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air pollution

Image source: CNN

Beijing was covered in thick dust on March 15 as it experienced what its weather bureau has called the worst sandstorm in a decade.

The storm in the Chinese capital caused an unprecedented spike in air pollution measurements – with pollution levels in some districts at 160 times the recommended limit.

Hundreds of flights were canceled or grounded as the sky was covered by an apocalyptic-looking orange haze.

The sand is being brought in by strong winds from Mongolia.

In Mongolia the severe sandstorms have reportedly caused six deaths and left dozens missing.

China’s Global Times media outlet reported that at least 12 provinces in the country, including the capital, had been affected, and the weather was likely to continue through the day on March 15 before improving at night.

The WHO currently sets safe levels of air quality based on the concentration of polluting particles called particulate matter (PM) found in the air.

According to AFP quoting the Global Times, the PM 10 pollution in six central districts reached “over 8,100 micrograms per cubic meter” on March 15. The WHO considers levels between 0-54 as “good” and 55-154″ as “moderate” levels of PM 10.

AFP added that schools had been told to cancel outdoor events, and those with respiratory diseases advised to stay indoors.

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The Chinese capital was historically hit by sandstorms on a much more regular basis, but pollution reduction projects – including prohibitions on new coal-fired power plants, restrictions on the number of cars on the road and reforestation – have significantly improved air quality. Sandstorms like the one seen this week, caused by wind, are harder to control.

Beijing and surrounding regions have suffered from high levels of pollution in recent weeks, with one Greenpeace activist telling AFP that it was a result of “intense” industrial activities. These, he said, exacerbated sandstorm conditions, which were the “result of extreme weather conditions and desertification”.

Image source: Pexels

Many people feel safer in the comforts of their home, particularly when it comes to any kind of pollution. The outside world can be filled with dust, smog, haze, and other potentially harmful pollutants, which is why many people feel like their indoor air is clean and safe for them to breathe.

While it may seem that your home’s indoor air quality is far better than the outdoors, this is not entirely true. In some cases, indoors tend to be more polluted than the outdoors. The air in our homes can be filled with chemicals from home cleaners and fire-control equipment. In fact, there is a high probability that your home has a heating system that retains allergens indoors. It is not always possible to open the windows to air out your home. However, there are numerous ways for you to improve your home’s air quality:

1.   Regularly Clean Your Home

Air pollution in your home will be significantly reduced once you make cleaning a part of your routine. For one, you will see an immediate reduction of dust, pet dander, and other potential allergens. Start by having a regular schedule of vacuuming your carpets and rugs. Make sure you have a vacuum that comes with suitable filters. If you plan to renovate your home, it will help to replace the carpet flooring with hardwood or tiles to reduce the presence of air allergens.

In addition to cleaning your carpets regularly, you should also pay careful attention to your curtains, cushions, sofas, and bedding. If you have pets that stay indoors, make sure to clean their area, mainly where they spend most of their time. It will also help to reduce your clutter that can accumulate dust.

2.   Change Your AC Filters

Your home’s heating, venting, and air-conditioning system work year-round to make sure that your entire family enjoys the perfect temperature. Part of its function is to maintain the proper air cycle in your home by filtering the air pollutants. That’s why it is necessary to practice proper maintenance of the AC filters. Failure to clean these filters can lead to clogging and eventual breakage, which will drastically drop your home’s air quality.

3.   Air Your Plants

Having indoor plants offers many benefits. Aside from improving the overall appearance of your home, they also improve your air quality. However, they can also be prone to become a breeding ground for mold, dust, and other pests. That’s why it is essential to air them once in a while. It will help if you can bring your plants outside at least twice a week to get the necessary sunlight and air they need.

4.   Air Out Your Home

Indoor air can become stale if there is not steady airflow in your home. Whenever possible, it is best to air out your home. Open your windows to let the air circulate. However, if it is not possible, particularly during the winter season, you can use trickle vents instead. They are highly beneficial for homes in urban settings where the outdoor air is full of smog, smoke, and dust. Having them in your bathroom and kitchen helps, as these areas need it the most.

5.   Avoid Smoking Inside

If you live with a smoker, instruct them to smoke outside of your home. The smoke from cigarettes has over 4,000 harmful chemicals, which can cause cancer, infections, and asthma. If possible, quitting is a better option for everyone.

Maintaining good indoor air quality is crucial for one’s health. Following the above tips will ensure that your home is both clean and safe.


The UK’s government is set to announce that new diesel and gasoline cars and vans will be banned in the country from 2040 in a bid to tackle air pollution.

Ministers will also unveil a £255 million ($332 million) fund to help councils tackle emissions from diesel vehicles, as part of a £3 billion ($3.9 billion) package of spending on air quality.

The government will later publish its clean air strategy, favoring electric cars, before a High Court deadline.

Campaigners said the measures were promising, but more detail was needed.

They had wanted government-funded and mandated clean air zones, with charges for the most-polluting vehicles to enter areas with high pollution, included in the plans.

Image source Geograph

After a protracted legal battle, the UK’s government was ordered by the courts to produce new plans to tackle illegal levels of harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide.

Judges agreed with environmental campaigners that previous plans were insufficient to meet EU pollution limits.

Ministers had to set out their draft clean air strategy plans in May, with the final measures due by July 31.

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UK’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the government would give more than £200 million ($260 million) to local authorities to draw up plans to tackle particular roads with high pollution.

Local measures could include altering buses and other transport to make them cleaner, changing road layouts, altering features such as speed humps, and re-programming traffic lights to make vehicle-flow smoother.

It is thought ministers will consult on a scrappage scheme later this year, but there is no firm commitment.

Ministers have been wary of being seen to “punish” drivers of diesel cars, who, they argue, bought the vehicles after being encouraged to by the last Labour government because they produced lower carbon emissions.

The industry trade body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said it was important to avoid outright bans on diesels, which would hurt the sector.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles was growing but still at a very low level.

The AA said significant investment would be needed to install charging points across the UK and warned the National Grid would come under pressure with a mass switch-on of recharging after the rush hour.

The UK announcement comes amid signs of an accelerating shift towards electric cars instead of petrol and diesel ones, at home and abroad.



There is no magic medicine solution that can make us healthier on the long run like good old exercising can. Even just a few days at the gym per week can make your body stronger and much healthier, thus reducing the exposure to various diseases.


benefits of cycling and walking


Regular exercising can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and several types of cancers. Many people have tried to increase the quality of their lifestyle through “active travel” which includes cycling or walking. However, due to the high levels of pollutants in the air, is this alternative commuting really that healthy? Many people are actually more concerned for their health while walking or cycling to work in our urban environments.


Over the past few decades, air pollution has become one of the major environmental risks for our health. According to World Health Organization, there were 3.7 million premature deaths in 2012 all around the world, due to ambient air pollution. Additionally, recently in Australia it has been reported that 1.5% of all deaths are related to long-term exposure to air pollution in urban areas and 0.8% to short-term ones.


health benefits of cycling and walking


According to several studies from earlier this year, air pollutants kill over 5 million people every year. While walking or cycling to work, more air is inhaled than when you are just sitting in your car or train. All the huffing and puffing on your bicycle makes you breathe in much more air, thus inhaling toxic pollutants which later lead to some severe respiratory problems.


Additionally, researchers have calculated the “breaking point” which represents the point when the cycling is no more beneficial for the health, but it does more harm. However, that point occurs only after cycling for more than 60 minutes per day.


Since people try to increase the quality of their lives by cycling and walking to work or school, they have tried several protection measures from the pollution. Mostly, people wear masks to protect their respiratory systems and try to inhale as least polluted air as possible. This helps them reduce the muck on their faces and noses. Another possible solution is opting for faster bicycles. The less time you spend behind a car or the least you huff and puff, the inhaled pollutants will reduce. That is why many people consider it convenient to find electric bikes in Sydney shops. Since these are electric and do not require a lot of pedaling, you automatically inhale less polluted air.


health benefits of cycling and walking


However, even though long-term exposure to the air pollution can be harmful, according to the latest studies, everyday cycling and exercises outweighs the negative effects on health of those pollutants. The study was done by scientists in Spain, Brazil and Switzerland and the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh and Imperial College London in the UK. They have showed that even in the most polluted cities of the world, such as Delhi and London, regular cycling and physical activity can outweigh polluted air effects.


Scientists used computer simulation in order to assess the risks and benefits for different intensities and duration of active travelling exposed to different air pollution levels in locations around the world. What the results have shown is that the benefits outweigh the risks. Such results should encourage people to get out of their cars and not to be afraid of cycling and walking to work. What is more, fewer cars on the street can only result in less pollution.


health benefits of cycling and walking

With this study, the policy makers should consider changing the way of planning their infrastructures, and more politicians and public figures should now promote cycling and regular physical activity in order to show people how to live healthier.


According to a new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, more than 5.5 million people worldwide are dying prematurely every year as a result of air pollution.

Most of these deaths are occurring in the rapidly developing economies of China and India.

The main culprit is the emission of small particles from power plants, factories, vehicle exhausts and from the burning of coal and wood.

The data was compiled as part of the Global Burden of Disease project.

Scientists involved in the initiative say the statistics illustrate how far, and how fast, some nations must travel to improve the air their citizens breathe.

Breathing in tiny liquid or solid particles can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, respiratory complaints and even cancer. And while developed nations have made great strides in addressing this problem these past few decades, the number of citizens dying as a result of poor air quality in developing countries is still climbing.Air pollution Global Burden of Disease

According to the study, air pollution causes more deaths than other risk factors like malnutrition, obesity, alcohol and drug abuse, and others. The Global Burden of Disease project puts it as the fourth greatest risk behind high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking.

In China, there are said to be about 1.6 million deaths a year; in India, it is roughly 1.3 million. This data is from 2013, the most recent year for which it is available.

The key sources of pollution concern are slightly different in each nation, however.

In China, the dominant factor is particle emissions from coal burning.

The project calculates this source alone is responsible for more than 360,000 deaths every year.

Even though China has targets to restrict coal combustion and emissions in the future, it may struggle to bring down the number of deaths because it is acquiring an aging population and these citizens are naturally more susceptible to the illnesses associated with poor air quality.

In India, the problem that draws particular attention is the practice of burning wood, dung, crop residues and other materials for cooking and heating.

This “indoor pollution” causes far more deaths than “outdoor pollution”.

Looking at the broad economic trends in India, the research team says the country runs the risk of having even poorer air quality in the future.

Different parts of the world are subject to different elements of the environment, which allows some parts to have certain benefits more than others. The southeast part of the United States is typically known for their southern charm and warm climate, making it one of the most ideal places for people to retire.

While the climate may be lovely, and while residents there may have an endless supply of citrus fruits, the southeast is not all oranges and sunshine. There is terrible air quality in the southeast of America, and it could be completely damaging to everyone in the area if changes aren’t soon made.

Why is the air quality in the southeast so poor?

There’s a reason why the air quality in the southeast is so poor, and scientists have done many tests in order to figure it out. Tiny particles in the air near the Smoky Mountains in the southeast help give it the purple haze that looks good in pictures; however, it’s those particles that are making the air quality poor.

According to a CIRES atmospheric scientist, “The southeast has the highest natural emissions in the nation, and also has high manmade emissions, humidity and cloudiness.“ This is contributing to the poor air quality. Because people continue to break into the Smoky Mountains and other areas in order to tap the natural resources, the air quality will only continue to get worse as time goes on.

Poor air quality isn’t good, in the southeast or anywhere else. According to a 2012 WHO report, 7 million people died in 2012 as a result of air pollution exposure. This doubles previous estimates and proves that air pollution is the world’s single largest environmental health risk.

If the rates of air pollution continue this way in the southeast, these numbers will only continue to rise. Regularly breathing in polluted air can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat, but it mostly has a negative impact on your lungs. Breathing in polluted air can harm the lining of your lungs, which can result in breathing trouble such as asthma, or it can result in something more serious, such as lung cancer. If changes aren’t made, there may be a rise in pollution-related deaths in the southeast.


What can be done to improve the air quality?

In order to improve the air quality in the southeast, people will have to stop tapping into the Smoky Mountains and other natural resources and allowing the particles to get into the air. More eco-friendly options need to be created in order to ensure that accessing these natural resources stops hurting the air quality. After all, if this isn’t done, then these particles and aerosols will only continue to get into the air, and the air quality will just continue to get worse.

Along with using eco-friendly options to access natural resources in the southeast, typical steps to reduce pollution can also be done to improve the air quality. For example, reducing the amount of gasses and other harmful chemicals and aerosols in to the air can help improve the air quality. Carpooling, taking public transportation, and even walking or riding a bike instead of driving yourself to and from work can help reduce the amount of harmful gases and pollutants entering the air. Reducing your use of aerosols can also help to improve the air quality, and refraining from burning harmful chemicals, such as plastics, can also help to improve the air quality.

You can also opt to improve the air quality in your own home in order to improve the air quality in the southeast. For example, investing in a home air purifier. According to Wave Home Solutions, “We spend as much as 90 percent of our time indoors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor levels of air pollutants may be two to five times higher, and occasionally more than 100 times higher, than outdoor levels. A WAVE Air Purifier will let you breathe easier knowing the air you and your family are breathing inside your home is pure and clean.” This improvement will not only help your health, but it will also help to remove these harmful pollutants from the air, and this can improve the air quality in your neighborhood as well.

The terrible air quality in the southeast of America is a problem that needs to be immediately addressed. While the biggest way to remedy the situation requires eco-friendly processes and tools to be used for accessing natural resources, there are still some ways that you can help improve the air quality in the southeast on your own.

Beijing residents have been warned to don air masks and offices and homes to put electric air purifiers on overdrive after air pollution readings soared.

Air pollution readings on Thursday registered more than 20 times the recommended exposure levels by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau readings for PM 2.5 – air particulate smaller than 2.5 microns blamed for a range of severe respiratory ailments – registered over 500 micrograms per cubic meter. The WHO recommends no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

Officials in Beijing issued a severe air warning and urged residents to wear protective masks while outdoors, and said the elderly and schoolchildren should stay indoors until conditions improved.

Beijing residents have been warned to don air masks and offices and homes to put electric air purifiers on overdrive after air pollution readings soared

Beijing residents have been warned to don air masks and offices and homes to put electric air purifiers on overdrive after air pollution readings soared

The winter months in the north of the country tend to be periods of extended bad air pollution. Biting cold forces the region’s coal-burning power plants to meet heating demands, while increased car usage and relentless construction chokes the skies with dangerous particulate.

Beijing’s topography – with hills surrounding much of this city of 20 million people – can also keep the capital immersed in dirty air unless strong winds blow it out.

Certain at-risk residents who find themselves exposed to the bad air over extended periods of time complain of watery eyes, difficulty breathing or other respiratory issues. Long-term exposure can lead to asthma, heart disease and cancer. Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 has also been tied to knocking years off people’s life expectancy.

Despite ideal conditions for poor air quality, the air warning issued Friday was just the first of 2014.

China’s cities are frequently blanketed by pollution caused by coal-burning power plants, factories, and millions of vehicles on the roads.

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China’s smog has forced schools, highways and airport to shut in northern city of Harbin, Heilongjiang province.

The density of airborne particles was several times above World Health Organization (WHO) recommended limits.

Visibility was reduced to below 160ft in parts of the city, reports said.

Local media have linked the pollution to the city switching on its public heating system for winter.

China’s smog has forced schools, highways and airport to shut in northern city of Harbin

China’s smog has forced schools, highways and airport to shut in northern city of Harbin

PM2.5 levels, used to measure the amount of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres in the air, were above 500 micrograms per cubic metre on Monday morning, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

WHO guidelines say average daily concentrations of PM2.5 should be no more than 25 microgrammes per cubic metre.

All of Heilongjiang province’s highways, and the Taiping International Airport in Harbin were forced to close, Xinhua reported.

A red alert for thick smog had been issued in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning, the news agency added.

Earlier this year, air pollution in China’s capital, Beijing, also soared past hazardous levels.

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Jazz singer Patti Austin has cancelled a concert in Beijing after suffering “a severe asthma attack”.

A statement on the singer’s website said Patti Austin was unable to perform at Forbidden City Concert Hall on Friday night “due to health problems”.

While the cause of her illness has not been confirmed, it comes at a time of growing concern over air pollution levels in the Chinese capital.

Beijing has recently announced measures to combat worsening pollution.

They include taking half of the city’s four million private cars off the roads on days when there are serious levels of pollution.

The system will be based on a vehicle’s license plate – odd numbers will be allowed on the roads one day, even numbers the next.

Patti Austin was unable to perform at Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing due to health problems

Patti Austin was unable to perform at Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing due to health problems

A statement on Patti Austin’s website said: “She was taken in an emergency to the Peking Union Medical College Hospital this morning where she has been treated for a severe asthma attack in combination with respiratory infection.

“Ms Austin is currently resting in her hotel. Her current breathing condition does not physically enable her to perform tonight.

“Ms Austin is extremely disappointed about this situation since she was very much looking forward to performing.”

The new anti-pollution system will give out four different degrees of air pollution warning – blue, yellow, amber and red.

On days when an amber warning is given, factories will stop production and work will be halted on construction and building sites.

Restaurants which offer open-air barbecues will be ordered to close temporarily, and fireworks will be banned throughout the city.

When a red warning is issued, the new car restriction measure will be implemented. Schools and kindergartens will also be closed.

The measure to restrict the number of private cars from using the road is proving to be controversial.

Critics have aired their concern that those who can afford to buy two or more cars will able to drive any day when the restriction is in force.

Beijing has almost 21 million permanent residents, according to official estimates.

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China’s environment ministry appears to admit the existence of so-called “cancer villages” after years of public speculation about the impact of pollution in certain areas.

For years campaigners have said cancer rates in some villages near factories and polluted waterways has shot up.

But the term “cancer village” has no technical definition and the ministry’s report did not elaborate on it.

There have been many calls for China to be more transparent on pollution.

The latest report from the environment ministry is entitled “Guard against and control risks presented by chemicals to the environment during the 12th Five-Year period (2011-2015)”.

It says that the widespread production and consumption of harmful chemicals forbidden in many developed nations are still found in China.

“The toxic chemicals have caused many environmental emergencies linked to water and air pollution,” it said.

The report goes on to acknowledge that such chemicals could pose a long-term risk to human health, making a direct link to the so-called “cancer villages”.

“There are even some serious cases of health and social problems like the emergence of cancer villages in individual regions,” it said.

China's environment ministry appears to admit the existence of so-called "cancer villages" after years of public speculation about the impact of pollution in certain areas

China’s environment ministry appears to admit the existence of so-called “cancer villages” after years of public speculation about the impact of pollution in certain areas

China has experienced rapid development, stories about so-called cancer villages have become more frequent.

And China has witnessed growing public anger over air pollution and industrial waste caused by industrial development.

Media coverage of conditions in these so-called “cancer villages” has been widespread. In 2009, one Chinese journalist published a map identifying dozens of apparently affected villages.

In 2007, one scientist found high levels of poisonous heavy metals in the water and believed there was a direct connection between incidences of cancer and mining in the area.

Until now, there has been little comment from the government on such allegations.

Environmental lawyer Wang Canfa, who runs a pollution aid centre in Beijing, told the AFP news agency that it was the first time the “cancer village” phrase had appeared in a ministry document.

Last month – Beijing – and several other cities – were blanketed in smog that soared past levels considered hazardous by the World Health Organization.

The choking pollution provoked a public outcry and led to a highly charged debate about the costs of the country’s rapid economic development.

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A new study out of the University of California, Riverside, has found that commercial charbroilers – like the ones used in the country’s fast food restaurants, are doing more harm to the air quality than an 18-wheeler truck.

Researchers claim that the charbroilers send a staggering quantity of particulate matter into the ecosystem, more than any truck or factory smokestack.

Bill Welch, principal development engineer for the study at UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-Cert) said in a statement: “Emissions from commercial charbroilers are a very significant uncontrolled source of particulate matter…more than twice the contribution by all of the heavy-duty diesel trucks.”

A new study has found that commercial charbroilers used in the fast food restaurants are doing more air pollution than a truck

A new study has found that commercial charbroilers used in the fast food restaurants are doing more air pollution than a truck

He added: “For comparison, an 18-wheeler diesel-engine truck would have to drive 143 miles on the freeway to put out the same mass of particles as a single charbroiled hamburger patty.”

Residents in a South Boston community believe those claims, and insist that they’re being smoked out of their own homes thanks to a new burger place in the neighborhood.

Marie Madden, who lives across the street from the new Tasty Burger restaurant, told the Boston Globe: “It’s just horrible. The smoke was just pouring out of the stack Saturday.”

At a community meeting on Monday, restaurant owner David DuBois pledged to set up a high-tech air-scrubbing system that will block the smoke, according to the Globe.

He told the paper: “It [the system] takes out the particulate and from what I understand it will take the odor out and most of the smoke, if not all of it.

“At the end of the day I believe this solution will solve the problem in a big way.”