Scientists Relate Urban Population to Air Pollution

Live in a large city like New York, London, Beijing or Mumbai, and you are likely exposed to more air pollution than people in smaller cities in surrounding areas. But exactly how a city's pollution relates to the size of its population has never been measured, until now.

Using satellite observations, NASA scientists directly measured air pollution's dependence on population in four of the planet's major air pollution regions: the United States, Europe, China and India.

The study shows that the pollution-population relationship varies by region. For example, a city of 1 million people in Europe experiences six times higher nitrogen dioxide pollution than an equally populated city of 1 million people in India, according to the research led by Lok Lamsal, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The variation is a reflection of regional differences such as industrial development, per capita emissions and geography. The study was published June 13 in Environmental Science & Technology.

Previously, researchers have measured the relationship between population and several urban characteristics, such as infrastructure, employment and innovation. "We show that the relationship is also applicable to pollution," Lamsal said. "Measurement of that relationship is potentially useful for developing future inventories and formulating air pollution control policies."

The researchers focused on nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, a common pollutant from the burning of fossil fuels. The gas is a precursor to the formation of near-ground ozone, which can cause respiratory problems and is a problem in many major metropolitan areas. NO2 is also unhealthy to breathe in high concentrations. One feature of the gas, however, is that it's a good proxy for urban air quality.

Lok and colleagues studied data collected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA's Aura satellite, which measures NO2 throughout the atmosphere in the afternoon around the world. Next they used an air quality computer model to derive from the satellite data the annual mean concentration of the gas near the ground in some of the Northern Hemisphere's major polluting regions, excluding hotspots such as power plants that could skew the urban relationship. By overlaying pollution concentration with population density data, the researchers could examine the relationship.

Results across the different regions showed divergent NO2 surface concentrations in urban areas of 1 million people: 0.98 parts per billion (U.S.), 1.33 ppb (Europe), 0.68 ppb (China) and 0.23 ppb (India). The same regions saw various degrees of pollution increases in cities with population of 10 million people: 2.55 ppb (U.S.), 3.86 ppb (Europe), 3.13 ppb (China) and 0.53 ppb (India).

The contribution to air pollution from surface-level NO2 in each region more than doubled when cities increased in population from 1 million to 10 million people, although in China the increase was much larger, by about a factor of five.

Even though larger cities are typically more energy efficient with lower per-capita emissions, more people still translates to more pollution. But the study reveals some noteworthy regional differences.

"Energy usage patterns and per capita emissions differ greatly between India and Europe," Lamsal said. "Despite large populations, Indian cities seem cleaner in terms of NO2 pollution than the study's other regions."

The researchers say that further investigation is needed in order to clarify the causes behind the regional differences.

N.H.Khider

Source :Science daily

Traffic Pollution and Wood Smoke Increases Asthma in Adults

Asthma sufferers frequently exposed to heavy traffic pollution or smoke from wood fire heaters, experienced a significant worsening of symptoms, a new University of Melbourne led study has found.

The study is the first of its kind to assess the impact of traffic pollution and wood smoke from heaters on middle-aged adults with asthma.

The results revealed adults who suffer asthma and were exposed to heavy traffic pollution experienced an 80 per cent increase in symptoms and those exposed to wood smoke from wood fires experienced an 11 per cent increase in symptoms.

Asthma affects more than 300 million people worldwide and is one of the most chronic health conditions.

Dr John Burgess of the School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne and a co-author on the study said "it is now recommended that adults who suffer asthma should not live on busy roads and that the use of old wood heaters should be upgraded to newer heaters, to ensure their health does not worsen."

In the study, a cohort of 1383 44-year old adults in the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study were surveyed for their exposure to smoke from wood fires and traffic pollution. Participants were asked to rate their exposure.

The survey asked for exposure to the frequency of heavy traffic vehicles near homes and the levels of ambient wood smoke in winter.

Results were based on the self-reporting of symptoms and the number of flare-ups or exacerbations in a 12-month period. Participants reported from between two to three flare-ups (called intermittent asthma) to more than one flare-up per week (severe persistent asthma) over the same time.

Traffic exhaust is thought to exacerbate asthma through airway inflammation. Particles from heavy vehicles exhaust have been shown to enhance allergic inflammatory responses in sensitized people who suffer asthma.

"Our study also revealed a connection between the inhalation of wood smoke exposure and asthma severity and that the use of wood for heating is detrimental to health in communities such as Tasmania where use of wood burning is common," Dr Burgess said.

"Clean burning practices and the replacement of old polluting wood stoves by new ones are likely to minimise both indoor and outdoor wood smoke pollution and improve people's health," he said.

"These findings may have particular importance in developing countries where wood smoke exposure is likely to be high in rural communities due to the use of wood for heating and cooking, and the intensity of air pollution from vehicular traffic in larger cities is significant."

The study revealed no association between traffic pollution and wood smoke and the onset of asthma

N.H.Khider

Source : Science Daily

Development of Solutions to Environmental Issues

DAMASCUS, (ST) - The Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs recently signed a cooperation agreement with the Higher Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology in order to characterize the environmental situation in a scientific and accurate way to develop solutions to environmental issues in a scientific and sound manner.

Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, Dr. Nazira Sarkis, noted that the agreement aims at cooperation in the field of studies,  consultancy , projects and benefit from the national scientific and technical expertise between the two parties and cooperation in the areas of rehabilitation and training, services and media and publishing, documentation and the establishment of joint scientific activities


The  Minister clarified that the work in order to protect the environment and maintain the health of the citizens is a participatory work that needs the efforts of all parties concerned and that the ministry is seeking within this framework for coordination and cooperation with all public and private entities, research and academic centers and enhancing scientific and technical cooperation with these bodies.

For his part, Director of the Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology, Dr. Wael Khansah,  pointed out that the agreement comes within the framework of conciliation between scientific research and service sectors through the activation of cooperation between academic institutions and service organizations, development and transfer of ideas about the environment into reality and the exchange of knowledge and experiences and learn from this experience and circulate them to the rest of the establishments  and institutions, stressing the need to deepen cooperation with the ministry in the areas of scientific research to take advantage of renewable energies of all kinds.

The agreement states  that the ministry and the Institute to cooperate and conduct studies and developmental researches and  joint ventures,  organize seminars, workshops and scientific lectures and  participate in the work of the technical committees, the rehabilitation and training of workers in the ministry as well as cooperation in the advertising and promotion of activities and events carried out in the framework of this agreement,  the organization of exhibitions, conferences, seminars, workshops and scientific lectures in the areas of common interest.

The agreement includes the formation of a follow-up joint committee to follow the implementation of the agreement and the development of executive programs for events arising from it and to identify mechanisms for it and work to overcome the difficulties that might hinder the progress of work and study project proposals and joint actions and follow up the work, consultation to address the problems that may arise them and suggest areas of new cooperation .

This agreement is valid starting from the date of signature by the two teams and apply its provisions for a period of three years starting from the entry into force.

Sh. Al -Khatib

UN: Unprecedented climate change

The latest UN Report on Climate Change, The Global Climate, 2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes, paints an alarming picture of a world faced with unprecedented climate extremes with rising temperatures smashing national records.

The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes shows that in the first decade of the new millennium, more temperature records were broken across the globe than at any other time, being the warmest decade for the northern and southern hemispheres both on land and at sea since records began, in 1850.

The result of this, according to the report, is a dramatic rise in polar ice melts and a shrinking of the world's glaciers, culminated with a rising sea level. The tangible effects of this were an increase in extreme floods, flood and drought cycles, tropical storms and at least 370,000 deaths due to extreme weather conditions. Floods were experienced from Europe to Australia, from Africa to Asia - in 2010, 20,000,000 people were affected by flooding in Pakistan and 2,000 people died. Droughts were also severe and prolonged, affecting the Amazon, Australia and Africa, having lasting negative environmental impacts. Regarding storms, there were over 500 cyclone disasters which killed around 170,000 people, affected 250 million and caused some 380 billion USD-worth of damage.

The reasons

The report indicated that "Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far reaching implications for our environment and our oceans, which are absorbing both carbon dioxide and heat." Global concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere rose by 39% since the beginning of the industrial revolution (1750), while nitrous oxide concentrations increased by 20% and methane concentrations, by 300%.

The sources

Findings were taken from surveys involving 139 national meteorological and hydrological services and socio-economic data and analysis from  UN agencies and partners.

 Michel Jarraud, the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which produced the report,  stated at the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services, which oversees the implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services, (Geneva July 3 to 5): "We are already seeing the effects of climate change and so we need to take action through the use of scientifically-based climate services to cushion the impact on our environment, our economies and our societies."

"Decisions on flood defences and dams, for instance, are often based on past experience and not on the likely future. But the past climate is no longer a sufficient guide to the future. We need to anticipate the climate we shall have in the next 50 to 100 years. It's a huge challenge but it's not a hopeless challenge if we all work together."

Source: Pravda.Ru

R.S

Symposium on Combating Desertification, Drought

DAMASCUS, (ST) – Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, Dr. Nazira Sarkis, confirmed that Syria continues its efforts to reduce land degradation, desertification and drought through the establishment of protected areas in the desert and expansion projects in the vegetation and projects to stabilize sand dunes, particularly in areas close to the rails and the national project to convert to modern irrigation.

On the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification,  an awareness symposium was opened recently entitled "we must not leave our future to drought". The minister pointed out that an early warning system for drought,  a fund to alleviate the effects of drought and natural disasters and the integrated development enterprise in the Syrian desert were established.

"The ministry has completed the National Plan to Combat Desertification and followed the implementation of a draft study on wind drifts in the desert of Deir ez-Zor in cooperation with al -Furat University to study the size of these drifts and develop appropriate solutions," the minister said.

"Cooperation is needed of all government institutions, people's organizations and local communities and to take all necessary measures to prevent desertification, pointing out that the Ministry of Environment to coordinate with all concerned bodies to develop appropriate solutions and national projects and programs to combat desertification," Dr. Sarkis clarified.

The symposium included several lectures dealt with the causes of drought, its aspects and consequences in addition to the efforts being exerted by the General Federation of Peasants to Combat Desertification and Drought.  

The seminar was attended by participants from the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and the General Federation of Peasants and environmental NGOs.

Sh. Al Khatib