Air Pollution News

Aug. 16, 2023 — Researchers have demonstrated the use of a specially coated metal mesh to harvest water from fog and simultaneously remove pollutants. People living in foggy areas with low rainfall should benefit …

Aug. 16, 2023 — Indoor air pollution may have met its match. Scientists have designed catalyst-coated lampshades that transform indoor air pollutants into harmless compounds. The lampshades work with halogen and …

Aug. 16, 2023 — Tiny plastic particles can be found in the air over the oceans even far away from the coast. According to a new study, microplastics are not only carried by the wind, but also escape into the …

Aug. 16, 2023 — A research team used data from low-cost sensors, artificial intelligence and mobility data to improve models that assess human exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), tiny particles in smoke …

Aug. 14, 2023 — No amount of air pollution is good for the brain, but wildfires and the emissions resulting from agriculture and farming in particular may pose especially toxic threats to cognitive health, according …

Aug. 9, 2023 — Between 1990 and 2019, the total annual number of premature CVD deaths and years of disability attributable to particulate matter air pollution rose by 31% …

Aug. 9, 2023 — Scientists have identified large-scale climate patterns that could be used to predict the co-occurrence of extreme heat and ozone days in China months before they occur. Like predictions for …

Aug. 7, 2023 — Researchers found that wildfires are causing a much greater warming effect than has been accounted for by climate scientists. The work, which focuses on the role of ‘dark brown carbon’ — …

Aug. 3, 2023 — Chronic exposure to fine particulate air pollutants (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) may increase non-lung cancer risk in older adults, according to new research. In a cohort study of millions of …

Aug. 3, 2023 — Moving to more polluted areas was associated with an increase in body mass index, according to an analysis of more than 46,000 children and adolescents living in …

Aug. 1, 2023 — The closure in January 2016 of one of Pittsburgh’s biggest coal-processing plants led to immediate and lasting declines in emissions of fossil fuel-related air pollutants. These in turn were …

Aug. 1, 2023 — Nature-based solutions (NBS) can help grand challenges, such as climate change and food security, but, as things stand, communities outside of Europe do not stand to benefit from these innovations. …

July 27, 2023 — Over 60 animal species in three days. That is how many mammals, birds and amphibians researchers found DNA traces from in the air in a Danish forest. The results can pave the way for a new and …

July 24, 2023 — An analysis of more than 202,000 heart attack deaths between 2015-2020 in a single Chinese province found that days that had extreme heat, extreme cold or high levels of fine particulate matter …

July 18, 2023 — A new study compiles the scope of the problem of the global dispersal of harmful microorganisms through the upper layers of the …

July 12, 2023 — A freight train carrying industrial chemicals derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023, and to avoid explosions, authorities conducted a controlled release and burned the cars’ …

July 12, 2023 — Researchers report that an insect’s ability to find food and a mate is reduced when their antennae are contaminated by particulate matter from industry, transport, bushfires, and other sources …

July 11, 2023 — A new study has evaluated the contribution of various emission sectors and fuels to PM2.5 mass for 29 states in India and six surrounding countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and …

July 6, 2023 — In the wake of Colorado’s devastating Marshall Fire, a team of chemists and engineers undertook a first-of-its-kind study to explore homes that survived the blaze. Their results reveal the …

June 21, 2023 — Smoke particulates from wildfires could cause between 4,000 and 9,000 premature deaths and cost between $36 to $82 billion per year in the United States, according to new …

Global air pollution poses huge risk to human health, Air Quality Life Index finds

“Three-quarters of air pollution’s impact on global life expectancy occurs in just six countries: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Nigeria and Indonesia, where people lose one to more than six years off their lives because of the air they breathe,” says Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago and the creator of the AQLI along with colleagues at the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago.

Many polluted countries lack basic air pollution infrastructure. Asia and Africa are the two most poignant examples. They contribute 92.7 percent of life years lost due to pollution. Only 6.8 and 3.7 percent of governments in Asia and Africa, respectively, provide their citizens with fully open air quality data. Further, just 35.6 and 4.9 percent of countries in Asia and Africa, respectively, have air quality standards—the most basic building block for policies.

The collective current investments in global air quality infrastructure also do not match where air pollution is having its greatest toll on human life.

Resources lackingWhile there is a large global fund for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis that annually disburses $4 billion toward the issues, there is no equivalent set of coordinated resources for air pollution. In fact, the entire continent of Africa receives under $300,000 in philanthropic funds toward air pollution. Just $1.4 million goes to Asia, outside of China and India. Europe, the United States, and Canada, meanwhile, receive $34 million, according to the Clean Air Fund.

“Timely, reliable, open air quality data in particular can be the backbone of civil society and government clean air efforts—providing the information that people and governments lack and that allows for more informed policy decisions,” says Christa Hasenkopf, the director of AQLI and air quality programs at EPIC. “Fortunately, we see an immense opportunity to play a role in reversing this by better targeting—and increasing—our funding dollars to collaboratively build the infrastructure that is missing today.”

In no other location on the planet is the deadly impact of pollution more visible than in South Asia, home to the four most polluted countries in the world and nearly a quarter of the global population.

Loss of five yearsIn Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, the AQLI data reveal that residents are expected to lose about five years off their lives on average if the current high levels of pollution persist, and more in the most polluted regions—accounting for more than half of the total life years lost globally due to pollution.

Although the challenge of reducing air pollution around the world may seem daunting, China has had remarkable success, reducing pollution by 42.3 percent since 2013, the year before the country began a “war against pollution.” Due to these improvements, the average Chinese citizen can expect to live 2.2 years longer, provided the reductions are sustained. However, the pollution in China is still six times higher than the WHO guideline, taking 2.5 years off life expectancy.

Read the full report.

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Superbugs catch a ride on air pollution particles. Is that bad news for people?

In a Ukrainian hospital, wounded soldiers languish with stubborn bacterial infections. In Liberia, a young mother’s surgery wound refuses to heal after a C-section. Superbugs hiding in eyedrops imported from India cause multiple deaths and many more cases of blindness.

Worldwide, the toll of drug-resistant infections has only been growing. A study published last year found that 1.27 million people died in 2019 from infections resistant to antimicrobial drugs. The annual death toll could reach 10 million by 2050, according to the United Nations.

Now a new study highlights a surprising potential vector for the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR): air pollution.

“Airborne fine particulate matter, we usually call it PM2.5, contains a cocktail of microorganisms,” says Hong Chen, professor of environmental engineering at Zhejiang University and corresponding author of the study.

It has long been suspected that particulate air pollution could transport antimicrobial-resistant bacteria that leak into the environment from farming, aquaculture, wastewater treatment and hospitals. The new research, from a team at Zhejiang University in China and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, set out to quantify the role of air pollution in the growing global AMR problem. The team found a strong association between particulate air pollution [in a given country and reports of clinical antibiotic resistance.

Using data from published studies as well as disease surveillance networks, clinical trials and diagnostic labs, the researchers tried to untangle which factors were most important in driving up global antimicrobial resistance over the period from 2000-2018 (CQ). Ultimately, they say the air pollution association accounts for some 12% of the increase during that time, adding up to 480,000 premature deaths and economic costs of $395 billion in 2018 alone.

“The analysis suggests that PM2.5 is one of the leading factors driving clinical antibiotic resistance,” says Chen.

Drug-resistant bacteria in the soil, in water, in sewageDrug-resistant microbes multiply when a course of medication, such as an antibiotic, kills off susceptible bacteria and spares the few who happen to be hardier. Those resistant bacteria are then free to thrive and spread.

Widespread use of antibiotics in human health care, as well as in animal farming and aquaculture, deposit lots of resistant bacteria in the soil, waterways and sewage treatment facilities. Also mixed in with the microorganisms is free-floating genetic material, including some that carry genes for resistance to antimicrobials. Those genes can spread resistance on their own as bacteria take up the DNA from their environment, swap genes with other microorganisms or pass the resistant genes along through viruses.

Ultimately all that material doesn’t stay in the soil or the waterways but catches rides on particles and aerosols into the air, where people can inhale them.

The remaining particles “can then return to the earth’s surface through deposition in snow and rain, connecting the atmosphere and the earth’s surface and creating a global [antimicrobial resistant gene] cycle,” says Chen.

Investigating the link between air pollution particles and antibiotic resistant microbesThe scope of the new study is unprecedented, researchers say: “This study is the most comprehensive analysis of the burden of AMR to date, producing estimates for 204 countries and territories, 23 bacterial pathogens, and 88 pathogen–drug combinations.”

The study reveals that low-income regions tend to face higher burdens of both pollution and antimicrobial resistant infection, with sub-Saharan Africa the most affected, followed by south Asia.

The study nails down an association between particulate air pollution and AMR, but the researchers say it does not establish causality or reveal the biological mechanism at play. Elena Buelow, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Grenoble Alpes in France, says it’s an important relationship to probe, but she’s yet not convinced that air pollution is the ultimate culprit.

“I would be careful to draw conclusions on the causal relationship,” says Buelow. “There’s an increase in antimicrobial resistance in the past 20 years. There’s an increase in pollution in the past 20 years. There’s also an increase in population growth in the last 20 years. There’s a strong correlation, and we have to continue to study this. But I’m not sure we can conclude from this study that this is a causal relationship.”

The researchers adjusted for other factors that could be affecting the rates of AMR, such as socioeconomic status, health expenditures and education. The air pollution link persisted, and in fact strengthened over time, they say.

For Buelow, it will be important to more firmly establish what the actual mechanism is for spreading AMR to actual people through the air.

“For bacteria, these [particles] are big islands. It’s kind of fascinating that they attach to this tiny surface, and they can form little tiny multispecies communities and be transported this way. That is true, but to what degree this causes carriage of antimicrobial resistant bacteria within individuals, we don’t know that,” says Buelow.

However, the authors concede that data is incomplete in many of those same regions, where disease surveillance systems tend to be more sparse. And Elena Buelow points out that the measurements used by various countries differ, making country-by-country comparisons difficult.

Another reason to curb air pollutionThe link suggests that curbing air pollution could be another lever for controlling the spread of antimicrobial resistance (in addition to all the other downsides of particulates). The study calculates that bringing global air pollution down to the WHO’s target levels by 2050 would cut global antibiotic resistance by 16.8% and avoid nearly one in four premature deaths attributable to AMR.

“This means if we can control PM 2.5, then we can have a twofold result,” says Chen.

Elena Buelow agrees that studies like Chen’s can help us see the problems holistically.

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