The U.S. Cities With the Most Deaths From Air Pollution

Decreasing levels of air pollution in the U.S. have led to fewer deaths and illnesses, according to a new report out this week. But there are pockets of the country, namely Los Angeles, where air pollution kills thousands of people, and, frighteningly, the Trump administration is poised to reverse the progress against pollution made in recent years.

The report is the result of an ongoing collaboration between the American Thoracic Society and New York University’s Marron Institute for Urban Management, as part of their “Health of the Air” initiative.

Relying on air quality data from hundreds of counties throughout the U.S., the report focuses on two types of air pollution: pollution caused by tiny bits of particulate matter (PM 2.5) and ozone, the gas that’s made up of three oxygen molecules. High up in the atmosphere, naturally produced ozone shields us from the Sun’s radiation, but ground-level ozone produced by industrialization can damage our lungs.

The report estimates the annual number of deaths, serious illnesses (such as asthma attacks), and missed days of work and school caused by either type of pollution from 2008 to 2017. It uses data from past epidemiology studies and the Environmental Protection Agency to roughly estimate how much more likely people are to develop pollution-related and potentially fatal conditions like heart attacks, lung cancer, and severe asthma attacks, given the average amount of air pollution where they live.

Four of the five cities with the most pollution-related deaths in 2017 were in California, with the Los Angeles metropolitan area (covering Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Glendale county) continuing to hold onto the top rank since 2010. In 2017, LA had an estimated 1,322 extra deaths from air pollution. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was the sole non-California city in the top five, with 232 pollution-related deaths that year; while the NYC metropolitan area was sixth, with 188 estimated deaths caused by pollution.

Here are the top 10 cities in the report, with the number of estimated deaths caused by air pollution in 2017:

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, California (1,322)
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California (940)
Bakersfield, California (293)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (232)
Fresno, California (225)
New York-Jersey City-White Plains, New York-New Jersey (188)
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona (152)
Visalia-Porterville, California (131)
Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio (116)
Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Illinois (122)
Overall, though, Americans’ lungs have been getting less and less clogged by pollution. In 2017, the report found, there were an estimated 7,140 more deaths from air pollution in the U.S., compared to 12,600 deaths in 2010. Sick days and cases of serious illness declined as well. And the report also found the number of areas with overall air pollution levels higher than the guidelines established by the American Thoracic Society (which are stricter than those established by the Environmental Protection Agency) shrank over time, too. The report also comes fresh off the heels of another study published this week that found fewer kids in California developed asthma as levels of air pollution started dropping in the 1990s.

But despite this good news, the authors of the current report say there are some worrying trends. The rate of declining PM 2.5 has started to level off in recent years, while levels of ozone have barely budged at all. And thanks to attempts by the current Trump administration to weaken regulations created by the Clean Air Act, the principal piece of legislation responsible for reducing air pollution in the U.S. since its passing in 1963, this progress could be even further threatened.

“The proposed roll back of several Clean Air Act regulations and the proposed roll back of the greenhouse gas standard for automobiles will make it hard for communities to maintain their air quality, and even harder for cities with poor air quality to clean up,” said co-author Gary Ewart, chief of ATS advocacy and government relations, in a release issued by the American Thoracic Society.

In addition to these rollbacks, the Trump-era EPA has gone after fewer criminal polluters than in past years, done next to nothing to clean up lead in water, and formed a rule that encourages the use of coal energy, which will likely lead to more air pollution. Just this week, the New York Times reported that the EPA is also planning to abandon its current formula for estimating pollution-related deaths, following its own report showing that the new coal rule would cause more than a thousand extra deaths a year.

via The U.S. Cities With the Most Deaths From Air Pollution

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Sydney smoke haze: bushfire reduction burns suspended to allow air to clear

Air quality rated ‘poor’ for second day in a row, as NSW Health warns conditions could aggravate respiratory issues

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Hazard reduction burns across Sydney have been suspended for at least 24 hours to allow smoke from earlier burns to clear.

The New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage dropped the air quality level in the harbour city to “poor” for a second day on Wednesday, as Sydneysiders woke up to hazy conditions and the sharp smell of smoke in the air.

The NSW Rural Fire Service wrapped up burn-offs in the Blue Mountains national park on Tuesday afternoon but the residual smoke blanketed the city as parts of the park continued to smoulder.

The smoke was expected to linger, NSW RFS spokesman James Morris said.

“We have postponed all burns for at least 24 hours while we get that smoke to push out and clear that air a bit,” he said on Wednesday morning, “It’s very strategic to try and reduce that smoke and for minimal impact.”

The hazy conditions will be worse in the morning because smoke was trapped below a layer in the air overnight, according to NSW Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Stephen Stefanac.

“In the afternoon it will thin out a bit and in the evening. As we get a south-east wind change in the city, it will push the smoke inland to the west,” he said.

NSW Health on Tuesday warned the smoky conditions could irritate the respiratory system and aggravate existing lung and heart conditions.

People with asthma, emphysema and angina are more likely to be sensitive to the effects of smoke, environmental health director Richard Broome said in a statement.

Vulnerable people are advised to stay indoors, close windows and avoid vigorous exercise.

via Sydney smoke haze: bushfire reduction burns suspended to allow air to clear | Australia news | The Guardian

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Air pollution linked to childhood anxiety: Researchers investigate traffic-related air pollution and symptoms of childhood anxiety, through neuroimaging

Exposure to air pollution is a well-established global health problem associated with complications for people with asthma and respiratory disease, as well as heart conditions and an increased risk of stroke, and according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for millions of deaths annually. Emerging evidence now suggests that air pollution may also impact the metabolic and neurological development of children.

A new study from researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center looks at the correlation between exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) and childhood anxiety, by looking at the altered neurochemistry in pre-adolescents.

“Recent evidence suggests the central nervous system is particularly vulnerable to air pollution, suggesting a role in the etiology of mental disorders, like anxiety or depression,” says Kelly Brunst, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the College of Medicine, and lead author on the study.

“This is the first study to use neuroimaging to evaluate TRAP exposure, metabolite dysregulation in the brain and generalized anxiety symptoms among otherwise healthy children,” says Brunst.

The study was published by the journal Environmental Research.

The researchers evaluated imaging of 145 children at an average age of 12 years, looking specifically at the levels of myo-inositol found in the brain through a specialized MRI technique, magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Myo-inositol is a naturally-occurring metabolite mainly found in specialized brain cells known as glial cells, that assists with maintaining cell volume and fluid balance in the brain, and serves as a regulator for hormones and insulin in the body. Increases in myo-inositol levels correlate with an increased population of glial cells, which often occurs in states of inflammation.

They found that, among those exposed to higher levels of recent TRAP, there were significant increases of myo-inositol in the brain, compared to those with lower TRAP exposure. They also observed increases in myo-inositol to be associated with more generalized anxiety symptoms. “In the higher, recent exposure group, we saw a 12% increase in anxiety symptoms,” says Brunst.

Brunst noted however, that the observed increase in reported generalized anxiety symptoms in this cohort of typically developing children was relatively small and are not likely to result in a clinical diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. “However, I think it can speak to a bigger impact on population health … that increased exposure to air pollution can trigger the brain’s inflammatory response, as evident by the increases we saw in myo-inositol,” says Brunst. “This may indicate that certain populations are at an increased risk for poorer anxiety outcomes.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

via Air pollution linked to childhood anxiety: Researchers investigate traffic-related air pollution and symptoms of childhood anxiety, through neuroimaging — ScienceDaily

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It’s time to recognise air pollution as an occupational health hazard

British Safety Council’s report makes the case for urgent action on the impact of air pollution on outdoor workers

The British Safety Council has launched a report ‘Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers’ which provides compelling evidence to recognize ambient air pollution as an occupational health hazard in Britain. In the report, the charity presents the demands that spearhead its campaign to limit the dangers of air pollution to the health of outdoor workers.

Air pollution, linked with up to 36,000 early deaths a year in the UK, is considered the biggest environmental risk to public health. Research from King’s College London suggests that more than 9,400 people die prematurely due to poor air quality in London alone. Ambient air pollution is linked to cancer, lung and heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infertility and early dementia.

Several pilot schemes are beginning to monitor and measure the levels of air pollution experienced by people working and living in London. Their findings will be instrumental in developing recommendations for reducing people’s exposure to air pollution in the capital.

However, at the same time, the government and regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), continue to demonstrate a lack of interest in relation to regulation and guidance on air pollution.

In March 2019, the British Safety Council launched its Time to Breathe campaign, which is focused on the protection of outdoor workers from air pollution. The cornerstone of the campaign is Canairy, the first mobile app that gives outdoor workers and their employers insights into pollution and how to reduce staff exposure to it. It has been created in co-operation with King’s College London. Canairy draws on the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) pollution map at King’s and the worker’s GPS to calculate an individual’s exposure to pollution on an hourly basis.

The British Safety Council’s report ‘Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers’ is the next step in the campaign. It gathers available evidence about the causes and consequences of air pollution in Britain. It also reviews international examples of initiatives set up to measure air pollution in different locations and their recommendations for risk reduction.

In the report the British Safety Council is calling for:

The UK to adopt the World Health Organisation’s exposure limits for the main pollutants;
Government action to ensure ambient air pollution is treated as an occupational health issue and adopt a Workplace Exposure Limit for Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEE);
Improvements to pollution monitoring across the UK, so that all regions can have the same accuracy in emissions data as London;
Recognition that protection from the dangers of air pollution should be enshrined in law as a human right.
Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “The impact of air pollution on people working in large cities is starting to be recognised as a major public health risk. However, we are yet to see any true commitment to addressing this issue by the government and the regulators.

“The Time to Breathe campaign, together with our recent report, is a call to action for policymakers, regulators and industry leaders. The social and economic implications of ambient air pollution are clear. It must be recognised as an occupational health hazard, much like some toxic substances such as asbestos. Breathing clean air is not a privilege but a basic human right for the thousands of people who are undertaking vital work outdoors.”

The British Safety Council is urging everyone to write to their MPs to request that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) do more to protect outdoor workers from the dangers of ambient air pollution. To download the template of the letter, click on this link (go to ‘Become a supporter’ section) or use the attachment.

via It’s time to recognise air pollution as an occupational health hazard | PoliticsHome.com

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Air pollution hotspots in Europe

1-bigcitiesacrBig cities beset with gridlocked traffic, major regions producing coal, pockets of heavy industry encased by mountains—Europe’s air pollution hotspots are clearly visible from space on most sunny weekdays.

All across the continent, tens of millions of people live and work in areas where average air pollution levels are well above the maximum limits recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

But the density and type of pollutants can vary from town to town, and sometimes from block to block, depending on whether one is next to an expressway or inside an urban island of leafy green.

That variability makes it nearly impossible to say with accuracy which Europe’s cities have the most befouled air.

But it is possible to pick out hotspot regions, and rank urban areas by type of pollutant.

Italy’s Po Valley

On maps prepared by the European Environment Agency (EEA), Italy’s Po Valley is covered with a wide, stain-like blotch of air pollution from the Ligurian Sea in the west to the Adriatic, held in place by the towering Alps to the north.

Many cities in the valley have among Europe’s highest concentrations of dangerous microscopic particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter, known as PM2.5.

The WHO says these should not exceed, on average, 10 microgrammes per cubic metre of air (10 mcg/m3) per year.

European Union standards are more lenient at 25 mcg/m3, and still several countries regularly overstep this red line.

PM2.5 is a top cause of premature deaths in the EU, some 391,000 in 2016—60,000 in Italy alone.

Turin and Milan, meanwhile, are also plagued by high levels of ozone and nitrogen oxides, produced mainly by petrol- and diesel-burning engines.

According to the Air Quality Life Index, maintained by researchers at the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute, living in the Po Valley shaves half-a-year off one’s life expectancy.

Poland’s coal country

Another dark spot on Europe’s pollution map is southern Poland, dense with coal-fired power plants and wood-burning.

For PM2.5, Krakow was the second most congested city on the continent in 2016, with an average annual concentration of 38 mcg/m3, just ahead of Katowice.

By comparison, some areas of northern India and China are plagued with concentrations three times higher.

EAA figures for 2016 also show that Krakow and Katowice exceed the recommended annual limits of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone.

Meeting WHO standards for small particle air pollution would add up to 1.5 years to people’s lives in this region, the Air Quality Life Index shows.

Big cities in general

Virtually all major cities in Europe face seasonal pollution peaks or chronic air pollution due to non-electric road traffic.

According to Greenpeace, Sofia in Bulgaria had the highest levels of PM2.5 particulates in Europe in 2018, and placed 21st among all large cities in the world.

Close behind in the Greenpeace ranking—confirmed by EAA figures for 2016—were Warsaw, Bucharest, Nicosia, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Paris and Vienna.

The high number of polluted cities in central Europe is directly linked to the continuing use of coal to generate electricity, experts say.

In western Europe, many cities have NO2 levels well in excess of EU-wide standards.

London tops the list, with an average annual concentration of 89 mcg/m3, followed by Paris (83), Stuttgart (82), Munich (80), Marseille (79), Lyon (71), Athens (70) and Rome (65).

Southern Europe

Even wind-swept southern Europe has not escaped high levels of air pollution, notably ozone, which is created by a chemical reaction—triggered by sunlight—between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds.

The highest levels are generally found along the Mediterranean in spring and summer, when hundreds of thousands of sun-seekers descend upon the region.

via Air pollution hotspots in Europe

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Mexico City declares pollution alert, postpones football semi-final

aairqualityaMexico City declared an environmental alert Tuesday, ordering vehicles off the road and postponing the semi-finals of the first-division football league as a blanket of smog enveloped the sprawling capital.

A series of wildfires on the city’s outskirts have combined with stagnant weather conditions to cloak the metropolitan area of more than 20 million people in a gray cloud of air pollution, which passed the critical level of 150 points on the authorities’ air quality index.

“The extraordinary environmental contingency plan has been activated for the Mexico valley metropolitan area due to particles” in the air, the city’s environmental commission said in a statement.

Authorities called on residents to avoid physical activity outdoors, instructed schools to keep children inside at recess and urged the elderly and those with respiratory illnesses to remain inside.

They also ordered cars with certain license plate numbers off the road for Wednesday, and ordered certain polluting industries to take measures to cut their emissions by 30 to 40 percent.

The Mexican football league said that under the recommendation of city officials, it had decided to postpone the first leg of the first-division semi-final between Leon and Mexico City club America from Wednesday night to Thursday because of the pollution.

Firefighters have been battling nearly two dozen wildfires on the outskirts of the city. And with little wind, no rain and temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), weather conditions have allowed the resulting contamination to stagnate.

Mexico City is naturally prone to air pollution: it is surrounded by a ring of mountains that often trap smog over the capital, preventing it from dissipating.

Polluting industries and the more than five million cars on the city’s streets only make matters worse.

via Mexico City declares pollution alert, postpones football semi-final

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Mexico’s wildfires make Mexico City air pollution more hazardous

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Dozens of wildfires have broken out in Mexico over the past week, sending plumes of smoke drifting far beyond the burn sites to blanket population centers, including Mexico City, home to 21 million people.

Officials in Mexico City have declared a state of emergency and are urging people to stay indoors, as pollution levels soar far above what’s considered healthy for human exposure. Concentrations of PM2.5—tiny particulate matter produced during any combustion, like burning trees and plants during fires—reached 158 micrograms per cubic meter yesterday.

PM2.5 concentrations can be translated to cigarette equivalencies. According to analysis co-authored by Richard Muller, a physics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, if you were, on average, exposed to 22 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5, it’d be the equivalent to smoking one cigarette a day. So if you divide the concentration of PM2.5 by 22, you get the rough cigarette equivalence of simply breathing your region’s air.

That means breathing the air on May 14 in Mexico City was the equivalent to smoking about seven cigarettes that day. Today, the city’s PM2.5 level sank slightly, to 143 micrograms per cubic meter, or about six and a half cigarettes.

For comparison, following last year’s wildfires in California, breathing in parts of the state was like smoking 13 cigarettes per day. In November 2017, during a particularly bad air pollution day in Delhi, breathing there was the equivalent of smoking 45 cigarettes in a day.

PM2.5 is small enough to slip deep into lungs, aggravating asthma and contributing to a range of health problems.

The pollution emergency in Mexico City comes as Mexico as a whole faces a very extreme fire year; 4,425 fires have been recorded so far this year, according to the Associated Press, and firefighters are battling an average of about 100 fires per day throughout the country.

The World Resources Institute, a nonprofit research group, is tracking the fires as they arise. Its maps are dotted with dozens of blazes and smoke plumes across Mexico this week.

Mexico is currently at the tail end of its dry season, which gives way to a season of rain in summer.

via Mexico’s wildfires make Mexico City air pollution more hazardous — Quartz

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Mexico City pollution: Residents urged to stay indoors

_106966620_4b8b9938-bed9-4913-9ca9-4e83d5737fecOfficials in Mexico City have declared an environmental emergency after air pollution in the Mexican capital reached levels potentially dangerous to human health.

They urged those at particular risk to stay indoors and restricted the number of cars which can be driven in the city on Wednesday.

Smoke from nearby forest fires has contributed to the spike in pollution.

The city has been wrapped in a smoky haze for days.

Mexican photographer Santiago Arau tweeted video taken from a drone showing the extent of the pollution.

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Particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometres or less, known as PM2.5, reached 158 micrograms per cubic metre of air at one measuring station on Tuesday morning, more than six times the World Health Organisation daily mean recommended limit.

PM2.5 particles are thought to be particularly damaging because they are so small, they can penetrate the deepest parts of the lungs.

More than 21 million people live in Mexico City’s metropolitan area and it was once infamous for its poor air quality. Air pollution levels dropped in the late 1990s but have again been on the rise in recent years.

The city lies in a valley and when there is little wind, the air can quickly become stagnant.

Mexico City’s environmental commission advised residents to avoid outdoor activities and Mexico’s first division football league postponed a match between León and Club América, which was due to be played in the capital on Wednesday.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said she would consider cancelling school classes if the pollution got any worse. She said schools were already keeping their pupils indoors at break time.

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via Mexico City pollution: Residents urged to stay indoors – BBC News

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