SciCombinator

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Concept: Air Quality Index

62

Assessment of the global burden of disease is based on epidemiological cohort studies that connect premature mortality to a wide range of causes, including the long-term health impacts of ozone and fine particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5). It has proved difficult to quantify premature mortality related to air pollution, notably in regions where air quality is not monitored, and also because the toxicity of particles from various sources may vary. Here we use a global atmospheric chemistry model to investigate the link between premature mortality and seven emission source categories in urban and rural environments. In accord with the global burden of disease for 2010 (ref. 5), we calculate that outdoor air pollution, mostly by PM2.5, leads to 3.3 (95 per cent confidence interval 1.61-4.81) million premature deaths per year worldwide, predominantly in Asia. We primarily assume that all particles are equally toxic, but also include a sensitivity study that accounts for differential toxicity. We find that emissions from residential energy use such as heating and cooking, prevalent in India and China, have the largest impact on premature mortality globally, being even more dominant if carbonaceous particles are assumed to be most toxic. Whereas in much of the USA and in a few other countries emissions from traffic and power generation are important, in eastern USA, Europe, Russia and East Asia agricultural emissions make the largest relative contribution to PM2.5, with the estimate of overall health impact depending on assumptions regarding particle toxicity. Model projections based on a business-as-usual emission scenario indicate that the contribution of outdoor air pollution to premature mortality could double by 2050.

Concepts: Epidemiology, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Dust, Air Quality Index, Scrubber

53

Policymakers around the world are turning to license-plate based driving restrictions in an effort to address urban air pollution. The format differs across cities, but most programs restrict driving once or twice a week during weekdays. This paper focuses on Mexico City, home to one of the oldest and best-known driving restriction policies. For almost two decades Mexico City’s driving restrictions applied during weekdays only. This changed recently, however, when the program was expanded to include Saturdays. This paper uses hourly data from pollution monitoring stations to measure the effect of the Saturday expansion on air quality. Overall, there is little evidence that the program expansion improved air quality. Across eight major pollutants, the program expansion had virtually no discernible effect on pollution levels. These disappointing results stand in sharp contrast to estimates made before the expansion which predicted a 15%+ decrease in vehicle emissions on Saturdays. To understand why the program has been less effective than expected, the paper then turns to evidence from subway, bus, and light rail ridership, finding no evidence that the expansion was successful in getting drivers to switch to lower-emitting forms of transportation.

Concepts: Pollution, Smog, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Air pollution, Los Angeles, Cruise ship pollution, Chicago, Air Quality Index

48

Millions of people die every year from diseases caused by exposure to outdoor air pollution. Some studies have estimated premature mortality related to local sources of air pollution, but local air quality can also be affected by atmospheric transport of pollution from distant sources. International trade is contributing to the globalization of emission and pollution as a result of the production of goods (and their associated emissions) in one region for consumption in another region. The effects of international trade on air pollutant emissions, air quality and health have been investigated regionally, but a combined, global assessment of the health impacts related to international trade and the transport of atmospheric air pollution is lacking. Here we combine four global models to estimate premature mortality caused by fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution as a result of atmospheric transport and the production and consumption of goods and services in different world regions. We find that, of the 3.45 million premature deaths related to PM2.5 pollution in 2007 worldwide, about 12 per cent (411,100 deaths) were related to air pollutants emitted in a region of the world other than that in which the death occurred, and about 22 per cent (762,400 deaths) were associated with goods and services produced in one region for consumption in another. For example, PM2.5 pollution produced in China in 2007 is linked to more than 64,800 premature deaths in regions other than China, including more than 3,100 premature deaths in western Europe and the USA; on the other hand, consumption in western Europe and the USA is linked to more than 108,600 premature deaths in China. Our results reveal that the transboundary health impacts of PM2.5 pollution associated with international trade are greater than those associated with long-distance atmospheric pollutant transport.

Concepts: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Globalization, Dust, Air Quality Index, Scrubber

35

As part of the 12th Five-Year Plan, the Chinese government has developed air pollution prevention and control plans for key regions with a focus on the power, transport, and industrial sectors. Here, we investigate the contribution of residential emissions to regional air pollution in highly polluted eastern China during the heating season, and find that dramatic improvements in air quality would also result from reduction in residential emissions. We use the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled with Chemistry to evaluate potential residential emission controls in Beijing and in the Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei (BTH) region. In January and February 2010, relative to the base case, eliminating residential emissions in Beijing reduced daily average surface PM2.5 (particulate mater with aerodynamic diameter equal or smaller than 2.5 micrometer) concentrations by 14 ± 7 μg⋅m(-3) (22 ± 6% of a baseline concentration of 67 ± 41 μg⋅m(-3); mean ± SD). Eliminating residential emissions in the BTH region reduced concentrations by 28 ± 19 μg⋅m(-3) (40 ± 9% of 67 ± 41 μg⋅m(-3)), 44 ± 27 μg⋅m(-3) (43 ± 10% of 99 ± 54 μg⋅m(-3)), and 25 ± 14 μg⋅m(-3) (35 ± 8% of 70 ± 35 μg⋅m(-3)) in Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei provinces, respectively. Annually, elimination of residential sources in the BTH region reduced emissions of primary PM2.5 by 32%, compared with 5%, 6%, and 58% achieved by eliminating emissions from the transportation, power, and industry sectors, respectively. We also find air quality in Beijing would benefit substantially from reductions in residential emissions from regional controls in Tianjin and Hebei, indicating the value of policies at the regional level.

Concepts: People's Republic of China, Pollution, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Air Quality Index, Hebei

18

The adverse effects of traffic-related air pollution on children’s respiratory health have been widely reported, but few studies have evaluated the impact of traffic-control policies designed to reduce urban air pollution. We assessed associations between traffic-related air pollutants and respiratory/allergic symptoms amongst 8-9 year-old schoolchildren living within the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ). Information on respiratory/allergic symptoms was obtained using a parent-completed questionnaire and linked to modelled annual air pollutant concentrations based on the residential address of each child, using a multivariable mixed effects logistic regression analysis. Exposure to traffic-related air pollutants was associated with current rhinitis: NOx (OR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00-1.02), NO2 (1.03, 1.00-1.06), PM10 (1.16, 1.04-1.28) and PM2.5 (1.38, 1.08-1.78), all per μg/m3 of pollutant, but not with other respiratory/allergic symptoms. The LEZ did not reduce ambient air pollution levels, or affect the prevalence of respiratory/allergic symptoms over the period studied. These data confirm the previous association between traffic-related air pollutant exposures and symptoms of current rhinitis. Importantly, the London LEZ has not significantly improved air quality within the city, or the respiratory health of the resident population in its first three years of operation. This highlights the need for more robust measures to reduce traffic emissions.

Concepts: Pollution, Particulate, Smog, Environmentalism, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Air pollution, Cruise ship pollution, Air Quality Index

18

Outdoor air pollution is a serious problem in many developing countries today. This study focuses on monitoring the dynamic changes of air quality effectively in large cities by analyzing the spatiotemporal trends in geo-targeted social media messages with comprehensive big data filtering procedures. We introduce a new social media analytic framework to (1) investigate the relationship between air pollution topics posted in Sina Weibo (Chinese Twitter) and the daily Air Quality Index (AQI) published by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection; and (2) monitor the dynamics of air quality index by using social media messages. Correlation analysis was used to compare the connections between discussion trends in social media messages and the temporal changes in the AQI during 2012. We categorized relevant messages into three types, retweets, mobile app messages, and original individual messages finding that original individual messages had the highest correlation to the Air Quality Index. Based on this correlation analysis, individual messages were used to monitor the AQI in 2013. Our study indicates that the filtered social media messages are strongly correlated to the AQI and can be used to monitor the air quality dynamics to some extent.

Concepts: Pollution, Smog, Environmentalism, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Air pollution, Air Quality Index, Social media, Biofilter

16

Air pollution affects billions of people worldwide, yet ambient pollution measurements are limited for much of the world. Urban air pollution concentrations vary sharply over short distances (≪1 km) owing to unevenly distributed emission sources, dilution, and physicochemical transformations. Accordingly, even where present, conventional fixed-site pollution monitoring methods lack the spatial resolution needed to characterize heterogeneous human exposures and localized pollution hotspots. Here, we demonstrate a measurement approach to reveal urban air pollution patterns at 4-5 orders of magnitude greater spatial precision than possible with current central-site ambient monitoring. We equipped Google Street View vehicles with a fast-response pollution measurement platform and repeatedly sampled every street in a 30-km(2) area of Oakland, CA, developing the largest urban air quality data set of its type. Resulting maps of annual daytime NO, NO2, and black carbon at 30 m-scale reveal stable, persistent pollution patterns with surprisingly sharp small-scale variability attributable to local sources, up to 5-8× within individual city blocks. Since local variation in air quality profoundly impacts public health and environmental equity, our results have important implications for how air pollution is measured and managed. If validated elsewhere, this readily scalable measurement approach could address major air quality data gaps worldwide.

Concepts: Measurement, Air pollution, Global warming, Air Quality Index, Google Maps, IPhone, Google Earth, Google Street View

6

Particulate pollution has important consequences for human health, and is an issue of global concern. Outdoor air pollution has become a cause for alarm in India in particular because recent data suggest that ambient pollution levels in Indian cities are some of the highest in the world. We study the number of particles between 0.5μm and 2.5μm indoors while using affordable air purifiers in the highly polluted city of Delhi. Though substantial reductions in indoor number concentrations are observed during air purifier use, indoor air quality while using an air purifier is frequently worse than in cities with moderate pollution, and often worse than levels observed even in polluted cities. When outdoor pollution levels are higher, on average, indoor pollution levels while using an air purifier are also higher. Moreover, the ratio of indoor air quality during air purifier use to two comparison measures of air quality without an air purifier are also positively correlated with outdoor pollution levels, suggesting that as ambient air quality worsens there are diminishing returns to improvements in indoor air quality during air purifier use. The findings of this study indicate that although the most affordable air purifiers currently available are associated with significant improvements in the indoor environment, they are not a replacement for public action in regions like Delhi. Although private solutions may serve as a stopgap, reducing ambient air pollution must be a public health and policy priority in any region where air pollution is as high as Delhi’s during the winter.

Concepts: Pollution, Particulate, Environmentalism, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Air pollution, Ozone, Air Quality Index, Air purifier

6

The prevalence of asthma and allergic diseases has increased dramatically during the past few decades not only in industrialized countries. Urban air pollution from motor vehicles has been indicated as one of the major risk factors responsible for this increase.Although genetic factors are important in the development of asthma and allergic diseases, the rising trend can be explained only in changes occurred in the environment. Despite some differences in the air pollution profile and decreasing trends of some key air pollutants, air quality is an important concern for public health in the cities throughout the world.Due to climate change, air pollution patterns are changing in several urbanized areas of the world, with a significant effect on respiratory health.The observational evidence indicates that recent regional changes in climate, particularly temperature increases, have already affected a diverse set of physical and biological systems in many parts of the world. Associations between thunderstorms and asthma morbidity in pollinosis subjects have been also identified in multiple locations around the world.Allergens patterns are also changing in response to climate change and air pollution can modify the allergenic potential of pollens especially in presence of specific weather conditions.The underlying mechanisms of all these interactions are not well known yet. The consequences on health vary from decreases in lung function to allergic diseases, new onset of diseases, and exacerbation of chronic respiratory diseases.Factor clouding the issue is that laboratory evaluations do not reflect what happens during natural exposition, when atmospheric pollution mixtures in polluted cities are inhaled. In addition, it is important to recall that an individual’s response to pollution exposure depends on the source and components of air pollution, as well as meteorological conditions. Indeed, some air pollution-related incidents with asthma aggravation do not depend only on the increased production of air pollution, but rather on atmospheric factors that favour the accumulation of air pollutants at ground level.Considering these aspects governments worldwide and international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the European Union are facing a growing problem of the respiratory effects induced by gaseous and particulate pollutants arising from motor vehicle emissions.

Concepts: Asthma, Particulate, Smog, Environmentalism, Air pollution, Acid rain, Cruise ship pollution, Air Quality Index

5

The deleterious effects of ambient air pollution on human health have been consistently documented by many epidemiologic studies worldwide, and it has been calculated that globally at least seven million deaths are annually attributable to the effects of air pollution. The major air pollutants emitted into the atmosphere by a number of natural processes and human activities include nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter. In addition to the poor ambient air quality, there is increasing evidence that indoor air pollution also poses a serious threat to human health, especially in low-income countries that still use biomass fuels as an energy resource. This review summarizes the current knowledge on ambient air pollution in financially deprived populations.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Pollution, Particulate, Smog, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Air pollution, Dust, Air Quality Index