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June Mashaba takes out her nebuliser at her home in Witbank, Emalahleni, South Africa, Credit: Gulshan Khan / Climate Visuals

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News 21 May 2024

Roundup: Air quality news May 2024

Lancet reveals leading contributor to global disease burden is air pollution. Plus cutting-edge air quality monitoring tools and low emission zone findings in our roundup of the latest air quality news.

Air pollution is the largest environmental threat to human health worldwide. Sharing knowledge and learning is crucial to strengthening the clean air movement. Check out the latest news articles, research, opinions and efforts to tackle air pollution around the world.

Air pollution ranked as leading contributor to global disease burden

The Lancet published its systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2021, which provides detailed estimates of exposure levels, health risks and disease burden for 88 risk factors across 204 countries and 811 territories from 1990 to 2021. Among the specific risk factors analysed, particulate matter air pollution was the leading contributor to the global disease burden in 2021, contributing 8.0% of total disability adjusted life years (DALYs). One DALY represents the loss of the equivalent of one year of full health. Particulate matter air pollution now ranks above high systolic blood pressure, smoking, and low birthweight and short gestation.

Innovative satellite instrument to improve air quality monitoring

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is developing a new state of the art satellite instrument to capture hourly observation of air pollutants. The GeoXO will track air pollution from transport, power, industry, oil and gas extraction, volcanoes, and wildfires, as well as secondary pollutants generated from these emissions once they are in the atmosphere. These continuous measurements of our atmosphere’s composition will be a key improvement to air quality monitoring and forecasting, and will help alleviate the health impacts from severe pollution and smoke events across the United States.

Almost one in four people in the US exposed to harmful air pollution

The American Lung Association revealed that 131 million people – more than one third of people in the US – are exposed to unhealthy levels of ozone and particle pollution. Following more stringent federal standards for particle pollution, this total figure represents an 11.7 million increase from the previous year.  

New project to detect air quality from city lamp posts

A €6.9 million EU-funded project coordinated by Munster Technological University – PASSEPARTOUT – aims to monitor air quality from lamp posts using laser technology to detect even the smallest amount of toxic gases in large, densely populated regions. “We are working to provide a system with high precision and excellent spatial resolution to detect NOx, SO2, NH3, CH4, CO, CO2, and black carbon,” explained project coordinator Dr William Whelan-Curtin. They are trialling the project in landfill sites, seaports, at the University of Bari, and in a selection of schools in Cork.

Diesel generators in Beirut doubling the risk of cancer, researchers warn

Since the economic collapse in 2019, around 8,000 diesel generators have powered cities in Lebanon, significantly polluting the air. New research from the American University of Beirut warns that this reliance has doubled cancer risk, with oncologists reporting a rise in diagnoses.

Cities with low emissions zones found to have cleaner air

Preliminary research by health insurers comparing Belgian cities found that those with low emissions zones have cleaner air than those without. Based on data collected up to 2022, the research reveals that low emission zones in Antwerp and Brussels in 2017-18 led to a drop in air pollutants, such as black carbon and particulate matter.

Air pollution, stress and heart health risk

Drawing on data from 3,000 US counties, a recent study connects air pollution with stress and depression, and an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular for under 65-years-olds.  “Our results reveal a dual threat from air pollution: it not only worsens mental health but also significantly amplifies the risk of heart-related deaths associated with poor mental health. Public health strategies are urgently needed to address both air quality and mental wellbeing in order to preserve cardiovascular health”, said Dr Abohashe, lead study author.

Danish study connects air pollution and dementia

Following a cohort of nurses for 27 years from 1993 until 2020, a study in Denmark links long-term air pollution exposure and noise with dementia. This is the first study of its kind in Denmark. “As we are going to live longer, and more and more people will be diagnosed with dementia, this finding is important as it offer an opportunity to prevent new dementia cases, and ensure more healthy aging, by cleaning up the air we breathe”, says Professor at Section of Environmental Health Zorana Jovanovic Andersen.

Ships emitting high quantities of air pollutants at UK ports

A recent analysis by NGO Transport and Environment warns that ships calling at some of the most polluted ports in the UK are producing more nitrogen oxides than all cars in the same cities or regions. Their report underscores the urgent need for government and zero-emission technology, such as shore-side electricity.

New AI tool to monitor and forecast air pollution

A new modelling tool developed by researchers at Imperial College London combines the strengths of AI with data assimilation to provide fast and accurate forecasts of air pollution levels. “By providing quicker and more accurate air quality predictions, researchers hope that DyNA could help policymakers and environmental agencies make informed decisions and take the necessary actions to protect air quality – paving the way for a cleaner, healthier future,” reveals the university. 

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Roundup: Air quality news April 2024

From evidence of reduced attention capacities in children to a roadmap to avoid vehicular pollution, here’s your roundup of the latest air quality news.