The problem of global air pollution

The World Health Organisation (WHO) expect poor air quality worldwide to be the leading cause of premature deaths by 2050. They probably look back at the Paris Climate Accord of December 2015 with mixed emotions. First off, replicating the wide consensus about climate change for the effects of air pollution on population health would be a worthy ambition. Then again, they must now look at how recent populist resistance, particularly by the Trump presidency in the US, has set back the cause of legislating against environmental degradation. They might wish for no more horse-trading over whys and wherefores, just consensus on what needs to be done, then getting on with it.

But in seeking agreement on how to improve air quality, WHO do themselves few favours. Their standard parameter of suffering from poor health is the Disability Adjusted Life Year or ‘DALY’, measuring numbers of years lost to ill health, disability or death, against a notional average healthy life expectancy. Not surprisingly, this peasoup of statistical complexity is argued over by medics, demographers and sociologists threatening the capacity to agree anything about how to tackle the poisoning of our lungs.

We all accept the root causes of poor air; most are man made. They include the vastly increased reliance on the internal combustion engine over the last half-century, particularly in rapidly growing economies. But emissions from industrial processes, and urbanisation with its encroachment on previous areas of virgin, or partly domesticated natural vegetation, are just as guilty. Nature adds its own contribution via volcanic emissions and the minority of forest fires not started by man, but largely we are responsible for the deteriorating quality of the air we breathe. We know the causes, so we should be able to identify the solutions to slow and eventually stop, worldwide decline in air quality.

In most developed economies, there are some promising starts. Coal-fired power generation is now a fraction of what it was 30 years ago. Sustainably sourced generation continues to rise as its lifetime and operating costs continue to fall. We still have a way to go on vehicle emissions, but again we’ve made a start. Old vehicle scrapping schemes, congestion charging and a new wave of road pricing all act to encourage more use of public transport and ultra low emission zones will soon make it too expensive to move freight with anything other than vehicles with the cleanest emissions, if not electric motivation. These measures cannot come soon enough for cities across the developed world where climate warming over the last two decades is exacerbating toxic air quality.

But how can we deliver such improvements to developing economies where the worst air quality deterioration is found? Not, I suggest, by arguing endlessly over the health statistics. We need positive and practical measures on the ground.

Paris

Schemes scrapping ageing and inefficient cars for those with more efficient engines would have a major impact in fast developing economies, where reliance on private vehicles is the only solution for the livelihoods of marginally coping communities. A subsidy scheme by motor industry offenders over recent NOx emission cheating, replacing old with new models might be too much to hope for, but consumer loyalty would be engendered worldwide by an international gesture of this sort. VW and others, are you listening?

Greater investment in public transport infrastructure is at last becoming a viable sector for the finance industry, as it seeks out longer term returns for its insurance and pensions customers. Only the most secure covenants are attracting the right quality of project funding capital, but where this ventures into developing economies, it needs underwriting via World Bank and other overseas aid agencies.

Hydrocarbons-fired power generation in, for example China and South East Asia, as already in the west, needs steady replacement by sustainable sources, as already occurring in the west. Those losing jobs in mining and facing the burden of unemployment, could be re-trained to manufacturing jobs in fast-growing renewables. There is ample experience to build on here from across western Europe. Rapidly reducing costs of sustainable energy generation needs importing to economies where they will soon be needed most to compete with continued low labour costs in mining and extraction.

Air pollution Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Finally, urban planning has to become a stronger feature of land use management, thus optimising development of previously green space on the edges of towns, and only allowing urbanisation to expand beyond current city limits where take-up of underused space inside the urban envelope is impossible. Effective land use management has a huge if indirect contribution to make to reduce air pollution.

The long-term effects of degraded air are measurable in the treatment of respiratory disorders and associated loss of earnings or death with its associated dependencies from what would otherwise be healthy populations. Society has to develop cross accounting, so that the costs of installing physical infrastructure now, pay for reduced health care later. Only by making such mould-breaking accounting solutions work effectively, will we achieve the benefits of a truly joined-up world economy.

Hugh’s new book is Journeys with Open Eyes, Seeking Empathy with Strangers, £12.98 (i2i Publishing).

Hugh is a graduate of Oxford (St. Johns, 1969). For over for decades he has worked for an array of public and private sector in international urban planning and development.

Article Source: http://www.oxfordtoday.ox.ac.uk/opinion/problem-global-air-pollution

Study Reveals Air Pollution Can Alter Effectiveness of Antibiotics

Researchers from the University of Leicester have for the first time discovered that bacteria that cause respiratory infections are directly affected by air pollution – increasing the potential for infection and changing the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment.

The interdisciplinary study, which has been published in the journal Environmental Microbiology, has important implications for the treatment of infectious diseases, which are known to be increased in areas with high levels of air pollution.

The study looked into how air pollution affects the bacteria living in our bodies, specifically the respiratory tract – the nose, throat and lungs.

A major component of air pollution is black carbon, which is produced through the burning of fossil fuels such as diesel, biofuels and biomass.

The research shows that this pollutant changes the way in which bacteria grow and form communities, which could affect how they survive on the lining of our respiratory tracts and how well they are able to hide from, and combat, our immune systems.

Smoke 2 Free Photo

Dr. Julie Morrissey, associate professor of microbial genetics in the University of Leicester’s Department of Genetics and lead author on the paper, said: “This work increases our understanding of how air pollution affects human health. It shows that the bacteria which cause respiratory infections are affected by air pollution, possibly increasing the risk of infection and the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment of these illnesses. Our research could initiate an entirely new understanding of how air pollution affects human health. It will lead to enhancement of research to understand how air pollution leads to severe respiratory problems and perturbs the environmental cycles essential for life.”

Dr. Shane Hussey and Dr. Jo Purves, the research associates working on the project said, “Everybody worldwide is exposed to air pollution every time they breathe. It is something we cannot limit our exposure to as individuals, but we know that it can make us ill. So we need to understand what it is doing to us, how it is making us unhealthy, and how we might be able to stop these effects.”

The research focused on two human pathogens, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae, which are both major causes of respiratory diseases and exhibit high levels of resistance to antibiotics.

The research team found that black carbon alters the antibiotic tolerance of Staphylococcus aureus communities and importantly increases the resistance of communities of Streptococcus pneumoniae to penicillin, the front line treatment of bacterial pneumonia.

Furthermore, it was found that black carbon caused Streptococcus pneumoniae to spread from the nose to the lower respiratory tract, which is a key step in development of disease.

Professors Julian Ketley, professor of bacterial genetics in the Department of Genetics and Peter Andrew, professor of microbial pathogenesis in the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, said, “Urbanization in megacities with extreme levels of air pollution are major risk factors for human health in many parts of the world. Our research seeks to lead and participate in international research consortia of biologists, chemists, clinician, social scientists and urban planners. Together we will investigate how increasing urbanization promotes infectious disease.”

polluted city background Free Photo

The World Health Organization describes air pollution as the “largest single environmental health risk.” Air pollution is thought to be responsible for at least 7 million deaths per year, which equates to an eighth of all global deaths. The UK and many other countries around the world continue to breach the recommended pollution limits set by the World Health Organization.

Professor Paul Monks, vice chancellor and head of the College of Science and Engineering, who is a leading expert on air pollution added, “The lead investigators have brought together their expertise in genetics, microbiology and air pollution chemistry to provide truly multidisciplinary ground breaking insights. This research has significant potential to initiate a global research effort to understand a hitherto unknown effect of air pollution and provide significant additional impetus to the control of pollution.”

The four-year study was conducted by a University of Leicester’s College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology PhD studentship,
and research grants from the Leverhulme Trust and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Source: University of Leicester

Article Source: http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/PrinterFriendly.aspx?id={97056241-5520-4169-A4FC-1652EA8992A2}

Granada Hills Residents say something Stinks – Air Quality

Los Angeles Air Quality Problems and Indoor Odors - Indoor Environmental ConcernsResidents in the north end of the San Fernando Valley have realized that something stinks and its not just their trash cans.  Sources indicate that the AQMD – Air Quality Management District has already been notified by homeowners that gasses and odors persist within their community.  In a last ditch effort to gain some recognition the residents have filed a lawsuit against the Sunshine Canyon landfill.

“This is one of the most significant environmental problems in Los Angeles,” said Deputy City Attorney William Carter, who says their independent research shows there are “significant odor problems.”

The South Coast Air Management district has already slapped more than $450,000 in fines on the smelly landfill to pay for research, gather information and hopefully improve air quality.  On most days homeowners and occupants notice a smell outdoors and sometimes even indoors.  “Republic is making progress in addressing the main cause of the odor – landfill gas – by increasing the volume of the gas captured by its trash system, Atwood said. That mandate was sought by AQMD.” Dailynews.com

The AQMD says they aren’t “aware of any criminal conduct on the part of landfill operators,” but that there’s nothing stopping the city from pursuing civil charges.

As on of the largest dumps in the country, Sunshine Canyon was formed in 2009 from two landfills–one within the Los Angeles city limits and one under the county’s jurisdiction–merged operations. Sunshine Canyon takes in 9,000 tons of garbage each day.”  LA Curbed

It is a great to see the community coming together to face a common goal and effectively work with each other, the city attorney, and the air quality management district to curb air quality problems.

Fun Guy Mold Inspection and Consulting LLC provided several mold inspections on homes with similar complaints from the homeowners, “indicating a smell could be identified and lingered from time to time.”S. Daughtry  Indoor air quality problems and odors can be created from water damage and mold.  Although minor moisture damage was observed during these mold inspections (within some of the homes) no major mold problems were detected.

Continual maintenance of your home can prevent common indoor air quality problems by reducing indoor allergens, dust bunnies and more.

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