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Blog 23 November 2023

Roundup: Air quality news November 2023

From the first evidence of improved air quality lowering dementia risk, to using mud to track historical air pollution, here’s your roundup of the latest air quality news.

Air pollution is a pervasive global public health crisis and an accelerator of climate change. Sharing knowledge and learning is crucial to strengthening the clean air movement. Here, we explore the latest news and efforts to tackle air pollution around the world. 

130+ businesses call for timeline to ditch fossil fuels at COP28

Ahead of COP28, over 130 businesses, including IKEA, Volvo Cars and Heineken, are urging world leaders to set a timeline for ditching fossil fuels. In an open letter, the companies – which represent a combined global annual revenue of nearly $1tn – are demanding that heads of state and government at COP28 in the UAE address the primary driver of climate change: the burning of fossil fuels. This marks the first time so many businesses have called for a shift away from non-renewable energy.

Deaths from fossil fuel-derived air pollution drop by 16% since 2005

Inaction on the climate crisis is ‘costing lives and livelihoods’ warns The Lancet Countdown’s eighth annual report on health and climate change. While painting an alarming picture and strongly criticising continuing investment in fossil fuels, there are some signs of progress. The report also reveals that deaths caused by fossil fuel air pollution have dropped. Global investment in clean energy grew 15% in 2022 to $1.6tn, exceeding fossil fuel investment by 61%.

London’s air quality improved by ULEZ

A new report by the University of Bath reveals that the introduction of London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) 15 years ago has significantly improved air quality. Researchers saw a reduction in particulate matter (PM10) by 13% between 2008 and 2013.

US study links air pollution to lower test scores

Researchers tracked 2.8 million public school students in North Carolina from 2001 to 2018 and measured their exposure to polluted air. “The biggest strength of this study is that we [tracked] every student in North Carolina in those years, for the whole time period that they were in the public schools,” says Emma Zang, an assistant professor of sociology, biostatistics, and global affairs at Yale University and coauthor of the study. Published in JAMA Network Open, the study also revealed that air pollution had a greater impact on test scores among ethnic minorities and girls.

Improving air quality and achieving climate change targets in Thailand

Thailand’s Pollution Control Department, working with Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) York and Asia centres and other partners, produced a key report on how Thailand can meet its climate goals. The report examines existing local and international air pollution and climate change policies that could contribute to emissions reduction, in addition to 19 priority mitigation measures.

First evidence linking pollution reduction to lower dementia risk

For the first time, research has drawn a link between reducing air pollution and a lower risk of dementia incidence. “We’ve known for some time that air pollution is bad for our brains. What’s exciting is we’re now seeing data showing that improving air quality may actually reduce the risk of dementia”, explained Claire Sexton, DPhil, Alzheimer’s Association director of scientific programs and outreach.

People living in areas with median levels of air pollution face 56% higher risk of Parkinson’s disease

A population-based geographic study found that the relationship between air pollution and Parkinson’s disease is not the same in every part of the US, and varies in strength by region. They found that the Mississippi-Ohio River Valley was a Parkinson’s disease hotspot, along with other US states including central North Dakota, parts of Texas, Kansas, eastern Michigan, and parts of Florida.

Researcher uses pond mud to track historical air pollution

Dr Ann Power of the University of Exeter studied pond mud in Merseyside to trace historical air pollution. Trends included rising lead until its 1990s regulation and decreasing sulphur due to smoke control. Other elements correlated with industrial activities. A notable shift in the 1980s to smaller, metal-rich particles raises health concerns. The study underscores the significance of historical air pollution in understanding present health issues.

Air pollution exposure may be harming reproductive health

Research from Rutgers University investigated the impact of air pollution exposure in the womb to reproductive development markers in infancy. The study examined anogenital distance, a primary marker of prenatal hormonal exposure. “These findings suggest air pollution may interfere with normal hormone activity during critical periods of prenatal and early infant development, and we suspect that disruption may have long-term consequences for reproductive health,” explained lead researcher Dr Emily Barrett.

Over 200 health journals call for tackling the health and nature crisis together

Ahead of the 28th UN Conference of the Parties (COP) on climate change in Dubai, over 200 health journals are calling on the United Nations, political leaders, and health professionals to recognise that climate change and biodiversity loss are one indivisible crisis and must be tackled together to preserve health and avoid catastrophe.

Low-emission zone policies could cut fleet-wide emissions by up to 90% in Warsaw, new analysis reveals

A recent analysis by the Real World Emissions Initiative (TRUE) predicts significant emission reductions in Warsaw through a proposed low-emission zone (LEZ) targeting older, high-emitting vehicles. The study indicates a potential 90% reduction in fleet-average NOX and PM emissions by 2035 compared to 2023 levels. Following TRUE’s initial research on transport-related air pollution, Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski pledged to introduce a LEZ by the end of 2023.

IIT-Kanpur launches new centre of excellence to monitor air quality

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur established a new centre of excellence — Advanced Technologies for Monitoring Air Quality indicators (ATMAN) focusing on local, low-cost sensor manufacturing and artificial intelligence/machine learning to address critical air quality challenges

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Trailblazing corporate progress on clean air: a sea change for the private sector?

Large multinationals are joining the Alliance for Clean Air to reduce their air pollution to build a sustainable future. This group of trailblazers are demonstrating the benefits of reporting air pollutant emissions and setting reduction targets for their businesses and climate change

Roundup: Air quality news October 2023

From banning petrol and diesel cars in Stockholm’s city centre to links to birth complications, here’s your round up of the latest air quality news.