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Concept: Pollution


Active travel (cycling, walking) is beneficial for the health due to increased physical activity (PA). However, active travel may increase the intake of air pollution, leading to negative health consequences. We examined the risk-benefit balance between active travel related PA and exposure to air pollution across a range of air pollution and PA scenarios. The health effects of active travel and air pollution were estimated through changes in all-cause mortality for different levels of active travel and air pollution. Air pollution exposure was estimated through changes in background concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), ranging from 5 to 200μg/m3. For active travel exposure, we estimated cycling and walking from 0 up to 16h per day, respectively. These refer to long-term average levels of active travel and PM2.5 exposure. For the global average urban background PM2.5 concentration (22μg/m3) benefits of PA by far outweigh risks from air pollution even under the most extreme levels of active travel. In areas with PM2.5 concentrations of 100μg/m3, harms would exceed benefits after 1h 30min of cycling per day or more than 10h of walking per day. If the counterfactual was driving, rather than staying at home, the benefits of PA would exceed harms from air pollution up to 3h 30min of cycling per day. The results were sensitive to dose-response function (DRF) assumptions for PM2.5 and PA. PA benefits of active travel outweighed the harm caused by air pollution in all but the most extreme air pollution concentrations.

Concepts: Pollution, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Visibility, Smog, Air pollution, Dust, Scrubber


Plastic debris litters aquatic habitats globally, the majority of which is microscopic (< 1 mm), and is ingested by a large range of species. Risks associated with such small fragments come from the material itself and from chemical pollutants that sorb to it from surrounding water. Hazards associated with the complex mixture of plastic and accumulated pollutants are largely unknown. Here, we show that fish, exposed to a mixture of polyethylene with chemical pollutants sorbed from the marine environment, bioaccumulate these chemical pollutants and suffer liver toxicity and pathology. Fish fed virgin polyethylene fragments also show signs of stress, although less severe than fish fed marine polyethylene fragments. We provide baseline information regarding the bioaccumulation of chemicals and associated health effects from plastic ingestion in fish and demonstrate that future assessments should consider the complex mixture of the plastic material and their associated chemical pollutants.

Concepts: Chemical substance, Mixture, Toxicology, Pollution, Plastic, Chemical compound, Material, Ocean


China is the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic air pollutants, and measurable amounts of Chinese pollution are transported via the atmosphere to other countries, including the United States. However, a large fraction of Chinese emissions is due to manufacture of goods for foreign consumption. Here, we analyze the impacts of trade-related Chinese air pollutant emissions on the global atmospheric environment, linking an economic-emission analysis and atmospheric chemical transport modeling. We find that in 2006, 36% of anthropogenic sulfur dioxide, 27% of nitrogen oxides, 22% of carbon monoxide, and 17% of black carbon emitted in China were associated with production of goods for export. For each of these pollutants, about 21% of export-related Chinese emissions were attributed to China-to-US export. Atmospheric modeling shows that transport of the export-related Chinese pollution contributed 3-10% of annual mean surface sulfate concentrations and 0.5-1.5% of ozone over the western United States in 2006. This Chinese pollution also resulted in one extra day or more of noncompliance with the US ozone standard in 2006 over the Los Angeles area and many regions in the eastern United States. On a daily basis, the export-related Chinese pollution contributed, at a maximum, 12-24% of sulfate concentrations over the western United States. As the United States outsourced manufacturing to China, sulfate pollution in 2006 increased in the western United States but decreased in the eastern United States, reflecting the competing effect between enhanced transport of Chinese pollution and reduced US emissions. Our findings are relevant to international efforts to reduce transboundary air pollution.

Concepts: Oxygen, United States, Pollution, Atmosphere, Smog, Air pollution, Los Angeles, Global warming


Epidemiologic studies have consistently reported associations between outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution and adverse health effects. Although Asia bears the majority of the public health burden from air pollution, few epidemiologic studies have been conducted outside of North America and Europe due in part to challenges in population exposure assessment. We assessed the feasibility of two current exposure assessment techniques, land use regression (LUR) modeling and mobile monitoring, and estimated the mortality attributable to air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. We developed LUR models for predicting wintertime spatial patterns of NO2 and SO2 based on 2-week passive Ogawa measurements at 37 locations and freely available geographic predictors. The models explained 74% and 78% of the variance in NO2 and SO2, respectively. Land cover characteristics derived from satellite images were useful predictors of both pollutants. Mobile PM2.5 monitoring with an integrating nephelometer also showed promise, capturing substantial spatial variation in PM2.5 concentrations. The spatial patterns in SO2 and PM, seasonal and diurnal patterns in PM2.5, and high wintertime PM2.5/PM10 ratios were consistent with a major impact from coal and wood combustion in the city’s low-income traditional housing (ger) areas. The annual average concentration of PM2.5 measured at a centrally located government monitoring site was 75 μg/m3 or more than seven times the World Health Organization’s PM2.5 air quality guideline, driven by a wintertime average concentration of 148 μg/m3. PM2.5 concentrations measured in a traditional housing area were higher, with a wintertime mean PM2.5 concentration of 250 μg/m3. We conservatively estimated that 29% (95% CI, 12-43%) of cardiopulmonary deaths and 40% (95% CI, 17-56%) of lung cancer deaths in the city are attributable to outdoor air pollution. These deaths correspond to nearly 10% of the city’s total mortality, with estimates ranging to more than 13% of mortality under less conservative model assumptions. LUR models and mobile monitoring can be successfully implemented in developing country cities, thus cost-effectively improving exposure assessment for epidemiology and risk assessment. Air pollution represents a major threat to public health in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and reducing home heating emissions in traditional housing areas should be the primary focus of air pollution control efforts.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Lung cancer, Pollution, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, World Health Organization, Air pollution


BACKGROUND: Environmental pollution is a known risk factor for multiple diseases and furthermore increases rate of hospitalisations. We investigated the correlation between emergency room admissions (ERAs) of the general population for respiratory diseases and the environmental pollutant levels in Milan, a metropolis in northern Italy. METHODS: We collected data from 45770 ERAs for respiratory diseases. A time-stratified case-crossover design was used to investigate the association between air pollution levels and ERAs for acute respiratory conditions. The effects of air pollutants were investigated at lag 0 to lag 5, lag 0–2 and lag 3–5 in both single and multi-pollutant models, adjusted for daily weather variables. RESULTS: An increase in ozone (O3) levels at lag 3–5 was associated with a 78% increase in the number of ERAs for asthma, especially during the warm season. Exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) proved to be a risk factor for pneumonia at lag 0–2 and in the warm season increased the risk of ERA by 66%. A significant association was found between ERAs for COPD exacerbation and levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), CO, nitrate dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). The multipollutant model that includes all pollutants showed a significant association between CO (26%) and ERA for upper respiratory tract diseases at lag 0–2. For chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations, only CO (OR 1.19) showed a significant association. CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to environmental pollution, even at typical low levels, can increase the risk of ERA for acute respiratory diseases and exacerbation of obstructive lung diseases in the general population.

Concepts: Pulmonology, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Respiratory system, Pollution, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Acid rain


In order to endow environmental protection features to dentifrice, hydroxyapatite (HA) was added to ordinary dentifrice. The effects on dentinal tubule occlusion and surface mineralization were compared after brushing dentine discs with dentifrice with or without HA. The two types of dentifrice were then added to 100 µg/ml of hexavalent chromium cation (Cr(6+)) solution in order to evaluate their capacities of adsorbing Cr(6+) from water. Our results showed that the dentifrice containing HA was significantly better than the ordinary dentifrice in occluding the dentinal tubules with a plugging rate greater than 90%. Moreover, the effect of the HA dentifrice was persistent and energy-dispersive spectrometer (EDS) revealed that the atomic percentages of calcium and phosphorus on the surface of dentine discs increased significantly. Adding HA to ordinary dentifrice significantly enhanced the ability of dentifrice to adsorb Cr(6+) from water with the removal rate up to 52.36%. In addition, the sorption was stable. Our study suggests that HA can be added to ordinary dentifrice to obtain dentifrice that has both relieving dentin hypersensitivity benefits and also helps to control environmental pollution.

Concepts: Chemistry, Atom, Adsorption, Pollution, Dentin, Hydroxylapatite, Dentine hypersensitivity, Environmentalism


Metals deposited into ecosystems are non-degradable and become one of the major toxic agents which accumulate in habitats. Thus, their concentration requires precise monitoring. To evaluate pollution around a chlor-alkali plant, a glass smelter, two power plants and a ceramic and porcelain factory, we selected terrestrial mosses with different life forms: the orthotropic and endohydric Polytrichum commune and plagiotropic and ectohydric Pleurozium schreberi. Metal concentrations were determined in both species growing together at sites situated at various distances approximately 0.75, 1.5, 3 and 6 km from polluters. MARS analysis evaluated different tendencies of both species for Cd, Co and Pb accumulation depending on the distance from the emitter. In P. schreberi, the concentration of these metals diminished relatively rapidly with an increasing distance from the emitter up to 3000 m and then stabilised. For P. commune, a steady decrease could be observed with increasing the distance up to 6000 m. PCCA ordination explained that both species from the vicinity of the chlor-alkali plant were correlated with the highest Co, Cr, Cu, Fe and Pb as well as Mn and Ni concentrations in their tissues. The mosses from sites closest to both power plants were correlated with the highest Cd and Zn concentrations. P. commune contained significantly higher Cd, Cr, Ni, Pb and Zn concentrations compared to P. schreberi. This may be caused by the lamellae found in the leaves of P. commune which increase the surface area of the possible aerial absorption of contaminants. Soil may also be an additional source of metals, and it affects the uptake in endohydric P. commune more than in ectohydric P. schreberi. However, the precise explanation of these relations needs further investigation.

Concepts: Iron, Plant, Metal, Copper, Pollution, Moss, Mosses, Polytrichum commune


Green, natural environments may ameliorate adverse environmental exposures (e.g. air pollution, noise, and extreme heat), increase physical activity and social engagement, and lower stress.

Concepts: Environment, Ecology, Natural environment, Pollution, Environmentalism, Environmental science, Air pollution


Although persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic pollutants (PBTs) are well-studied individually, their distribution and variability on a global scale are largely unknown, particularly in marine fish. Using 2,662 measurements collected from peer-reviewed literature spanning 1969-2012, we examined variability of five classes of PBTs, considering effects of geography, habitat, and trophic level on observed concentrations. While we see large-scale spatial patterning in some PBTs (chlordanes, polychlorinated biphenyls), habitat type and trophic level did not contribute to significant patterning, with the exception of mercury. We further examined patterns of change in PBT concentration as a function of sampling year. All PBTs showed significant declines in concentration levels through time, ranging from 15-30% reduction per decade across PBT groups. Despite consistent evidence of reductions, variation in pollutant concentration remains high, indicating ongoing consumer risk of exposure to fish with pollutant levels exceeding EPA screening values. The temporal trends indicate that mitigation programs are effective, but that global levels decline slowly. In order for monitoring efforts to provide more targeted assessments of risk to PBT exposure, these data highlight an urgent need for improved replication and standardization of pollutant monitoring protocols for marine finfish.

Concepts: Time, Scientific method, Toxicology, Pollution, Food chain, Polychlorinated biphenyl, Biomagnification, Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins


People with low income often experience higher exposures to air pollutants. We compared the exposure to particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5 and PM10), Black Carbon (BC) and ultrafine particles (PNCs; 0.02-1μm) for typical commutes by car, bus and underground from 4 London areas with different levels of income deprivation (G1 to G4, from most to least deprived). The highest BC and PM concentrations were found in G1 while the highest PNC in G3. Lowest concentrations for all pollutants were observed in G2. We found no systematic relationship between income deprivation and pollutant concentrations, suggesting that differences between transport modes are a stronger influence. The underground showed the highest PM concentrations, followed by buses and a much lower concentrations in cars. BC concentrations in the underground were overestimated due to Fe interference. BC concentrations were also higher in buses than cars because of a lower infiltration of outside pollutants into the car cabin. PNCs were highest in buses, closely followed by cars, but lowest in underground due to the absence of combustion sources. Concentration in the road modes (car and bus) were governed by the traffic conditions (such as traffic flow interruptions) at the specific road section. Exposures were reduced in trains with non-openable windows compared to those with openable windows. People from less income-deprived areas have a predominant use of car, receiving the lowest doses (RDD<1μgh(-1)) during commute but generating the largest emissions per commuter. Conversely, commuters from high income-deprived areas have a major reliance on the bus, receiving higher exposures (RDD between 1.52 and 3.49μgh(-1)) while generating less emission per person. These findings suggest an aspect of environmental injustice and a need to incorporate the socioeconomic dimension in life-course exposure assessments.

Concepts: Pollution, Particulate, Road, Air pollution, Diesel particulate matter, Bus, Bicycle, Commuting