125 million Americans breathe unhealthy levels of air pollution where they live, 2017 ‘State of the Air’ report says

The American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report found that 125 million Americans live in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution.

While that number has decreased from the previous report, and the report card found continued improvement in air quality, it was found that there is a continued increase in dangerous spikes in particle pollution.

The 2017 report, released April 19, uses air quality data from 2013 to 2015, according to Janice Nolen, report lead author and assistant vice president for national policy for the American Lung Association. The data is collected through air quality monitors managed by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies.

“The results are an amazing testimony to how effective the Clean Air Act has been at reducing pollution across the nation,” Nolen said. “But we still have a lot of challenges ahead and much further to go.”

The spikes in particle pollution were largely due to temperature inversions as well as an increase of drought that led to wildfires. While wildfires created harmful particle pollution, temperature increases work to trap pollutants in the air.

The global temperature has not been a friend to those fighting against pollution over the past few years. The annual global temperature record has been broken over the past three consecutive years (2014, 2015 and 2016), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In addition, 2013, 2014 and 2015 yielded some of the worst drought years that Western states, such as California, have endured.

Between the drought and temperature spikes in California, the 2017 report showed that the state continues to experience a severe problem with ozone and particle pollution. Year after year, California cities dominate the report for areas that experienced the most short-term particle pollution, the most year-round particle pollution, as well as the most ozone-polluted cities.

For all but one report, Los Angeles has been the most polluted city for ozone, and this year was no exception, according to Nolen. However, Nolen said there are some small victories for California. On this report, Los Angeles reached its lowest levels of ozone yet.

“That’s a big statement of progress,” Nolen said.

At present, 76.54 percent of California is experiencing no drought whatsoever, according to the United States Drought Monitor. That number one year ago was only 3.55 percent of the state. It is predicted that the state’s unusually wet winter will help the state with air pollution this year, but that data will not be analyzed for another few years.

There were six cities found to have no days when ozone or particle pollution reached unhealthy levels and had the lowest year-round levels of particle pollution. Wilmington, North Carolina, was the lone newcomer to this list.

“Wilmington is a good example of how cleaning up the power plants in the eastern half of the country has helped reduce pollution,” Nolen said.

Breathing either ozone or particle pollution lodges these pollutants into one’s lungs and can shorten one’s life by weeks or even months. The deadly pollutants can cause an array of health problems including asthma attacks, lung cancer and cardiovascular harm such as heart attacks.

“The more that we look beyond the lungs, the more harm we’re finding from breathing air pollution for long periods of time,” Nolen said.

The lungs develop until a person is fully grown, so children and teenagers who live in highly polluted areas are constantly at risk of a variety of health issues. After age 65, the lungs start to weaken, making anyone over that age at greater risk of health issues.

“Even healthy adults who work or exercise outdoors can be affected,” Nolen said.

Those with low income are especially affected as they tend to live in areas or near sources that are more heavily polluted.

Going forward, Nolen said that to see continued progress the Clean Air Act must remain a strong tool at environmentalists disposal. Mitigating climate change must also be a top priority, he said.

“If we aren’t dealing with climate change, we aren’t going to be able to reduce the pollution that we need to reduce in order to protect people,” Nolen said.

To view the report and check the quality of air in your local community, visit stateoftheair.org.

Source: 125 million Americans breathe unhealthy levels of air pollution where they live, 2017 ‘State of the Air’ report says

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Belfast air pollution levels ‘among the worst in UK’

Air pollution levels in Belfast have been branded among the worst in the UK, with one monitoring station breaching EU legal limits for three years in a row.

The station at Stockman’s Lane recorded an annual average nitrogen dioxide reading of 50 microgrammes per metre squared for the first three months of 2017 – 25% higher than the EU legal limit of 40 microgrammes per metre squared.

The same average score was also recorded in 2015 and 2016, according to The Times journalist Peter Yeung, who carried out an investigation into the impact of air pollution in the UK which found a rise in the number of communities blighted by toxic air. The Belfast air pollution figure, derived from DEFRA stats, was one of the worst in the UK, he said.

“There has been no decline – despite supposed political attempts to reduce emissions,” he said.

Diesel cars are among the leading producers of nitrogen dioxide, prompting calls for a crackdown by Doctors Against Diesel founding member Jonathan Grigg, who said the cars should be removed from the roads as soon as possible.

“Exposure over a very long time has an insidious effect. It suppresses the lung growth of children, it’s involved in the onset of asthma, a decline in lung function as you age, and there’s emerging evidence of it causing cognitive problems and also reduced growth of foetuses,” he said. “Targeting diesel cars is a very easy way to reduce emissions. At the moment, it’s still relatively advantageous to drive a di esel vehicle – there’s not enough disincentive.”

Belfast Green Party councillor Georgina Milne, who is a research scientist, said she was worried, but not surprised at the news. “Indeed, there are four air quality management areas in Belfast declared for breaches of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM),” she said.

“One of these areas is on the busy Newtownards Road, in my East Belfast constituency. Indeed, many residents have spoken about the poor air quality.”

Cllr Milne said transport emissions are a huge issue right across Belfast and it is time to move towards more sustainable transport solutions.

“The human and financial cost of doing nothing is huge – over 500 deaths in Northern Ireland per year are attributed to air pollution. This represents more deaths per year than road traffic collisions and passive smoking combined,” she said.

“Deaths from air pollution-related disease cost the NHS over £20bnper year – that’s nearly 1/5th of the overall budget.

“We need the traditional parties to come together, to form an Executive and deliver a budget so that these life and death issues can be tackled.”

Friends of the Earth activist, Declan Allison said: “Air pollution is linked to lung cancer, heart disease, asthma and diabetes, with 40,000 people in the UK dying early each year as a result. It is unacceptable to persistently be in breach of legal air quality limits.”

Source: Belfast air pollution levels ‘among the worst in UK’ – BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

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Air pollution may directly cause those year-round runny noses, according to a mouse study 

Although human population studies have linked air pollution to chronic inflammation of nasal and sinus tissues, direct biological and molecular evidence for cause and effect has been scant. Now, researchers report that experiments in mice continually exposed to dirty air have revealed that direct biological effect.

Sinuses of mice that inhaled filtered air. The sinus surface is an intact barrier as seen by the presence of proteins that hold the cells together such as E-cadherin (red). Credit: Ramanathan lab

Although human population studies have linked air pollution to chronic inflammation of nasal and sinus tissues, direct biological and molecular evidence for cause and effect has been scant. Now, Johns Hopkins researchers report that experiments in mice continually exposed to dirty air have revealed that direct biological effect.

Researchers have long known that smog, ash and other particulates from industrial smokestacks and other sources that pollute air quality exacerbate and raise rates of asthma symptoms, but had little evidence of similar damage from those pollutants to the upper respiratory system.

The new findings, published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, have broad implications for the health and well-being of people who live in large cities and industrial areas with polluted air, particularly in the developing world.

“In the U.S., regulations have kept a lot of air pollution in check, but in places like New Delhi, Cairo or Beijing, where people heat their houses with wood-burning stoves, and factories release pollutants into the air, our study suggests people are at higher risk of developing chronic sinus problems,” says Murray Ramanathan, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology — head and neck surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million people in the U.S. or more than 12 percent of adults have a chronic sinusitis diagnosis. Chronic sinusitis can cause congestion, pain and pressure in the face, and a stuffy, drippy nose.

Numerous studies have reported significant social implications of chronic sinonasal disease, including depression, lost productivity and chronic fatigue.

To see how pollution may directly affect the biology of the upper airways, the researchers exposed 38 eight-week-old male mice to either filtered air or concentrated Baltimore air with particles measuring 2.5 micrometers or less, which excludes most allergens, like dust and pollen. The aerosolized particles, although concentrated, were 30 to 60 percent lower than the average concentrations of particles of a similar size in cities like New Delhi, Cairo and Beijing.

Nineteen mice breathed in filtered air, and 19 breathed polluted air for 6 hours per day, 5 days a week for 16 weeks.

The researchers used water to flush out the noses and sinuses of the mice, and then looked at the inflammatory and other cells in the flushed-out fluid under a microscope.

They saw many more white blood cells that signal inflammation, including macrophages, neutrophils and eosinophils, in the mice that breathed in the polluted air compared with those that breathed in filtered air. For example, the mice that breathed in the polluted air had almost four times as many macrophages than mice that breathed filtered air.

To see if the cells flushed out of the nasal and sinus passages had turned on a generalized inflammatory response, the researchers compared specific genes used by immune system cells from the mice that breathed polluted air with the cells of those that breathed filtered air. They found higher levels of messenger RNA — the blueprints of DNA needed to make proteins — in the genes for interleukin 1b, interleukin 13, oncostatin M and eotaxin-1 in the nasal fluid of mice that breathed the polluted air. All those proteins are considered direct biomarkers for inflammation.

The investigators measured the protein levels of interleukin 1b, interleukin 13 and eotaxin-1, which are chemical messengers called cytokines that cause an immune response. They found five to 10 times higher concentrations of the cytokines involved in inflammation in the mice that breathed the polluted air than in those that breathed filtered air. Interleukin 1b is a chemical messenger that promotes inflammation, and both interleukin 13 and eotaxin-1 are chemical messengers that attract eosinophils.

“Inflammation that attracts eosinophils is what happens in the lungs of people with asthma, so essentially the chronic exposure to air pollution in mice is leading to a kind of asthma of the nose,” says Ramanathan.

Next, the researchers examined layers of cells along the nasal passages and sinuses under a microscope and found that the surface layer — or epithelium — was, notably, 30 to 40 percent thicker in mice that breathed in polluted air than in those that breathed filtered air. Ramanathan says that a thicker epithelium is another sign of inflammation in humans and other animals.

The researchers next used glowing antibodies that bind to the proteins claudin-1 and E-cadherin found in between the cells of the epithelium to help hold them together. They report observing far less of both proteins but up to 80 percent less E-cadherin from mice that breathed in the polluted air compared with the mice that breathed filtered air.

The investigators also said they found much higher levels of the protein serum albumin in the mice that breathed in the polluted air. High levels of serum albumin indicate that barriers to the nasal passages and sinuses were breached.

“We’ve identified a lot of evidence that breathing in dirty air directly causes a breakdown in the integrity of the sinus and nasal air passages in mice,” says Ramanathan. “Keeping this barrier intact is essential for protecting the cells in the tissues from irritation or infection from other sources, including pollen or germs.”

Ramanathan says his team will continue to study the specific molecular changes that occur when the sinus and nasal barriers are breached because of air pollution, as well as investigate possible ways to repair them.

Source: Air pollution may directly cause those year-round runny noses, according to a mouse study — ScienceDaily

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Air Pollution Reduces Good Cholesterol, Increases Cardiovascular Risk

Increased exposure to air pollution caused by traffic has been blamed for lowering good cholesterol or the high-density lipoprotein (HDL). This has been blamed for the lower HDL levels of middle-aged and even older adults living in urban areas in the United States. A research published in the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology journal of the American Heart Association has indicated that people exposed to high-traffic areas with polluted air have increased risks of developing heart failure, atherosclerosis, and other cardiovascular diseases.

The research involved 6,654 adults in the middle and senior ages who lived in areas with high air pollution, as per the American Heart Association. The subjects of the study had lower levels of good cholesterol. Lead author Griffith Bell of Seattle’s University of Washington School of Public Health said that more than the cholesterol content of the heart, it is the HDL particles’ functionality that provides a healthy effect on the heart. The researchers also found out that exposure to pollution had a greater effect on the good cholesterol level of women subjects.

This is not the first time that increased air pollution has been linked to an increase cardiovascular disease. However, this is the first study that strives to understand the role of pollution in reducing the numbers of the HDL particles. Pollution resulting from traffic produces black carbon which significantly lowered the god cholesterol level. The study also found out that exposure to traffic pollution for more than three months could lead to a lower particle number of the good cholesterol.

The World Health Organization warned as early as 2012 that air pollution was not only an environmental problem but a health problem as well. In the same year, 72 percent of premature deaths related to traffic pollution were caused by strokes and ischaemic heart disease. Some of the deaths were, however, blamed not only on traffic-cased pollution but also by tobacco smoke. The International Agency for Research on Cancer reported that carcinogenic effect of polluted air on humans. It also linked outdoor pollution to an increase in urinary or bladder cancer.

It is sad to note that the burden of having poor health conditions and deaths due to air pollution is carried more by people who live in developing countries with poor income levels. Since polluted air is a major health and environment risk, countries would be better of if it has more policies that would reduce the pollution levels in the air. This would greatly reduce the occurrence of diseases like asthma, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases.

Source: Air Pollution Reduces Good Cholesterol, Increases Cardiovascular Risk : MEDICINE & HEALTH : Science Times

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12_pollution_2WHO: Pollution Kills 1.7 Million Children Every Year Exposure to environmental pollutants kills 1.7 million children under the age of five each year, according to two new reports released by the World Health Organization. Worldwide, more than one in four deaths among children under the age of five are attributable to environmental hazards such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, contaminated water, and poor sanitation, the WHO reports.

methode2ftimes2fprod2fweb2fbin2f390d4204-17fa-11e7-a725-c619aa6571c2Living in polluted cities is blamed for older men’s loss of brainpower  Air pollution may take a much heavier toll on the mental abilities of men than it does on women, according to a study.


pollution2Air pollution may lead to dementia in older women Tiny particles that pollute the air — the kind that come mainly from power plants and automobiles — may greatly increase the chance of dementia, including dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, according to USC-led research.

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Air Pollution Might Beef Up Dangerous Bacteria 

Air pollution—particulates tossed into the air from car exhaust, factory fumes, and power plants—is nasty stuff. Breathing it in causes damage to your lung tissue. It can trigger asthma attacks. It increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer. And now, researchers writing in Environmental Microbiologyhave found that in addition to these unpleasant effects, the common pollutant black carbon seems to do something even more insidious: It alters the behavior of pathogenic bacteria.

The idea for the study came from a casual conversation with an atmospheric chemist, says Julie Morrissey, a University of Leicester biologist who studies the effect of stress on bacteria. The two scientists had dropped their respective children off at school and were walking back to the university, talking, when they realized no one had actually studied how bacteria respond to pollution.

“They’d looked at the effect [of air pollution] on the immune system, like human cells, but never on the actual bacteria themselves,” Morrissey says.

“We thought, well, this is really relevant.”

Respiratory-disease rates are known to climb with air pollution. To what extent that’s a result of tissue damage from the particulates, alterations in the immune system, or some other factor—like a shift in bacterial behavior—is not yet clear. Bacteria that form communities in the lungs and skin are exposed to pollution, too.

To investigate what happens in these situations, Morrissey’s graduate student Shane Hussey applied black carbon, a major component of air pollution, to colonies of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus. These microbes often live quite peacefully in and on humans, but can also go rogue: They are known for their roles in bacterial pneumonia and dangerous skin infections, respectively.

Hussey added the carbon while the bacteria were in the process of assembling into fortress-like slabs called biofilms. He soon observed that the biofilms made under the influence of carbon looked quite different from biofilms that had no treatment or simply had harmless quartz crystals added: They were significantly thicker, and S. pneumoniae showed large channels or holes, while S. aureus had numerous lumps or protrusions. Because biofilms are known to help bacteria avoid antibiotics, changes in their structure can have an effect on the bacterium’s ability to cause disease.

When the team added antibiotics to the equation, they found that with black carbon, S. pneumoniae had increased resistance to penicillin, which is used to treat pneumonia. Some S. aureus strains also showed slightly decreased sensitivity to antibiotics. “We think it makes them more protected,” Morrissey says of the alterations to the biofilm structure. And when the team mixed black carbon and S. pneumoniae and placed them in the noses of mice, they saw that over the course of the study the bacteria spread down to the lungs, often a harbinger of serious infection. In control mice, without the black carbon, this did not happened.

The nature of these experiments—in dishes and mice, not in people or models of human infection—means that that their true significance has not really been established, Morrissey warns. Some of the data indicate that black carbon could be damaging to at least some strains of S. aureus, rather than provoking them to greater feats of self-protection. Some strains became more sensitive to antibiotics.

Still, at least in the snapshots this work provides, “we think what’s happening is we’re increasing their ability to colonize … and making them able to protect themselves better,” Morrissey says. That’s troubling, and bears further investigation. More than 90 percent of the world’s population lives in regions where air-pollution levels, calculated in part from the concentration of black carbon and similar particulates, are over the WHO’s recommendations for health.

And a larger question looms: Could it be that air pollution disrupts people’s existing microbiomes in the nose and other tissues? Could this make them more vulnerable to infection? “Where this is really important is the microbiota,” says Morrissey, who is planning studies on the subject. If the native bacteria’s numbers or biology are altered by pollution, they could make space for newcomers with more malevolent tendencies—or even, in the end, turn against us themselves.

Source: Air Pollution Might Beef Up Dangerous Bacteria – The Atlantic

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Theresa May admits full extent of Britain’s toxic air crisis

Air pollution is the fourth biggest public health risk in the country, alongside cancer, obesity and heart disease, the Prime Minister has admitted.

Replying to a letter signed by 220 doctors, warning that “time is running out” to deal with the UK’s “toxic air scandal” Theresa May also admitted: “It disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, people with lung and heart conditions, and the very young.”

The letter states that children’s lung growth is being stunted by toxic pollution, which is leading to other health problems, notably asthma.

In her letter, the Prime Minister blamed diesel vehicles as a major cause of the problem. Diesel cars received subsidies by the Labour government, on the basis that they emit less carbon dioxide than petrol-powered cars, but it is now known they emit other harmful pollutants, known as nitrogen oxides. It has also since been revealed their levels of emissions were covered up by Volkswagen, in a major scandal.

Emphasising the Government’s determination to tackle the problem, the Prime Minister said: “Poor air quality is the fourth largest risk to public health, behind only cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

“It disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, people with lung and heart conditions, and the very young.”

The Prime Minister has been urged to begin phasing out diesel vehicles, but motorists who were encouraged to buy them by the government are now very angry that new incentives to discourage their use has rendered their cars worthless.

A recent study by the London Mayor’s office linked toxic air pollution to 9,000 deaths a year.

Replying to Professor Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, the Prime Minister added: “I agree with you that one of the main reasons our cities continue to face pollution problems is the significant levels of NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions that diesel vehicles produce.”

“Harmful emissions from transport contribute significantly to the air quality challenge we face.”

Ministers had committed more than £2bn since 2011 to encourage motorists to buy ultra-low emission vehicles and support greener transport schemes.

Source: Theresa May admits full extent of Britain’s toxic air crisis | The Independent

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Friends of the Earth launches air quality proposals ahead of impending Government plan

The Government has today (11 April) been called upon to commit to clean air quality measures by climate change campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE), as a new survey shows that almost half of UK citizens support restriction on polluting vehicles.

The creation of a new Clean Air Act and a plan to end illegal pollution in 2018 are among specific actions in FoE’s proposed plan, ahead of the Government’s much-anticipated Air Quality Plan expected this week. Other measures include a diesel scrappage scheme and a wide-ranging network of plug-in points for electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025.

“This is a gold-standard setting plan for what is needed to ensure clean air everywhere,” FoE air pollution campaigner Oliver Hayes said. “We need tough action on the causes of pollution but also real incentives to help drivers get out of dirty diesels and into cleaner alternatives.

“It’s not acceptable if the Government promises to clean up the air only in pollution hot-spots because everyone deserves to breathe clean air.”

Public support

Ministers need to produce a draft plan by 24 April after a successful legal challenge from environmental law firm ClientEarth ruled that the Government’s 2015 version failed to comply with relevant EU Directives. Air pollution leads to an estimated 40,000 early deaths each year in the UK, while it was recently reported that London breached its annual legal limit within five days of 2017.

Politicians are gradually starting to respond to the worsening issue; Sadiq Khan last week announced that London will have the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019, while the Government is thought to be considering the national rollout of a diesel scrappage scheme.

A new YouGov survey commissioned by FoE shows that British citizens back restrictions on polluting vehicles. The poll, released today to coincide with FoE’s proposals, shows that 46% support restricting the use of certain cars, such as diesel, to combat air pollution in UK towns and cities.

According to the survey, 39% people said they would support restrictions, even if it meant they or their family couldn’t use their own cars in those areas. It follows on from a previous FoE survey which revealed that almost half of car-owning UK adults would be likely to switch to a cleaner vehicle with Government support.

‘Dismissive of progress’

While reports show that diesel vehicles are now responsible for almost 40% of all NO2 emissions in the UK’s major cities, diesel car registrations are at an all-time high. In March, more businesses and consumers chose a new diesel car than in any other month in history, with figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) showing that almost quarter of a million left showrooms.

According to SMMT, diesel vehicles can play an important role in helping to improve air quality, contrary to recent media coverage. Diesel cars emit, on average, 20% lower CO2 than petrol equivalents, SMMT has noted.

The organisation also highlights that the latest Euro 6 vehicles are cleaner than ever, citing real-world tests on a London 159 bus route which showed a 95% drop in NOx compared with previous generation Euro 5 buses. The latest Euro 6 cars are classed as low-emission for the purposes of the proposed London ULEZ, meaning drivers of these vehicles will be free to enter the zone without charge.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Euro 6 diesel cars on sale today are the cleanest in history. Not only have they drastically reduced or banished particulates, sulphur and carbon monoxide but they also emit vastly lower NOx than their older counterparts – a fact recognised by London in their exemption from the ULEZ that will come into force in 2019. Some recent reports have failed to differentiate between these much cleaner cars and vehicles of the past.

“This is unfair and dismissive of progress made. In addition to their important contribution to improving air quality, diesel cars are also a key part of action to tackle climate change while allowing millions of people, particularly those who regularly travel long distances, to do so as affordably as possible.

Source: Friends of the Earth launches air quality proposals ahead of impending Government plan

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