Charles Sunkuli, the Principal Secretary Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, said that over eight million Kenyans living in major cities are falling victim due to exposure from harmful emissions from vehicles, industries, use of traditional fuels and kerosene used for cooking and heating.
“Respiratory disease is the leading cause of morbidity in the country currently,” he said during the Second Air Quality annual conference in Nairobi.
Sunkuli said statistics show that diseases of the respiratory system affected 19.9 million people, accounting for 39 percent of the 50.8 million cases of facility based incidence of diseases reported in 2016.
He said 14,300 Kenyans die annually due to conditions attributed to air pollution while plants and agricultural yields are also affected by pollution.
The number of diseases of the respiratory system reported increased by 63 percent over a four year period from 12.2 million in 2012 to 19.9 million in 2016, Sunkuli said.
Sunkuli said the government has initiated a process of developing a National Air Quality Management Strategy (NAQMS) and Action Plan by putting in place an inter-agency committee with different roles and responsibilities in air quality management.
“Kenya may not achieve a clean, secure and sustainable environment by 2030 if the problem of air pollution is not collectively tackled,” Sunkuli said.
Stacey Noel, Africa Center Director, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) urged air quality experts to explore linkages to policy actions to help reduce respiratory diseases in Kenya.
“It is unfortunate that emissions from Nairobi city are far above the World Health Organization (WHO),” Noel added.
She revealed that the organization intends to support policy makers in Africa to apply air quality research findings that has been generated by different scholars.
Kenya’s economy is highly dependent on its natural resource base and climate-sensitive sectors including agriculture, energy transport, tourism and water, making it highly vulnerable to climate variability and change.
Participants at the conference called for an integrated approach whereby air quality issues are addressed together with climate change mitigation and adaptation actions across all development sectors.
The integrated approach to air quality and climate change will also enable Kenya to meets her international obligations, including the SDGs, the Paris Agreement, and the Stockholm Convention, among others.
The conference is expected to identify priority actions to be carried out in 2018 on data and research, policy and stakeholder engagement, education and public awareness.

via Kenya blames air pollution for rise in respiratory diseases – Xinhua | English.news.cn

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Red air pollution alert expands across northern Taiwan

Taipei CityBy Wednesday evening, parts of Taipei City and New Taipei City were also covered by an expanding red pollution alert, meaning the air quality would affect all parts of the population, the Environmental Protection Administration said.

On a warm day which saw temperatures rise to 30 degrees Celsius, initially it was the southern part of Taiwan which suffered the most, as winds from the east were held back by the central mountain range and were unable to disperse pollution in the area.

However, by the early evening, air pollution also reached high levels in Central and Northern Taiwan, reaching the capital, the Central News Agency reported.

Measuring stations all along the west coast of the island recorded red levels, indicating the pollution might affect the health of all residents, not just the elderly, children and patients.

During the evening, parts of Taipei City such as the districts of Wanhua and Datong, and areas in New Taipei City including Banqiao, Linkou, Tucheng, and Yonghe, also recorded red alerts, cable station TVBS reported.

The weather forecast for Thursday could bring relief, as temperatures in the north were expected to drop by about 10 degrees with the wind changing from easterly to northeasterly, reports said.

via Red air pollution alert expands across northern Taiwan | Taiwan News

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Air pollution is making you worse at your job

 

 

A man rides his bicycle across a street amid heavy haze in Fuyang, Anhui province, China, in November 2015. (Reuters)

Poor outdoor air quality is likely to have a negative impact on your job performance, even if you work indoors at a desk, according to a new working paper from researchers at Germany’s Leibniz University and the Columbia Business School.

For years, researchers have been connecting the dots between air pollution and poor job performance: In 2011, for instance, a study found that outdoor agricultural workers’ productivity declined as atmospheric ozone levels increased. A 2014 follow-up study found that indoor blue collar workers were similarly affected by levels of outdoor air pollution.

But at that point it still wasn’t clear whether those findings held for office workers too. Desk work is both indoors and far less physically strenuous than packing fruits and vegetables in a warehouse, so one might reasonably conclude that white collar workers are less vulnerable to the effects of air pollution simply because they’re not breathing in as much air.

But that’s not the case, as the latest study concludes. For the paper, Steffen Meyer and Michaela Pagel took data on stock trades made by over 100,000 private investors in Germany from 2003 to 2015, and paired it with data on air quality, weather and traffic from the closest of over 1,600 monitoring stations.

Why stock trades? “We interpret individual investor trading, an indoor activity that requires some skill and cognitive but no physical exertion, as a proxy for willingness and ability to engage in office work and thereby white-collar productivity,” Meyer and Pagel explain. The stock data is particularly useful because it allowed the researchers to measure human behavior at the individual level.

Outdoor air quality can fluctuate significantly from day-to-day. Meyer and Pagel wanted to know if these fluctuations had any effect on individual investors’ propensity to log in and make a trade on a given day.

To isolate the effect of air pollution, they’d first need to control for a whole host of other factors known to affect trading behavior: day of the week (markets aren’t open every day), day of the year (markets are busier at certain times of year), preceding market returns, changes to daylight saving time, weather and traffic.

With those other factors accounted for, Meyer and Pagel focused on the effect of particulate matter in the air, a measure known as PM10 — particles about 1/7th the thickness of a human hair, small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs. These particles come from vehicle exhaust, construction dust, industrial sources, wood burning and other sources, and are linked to everything from asthma to general respiratory distress to heart attacks and even death.

They found that a modest increase in outdoor PM10 — 12 micrograms of the pollutant per cubic meter — reduced investors’ propensity to trade by nearly 10 percent. They characterize that effect as “large and significant,” akin to the decrease in trading observed on a nice sunny day versus a cloudy one.

It’s worth pointing out that a 12 microgram increase in PM10 is not a whole lot — on any given day in Germany, levels of the pollutant usually fluctuate between 0 and 40 micrograms, and often more than that.

“To the best of our knowledge, this paper is the first to test whether air quality affects investor willingness to sit down and trade, controlling for investor-, environment- and market-specific factors in a commonly found low-pollution environment,” the authors conclude.  “The negative effects of pollution on white-collar work productivity are much more severe than previously thought.”

The finding comes at a time when federal authorities in the United States are working to undo certain air quality regulations. In particular, a number of President Trump’s appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency have raised eyebrows for rejecting the broad scientific consensus on the effects of air pollution.

The University of California at Irvine’s Robert Phalen, for instance, believes that “modern air is a little too clean for optimum health.” Michael Honeycutt, the new chairman of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, has written that federal regulations on ozone are unnecessary because “most people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors.”

Statements like these run contrary to the consensus view of air pollutants as a key public health concern, as represented by the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionWorld Health OrganizationNational Institutes of Health and the EPA.

And as the research out of Germany shows, air pollution outdoors can have a significant impact on your ability to do your indoor job.

via Air pollution is making you worse at your job – The Washington Post

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Delhi Air Pollution: Government Asks Schools To Avoid Outdoor Activities

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As part of the health advisory, the government asked the schools to avoid outdoor assemblies, sports and other physical activities in the early morning hours.

The Delhi Government today asked the schools to avoid outdoor activities after the Air quality in in the national capital, which remained ‘very poor’ for the fourth straight day today, and is set to nosedive further. According to the government, high moisture content and lack of winds have triggered the spike. The Centre said it will take “harsh measures”, if needed, to prevent any repeat of the recent smog episode, reported Press Trust of India.

As part of the health advisory, the government asked the schools to avoid outdoor assemblies, sports and other physical activities in the early morning hours. The government has also advised people to stay indoors as much as possible.

Earlier, the Delhi Government had asked all the schools from the city to remain closed for four days from November 8 to November 12 with pollution in the city became worse.
Though, angry parents accused Delhi government authorities of “playing with children’s health” as schools reopened despite a fresh surge in pollution to emergency levels.

When schools reopened on November 13, after it was closed for four days many schools recorded low attendance owing to the still persisting severe air pollution levels.

The Central Pollution Control Board registered the day’s air quality index (AQI) at 362, 10 units more than yesterday, on a scale of 500, reported PTI. The AQI takes into account levels of suspended particulate matter and gases like nitrogen dioxide.

An AQI between 301-400 is classified as ‘very poor’, which can trigger respiratory illness on prolonged exposure.

via Delhi Air Pollution: Government Asks Schools To Avoid Outdoor Activities

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A 24-hour no-burn alert will take effect at midnight

LA

A view of the Los Angeles skyline from 4th Street Bridge in 2016. The air quality index in downtown L.A. was 119, or “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” the South Coast Air Quality Management District said Sunday. (Mel Melcom / Los Angeles Times)

Due to poor air quality, residents in much of Southern California will be prohibited from lighting wood-burning fires for 24 hours, starting at midnight Monday.

The mandatory no-burn alert was issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. On Sunday afternoon, the air quality index in downtown Los Angeles was 119, or “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” according to the air quality district’s website.

 

From Nov. 1 through the end of February, the air district issues no-burn alerts when fine particulate pollution rises to an unhealthy level, defined as more than 30 micrograms per cubic meter. The alert applies to wood-burning devices such as residential fireplaces, backyard fire pits and wood stoves.

The district oversees air quality in the Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, which are among the smoggiest regions in the country.

The no-burn alert does not apply to the Riverside County desert or to properties above 3,000 feet in elevation. Low-income households are exempt, as are households where wood-burning is the sole source of heat.

High levels of air pollution can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, lung inflammation and breathing difficulties, as well as increase the risk of bronchitis, asthma attacks and heart attacks, according to the air district.

via A 24-hour no-burn alert will take effect at midnight – LA Times

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air pollution in Delhi: Delhi-NCR air quality still very poor as stubble burning reaches Delhi

The air quality in Delhi and NCR sees no scope of improvement, as despite orders and monitoring, the practice of stubble burning was reported from Delhi itself on Thursday.

Track the pollution level in your city

As stubble burning increases and spreads across districts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, satellite images showed cases of crop-residue burning in north Delhi towards Haryana border where farming community resides.

While the incidents of residue burning escaped the monitoring of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), which is responsible to check such cases within Delhi, officials say that appropriate action will be taken.

“We have not noticed any such cases and it should not be there… however we will check the incidents… If satellite images are showing this, then there is possibility of some garbage burning,” an official of DPCC told IANS.

As the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) expects the air quality to deteriorate further due to fog formation, weather analysts react predict change in the wind direction and type, from dry to moist, towards November 28 to further worsen the situation here.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Thursday, the average concentration of major pollutant PM2.5 or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometer at 7 p.m. in Delhi-NCR combined was 167, while in Delhi it was 172 as against a safe limit of 25 microgramme per cubic meters as per international standards and 60 units as per national standards.


The average air quality recorded by 25 active monitoring stations of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and the CPCB was “very poor”, except in Rajasthan’s Alwar, where the air quality was “moderate to poor”.


Meanwhile, with PM2.5 values over 250 units, Ghaziabad, Bhiwadi and Delhi Technical University in north Delhi recorded “severe plus” or “emergency” Air Quality Index (AQI).


According to the wether analyst, a western disturbance is likely around November 27 over Rajasthan and Haryana. However, this cyclonic circulation will only worsen the situation unlike the case of last week when the drizzling in Delhi-NCR due to the western disturbance bought the pollution levels down.


“The present dry and cold North-westerly winds coming from Punjab and Haryana have moderate speed today, which are suppose to change into moist south-westerly winds which will be of very low speed. Due to this the additional emissions collecting in Delhi will not dissipate while the mist and haze formation would further drop the air-quality,” said Mahesh Palawat, director of private weather forecasting agency Skymet.

via air pollution in Delhi: Delhi-NCR air quality still very poor as stubble burning reaches Delhi | Delhi News – Times of India

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Carburetor motorcycles cause 19% of air pollution in Tehran: official

Theran

Carburetor motorcycles account for more than 19 percent of pollutants in the capital, head of the national center for air quality and climate change affiliated with the Department of Environment, said on Tuesday.

There are around 2 million motorcycles in Tehran and the carburetor ones are causing a great deal of pollution relatively speaking, Tasnim quoted Masoud Zandi as saying.

While only 30 days are reported as polluted or mildly polluted on average over the first 8 months of the year (starting on March 21), over the last four months of the year (falling on the last month of autumn and winter) the air quality index indicate high level of pollution as the number of the polluted days jump threefold or more in some years, Zandi regretted.

Although as per a law approved by the cabinet carburetor motorcycles are not being domestically produced since last September still they account for high amounts of pollutants, stated.

Moreover, Zandi said, while the sole purpose of adopting the aforesaid law was shifting to electric motorcycles, “lack of necessary infrastructure is what is holding us back.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, Zandi said that some 9 percent of the passenger cars in Tehran are clunkers and highly pollutant which also play a significant role in intensifying air pollution.

“Another challenge we are facing are clunker buses and diesel engine heavy vehicles that are highly responsible for the discharging hazardous pollutant,” he added.

Once it comes to air pollution many believe that vehicles are causing 80% of the air pollution that we breathe. In order to eliminate this major sources of air pollution the government has come up with various plans.

Scrapping some 500,000 clunkers annually, importing and manufacturing high standard vehicles and switching to greener alternatives in general are of the plans which are being partially implemented or are hoped to be fully implemented in the country.

via Carburetor motorcycles cause 19% of air pollution in Tehran: official – Tehran Times

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Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

Air pollution, particularly levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is associated with poorer quality sperm, suggests research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Although the size of the effect is relatively small in clinical terms, given how widespread air pollution is, this might spell infertility for a “significant number of couples,” say the researchers.

Environmental exposure to chemicals is thought to be a potential factor in worsening sperm quality, but the jury is still out on whether air pollution might also have a role.

To explore this possibility further, the international team of researchers looked at the impact on health of short and long term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) among nearly 6500 15 to 49 year old men in Taiwan.

The men were all taking part in a standard medical examination programme between 2001 and 2014, during which their sperm quality was assessed (total numbers, shape/size, movement) as set out by World Health Organization guidelines.

PM2.5 levels were estimated for each man’s home address for a period of three months, as that is how long it takes for sperm to be generated, and for an average of 2 years, using a new mathematical approach combined with NASA satellite data.

A strong association between PM2.5 exposure and abnormal sperm shape was found. Every 5 ug/m3 increase in fine particulate matter across the 2 year average was associated with a significant drop in normal sperm shape/size of 1.29 per cent.

And it was associated with a 26 per cent heightened risk of being in the bottom 10 per cent of normal sperm size and shape, after taking account of potentially influential factors, such as smoking and drinking, age or overweight.

However, it was also associated with a significant increase in sperm numbers, possibly as a compensatory mechanism to combat the detrimental effects on shape and size, suggest the researchers.

Similar findings were evident after three months of exposure to PM2.5.

This is an observational study so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and the researchers were not privy to information on any previous fertility problems.

And exactly how air pollution could impair sperm development is not clear. But many of the components of fine particulate matter, such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, have been linked to sperm damage in experimental studies, the researchers point out.

Free radical damage, brought on by exposure to air pollutants, might have a possible role, as this can damage DNA and alter cellular processes in the body, they suggest.

“Although the effect estimates are small and the significance might be negligible in a clinical setting, this is an important public health challenge,” emphasise the researchers.

“Given the ubiquity of exposure to air pollution, a small effect size of PM2.5 on sperm normal morphology may result in a significant number of couples with infertility,” they warn, calling for global strategies to minimise the impact of air pollution on reproductive health.

via Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm | EurekAlert! Science News

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