Childhood obesity linked to air pollution from vehicles

Research suggests first year ‘critical window’ in which toxic air can increase weight gain

3453Early exposure to air pollution from vehicles increases the risk of children becoming obese, new research has found.

High levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is emitted by diesel engines, in the first year of life led to significantly faster weight gain later, the scientists found. Other pollutants produced by road traffic have also been linked to obesity in children by recent studies.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution is at illegal levels in most urban areas in the UK and the government has lost three times in the high court over the inadequacy of its plans. The pollutant also plagues many cities in Europe and around the world.

“We would urge parents to be mindful where their young children spend their time, especially considering if those areas are near major roads,” said Jeniffer Kim, at the University of Southern California, who led the new research. “The first year of life is a period of rapid development of various systems in the body [and] may prime the body’s future development.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed last Monday that 90% of the world’s children are breathing unsafe air, a situation described as “inexcusable” by the WHO’s head. Concern over the impact of toxic air on children’s health is rising as research reveals serious long-term damage to both their physical and mental health.

A large recent study found toxic air significantly increases the risk of low birth weight, leading to lifelong damage to health. Others linked air pollution with birth defects, cot deaths and the first direct evidence of pollution particles in mothers’ placentas has also been revealed.

The new research, published in the journal Environmental Health, followed 2,318 children in southern California and built on earlier work which had identified traffic pollution as a major risk factor for the development of obesity in children.

The research investigated the impact of air pollution from busy main roads, where diesel trucks are common, in the crucial first year of life. They found that by age 10, children suffering high early exposure were almost 1kg heavier on average than those with low exposure. The scientists took a series of other factors into account, including gender, ethnicity and parental education, and think it is unlikely that variations in diet could explain the strong link found.

“Our study suggests that early life may represent a critical window of exposure where increased [air pollution] may result in increased risk for higher childhood [weight] trajectories, which in turn may lead to childhood obesity,” the researchers concluded.

Other pollutants emitted by vehicles have also been linked to childhood obesity. A 2017 study in Boston implicated particulate pollution, while a 2012 study in New York City found the same for children exposed to polyaromatic hydrocarbons while in the womb.

The new research was not able to examine how air pollution increases weight gain in the children, but Kim said inflammation was a possibility: “The most common thought is inflammation of body systems like the lungs which may spill over into the entire body – the brain which regulates appetite and changes in fat metabolism.”

“This study showing an association between increased body mass in children and exposure to air pollution from roads is important since it is compatible with previous studies showing an association between type 2 diabetes and air pollution in adults,” said Prof Jonathan Grigg, at Queen Mary University London and not involved in the research.

“However, more research is needed to explain how toxins inhaled into the lungs affect fat cells throughout the body,” he said. In mice experiments, brain inflammation caused by air pollution has been shown to result in anxiety-induced overeating.

A separate new study on asthma, a disease long linked to air pollution and that is the most common chronic respiratory disease in the world, has estimated that between 9m and 33m emergency visits to hospital result from dirty air every year.

The upper estimate represents almost a third of all emergency admissions suffered by the 358 million asthma sufferers in the world. “The findings estimate the magnitude of the global asthma burden that could be avoided by reducing [outdoor] air pollution,” the scientists said.

via Childhood obesity linked to air pollution from vehicles | Environment | The Guardian

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Moor Lane: London’s first low-emission street

herontowerbishopsgatelondon-580x358City of London authorities unveil first public details of plan to make city centre street a hub for clean air

Moor Lane, tucked behind Moorgate tube station in central London, is a narrow city street lined with glass and concrete. It’s probably most famous for hosting the £89m Heron Tower, a residential skyscraper in the heart of London’s financial district.

But Moor Lane is about to hit the headlines for a different reason – it is set to become London’s first low-emission street.

According to plans set out today by the City of London Corporation, the local authority for the capital’s Square Mile, Moor Lane will be the site of a pilot project that will see only the cleanest vehicles admitted access from April 2019.

The plans, released for consultation this morning, form part of the City of London’s Low Emissions Neighbourhood project, which is jointly funded by City Hall.

Only ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) will be allowed to enter the southern end of Moor Lane under the trial. The City of London is consulting on whether to implement the rules all day, every day, or just during Monday to Friday.

If the trial goes well, the system could be rolled out to other streets in the Square Mile in a bid to encourage more drivers to switch to electric or hybrid technology, City of London said.

“This trial is an important step towards cleaner air,” said Jeremy Simons, chair of the City of London Corporation’s environment committee. “We are determined to see a major improvement in the City’s air quality.”

“It will deliver the results we need when considering radical targeted action to drastically reduce air pollution on our streets,” he added. “Nobody should have to breathe in dirty air, and we will continue to take bold and ambitious steps to ensure that the health of Londoners is protected.”

The City of London said it would put signs up for a month before the trial starts, to warn drivers of the impending restrictions. For the first four weeks of the trial, non-ULEVs which enter the trial zone will only receive a warning letter, but after that Penalty Charge Notices will be issued.

The City of London is currently considering a longer term ambition of turning parts of the Square Mile into zero-emission zones by 2022, and this summer unveiled emissions-based charges for on-street parking in the area.

via Moor Lane: London’s first low-emission street

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WHO says air pollution kills 600,000 children every year

Air pollution kills an estimated 600,000 children every year and causing symptoms ranging from loss of intelligence to obesity and ear infections but there is a limited amount parents can do, a World Health Organization report said on Monday.

Parents should try to avoid household air pollution by using less polluting fuels for cooking and heating and not smoking but to reduce child exposure to ambient pollution they should need to lobby politicians to clean up the environment, WHO experts said.

“Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. Large parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America are among the worst affected.

“This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfill their full potential.”The WHO report, “Prescribing clean air”, summarized the latest scientific knowledge on the effect on children of air pollution, which affects about 93 percent of children globally.

Maria Neira, WHO’s head of environmental determinants of health, said the worrying findings highlighted in the study, including evidence of pollution causing stillbirth and preterm birth, as well as diseases into adulthood, should lead to policy changes globally.

“Something that is critical as well is this issue of the neuro-development,” she said.

“Imagine that our children will have less cognitive IQ. We are talking about putting at risk a new generation of having a reduced IQ. This is not only new but terribly shocking.”

There was clear, consistent evidence of an association between ambient air pollution and otitis media, or ear infections, the study said, as well as some evidence of it causing obesity and insulin resistance in children.

Air pollution can also cause childhood cancers, asthma, poor lung function, pneumonia and other types of acute lower respiratory infection, the report said.

via WHO says air pollution kills 600,000 children every year

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World’s deadliest air pollution spot is in South Africa


One of the world’s most air-polluted regions is a province of green rolling hills and wild flowers in eastern South Africa. Mpumalanga has the largest single area infected by the deadly air pollutant nitrogen dioxide, according to an analysis of satellite imagery released by Greenpeace on Monday (Oct. 29).

Out of satellite data across six continents, the province in South Africa’s east emerged as “the world’s largest NO2 hotspot,” said Greenpeace Africa. The area is home to a dozen coal-fired power stations, owned and operated by South Africa’s national power supplier Eskom.

Greenpeace analyzed satellite images taken daily by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P from Jun. 1 to Aug. 31. Researchers measured the amount of trace gas in a vertical column the full height of the earth’s atmosphere. The sample period took place during the South African winter which may account for increased electricity generation.


China has the world’s highest number of individual hotspots, followed by the Middle East, the European Union, India, the United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Industrial areas, vehicle emissions and agricultural burning all led to nitrogen oxides in the air.

Nitrogen dioxide is formed when fuel is burned at high temperature or if the burned fuel already contains nitrogen. At low levels it irritates the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, while long exposure leads to respiratory diseases. Nitrogen oxides can also combine with atmospheric moisture to cause acid rain.

Nitrogen oxide is also found in tobacco smoke leading World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to declare air pollution as “the new tobacco,” killing seven million people each year.

South Africa’s reliance on coal influences its emissions policies, allowing 10 times more nitrogen oxide emissions than China and Japan, according to Greenpeace. Despite the country’s potential for renewable energy, Eskom is only now beginning to make good on its renewable energy goals.

One of Mpumalanga’s largest towns, eMalahleni (meaning place of coal) is known for having South Africa’s worst air pollution. In 2014, a study by environmental justice group GroundWork found that coal-fired electricity generation was responsible for more than half of hospital admissions and deaths due to respiratory illness in the region. Now, an analysis of weather patterns shows that wind carries the polluted air west to South Africa’s largest city Johannesburg, and the country’s capital Pretoria.


“Because South Africa’s coal-belts are hidden from view for the majority of South Africans, it can be easy to pretend that they don’t actually exist,” said Melita Steele, Greenpeace Africa’s climate and energy campaign manager “The reality is that coal extraction and burning has devastating impacts on the people living in the area.”

via World’s deadliest air pollution spot is in South Africa — Quartz Africa

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Air pollution is the ‘new tobacco’, warns WHO head

Simple act of breathing is killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more, but ‘a smog of complacency pervades the planet’, says Dr Tedros Adhanom


Air pollution is the “new tobacco”, the head of the World Health Organization has warned, saying the simple act of breathing is killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more.

Over 90% of the world’s population suffers toxic air and research is increasingly revealing the profound impacts on the health of people, especially children.

“The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ – the toxic air that billions breathe every day,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general. “No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. It is a silent public health emergency.”

“Despite this epidemic of needless, preventable deaths and disability, a smog of complacency pervades the planet,” Tedros said, in an article for the Guardian. “This is a defining moment and we must scale up action to urgently respond to this challenge.”

The WHO is hosting its first global conference on air pollution and health in Geneva next week, including a high-level action day at which nations and cities are expected to make new commitments to cut air pollution.

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 08.48.09

Children and babies’ developing bodies are most at risk from toxic air, said Dr Maria Neira, WHO director for public health and the environment, with 300 million living in places where toxic fumes are six times above international guidelines.

“Air pollution is affecting all of us but children are the most vulnerable of all,” she said, noting the alarm among child health experts about the links between toxic air and respiratory diseases, cancer and damaged intelligence. “We have to ask what are we doing to our children, and the answer I am afraid is shockingly clear: we are polluting their future, and this is very worrying for all us.”

The WHO is working with health professionals not only to help their patients, but also to give them the skills and evidence to advocate for health in policy decisions such as moving away from fossil-fuel-powered energy and transport. “No person, group, city, country or region can solve the problem alone,” he said. “We need strong commitments and actions from everyone.”

In the UK, most urban areas have illegal levels of air pollution and ministers have lost three times in the high court after challenges over the inadequacy of their action. The latest government action plan, called “pitiful” by environmental lawyers, revealed air pollution was actually much worse than previously feared.

Globally, with smoking on the decline, air pollution now causes more deaths annually than tobacco. However, researchers think the harm known to be caused by air pollution, such as heart attacks and lung disease, is only “the tip of the iceberg”.

The figure of 7 million early deaths is certain to be an underestimate, as it only includes particle pollution and the five most firmly linked causes of death. Early estimates using improved models indicate a total figure of 9 million from particle pollution.

Daniel Krewski at the University of Ottawa, one of the team behind the newer estimate, said: “This suggests that outdoor air pollution is an even more important risk factor for health than previously thought.”

Each passing month sees new studies showing further harms of toxic air, with recent revelations including a “huge reduction” in intelligence, millions of diabetes cases and the first direct evidence of pollution particles in mothers’ placentas.

The cost of the lost lives and ill health caused is also a colossal economic burden: $5tn a year, according to a World Bank report. Tackling air pollution by closing polluting power plants and shifting to cleaner transport, such as cycling or electric cars, has a double benefit as it also tackles climate change.

Neira said that, given the overwhelming evidence of harm from air pollution, any politician who failed to tackle air pollution would be judged harshly by future generations – and the law.

“Politicians cannot say in 10 years from now, when citizens will start to take them to court for the harm they have suffered, that they didn’t know,” she said. “We all know pollution is causing major damage and we all know it is something we can avoid. Now we need to react collectively and in a very dramatic and urgent way.”

via Air pollution is the ‘new tobacco’, warns WHO head | Environment | The Guardian

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Air pollution leads to millions of ER visits for asthma attacks worldwide: First study to quantify global burden of asthma linked to dirty air

Nine to 33 million visits to the emergency room (ER) for asthma worldwide may be triggered by breathing in air polluted by ozone or fine particulate matter — pollutants that can enter the lung’s deep airways, according to a study published today.

Scientists have long known that breathing in air sullied by car emissions and other pollutants could trigger asthma attacks. However, the new study is the first to quantify air pollution’s impact on asthma cases around the globe.

“Millions of people worldwide have to go to emergency rooms for asthma attacks every year because they are breathing dirty air,” said Susan C. Anenberg, PhD, MS, lead author of the study and an Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH). “Our findings suggest that policies aimed at cleaning up the air can reduce the global burden of asthma and improve respiratory health around the world.”

Asthma is the most prevalent chronic respiratory disease worldwide, affecting about 358 million people. The new findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests car emissions and other types of pollution may be a significant source of serious asthma attacks.

Anenberg and her team first looked at emergency room visits for asthma in 54 countries and Hong Kong, and then combined that information with epidemiological exposure-response relationships and global pollution levels derived from satellites orbiting the earth.

The new research suggests that:

Nine to 23 million annual asthma emergency room visits globally (8 to 20 percent of total global asthma ER visits) may be triggered by ozone, a pollutant generated when car, power plant and other types of emissions interact with sunlight.
Five to 10 million asthma emergency room visits every year (4 to 9 percent of total global asthma ER visits) were linked to fine particulate matter, small particles of pollution that can lodge deep in the lung’s airway tubes.
About half of the asthma emergency room visits attributed to dirty air were estimated to occur in South and East Asian countries, notably India and China.
Although the air in the United States is relatively clean compared to South and East Asian countries, ozone and particulate matter were estimated to contribute 8 to 21 percent and 3 to 11 percent of asthma ER visits in the United States, respectively.
To estimate the global levels of pollution for this study, the researchers turned to atmospheric models, ground monitors and satellites equipped with remote-sensing devices.

“The value of using satellites is that we were able to obtain a consistent measure of air pollution concentrations throughout the world,” said Daven Henze, who is the principal investigator on the project and an associate professor for the University of Colorado Boulder. “This information allowed us to link the asthma burden to air pollution even in parts of the world where ambient air quality measurements have not been available.”

Countries like India and China may be harder hit by the asthma burden because they have large populations and tend to have fewer restrictions on factories belching smoke and other sources of pollution, which can then trigger breathing difficulties, the authors said.

Approximately 95 percent of the world’s population lives in places with unsafe air. Previously, the Global Burden of Disease Study focused on quantifying the impacts of air pollution on heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, and lower respiratory infections — finding that fine particulate matter and ozone were associated with 4.1 million and 230,000 premature deaths in 2016, respectively.

“We know that air pollution is the leading environmental health risk factor globally,” Anenberg said. “Our results show that the range of global public health impacts from breathing dirty air are even more far reaching — and include millions of asthma attacks every year.”

To reduce the global burden caused by asthma, Anenberg suggests that policymakers aggressively target known sources of pollution such as ozone, fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide. She says policies that result in cleaner air might reduce not just the asthma burden but other health problems as well.

One way to reduce pollutants quickly would be to target emissions from cars, especially in big cities. Such policies would not only help people with asthma and other respiratory diseases but it would help everyone breathe a little easier, she said.

Support for the study was provided by the NASA Health and Air Quality Applied Science Team, NASA Aura ACMAP, the Stockholm Environment Institute Low Emissions Development Pathways Initiative, and the Global Environment Research Fund of the Japan Ministry of the Environment.

via Air pollution leads to millions of ER visits for asthma attacks worldwide: First study to quantify global burden of asthma linked to dirty air — ScienceDaily

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AHA: ozone pollution may be linked to a type of bleeding stroke

ahaozonepollExposure to the main ingredient in smog may be linked to a type of bleeding stroke, according to new research.

Studies have shown an association between clot-caused ischemic stroke, the most common type, and fine particulate matter such as air pollution from car exhaust. But few, if any, have investigated how air pollution like ground-level ozone impacts intracerebral hemorrhage, a bleeding type of stroke which accounts for about 10 percent of all strokes and happens when a weakened vessel ruptures into the surrounding brain.

An estimated 40,000 to 67,000 Americans have an intracerebral hemorrhage each year, with often devastating results. Between a third and half of patients die within a month—and only one in five survivors recovers fully within six months.

In the latest study, published Oct. 18 in the journal Stroke, researchers looked at 577 intracerebral hemorrhage patients who were treated between 1994 and 2011 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and compared the patients’ health data with air pollution levels prior to their stroke.

While risk of intracerebral hemorrhage did not go up after increases in three types of air pollution—fine particulate matter, black carbon and nitrogen dioxide—the risk did rise in the wake of higher levels of ground-level ozone. The so-called “bad” ozone is created when sunlight combines with car exhaust, factory emissions and other pollutants.

“In some respects, that was a surprising finding,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Elissa Wilker. “There is very little literature about the effects of ozone specifically on intracerebral hemorrhage. It may be an important factor, but it needs to be confirmed or refuted in future studies looking at other populations, in different places.”

Wilker, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the stroke risk in the study was particularly high among those with cerebral amyloid angiopathy, a condition in which protein deposits form in the walls of fragile small blood vessels in the brain.

“That could be important, because it suggests that ozone could have potential to have an impact on small vessels that are affected by cerebral amyloid angiopathy,” said Wilker, also an epidemiologist at Sanofi Genzyme, a biotechnology company. “We don’t know a lot about these risk factors, and this could tell us more about what could be going on.”

Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, who was not involved in the study, said more research is needed. “I wouldn’t sound the alarm bells yet but air pollution components and their link to stroke is something the public should probably pay attention to.”

Rajagopalan, who co-authored a 2010 American Heart Association report on air pollution and cardiovascular disease, said people with high-risk pre-existing conditions, including previous heart attacks or strokes, should avoid exposure to high levels of ozone and other air pollutants.

“Use your car filtration system to reduce exposure to ambient pollution levels when you’re commuting, for example. If you happen to visit a heavily polluted country, use face masks and indoor air purifiers,” said Rajagopalan, chief of cardiovascular medicine at University Hospitals’ Harrington Heart and Vascular Institute in Cleveland.

He said the study adds to a growing body of evidence linking air pollution with heart disease. “It was previously thought that air pollution primarily affected the lungs, but now we understand that the vast preponderance of morbidity that air pollution confers is through cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, strokes and mortality.”

via AHA: ozone pollution may be linked to a type of bleeding stroke

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Firecrackers definitely contribute to air pollution, though they are not the only reason: Supreme Court

firecrackersThe Bench acknowledges that there is a necessity to tackle the other contributory factors for air pollution.
Bursting of firecrackers during Deepavali may not be the only reason for air pollution, but the Supreme Court cannot become a mute spectator and allow the deterioration of air quality caused by the bursting during the festival.

This is how the Supreme Court’s judgment, declaring a ban on toxic and loud crackers, explained itself.

The Bench acknowledges that there is a necessity to tackle the other contributory factors for air pollution. Unregulated construction activity which generates a lot of dust and crop burning in the neighbouring States are the two other major reasons. Vehicular pollution is also another cause.

“But the moot question is whether the menace due to fireworks during Deepavali or other festivals/occasions should be left untouched… should the court allow the situation to prevail only because it is not the sole reason for causing air pollution? Answer has to be in the negative,” Justice Sikri held.

It held that “though bursting of crackers during Diwali is not the only reason for worsening air quality, at the same time, it definitely contributes to air pollution in a significant way.”

It referred to studies by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to show that post-Diwali pollution was lesser in 2017, after the Supreme Court imposed some restrictions on sale and manufacture of crackers, than in 2016.

It said bursting of firecrackers has seen a substantial increase in PM 2.5 level, which is a “very serious health hazard.” The effects of severe noise pollution are not restricted to humans but also cause trauma to animals and birds.

via Firecrackers definitely contribute to air pollution, though they are not the only reason: Supreme Court – The Hindu

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