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The condition of our air

May 19th 2018

Reports indicate that pollution is getting worse.

Feb 24th 2019

Asthma’s deadly toll on young people in the UK revealed

Young Britons are dying from asthma at a higher rate than any of the other European countries examined in a new study, researchers have revealed.

Experts have found the UK is languishing near the bottom of an international league table for a host of problems, including obesity, lack of exercise in children and the burden of chronic health issues – and in many cases the situation is getting worse.

“Young people’s health is not high enough up the policy agenda,” said Ann Hagell, a co-author of the report from the Association for Young People’s Health, which published it with the Nuffield Trust.

Video: Signs Hagell said that was partly because the age group was largely seen as being fit and healthy, despite the report revealing almost 20% of 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK are living with a chronic health problem. Many services that benefit young people, including school nurses and sexual health services, have seen substantial cuts.

Improving the health of young people today would not only produce benefits now, Hagell said, but would also reduce health costs in future.

“If we don’t really start to seriously invest in our 10- to 24-year-olds, then things are only going to get worse,” she said, noting there had already been signs of a drop in life expectancy in the US and UK.that your asthma is getting worse (Press Association)

The report looks at how the UK fares on 17 different indicators of the health and wellbeing of young people – ranging from mortality rates to the proportion of young people out of work or education – with the findings compared against up to 18 other high-income countries including the US, Australia and Japan. The figures are based on the most recent data, but not all are from the same year or cover the same age spans.

The UK does well on deaths from traffic accidents and mortality in general, with the latter showing the fifth-lowest rate for 10- to 19-year-olds of all 19 countries surveyed – although progress has stalled.

Strikingly, the UK comes near the bottom of the pack for deaths from asthma among 10- to 24-year-olds, with the fourth-worst figure across all 19 countries and the worst death rate in Europe, with a figure double that of the next worst European country in the study.

Recent work by others has found many asthma patients are not receiving basic care for the condition, and that asthma deaths in the UK are on the rise.

In particular, concerns have been growing about the role of air pollution in asthma. The death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah from London as a result of an asthma attack has been linked to illegal levels of pollutants, while doctors say they have been shocked at the number of cases of children ending up in hospital choking with asthma, apparently as a result of air pollution.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has branded air pollution the “new tobacco” in terms of its impact on public health, saying statistics showing that it is behind 7 million early deaths a year are probably an underestimate. In the UK, air pollution is believed to be responsible for the deaths of about 40,000 people a year.

The new study finds smoking, drinking and cannabis use among young Britons is middling compared with other countries, with some signs that use is falling. However, 15- to 19-year-olds in the UK have the worst rates of obesity of the European countries at 8.1% – with prevalence rising.

“Obesity particularly is something that is influenced by the environment around you,” said Hagell, noting that availability of fast-food and the cost of healthy alternatives played a role.

The report comes a year after experts revealed that the UK was lagging behind similar countries on important health priorities for babies and young children, including breastfeeding and infant mortality, while progress in many areas, including vaccination, had stalled. Such conclusions are reflected in the emphasis put on the health of children and young people in the recently released NHS long-term plan.

Video: What To Do During An Asthma AWhile the authors of the new research admit comparing across countries has drawbacks, not least because of different societal pressures, they say it shows more needs to be done to improve and support the health of the 11.6 million people aged 10 to 24 in the UK.

“The uncomfortable conclusion from the data is that our policies and health services are not performing to the same standard as those in other comparable nations, and we are letting our adolescents and young adults down,” the authors write. “It is to our own discredit that this is happening at a time when more and more adolescents and young adults themselves are making better choices around their health-related behaviours.”

They say money should be pumped into public health initiatives – where cuts have been severe – while both services and doctors need to engage better with young people.ttack (Press Association)

Tackling poverty and inequality, they add, is also crucial to improving health: the UK was near the bottom of the pack for material deprivation and rates of young people out of work, training or education, while it has one of the biggest gaps in obesity between rich and poor.

Prof Chris Griffiths, co-director of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, said the findings were disappointing but not surprising and that urgent action was needed by the government and NHS to improve access to high-quality asthma care and education.

“Technical advances may help, such as inhalers that electronically monitor and prompt adherence and digital smartphone asthma action plans, but we need to deliver on the basics of good care,” he said.

Dr Lucinda Hiam from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the stalling in improving mortality rates among young people was a “red flashing warning sign of a society in trouble” and was probably linked to austerity policies.

“The deepening health crisis in the UK requires society-wide, political intervention,” she said. “The government must act urgently.”


Nov 19th 2018

Air pollution a main factor for parents when it comes to choosing a school

Many are moving away from London for cleaner air in the suburbs

More and more parents are taking the quality of air into consideration when choosing a school for their children, a new report has found.

A study of more than 2,000 London schoolchildren published in The Lancet found that the growth of children’s lungs is being stunted due to pollution from diesel emissions, leaving them damaged for life.

Speaking to The Guardian, Sarah Macfadyen, head of policy and public affairs at British Lung Foundation, said: “It found that children lost about 5 per cent of their lung capacity.

“That’s something they won’t get back. Something that throughout their lives will put them at risk of infections and breathing problems, all because of the air that they were breathing to and from school, to the park, just generally being out and about with their families.”

Cleaner air for kids

The BLF has teamed up with the environmental law group, Client Earth, to establish the Clean Air Parents’ Network, a campaign group calling on politicians to improve air quality in towns and cities.

Data collated through discussions in forums, parent surveys and anecdotal evidence shared by health charities, suggests that parents are so concerned about air quality in the capital that they consider it a main factor when it comes to choosing a school for their children.

Swapping city for suburb

And many are leaving the city for the suburbs in an attempt to have less-polluted air.

Andrea Lee, senior campaigner at ClientEarth told The Guardian: “It is incredible that in 21st-century Britain parents are having to think about moving their families to escape illegally polluted air which is harming their children.

“This is what happens when you have a government unwilling to commit the resources and political will to clean up what has become a public health crisis.”


Oct 25th 2018

Air pollution is behind 'one in three cases of asthma hospitalisation'

Air pollution is behind one in three cases of asthma hospitalisation, a study has estimated. 

The research from George Washington University finds that up to 33 million visits to emergency departments for asthma could have been caused by pollutants entering the lungs.

It is the first study to estimate the impact of air pollution on asthma cases across the globe.

Susan Anenberg, lead author and associate professor at the university's Milken Institute School of Public Health, said policies to clean up the air could reduce the burden of asthma and improve respiratory health.

In particular, Dr Anenberg said targeting emissions from cars in big cities would not only aid people with asthma and other respiratory diseases but would help everyone breathe a little easier.

She added: "Millions of people worldwide have to go to emergency rooms for asthma attacks every year because they are breathing dirty air.

"Our findings suggest that policies aimed at cleaning up the air can reduce the global burden of asthma and improve respiratory health around the world."

Asthma is the most prevalent chronic respiratory disease worldwide, affecting about 358 million people.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests car emissions and other types of pollution may be a significant source of serious asthma attacks.

Dr Anenberg and her team first looked at emergency department visits for asthma in 54 countries and Hong Kong, and then combined that information with global pollution levels.

They said that nine to 23 million annual asthma A&E visits - 8% to 20% of the global total - may have been triggered by ozone, a pollutant generated when car, power plant and other types of emissions interact with sunlight.

Researchers also estimate five to 10 million asthma emergency department attendances - 4% to 9% of the global total - were linked to fine particulate matter, small particles of pollution that can lodge deep in the lungs' airway tubes.

In the UK, 5.4 million people suffer from asthma and there are around 67,000 visits to A&E connected to the condition each year. 

The team said that around half of asthma emergency hospital visits attributed to dirty air were estimated to occur in south and east Asian countries - notably India and China.

Dr Anenberg said the study suggested that the impact of air pollution is much wider than heart disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer.

She added: "We know that air pollution is the leading environmental health risk factor globally.

"Our results show that the range of global public health impacts from breathing dirty air are even more far-reaching - and include millions of asthma attacks every year."

Oct 8th 2018

Read this carefully and ask why is this permitted in this day and age, when we know so much about it's effects.

Marseille puts American ship captain on trial over pollution as ports grapple with impact of huge cruise liners

The American captain of a giant cruise liner is standing trial in Marseille on charges of breaching pollution limits in the first such case in France amid rising concerns over the smog threat from such massive tourist ships.

The unprecedented trial opened as maritime authorities battled a vast oil slick off Corsica after a cargo ship rammed into another freight vessel near the French Mediterranean island early on Sunday.

Evans Hoyt, 58, has been charged with burning bunker fuel containing 1.68 per cent sulphur - above the European limit of 1.5 per cent.  Mr Hoyt was prosecuted after a spot check on his ship Azura - a liner of up to 3,000 berths and one of the largest in the fleet of P&O Cruises, whose parent company Carnival is also being charged.

He faces up to one year in prison and a €200,000 (£176,000) fine. The captain is not expected to attend the trial. Tracked down by investigators a few days after the testing during a stop east of Marseille, he admitted using the fuel.

He was not present at a previous court hearing in July, when Carnival lawyers argued that the company was not responsible.

Favoured by cruise liners due to its lower cost, high-sulphur fuel produces sulphur oxides that contribute to the acidification of rain and oceans.

The trial is politically sensitive for Marseille as the southern port city is on a drive to become the Mediterranean’s top cruise liner destination with two million visitors in 2020 - up from 1.55 million this year.

Authorities are battling an oil slick off Corsica after a cargo ship rammed into another freight vessel near the French Mediterranean island early on Sunday CREDIT: STANISLAS GENTIEN/ AFP

At the same time, it has been tackling rising problems linked to smog with authorities saying that up to a fifth of the dangerous particulate matter in Marseille's air comes from such ships. These reach levels 100 times higher near the city's busy port than further inland.

Even when not on the move, a single ship emits as much pollution as 10,000 to 30,000 cars, according to AirPaca, the regional air pollution monitoring agency. At sea, it guzzles on average 2,000 litres of fuel per hour, making the combined consumption equivalent to around a million cars, environmental groups say.

According to Rostock university and the German environmental research centre Helmholz Zentrum Munich, maritime transport emissions are responsible for 60,000 premature deaths per year and account for €58 billion in health costs in Europe, notably respiratory and heart disease.

While the captain appeared to only narrowly surpass the limits, the trial comes as the UN's International Maritime Organization is due to impose the far stricter ceiling of 0.5 percent in 2020.

Environmental groups are pushing for an ever lower limit, citing the 0.1 percent sulphur ceiling in force in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and along coastlines in North America and the Caribbean.

For the NGO France Nature Environment, the Azura case underlines “the sense of impunity liner captains and cruise companies feel due to the difficulties in controlling illicit activities and the low level of legal procedures around the world on this matter”.

Defence lawyers are expected to call for an acquittal, arguing that the 1.5 per cent limit does not apply to the Azura as it is not a “regular” visitor to European ports, in which case the limit is 3.5 per cent.

Civil plaintiffs say the European Court of Justice has already ruled in their favour on this point.

The trial opened as maritime authorities sought to prevent an oil slick stretched over 20km from reaching the shores of Corsica, the French island south of Marseille.

The slick occurred after the cargo ship Ulysse, operated by the Tunisian operator CTN, struck the Cyprus-based CLS Virgina while it was anchored about 30km (18.6 miles) off the northern tip of the island on Sunday morning.

Up to 200 square metres of fuel are thought to have leaked in the collision. Two French and two Italian vessels are seeking to protect the Corsican coastline with a floating barrier and suction system.


Sept 19th 2018

Calpol may nearly double risk of asthma in children, study warns

Giving toddlers Calpol and other paracetamol medication may double their chances of developing asthma in later childhood, according to a new study.

Researchers said the commonly administered drug “consumes” an enzyme crucial for clearing up toxins in the lungs.

A study of 620 children found a link between babies who had regularly been given paracetamol and those who developed asthma by the age of 18.

It also revealed that in children with a particular variant of the glutathione S-transferase (GST) gene, GSTP1, the risk of asthma were 1.8 times higher having been given regular paracetamol.

Paracetamol, the leading children’s brand of which is Calpol, is recommended by the NHS to treat many childhood ailments, including headache, stomach ache, ear ache, as well as reducing fever.

GST genes contain the instructions for making enzymes that use an antioxidant called glutathione to mop up the effects of exposure to toxins in the body and the lungs.

This mechanism helps to prevent damage to cells and inflammation.

"Paracetamol, on the other hand, consumes glutathione, reducing the body's capacity to deal with toxic exposure," said Xin Dai, who led the research at the University of Melbourne.

Approximately one in 11 children suffer from asthma in the UK and across all ages roughly 1,410 people die from the condition each year.

The children were recruited into the study before they were born because they were considered to be potentially at high risk of developing an allergy-related disease as they had at least one family member  self-reported allergic disease.

After their birth, a research nurse rang the family every four weeks for the first 15 months, and then at 18 months and at two-years-old to ask how many days in the previous weeks had the child taken paracetamol.

When the children were 18-years-old they gave a blood or saliva sample, which was tested for variants of the GST genes: GSTT1, GSTM1 and GSTP1. They were also assessed for asthma, and a spirometry test was performed to measure the amount of air inhaled and exhaled when breathing through a mouthpiece.

"Our findings provide more evidence that paracetamol use in infancy may have an adverse effect on respiratory health for children with particular genetic profiles and could be a possible cause of asthma,” said Ms Dai, presenting the results to the European Respiratory Society International Conference in Paris.

She cautioned that the study does no prove paracetamol causes asthma, and other scientists have pointed out the reason some babies require more paracetamol than others is a result of emerging respiratory problems which themselves may cause asthma, rather than the drug.

Dr June Raine, Director of Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines Division, said: “Paracetamol is safe and effective for treating pain and fever for a range of conditions when used correctly.  People are advised to consult their doctor if their symptoms continue.


July 12th 2018

The one thing you didn't know about taking antihistamine for hay fever

It's considered drug-driving

If you're one of the many unfortunate souls who suffers from hay fever (13 million in the UK alone, to be precise), you'll be aware that there's a lot of pollen in the air at the moment.

So if you're a said hay fever sufferer, you'll be accustomed to taking antihistamine tablets through the summer months like they're going out of fashion. But there's something you should know about taking antihistamine, especially if you're a driver: if you take a tablet before driving, you could end up with drug-driving charges held against you.

These allergy relief medicines are renowned for making you feel drowsy, but they can also impact your vision, hearing and reaction time – all things which are obviously very dangerous when you're driving.

Some brands of the medication have such an impact on the body, it turns out, that police could be within their rights to arrest you if you have an accident and they deem you unfit to drive after carrying out roadside drugaliser tests. This is because certain antihistamines fall under the same law that bans you from driving if you have a substance such as cocaine or cannabis in your system, due to how much it can hinder your awareness.

If you're found guilty of being unfit to drive, you could be landed with a year-long driving ban, an unlimited fine – or even a prison sentence depending on how serious the circumstances are. According to the Independent, this criminal offence will stay on your driving licence for 11 years, which isn't ideal when it comes to insurance.

If you want to avoid finding yourself in any of the above eventualities, it's vital you check the label on your chosen antihistamine for any warnings about getting behind the wheel of a car after taking a tablet. If your medication does contain this kind of warning, follow its advice about the amount of time that must elapse before getting back in your vehicle.


July 11th 2018

have a look at this


the cowspiracy theory

July 5th 2018

From nettles to sunglasses, here's 11 ways to beat hay fever hell

With stinging nettles the latest “cure” taking social media by storm, which tre

Soaring temperatures spell hay fever misery for millions but if you’re dosed up with antihistamine and still sneezing, you’d be forgiven for looking elsewhere for help.

But with stinging nettles the latest “cure” taking social media by storm, which treatments really can help?

1. Stinging nettles

Goran Pavlovic says that his sneezy symptoms disappeared once he started stinging himself regularly with nettles.

His supposed cure requires him to pick a bunch of nettles once they start growing in spring and then sting himself once a week until autumn.

Stinging yourself with nettles could help keep hay fever at bay (Image: Getty)

“I haven’t had any problems with pollen for three years now,” the Dubliner wrote on Facebook.

But while experts don’t recommend Pavlovic’s idea, stinging nettle-based supplements have been linked with everything from arthritis treatments to hair loss.

The tablets may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, with preliminary research by the University of Maryland Medical Centre in America, showing they may reduce sneezing and itching in some hay fever sufferers.

2. Smear Vaseline up your nose

Vaseline traps pollen before it enters your nose and airways

Applying a small amount of petroleum jelly or other “nasal barrier balms” (available from pharmacies) inside your nostrils first thing in the morning, and again last thing at night, can help trap pollen before it gets chance to enter your nose and airways.

3. Kick Kitty (& Fido) out of the bedroom

While it might be relaxing to have your favourite furry friend to snuggle up to at night, pet fur can attract and hold large amounts of pollen, dust and other allergens, triggering night-time sneezes and other symptoms.

4. Light up your nostrils

A raft of innovative new home gadgets that use nostril prongs to fire red lightwaves directly into your nasal passages are becoming popular as a drug-free way to treat the condition.

They are painless and only need to be used for a few minutes a day to work.

The light is thought to act on the lining of the nose, reducing the production of histamine (the chemical released during an allergic reaction that causes the sneezy and itching) and soothing inflammation.

5. Tuck into a curry

Many spices found in curries are natural anti-inflammatories (Image: Getty)

“Turmeric, garlic, chilli and many other spices are packed with natural compounds that have an anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effect in the body,” says nutritionist Linda Foster.

“So eating more of these spicy foods could boost your immune system and counter some of the nasty symptoms experienced during the season.”

6. Try self-hypnosis

One Swiss study found that sufferers reported fewer symptoms after they were taught hypnotherapy and self-relaxation techniques.

To get started: Close your eyes, take deep breaths, counting in for five and then slowly out for five.

The idea behind this common pain-management technique is that your relaxed state will help distract your brain, making it easier to ignore the tickle in your nose

.7. Boost your bacteria levels

Promising research, including one US study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy, suggest “good bacteria” (the type that lives in the gut) may help reduce the body’s immune response to grass pollen.

Increase your intake by eating live yogurt and fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut. Or you could try a supplement such as Healthspan Super 20 Pro (£8.95).

8. Boil-wash bedsheets

It may not sound an obvious cure but washing your sheets more frequently and on a hotter setting can really help ease symptoms.

The average person washes their sheets once every two weeks but in the summer months allergy experts say this isn’t enough to keep them free of pollen and other allergens that might make symptoms worse.


Keep your sheets free of pollen by washing them more frequently on a higher temperature (Image: Getty)

Switch to a weekly cycle for sheets, and every other day for pillowcases which come into closest contact with your nose and mouth.

In one study, scientists found that washing items at hotter temperatures was more effective at removing traces of pollen, so aim for around 60C.

9. Shower at night

Many of us like a shower to wake us up in the morning during summer or a cool bath late at night but, for most allergy sufferers, by far the best bet is a night-time shower to wash off any stray pollen.

When the pollen count is high, it’s also a good idea to wash your hair every night.

10. Ditch the ciggies

If you’re a smoker, did you know studies show that every cigarette smoked could worsen hay fever symptoms?

This is because smoke is an irritant that will further inflame the lining of your nose, eyes, throat and airways.

So if you need one more health reason to quit smoking, think about how much it could ease your symptoms this summer.

11. Always wear sunglasses, even indoors

You might feel silly wearing them on an overcast day or in the house when the windows are open.

But if you are severely sensitive to high pollen counts, you want to make sure none enters your eyes if possible.

Once eyes do become itchy, you rub them and they become more irritated and a vicious cycle is created.

...and 3 'cures' to avoid

1. Relying on decongestants

Popular nasal sprays can offer temporary relief but shouldn’t be used every day because after continuous use, research shows they can make symptoms worse.

2. Don’t bother with honey

Contrary to popular wisdom, local honey as a treatment is pointless as bees don’t make honey from grass or tree pollen, they make it from wild flowers.

3. Only taking antihistamines after getting symptoms

Experts say antihistamines work best if they’re already in your system. Check with a GP if you’d be better taking them daily.


June 30th 2018

Over 4.5 million British children breathing toxic air, Unicef warns

More than 4.5 million children in the UK are growing up in areas with toxic levels of air pollution, the UN children’s organisation Unicef has warned.

Tests suggesting that children walking along busy roads are exposed to a third more air pollution than adults, as their shorter height places them close to passing car exhausts, were also released on Thursday.

The Unicef report found that almost a third of under-18s live in places with unsafe levels of small particulate pollution, including 1.6 million under-fives and 270,000 babies. The analysis is based on the World Health Organization limit set in 2005, which is 60% lower than the legal limit in England and Wales.

The UK government has lost three times in the high court for failing to deal with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution and is now being taken to Europe’s highest court. On Wednesday, MPs from four select committees said serious concerns remained over the government’s commitment to reducing the impact of air pollution on public health. The latest government action plan sets a goal to halve the number of people living in areas above WHO particulate limits by 2025.

Amy Gibbs, at Unicef UK, said: “The findings force us to face a shocking reality about the acute impact on children’s health. Worryingly, one third of our children could be filling their lungs with toxic air that puts them at risk of serious, long-term health conditions.

“It’s unacceptable that the most vulnerable members of society, who contribute the least to air pollution, are the ones suffering most from its effects,” she said. “The government must accept this is a children’s health crisis and offer targeted action and funding to reduce their exposure.”

The tests on children’s exposure next to busy roads are relevant to the millions of children walk to school each day, with experts are advising that where practical parents choose quieter routes, away from traffic, as this can cut pollution exposure by almost two-thirds. Other scientists have suggested parents use covers on their prams and buggies during the school run to protect their infants from air pollution. Half of all children walk to school, but being driven to school by car instead can actually result in greater pollution exposure for those inside the vehicle, previous research has shown.

Prof Jonathan Grigg, at Queen Mary University of London, said: “My research has shown that exposure of young children to higher amounts of air pollution from traffic has a major impact on their lungs. Although parents can reduce this impact by walking on less polluted roads, the UK government must take further steps to reduce toxic emissions on all roads.”

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, said the school run tests were troubling: “This a further demonstration of why we need to take strong action now to improve air quality.” He said the government was acting, but added: “By taking simple steps, like leaving the car at home for the school run, we can work together to reduce air pollution and protect our health.”

Lack of funding for local authorities to tackle air pollution is a key issue, the select committee MPs said. “The car industry is partly responsible for our toxic streets, and seeing the government resist calls for an industry-financed Clean Air Fund is incomprehensible,” said Neil Parish MP, chair of the environment committee.

The school run tests analysed particulate pollution on different routes taken by primary and nursery schoolchildren in London, Manchester and Leeds. Small measuring devices were carried by each child and adult, with one measurement taken on each route in each city. In Manchester, a test found that the upper deck of a bus was much less polluted than the lower deck.

The tests were commissioned by Global Action Plan for Clean Air day, which falls on Thursday and is supported by the government and 180 organisations. The organisers are calling on people to leave their car at home where possible. When streets were closed to traffic for the 2018 London marathon, pollution levels dropped by 89%.

Mala Kapoor, who took part in the tests in Leeds with her daughter Ariyan, said: “I was shocked to hear that children are more exposed than adults to air pollution from exhaust fumes. When going out I do try to take more back routes – it might take me a couple of minutes longer but if it reduces Ariyan’s exposure to air pollution, then it’s worth it.”

June 30th 2018

Urgent warning as painful biting horseflies invade Britain

HORSEFLY bites are set to soar as a heatwave sparks an invasion of the painful biting insects.

Sizzling temperatures are set to bring a swarm of the bugs to Britain with a boom similar to those found in Mediterranean countries.

The flies are known for targeting horses but can also chomp down onto humans.

Horsefly bites can be extremely painful, leaving large swollen sores full of pus on the skin.

They can take a while to heal and other symptoms include a large rash, dizziness, weakness, wheezing and swelling.

Conservationists claim horsefly numbers are on the rise this summer.

Ben Keywood, of the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, told MailOnline:”This year Britain is seeing insect populations more like what you’d expect to see in a Mediterranean country.

“Unfortunately this means we have to put up with the less popular ones as well.”

Horseflies like warm weather and normally appear in June and July.

The bugs are often found around ponds, pools, woodlands, grass and livestock.

Some insect repellents will help keep the horseflies at bay and it’s a good idea to protect yourself if you’re going into rural areas.

Light coloured clothing will also make you less of a target for the flies, which are attracted to dark, moving objects.

The flies don’t normally head into dark areas – so you will be better protected in the shade.


June 29th 2018

From nettles to sunglasses, here's 11 ways to beat hay fever hell

With stinging nettles the latest “cure” taking social media by storm, which tre

Soaring temperatures spell hay fever misery for millions but if you’re dosed up with antihistamine and still sneezing, you’d be forgiven for looking elsewhere for help.

But with stinging nettles the latest “cure” taking social media by storm, which treatments really can help?

1. Stinging nettles

Goran Pavlovic says that his sneezy symptoms disappeared once he started stinging himself regularly with nettles.

His supposed cure requires him to pick a bunch of nettles once they start growing in spring and then sting himself once a week until autumn.

Stinging yourself with nettles could help keep hay fever at bay (Image: Getty)

“I haven’t had any problems with pollen for three years now,” the Dubliner wrote on Facebook.

But while experts don’t recommend Pavlovic’s idea, stinging nettle-based supplements have been linked with everything from arthritis treatments to hair loss.

The tablets may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, with preliminary research by the University of Maryland Medical Centre in America, showing they may reduce sneezing and itching in some hay fever sufferers.

2. Smear Vaseline up your nose

Vaseline traps pollen before it enters your nose and airways

Applying a small amount of petroleum jelly or other “nasal barrier balms” (available from pharmacies) inside your nostrils first thing in the morning, and again last thing at night, can help trap pollen before it gets chance to enter your nose and airways.

3. Kick Kitty (& Fido) out of the bedroom

While it might be relaxing to have your favourite furry friend to snuggle up to at night, pet fur can attract and hold large amounts of pollen, dust and other allergens, triggering night-time sneezes and other symptoms.

4. Light up your nostrils

A raft of innovative new home gadgets that use nostril prongs to fire red lightwaves directly into your nasal passages are becoming popular as a drug-free way to treat the condition.

They are painless and only need to be used for a few minutes a day to work.

The light is thought to act on the lining of the nose, reducing the production of histamine (the chemical released during an allergic reaction that causes the sneezy and itching) and soothing inflammation.

5. Tuck into a curry

Many spices found in curries are natural anti-inflammatories (Image: Getty)

“Turmeric, garlic, chilli and many other spices are packed with natural compounds that have an anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effect in the body,” says nutritionist Linda Foster.

“So eating more of these spicy foods could boost your immune system and counter some of the nasty symptoms experienced during the season.”

6. Try self-hypnosis

One Swiss study found that sufferers reported fewer symptoms after they were taught hypnotherapy and self-relaxation techniques.

To get started: Close your eyes, take deep breaths, counting in for five and then slowly out for five.

The idea behind this common pain-management technique is that your relaxed state will help distract your brain, making it easier to ignore the tickle in your nose

.7. Boost your bacteria levels

Promising research, including one US study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy, suggest “good bacteria” (the type that lives in the gut) may help reduce the body’s immune response to grass pollen.

Increase your intake by eating live yogurt and fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut. Or you could try a supplement such as Healthspan Super 20 Pro (£8.95).

8. Boil-wash bedsheets

It may not sound an obvious cure but washing your sheets more frequently and on a hotter setting can really help ease symptoms.

The average person washes their sheets once every two weeks but in the summer months allergy experts say this isn’t enough to keep them free of pollen and other allergens that might make symptoms worse.


Keep your sheets free of pollen by washing them more frequently on a higher temperature (Image: Getty)

Switch to a weekly cycle for sheets, and every other day for pillowcases which come into closest contact with your nose and mouth.

In one study, scientists found that washing items at hotter temperatures was more effective at removing traces of pollen, so aim for around 60C.

9. Shower at night

Many of us like a shower to wake us up in the morning during summer or a cool bath late at night but, for most allergy sufferers, by far the best bet is a night-time shower to wash off any stray pollen.

When the pollen count is high, it’s also a good idea to wash your hair every night.

10. Ditch the ciggies

If you’re a smoker, did you know studies show that every cigarette smoked could worsen hay fever symptoms?

This is because smoke is an irritant that will further inflame the lining of your nose, eyes, throat and airways.

So if you need one more health reason to quit smoking, think about how much it could ease your symptoms this summer.

11. Always wear sunglasses, even indoors

You might feel silly wearing them on an overcast day or in the house when the windows are open.

But if you are severely sensitive to high pollen counts, you want to make sure none enters your eyes if possible.

Once eyes do become itchy, you rub them and they become more irritated and a vicious cycle is created.

...and 3 'cures' to avoid

1. Relying on decongestants

Popular nasal sprays can offer temporary relief but shouldn’t be used every day because after continuous use, research shows they can make symptoms worse.

2. Don’t bother with honey

Contrary to popular wisdom, local honey as a treatment is pointless as bees don’t make honey from grass or tree pollen, they make it from wild flowers.

3. Only taking antihistamines after getting symptoms

Experts say antihistamines work best if they’re already in your system. Check with a GP if you’d be better taking them daily.


June 14th 2018

Hay fever could hit 20 million Britons as pollen count to be highest in 10 years

Around 20 million of us are expected to be hit by hay fever in the coming weeks as pollen counts reach their highest levels in over a decade.

The Met Office said grass pollen levels will trigger reactions in many people not previously affected by hay fever due to recent warm weather and rainstorms.

It predicts dry weather in the coming days will lift pollen from grass, plants and trees to create the highest pollen levels since 2006.

Experts say the conditions will trigger reactions in those who have “latent hay fever”, those who record positive for the allergy but who only have a reaction when pollen counts are extremely high.

Record numbers are suffering from hay fever, which affects up to 26% of all adults and as many as 40% of children.

Research has shown that rates have trebled in 20 years. The Met Office has joined with the NHS to set up the UK’s first pollen-monitoring network. A joint research programme has identified 150 grass pollens that cause most allergies.

The Met Office’s Yolanda Clewlow said: “We know how seriously hay fever can impact people’s lives, particularly as a result of grass pollen. We aim to help empower sufferers in managing their symptoms more effectively.

‘We urge them to check our pollen forecast or to download our simple to use mobile app to receive notifications.”

Experts are unsure why hay fever, and other allergies, have been on the rise.

Some point to changing climate, lack of breast feeding and cleaner homes so infants do not come in to contact with protective bacteria in the first months.

Grass is the most common cause of hay fever, affecting 95% of UK sufferers.

Polling by the Met Office found that two-fifths affected suffer so badly it ruins their summer.


June 8th 2018

Tips to combat hay fever as pollen levels to hit seasonal high

With pollen levels set to reach a seasonal high this week across southern areas of England parts of Wales, hay fever sufferers may struggle to spend time outdoors without their symptoms flaring up. 

As lovely as the weather may seem as as spring comes to an end, the approach of summer means one thing and one thing only - hay fever season has officially arrived.

For the unlucky individuals afflicted with sneezing fits, runny noses and itchy eyes every year, it can be incredibly frustrating having to endure the debilitating symptoms.

The ironic thing about hayfever is that it is rarely caused by hay and never causes a fever.


However, there are precautions that you can take to keep your symptoms at bay, or at least reduce their severity.

Here are some top tips for combatting hay fever this year:

Track pollen count

Pollen count varies day by day depending on the weather.

When you check the weather forecast, the information provided will include the daily pollen count.

According to Allergy UK, the pollen count tends to be higher on days that are warmer and dryer, and lower on days that are cooler and wetter.

This is because rain typically washes pollen from the air.

If the day ahead is set to be particularly warm and dry, try to limit your time spent outdoors.

Keep clean

When you do venture outside, pollen can become attached to your hair and clothes.

In order to avoid your hay fever symptoms playing havoc after a day spent outdoors, make sure that you shower and wash your hair after arriving home.

You should also change your clothing as soon as possible.

When pollen counts are recorded as being high, it’s important to remember not to dry your clothes outdoors.

Avoid grassy areas

Anyone who suffers from hay fever knows that grassy areas can cause your symptoms to spike.

While it may be impossible to avoid grassy areas altogether, if you know that you’re particularly affected by grass it may be worth avoiding large grassy spaces or doing activities such as camping, as advised by Dr Mary Harding.

If you’re typically in charge of gardening duties in your household, perhaps it would be best to delegate this task to someone else.

Beware car air

As well as being aware of the pollen count outdoors, you need to also take indoor air into account.

If you’re travelling in a car, make sure that you keep your car windows closed during your journey.



April 18, 2018

Of course, doing this on a hot day can be stifling. However, if you turn on the air conditioning in your car, you may be blasted with pollen from the outside.

Investing in a pollen filter for the air vents in your car could do you a whole lot of good.

Dr Harding recommends changing pollen filters every time you stop the car for activities such as filling up on petrol or going for a bite to eat.


Keeping your stock of hay fever medicine topped up is obviously vital.

There are various different types of medicines that you can try, depending on what your doctor recommends is best for you.

Antihistamine nasal sprays, antihistamine tablets, steroid nasal sprays and eye drops are all available to buy from local pharmacies to stem hay fever symptoms.

Dr Sabrina Shah-Desai, an ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon, stated that people with hay fever should take antihistamines before their symptoms start playing up.

“In hay fever, histamine causes eye symptoms such as inflammation, redness and itching by acting on H1 histamine receptors in the eyes," she said.

“Eye drops block the H1 receptors, however this treatment only works if taken before contact with the allergen, and it can take a number of weeks for the effects of the treatment to be seen."

May 9th 2018

You Have a Second Immune System, and It Might Be Ruining Your Love Life

To bae or not to bae? That is the question of dating. And while you might believe the answer hinges mostly on "chemistry" or mutual interests, a team of psychology researchers from McGill University in Montreal suggests that there's an unlikely judge ultimately making the call: your behavioral immune system.

Unlike your physiological immune system — that collection of cells, organs and lymph nodes that defends your body from invading pathogens and sweeps up the microscopic debris cluttering your tissues — your behavioral immune system relies on subconscious sensory impulses to steer you away from potential germ-ridden danger. (While the concept of a second immune system is only about 10 years old, the notion that humans and other animals noticeably change their behavior to avoid communicable diseases has been demonstrated in hundreds of studies.) This system may be the reason you feel compelled to switch bus seats when the person sitting next to you is constantly hacking up phlegm, why you feel disgusted by certain smells and why you balk at pimple-popping videos on YouTube.

Your reactions to gross stimuli like these can prime your white blood cells for action. And this immune response may also ruin your hot date, according to the researcher's study in February 2018 issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. [Love Is Scary: 12 Weird Phobias]

"We found that when the behavioral immune system was activated, it seemed to put the brakes on our drive to connect with our peers socially," study author Natsumi Sawada, a psychologist and former student at McGill University, said in a statement.

Immune to romance?

In the study, Sawada and her colleagues recruited several hundred people ages 18 to 35, who were single and heterosexual, to participate in either an in-person or online speed-dating experiment. Before the dating events began, each participant answered a questionnaire to measure what the researchers called "perceived vulnerability to disease" (PVD) — basically, how germ- and disease-conscious the person was. (Sample prompt: "I avoid using public telephones because of the risk that I may catch something from a previous user.")

Next, participants either sat down for a 20-minute conversation with an attractive student, ran a gauntlet of 3-minute speed dates or rated a series of online dating profiles custom-made for the study. After each dating encounter, the singles rated their potential partner's attractiveness, "dateability," and how friendly or withdrawn they seemed. Across every trial, daters who were more concerned with germs and infection (measured by higher PVD scores) were consistently rated as less friendly than daters who weren't. Germophobes also reported feeling less romantic interest in their partners than the less-finicky participants did.

To make sure this correlation was more than a coincidence, the researchers ran a final speed-dating experiment in which half of the participants first watched a 2-minute video called "Top 10 Revolting Hygiene Facts," while the other half watched a control video about words with no English equivalents. During the following speed-dating game, participants primed with the gross-out video reported "significantly less romantic interest" than the control group did, according to the study.

"The results suggest that, beyond how we consciously or unconsciously think and feel about each other, there are additional factors that we may not be consciously aware of — such as a fear of disease — that may influence how we connect with others," Sawada said.

If this resonates with your own love life, consider that kissing itself may have evolved as an immunological tool. Every time you swap saliva, you also swap pheromones, hormones and millions of bacteria that may contain important genetic information about your partner. Whether you'd prefer to learn that information this way is up to you — and your immune system, of course.


April 18th 2018

This is when the 2018 hay fever season will start

Spring and summer are wonderful seasons, filled with blossoming flowers, sunshine and warmth. But for hay fever sufferers, this time of year can cause worry and discomfort.

As pollen count increases, hay fever sufferers dread the oncoming symptoms, including a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing. That's why it's always good to be prepared.

When will hay fever season start in 2018?

According to an environment expert, hay fever symptoms are set to start as early as mid-April in 2018.

“We have some milder weather forecast which will help to stretch the birch tree catkins, so this should allow the start [of hay fever season] to occur in the second week of April,” Beverley Adams Groom, from the Institute of Science and Environment at the University of Worcester, told HuffPost.

There are different types of pollen which affects when they will hit. Birch pollen is expected mid to late April, oak pollen is expected in May and grass pollen in June and early July. 

People who live in the city will be hit by a double whammy of air pollution and pollen, dubbed 'pollenution', meaning symptoms could be much worse there compared to the countryside.

Why does hay fever occur?

People who have an allergy to pollen will experience symptoms because their body produces allergic antibodies. Chemicals are released from the cells in the nose, eyes and throat, which cause inflammation and irritation.

Aside from the common symptoms, hay fever can also result in disturbed sleep and a lack of energy and concentration.

How to cope with hay fever

1. Avoid alcohol

Your body produces histamine as part of the allergy reaction, which in turn, causes inflammation to fend off any perceived attack. But the problem with alcohol is that it also contains histamine which can aggravate your symptoms.

2. Wear sunglasses

The eyes make promising targets for pollen, so if you don't wear prescription lenses, you might want to consider wearing a pair of shades to minimise their exposure.

3. Shower every night

This will get rid of any pollen stuck in your hair and particles on your skin.

4. Add spice to your food

Add a generous portion of garlic, ginger and chilli to your food – they've been shown to ease the symptoms of congestion.

5. Smear some Vaseline under your nose

Before heading outdoors, spread a bit of Vaseline on the inside of the bottom of your nose, this should act as a trap for at least some pollen particles.

6. Keep your windows closed in the morning and evening

This is when pollen count is higher so reduce the impact by closing windows.

7. Change your clothes

As soon as you get home, change your clothes so you do not transfer pollen from outside all over the house.


April 16th 2018

Carbon dioxide from ships at sea to be regulated for first time

Shipping firms to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as part of historic agreement

 Smoke rises from a ferry docked in Dover. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Carbon dioxide from ships at sea will be regulated for the first time following a historic agreement reached after two weeks of detailed talks in London.

Shipping companies will halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 under the plan, brokered by the International Maritime Organization and binding across its 170 member states.

The agreement will require a revolution among ships, which are overwhelmingly fuelled by heavy oils at present. In future, they will have to not only be more energy-efficient, but also make use of cleaner energy, in the form of batteries supplying electricity, solar and wind electricity generation, and perhaps even a return to sail in some cases, or more controversially to nuclear power, as some warships already use.

Environmental campaigners said the plan was not enough given the urgency of tackling climate change, though they welcomed the deal, which has taken decades of work. Greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and aviation were omitted from the 1997 Kyoto protocol and have been excluded from regulations on carbon ever since, even though shipping is used for 80% of global trade.

Although shipping accounts for only about 2% of global carbon emissions, it has been a cause of particular concern, both because of the increased need for transport under the globalising economy and because many ships use dirty, carbon-rich fuels such as heavy diesel, which would be banned in many countries from onshore transport.

Campaigners said cuts of at least 70% from shipping emissions by 2050, compared with the 2008 baseline chosen by the IMO, would be needed to meet the aims of the landmark 2015 Paris agreement, under which countries have agreed that temperature rises should be limited to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.

John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition and senior policy adviser at the campaigning group Seas at Risk, said: “We have an important

agreement and this level of ambition will ultimately require a sector-wide shift to new fuels and propulsion technologies. But what happens next is crucial. The IMO must move swiftly to introduce measures that will cut emissions deeply and quickly in the short term – without these, the goals of the Paris agreement will remain out of reach.”

Sveinung Oftedal, chair of the negotiations at the IMO for the Norwegian government, compared the achievement to the space race, saying: “Like Apollo 11 returning to Earth, we knew we needed to land and we did.”

Countries holding out against a stronger agreement included Brazil, Panama, Saudi Arabia and the US, according to Bill Hemmings, shipping director at Transport & Environment, an NGO. The EU and many Pacific islands were among those pressing for a stronger deal.

April 6th 2018

Hay fever risk shoots up as Britain thaws and trees burst into flower

After weeks and months of snow, ice and bitterly cold temperatures Britain is finally thawing - but with it comes the threat of a hay fever time bomb set to explode TODAY. 

Temperatures could soar to 18 degrees C - the hottest day of 2018 so far.

Allergen-heavy trees are poised to burst into flower over the coming days and weeks in a delayed start to spring.

A sudden surge in highly-irritant pollen particles could see millions of sufferers struck down at the same time.

People previously unaffected by the condition are at risk of streaming noses and runny eyes due to exceptionally high pollen counts.

Trees usually start flowering from the start of March bringing a gradual build up to the hay-fever season.

However weeks of below-average temperatures through the start of spring have put pollen production on hold.

The usual culprits including Birch, alder, horse chestnut and hazel were stopped in their tracks by the Beast from the East, which sent thermometers plunging at the start of March.

Further cold weather throughout the start of spring has put pollen production on hold at a time when some sufferers would start to notice their symptoms.

Now with fine weather just around the corner trees are about to go into a sudden flowering frenzy, experts warn.

Millions of hay fever sufferers face being caught unawares with unusually high levels of pollen expected to fill the air.

Allergy expert Max Wiseberg and creator of HayMax barrier balm said: "The main allergen-producing trees in the UK are the birch, alder, horse chestnut and hazel.

"Pollen production for these trees usually takes place from March to May, most early-season hay-fever sufferers are allergic to these particular varieties.

"These trees produce their pollens when a certain temperature is reached, birch trees need several dry days with temperatures in the mid-teens before they will start to release their pollen.

"The recent cold wintry weather means that trees are waiting for the warmer weather to release do this.

"When the tree pollen season is delayed, more trees are likely to release their pollen at the same time, creating a 'time bomb' waiting to explode.

"Peaks of tree pollen could be higher than normal, which may cause worse symptoms and also affect people who have not been allergic before.

"The recent cold wintry weather caused by the Beast from the East has provided the optimum conditions for this to happen."

Allergy expert David Carson, founder of pollen-monitoring App HayFeverRelief, said this year's hay-fever season could be much worse than last summer's.

"Usually from January to March the tree pollen season starts, then as we move from April into June we see the grass pollen production start," he said.

"But because of the recent very cold weather, nothing has developed there has been no real pollen count.

"However when the weather picks up grass and trees will start releasing pollen at the same time and it will affect more people.

"For people who suffer from broth grass and tree pollen allergies their symptoms are likely to be much worse.

"I would imagine that, although starting later, the pollen season this year will be much worse than last year."

Temperatures are expected to rise over the coming week with thermometers widely expected to hit double figures.

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, accounts for 16.7 million visits to the doctor each year, according to Allergy UK.

Feb 20th 2018

Top tips to combat allergies in the spring

With spring just around the corner, many allergy sufferers will be braced for a season of discomfort and suffering, as pollen count increases. 

Around 35% of the population will be affected by one form of allergy at some stage in their lives, and this figure is even higher in children, with 50% suffering from an allergy.

Hay fever is one of the most common allergies, affecting around 25% of the population, with most allergic to grass pollen. This means that spring and summer can be difficult for those with this allergy during pollen season.

Other common allergies come from dust mites, mould spores and pet dander, which can trigger different reactions, from respiratory reactions like asthma to eczema skin reactions. The intensity of the response varies from person to person.

Chris Michael, director of Meaco, the air purifier specialist, gives his top tips on relieving the symptoms caused from a variety of allergies to make your spring much happier...

1. Check the pollen count every day so you can plan your life around this.

2. When the count is high, do not dry laundry outside as pollen can stick to your clothes.

3. If you have outdoor activities in mind, then do them after a rain shower. This is when pollen count will be at its lowest.

4. As soon as you get home, change your clothes so you do nottransfer pollen from outside all over the house.

5. Rather than wait for spring to carry out your spring clean, do it just before so you don't have to deal with hay fever and dust at the same time.

6. Clean mould in the bathroom regularly to avoid the spread of mould spores.

7. Good ventilation is key in removing allergens so make sure the bathroom and kitchen are well aired to help remove excess moisture.

8. When levels of damp are lower, there are less mould spores and dust mites. You can buy a dehumidifier to reduce moisture levels in your home.

Feb 15th 2018

Coal-loving Poland struggles with killer smog

Smog kills tens of thousands of Poles each year, yet environmental activists say the right-wing government of the coal-loving nation has been dragging its feet on combating air pollution.

On some winter days, a grey haze obscures the lights of the Polish capital's skyscrapers and the air smells like burning plastic.

"It's starting again. Warsaw is second on Air Visual, just after Kathmandu, and ahead of Calcutta and New Delhi," says Maria, a Polish mother of three young children, as she checks an air quality monitor on her smartphone while sipping her morning coffee.

A 2016 World Health Organization report revealed that an eye-popping 33 of Europe's 50 most polluted cities were in Poland.

The European Environmental Agency meanwhile blames air pollution for an estimated 50,000 premature deaths per year in the country of 38 million.

Pollution is especially severe in the south, cradle of Poland's coal industry -- whose hub, the city of Katowice, is set to host the COP24 conference on global warming in December.

Feeding the smog dragon

Many Poles have lost faith in the ability of institutions to address the scourge, instead taking matters into their own hands.

"In our town of Pszczyna, Poland's second most polluted city, we have to do something," said Jan Franek, a 16-year-old member of a student group against smog.

"Many of our older residents don't believe in smog. According to them, you can't see it so it doesn't exist," he added while on a visit to Warsaw to back an anti-pollution petition.

The student activists, whose group name plays on the similarity of the words smog and smok (dragon in Polish) and translates as "Don't feed the smog", were on hand when the petition was delivered to the energy ministry.

Signed by 36,000 people, the petition launched by Greenpeace Poland and local politicians calls on the government to impose strict standards for coal quality.

Millions of Poles heat their homes with often low-quality coal, which is the main source of air pollution ahead of cars and industry.

The government pledged to introduce coal standards in March 2017 but has yet to do so. The only measure taken by the state has been to ban the sale of old, low-quality boilers.

But according to Marek Jozefiak, coordinator of Greenpeace Poland's climate and energy campaigns, "Modern boilers aren't enough if we continue to burn low-quality, polluting coal."

The same applies for garbage, which gives off hazardous fumes when burned in coal stoves, still a common practice.

Powerful coal lobby 

According to pollution watchdog Polish Smog Alert, part of the problem is that the official pollution norm hides the severity of the issue.

"If we applied the pollution threshold adopted in France here in Poland, many cities would be in a state of alert for dozens of days, some even for two months out of the year," says PAS activist Piotr Siergiej.

While PM10 particle pollution is considered dangerous in Poland from 300 micrograms per cubic metre, the threshold is 80 micrograms in France.

The government has promised no changes in the short term, and green activists accuse it of being influenced by the powerful coal lobby.

Technology Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz has voiced concern over the high death toll from pollution-related illnesses, promising that "an improvement" will be felt within five years.

She cites measures including higher coal quality standards, subsidies to help the poor insulate their homes, replace old polluting stoves or afford clean heating.

For Maria, the Warsaw mother-of-three, five years is too long to wait.

"By that point my children will have breathed in all these microparticles that will remain in their lungs or even their blood," she said.

Feb 10th 2018

More bad news on the subject of air pollution. We have known for many years that container ships and large cargo vessels, burn bunker fuel when they are away from land and the reason for this is simply that it is so polluting that port authorities will not allow them to use it anywhere near the docks.

There is another fuel that the ships could when out to sea, but the financial greed of the owners is so strong that against all other considerations they feel it is necessary to use bunker fuel purely because it is only 25% of the cost of the clean fuel.

The distressing fact that I have just discovered is that this scandal applies just as much to the giant cruise ships as it does to cargo ships, so you should think about this the next time you are planning to go on a cruise.

The most shocking statistic is that just 14 of these big ships put as much carbon into the atmosphere as all the world's millions of cars.

Feb 5th 2018

Health risks of shipping pollution have been 'underestimated'

One giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars, study finds 

Britain and other European governments have been accused of underestimating the health risks from shipping pollution following research which shows that one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.

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Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760 million cars. Low-grade ship bunker fuel (or fuel oil) has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.

Pressure is mounting on the UN's International Maritime Organisation and the EU to tighten laws governing ship emissions following the decision by the US government last week to impose a strict 230-mile buffer zone along the entire US coast, a move that is expected to be followed by Canada.

The setting up of a low emission shipping zone follows US academic research which showed that pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%.

The new study by the Danish government's environmental agency adds to this picture. It suggests that shipping emissions cost the Danish health service almost £5bn a year, mainly treating cancers and heart problems. A previous study estimated that 1,000 Danish people die prematurely each year because of shipping pollution. No comprehensive research has been carried out on the effects on UK coastal communities, but the number of deaths is expected to be much higher.

Europe, which has some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, has dramatically cleaned up sulphur and nitrogen emissions from land-based transport in the past 20 years but has resisted imposing tight laws on the shipping industry, even though the technology exists to remove emissions. Cars driving 15,000km a year emit approximately 101 grammes of sulphur oxide gases (or SOx) in that time. The world's largest ships' diesel engines which typically operate for about 280 days a year generate roughly 5,200 tonnes of SOx.

The EU plans only two low-emission marine zones which should come into force in the English channel and Baltic sea after 2015. However, both are less stringent than the proposed US zone, and neither seeks to limit deadly particulate emissions.

Shipping emissions have escalated in the past 15 years as China has emerged as the world's manufacturing capital. A new breed of intercontinental container ship has been developed which is extremely cost-efficient. However, it uses diesel engines as powerful as land-based power stations but with the lowest quality fuel.

"Ship pollution affects the health of communities in coastal and inland regions around the world, yet pollution from ships remains one of the least regulated parts of our global transportation system," said James Corbett, professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware, one of the authors of the report which helped persuade the US government to act.

Today a spokesman for the UK government's Maritime and Coastguard Agencyaccepted there were major gaps in the legislation. "Issues of particulate matter remain a concern. They need to be addressed and we look forward to working with the international community," said environment policy director Jonathan Simpson.

"Europe needs a low emission zone right around its coasts, similar to the US, if we are to meet health and environmental objectives," said Crister Agrena of the Air Pollution and Climate Secretariat in Gothenburg, one of Europe's leading air quality organisations.

"It is unacceptable that shipping remains one of the most polluting industries in the world. The UK must take a lead in cleaning up emissions," said Simon Birkett, spokesman for the Campaign for Clean Air in London. "Other countries are planning radical action to achieve massive health and other savings but the UK is strangely inactive."

The calculations of ship and car pollution are based on the world's largest 85,790KW ships' diesel engines which operate about 280 days a year generating roughly 5,200 tonnes of SOx a year, compared with diesel and petrol cars which drive 15,000km a year and emit approximately 101gm of SO2/SoX a year.

Shipping by numbers

The world's biggest container ships have 109,000 horsepower engines which weigh 2,300 tons.

Each ship expects to operate 24hrs a day for about 280 days a year

There are 90,000 ocean-going cargo ships

Shipping is responsible for 18-30% of all the world's nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution and 9% of the global sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution.

One large ship can generate about 5,000 tonnes of sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution in a year

70% of all ship emissions are within 400km of land.

85% of all ship pollution is in the northern hemisphere.

Shipping is responsible for 3.5% to 4% of all climate change emissions

This article was amended on 25 August 2015 to correct the number of deaths per year attributed to pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships.



Jan 11th 2018

Airbus’ hold on EU aviation policy exposed

Published on December 5, 2017 - 10:45

Just released emails between Airbus and the European Commission expose the extent of the company’s hold on EU aviation policy. The aeronautics giant was given special privileges in determining essential aspects of the EU’s position when drafting climate rules for new aircraft at the UN aviation body, ICAO.

 between the Transport Directorate of the Commission (known as DG MOVE) and Airbus show the Commission allowed the company to directly amend the EU’s negotiating position for ICAO – even though Airbus is a major aviation player to be regulated by the rules under negotiation. The correspondence was obtained by T&E via an access to documents request, after Airbus and ICAO opposed the public disclosure of the emails. The documents were finally released after an 18-month appeal process.

In one email Airbus accepted the track changes made by the Commission while proposing ‘final comments’. These changes were made, the email states, after checking with Germany and Spain, which are regarded – along with France – as the ‘Airbus nations’ due to national stakes in the company and the employment that it provides nationally. Another email also shows that Airbus explicitly requested confirmation that the EU would ‘respect those red lines’.

The result is a global aircraft standard which will do nothing to cut the sector’s soaring emissions. The standard was agreed in 2016 behind closed doors at ICAO. At the time T&E said the measure was completely ineffective and essentially the result of negotiations between the US, the EU and the Boeing/Airbus duopoly. Now the emails show the extent to which that regulatory process was steeped in secrecy and corporate interests, entirely removed from the normal European democratic process.

T&E’s aviation manager Andrew Murphy said: ‘Now we know: when it comes to the climate, Europe lets Airbus write its own rules. The result of this direct interference in lawmaking is a standard tailored to Airbus’ needs, with climate and public health the losers.’

The EU’s willingness to go beyond such environmental standards set down by ICAO is currently at issue in talks between the European Parliament and EU governments. MEPs want the the EU aviation agency EASA, which currently adopts aircraft environmental standards into law in Europe, to be able to make more stringent rules for aircraft in EU airspace instead of simply copy and pasting ICAO rules into EU law. No other state in the world restricts their own sovereignty in such way.

But national governments don’t want to give the EU the power to adopt standards that go beyond ICAO‘s lowest common denominator requirements – rules on CO2 emissions but also noise, NOx, PM and potentially the sonic boom of supersonic jets. Both the Parliament and the European Council will eventually have to vote on any deal between the two that emerges.

Andrew Murphy added: ‘These emails and the latest EASA episode show there is a clear need to reform the way decisions are taken in Europe regarding aircraft environmental regulations. The Commission must act in an independent and transparent manner giving proper weight to environmental and climate considerations. Parliament must insist that European rules are decided in Europe through full parliamentary scrutiny and that officials in member states and the Commission act with complete transparency and independence. Without this, industry will continue to write its own rules and aviation emissions will continue to soar.’

Meanwhile, the European Commission and EU member states have controversially agreed to almost entirely remove sustainability criteria for bio jet fuel. They acquiesced to other ICAO member countries to trash 10 sustainability points out of 12, originally agreed by ICAO’s environment committee, which will mean that highly unsustainable biofuels would qualify for the aviation’s global carbon offsetting scheme dubbed CORSIA.

The sustainability rules also have implications beyond CORSIA because they will become the de facto global standard for biofuel use in the aviation sector. The EU and other ICAO countries removed sustainability safeguards such as rules on land rights, food security, labour rights and biodiversity protection. The only rules to survive are a -10% greenhouse gas reduction target for biofuels compared to regular jet fuel and a ban on crops grown on land that was deforested 

T&E’s analysis and climate manager, Carlos Calvo Ambel, said: ‘Commissioner Bulc has professed her support for advanced and sustainable bio jet fuel as key to decarbonising aviation. However, when it came to defending sustainability criteria for aviation biofuels at ICAO, the Europeans were quick to cave in to Brazil, rendering the global rules largely meaningless. This whole episode provides yet another warning that ICAO’s flagship initiative to decarbonise aviation, CORSIA, risks becoming a complete shambles.’


Dec 7th 2017

London's toxic air causing lower birth weights in babies, study finds

London's polluted air is leading to lower birth weights in babies, which in turn is linked to infant mortality and diseases later in life, a major study has found.

The study by scientists from Imperial College London, Kings College and St George's, published in the British Medical Journal, found that London mothers exposed to higher levels of damaging PM2.5 particles caused by traffic are up to six per cent more likely to give birth to a baby with low birth weight.

PM2.5s are smaller particulates that can bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs, causing premature mortality, aggravation of the respiratory system and cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Rachel Smith, research associate at Imperial, said the findings were significant but that Londoners should stay calm. "First of all pregnant women shouldn't panic," she said.

"The increased risk is relatively small compared with smoking, which we know raises the risk of low birth rate.

"But even if it is a small increased risk, all Londoners are exposed to air pollution and it's difficult for individuals to make an impact on their exposure."

She said the findings should be a wake-up call to policy-makers as they consider the impact traffic emissions have on ordinary people.

"It is exactly 65 years since the Great Smog of London that caused many deaths, and the response to that was the Clean Air Act. Air pollution is again damaging the health of Londoners even before they are born," she said.

She added: "Introducing policies restricting the use of diesel will have the most health benefit."

Low birth weight - defined as less than 2,500 grams - is consistently linked to higher rates of infant mortality as well as diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems in later life.

Although the study looked at various pollutants including nitrogen dioxide and ozone, PM2.5 was found to be the most influential factor on low birth weight.

Three per cent of all cases of low birth weight in babies born at term in London were thought by researchers to be "directly attributable" to exposure to PM2.5 concentrations of more than 13.8 micrograms/m3.

Data from the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory showed in October that every area of London exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for PM2.5 of 10 micrograms/m3. In central London the average annual levels are nearly double the WHO limit of 10 micrograms/m3.

Researchers said the study suggests that a reduction of 10 per cent in average PM2.5 levels would prevent 90 babies, or three per cent of cases, from being born at term with low birth weight each year in London.

The study, by scientists at Imperial College London and published in the British Medical Journal, examined birth data from inside the M25 from 2006 to 2010.

In what is believed to be the largest UK study on air pollution and birthweight, data from

about 670,000 births was cross-referenced against the mother's address.

Addresses were checked against a dispersion model based on London emissions data for average monthly concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and PM2.5 and PM10 particles.

Children exposed to PM2.5s are more likely to grow up with reduced lung function and develop asthma.

Nov 31st 2017

If you can't wait to put up your Christmas tree, then take note before you deck the halls because experts are now warning that the festive must-have may pose an unexpected health risk...

And it's to do with the mould and dust that may be hiding on your real or fake tree.

Leading charity Asthma UK is urging people to be vigilant over the festive period, as their data shows that an average of 300 people are admitted to hospital on 25 December each year as a result of severe asthma attacks that may be linked to their Christmas trees.

Speaking to The Sun, Asthma UK's in-house GP, Dr Andy Whittamore, said: 'Mould can be a real problem for the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK, causing allergic reactions that can trigger asthma symptoms and, in some cases, life-threatening asthma attacks.

'Most of the time mould is obvious in the home, but many people don't realise that mould also naturally grows on Christmas trees.

'This is made worse when people turn their heating on, as the warmer temperature encourages mould to grow faster.

'The best thing people can do to prevent asthma symptoms is to take their preventer medicine as prescribed.'

And, even if you prefer a fake tree, you're not necessarily in the clear, the charity explains on its website.

'Artificial/fake trees and decorations can gather mould and dust while they're in the garage, loft or spare room,' it says.

If you have asthma, the charity says the following steps should be taken to decrease your risk of symptoms:

Wipe down your artificial tree and decorations with a damp cloth to remove the dust.

When you pack the tree and decorations away, use plastic bags and boxes so they're less likely to collect dust.

Who knew this festive favourite could pose a health risk?

Nov 23rd 2017

Cooking a full English breakfast or stir fry could cause hazardous indoor air pollution, scientists have found.

Researchers from the Texas Tech and Utah State universities found hot oil sends tiny droplets of fat into the air which can be potentially dangerous when breathed in.

The microscopic droplets, formed by the reaction caused when oil meets water, then contribute to indoor air pollution, believed to kill millions each year.

In order to test their theory, scientists heated a pan of oil and recorded what happened when small amounts of water were added to the hot oil in the pan.

As the water evaporates, tiny explosions send oil droplets into the air. If the room is not ventilated properly, these small hazardous droplets can be breathed in.

According to the Daily Mail, assistant professor Jeremy Marston from Texas Tech said: “Regardless of culinary skills, most people who have used a stove top have encountered the result of water interacting with hot oil.

“We’ve discovered that a very large number of small oil droplets are released when even a single, small droplet of water comes into contact with hot oil.”

Foods with high water content were the most harmful, examples being chicken and vegetables, ingredients usually used in a stir fry.

Professor Marston said: “It’s known that millions of deaths worldwide occur due to indoor air pollution, but we don’t know yet how much cooking in poorly ventilated kitchens contributes to it.”

Nov 20th 2017

It's long been known that trees help keep our air clean, and new research now shows they could have a dramatic effect on the number of people admitted to hospital with asthma-related issues.

Experts are calling for more UK streets to be lined with trees, after the largest ever study looked into the impact of urban greenery on the respiratory condition – finding that planting greenery could help offset the dangerous effects of traffic fumes.

Here's what you need to know...

The study

Scientists from the University of Exeter looked at more than 650,000 serious asthma attack cases over the course of 15 years in England. They then compared roughly 26,000 urban neighbourhoods, after which a clear link was formed between areas with lots of trees and lower rates of asthma attacks.

The findings hold true even though tree pollen can often trigger asthma. This suggests that, in highly polluted areas, the pollution-absorbing effect of trees is greater than their allergic impact. All in all, it was concluded that trees do "significantly more good than harm," with every extra 300 trees per square kilometre resulting in about 50 fewer emergency asthma cases per 100,000 residents. Commenting on the study, lead researcher Dr Ian Alcock said:

"Greenspace and gardens were associated with reductions in asthma hospitalisation at lower pollutant levels, but not in the most polluted urban areas. With trees it was the other way round."

He added:

"It may be that grass pollens become more allergenic when combined with air pollutants so that the benefits of greenspace diminish as pollution increases. In contrast, trees can effectively remove pollutants from the air, and this may explain why they appear to be most beneficial where concentrations are high."

Also speaking on the matter was Dr Rachel McInnes – Met Office senior climate impact scientist and co-author of the study. She said:

"We also know that the interaction between pollen and air pollution, and the effect on health and asthma is highly complex and this study confirms that more research is required in this area."

July 10th 2017

Commuters who travel regularly on the London Underground are breathing in around 12 million toxic ‘nanodust’ particles every single minute, according to figures released by Transport for London.The tiny particles comprised mostly of iron oxide are generated by the train’s wheels as they interact with the rails and are small enough to directly enter organs and even the brain.

According to the British Lung Foundation, the particles can include copper, chromium, manganese and zinc.

Inhaling any of these particles then increase a person’s risk of asthma, lung and cardiovascular disease as well as increasing the risk of dementia.

The shocking figures were revealed after The Sunday Times issued a Freedom of Information request to TfL asking for the air quality figures from each of its underground lines.

Trawling through the monitoring data it was found that on the Central Line that particle levels reached a whopping 2 million particles per litre of air. Considering humans breathe on average 10-12 litres of air per minute it stands to reason that on average a person could be inhaling some 12-20 million particles at any given moment.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long been highlighting the risks of both indoor and outdoor air pollution, citing that humans shouldn’t consume more than 50 micrograms of particles per cubic meter every 24 hours.

While the figures seemingly exceed that TfL has insisted that commuters are not at risk because they spend very little time actually commuting.


Air pollution is reportedly responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people in the UK every single year, while WHO reports that indoor air pollution alone is killing 99,000 people every year in Europe.

Yet despite these shocking figures cities are struggling to keep air quality under control.

London set a damming precedent after it breached its air pollution targets for the whole of 2017 within the first five days of the year.

Since then numerous air quality warnings have been issued with residents advised to stay indoors or minimise the amount of travelling they do outside.

Paris has taken drastic measures to try and curb its air pollution. At the beginning of this year it banned all vehicles registered before the year 2000 while imposing strict new parking rules, charging users ‘pollution tickets’ and reducing the costs of public transport.

In addition Paris officials started rolling out a network of ‘Smart Trees’ that combine advanced air quality sensors with moss cultures that can reduce the amount of fine dust in the air.

July 6th 2017

Air pollution is a LOT worse for your life expectancy than experts originally thought

Air pollution for city-dwellers is nothing new , but many might be horrified to learn how badly the problem could be affecting them.

Original estimates put the damage of exposure to air pollution at a couple of years off the average human's lifespan. But a new formula developed at a university in Denmark paints a much bleaker picture.

It estimates that air pollution will be responsible for knocking a DECADE off your life expectancy.

Professor Mikael Skou Andersen from Aarhus University calculated that an increase of pollution particles by 10 micrograms per cubic metre will kill the population 10 years earlier.

The UK government is currently facing legal action from environmental group ClientEarth for failing to properly tackle nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution.

But Professor Andersen believes governments will never take the problem of air pollution seriously until someone can prove the financial cost of premature deaths. This was the goal that spurred his research.

"The existing literature is ambiguous and there are differences in the approaches adopted in the EU and the USA for how to account for such costs," he said.

"People are willing to pay a price to reduce risks for dying prematurely, provided we have an understanding of the implications and magnitudes of such risks."

In the United States, cost-benefit analysis of reducing air pollution is calculated based on the number of lives saved - and each life is currently estimated to be worth $7.4 million (£5.7million).

However, Europe estimates cost based on life expectancy and assumes that most victims are in their 70s and 80s. If only a year or two is lost from this age bracket, then there's not much of a financial consequence.

But if between nine and 11 years - what Professor Andersen's research shows - is lost, then the financial impact is much greater. In fact, it could run into the billions

"There is concern about air pollution and its health impacts, more so following 'diesel-gate'," said Prof. Andersen.

"But many European countries are unable to meet the air pollution standards they have agreed to in the European Union. We need to understand the true impact of long-term exposure to air pollution to develop better informed policies and reduce fossil fuel consumption."

The study is set to appear in the August issue of the scientific journal Ecological Indicators.

June 20th 2017

Contaminated air supply on planes is causing short and long-term health problems, claims a new study published in the World Health Organisation journal Public Health Panorama.

The study, conducted by the University of Stirling in conjunction with the University of Ulster, says there is a clear link between exposure to air contaminated by oil and other aircraft fluids, and a plethora of health issues.

Dr Susan Michaelis of the University of Stirling’s occupational and environmental health research group says: “There is a clear cause-and-effect relationship linking health effects to a design feature that allows the aircraft air supply to become contaminated by engine oils and other fluids in normal flight. This is a clear occupational and public health issue with direct flight-safety consequences."

The study leader, who has a PHD in this field, tells The Independent that airlines have been aware of the problem for 60 years, but refuse to acknowledge the associated health risks of a design flaw on planes that means air can come straight from the engine, unfiltered, into the cabin.

“They won’t admit it because of money and liability,” says Dr Michaelis. “They knew about this problem in the 1950s. It’s unconscionable that they haven’t dealt with it.

“They have the technology to eliminate the problem – but manufacturers are refusing to use it.”

According to Dr Michaelis, airlines that have done studies in this field in the past have manipulated the data for their own ends.

“We need true independent studies. The studies from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and airlines themselves will say they’re independent. They’re not. The results they come out with are really just political statements to delay us.”

The study, which looked at over 200 cabin crew who had been exposed to a number of substances through aircrafts’ contaminated air, found a pattern of acute and chronic symptoms, ranging from headaches and dizziness to breathing and vision problems.

Dr Michaelis says long-term problems caused by exposure can include neurological and cognitive problems, heart arrhythmias, fatigue, long-term breathing problems and long-term gastro-intestinal problems. “That’s consistent with the toxicology of these substances,” she says.

Dr Michaelis, along with Vyvyan Howard, professor of pathology and toxicology at the University of Ulster, and Jonathan Burdon, a consultant respiratory physician, conducted two independent surveys to review the circumstances and symptoms of aircrew working in the pressurised environment of aircraft. The symptoms were confirmed using medical diagnoses.

April 22nd 2017

The National Grid has announced Britain’s first full day without coal power “since the Industrial Revolution”.

A combination of low demand for electricity and an abundance of wind meant the grid completed 24 hours relying on just gas, nuclear and renewables.

Engineers at the company said Friday marked a “historic” milestone in Britain’s shift away from carbon fuels, and that coal-free days would become increasingly common.

Use of the fossil fuel has significantly declined in recent years, accounting for just 9 per cent of electricity generation last year, down from 23 per cent in 2015, with the closure or conversion of coal plants.

The Government has pledged to phase out coal - the most polluting fossil fuel - from the system by 2025 as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions in the UK.

The electricity grid has been coal-free a number of times since spring last year, but until now the longest continuous period had been 19 hours, first achieved on a weekend last May.

By 10.50pm on Friday the UK had not needed to call on coal-generated power in 24 hours, since West Burton 1 power station went offline on Thursday, the only one of Britain's nine coal-burning plants that was operating.

The “watershed” moment marks the first day Britain’s electricity system has survived without coal since the world’s first centralised public coal-fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London in 1882.

“The Industrial Revolution started with coal and it’s been the absolute backbone of our power for most of the time since,” said Duncan Burt, head of real-time operations at the National Grid.

“It’s a very proud moment for us to be there on the first day when we weren’t burning coal.”

He said he expected the grid to achieve more coal-free days as the summer progresses towards the period of low demand and high solar power in August, adding that overall demand for electricity was being tempered by more efficient homes and appliances.

“Days like this will become more and more common in the next two or three years, and by the early 2020s burning coal will become increasingly rare,” he said.

Cordi O’Hara, Director of System Operator said: “To have the first working day without coal since the start of the industrial revolution is a watershed moment in how our energy system is changing. The UK benefits from highly diverse and flexible sources of electricity.

"Our energy mix continues to change and National Grid adapts system operation to embrace these changes. However, it’s important to remember coal is still an important source of energy as we transition to a low carbon system.”

Greenpeace UK welcomed yesterday’s expected milestone.

The campaign group’s head of energy, Hannah Martin, said: “A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have been radically transformed again.”

April 19th 2017

For many people, the onset of spring means the beginning of the dreaded hay fever season, bringing symptoms including watery eyes, an itchy throat and frequent sneezing. Whilst over the counter medicines often help to reduce symptoms, these in themselves can bring with nasty side effects. However, alternative steps can also be taken for more natural relief, including incorporating different foods, vitamins and minerals into your diet. Leading nutritionist, Sarah Flower, gives us the low down on the best hay fever busting foods.

1. Quercetin: There have been numerous studies into the powerful anti-histamine effect of this flavonoid, which can help to reduce inflammation. Over the counter hay fever relief tends to inhibit the effect of histamine, but quercetin inhibits the release of histamine, stopping the reaction in its tracks. To up the quercetin in your diet, opt for foods including berries, parsley, onions, and peppers.

2. Biotin: Biotin is a B vitamin which helps to maintain the healthy function of mucous membranes which can be found in your nose, sinuses, throat and even the tear ducts. Try consuming more offal, fish, egg yolks, avocados, green leafy vegetables and nuts to get your recommended dose. For those who prefer a supplement form, I recommend New Era H (£8.79, available from powerhealth.co.uk) which contains Biotin. These 'FastMelt' mineral cell salts dissolve under the tongue instantly and get to work faster than other hay fever remedies thanks to their rapid absorption into the blood stream.

3. Herbal teas: Certain herbs have a natural antihistamine effect. Opt for green tea, chamomile, elderflower, ginger, peppermint and anise to limit the effects of hay fever and sip these throughout the day. They will also help to keep you hydrated, so it's a win-win.

4. Probiotics: A healthy gut flora is essential for a strong immune system. Don't be fooled by probiotic drinks - to really help replenish your gut flora, opt for a multi-strain probiotic supplement. You can also get probiotics naturally through fermented foods such as sauerkraut, bone broths, gelatine, natural and Kefir yoghurt.

5. Local Honey:There is some strong evidence to show that consuming local honey can help to limit the effects of hay fever as it exposes you to the same pollen, helping your body to naturally form a tolerance. If you like honey, it is certainly worth a shot, but it is key to source local honey, which can normally be found in local independent health stores.

6. Garlic: An underrated food which can help block the production of histamine and soothe hay fever symptoms. Try to incorporate garlic into your daily meals or opt for a good quality supplement.

7. Vitamin D: A vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the development of allergies and autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D also supports the healthy gut bacteria. Try to spend time outdoors every day, or incorporate a supplement containing Vitamin D into your diet.

What Foods to Eat to Beat Hay Fever

(Provided by Reader's Digest)

April 12th 2017

Air pollution is the fourth biggest public health risk in the country, alongside cancer, obesity and heart disease, the Prime Minister has admitted.

Replying to a letter signed by 220 doctors, warning that "time is running out" to deal with the UK’s "toxic air scandal" Theresa May also admitted: "It disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, people with lung and heart conditions, and the very young."

The letter states that children’s lung growth is being stunted by toxic pollution, which is leading to other health problems, notably asthma.

In her letter, the Prime Minister blamed diesel vehicles as a major cause of the problem. Diesel cars received subsidies by the Labour government, on the basis that they emit less carbon dioxide than petrol-powered cars, but it is now known they emit other harmful pollutants, known as nitrogen oxides. It has also since been revealed their levels of emissions were covered up by Volkswagen, in a major scandal.

Emphasising the Government’s determination to tackle the problem, the Prime Minister said: "Poor air quality is the fourth largest risk to public health, behind only cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

"It disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, people with lung and heart conditions, and the very young."

The Prime Minister has been urged to begin phasing out diesel vehicles, but motorists who were encouraged to buy them by the government are now very angry that new incentives to discourage their use has rendered their cars worthless.

A recent study by the London Mayor’s office linked toxic air pollution to 9,000 deaths a year.

Replying to Professor Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, the Prime Minister added: "I agree with you that one of the main reasons our cities continue to face pollution problems is the significant levels of NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions that diesel vehicles produce."

"Harmful emissions from transport contribute significantly to the air quality challenge we face."

Ministers had committed more than £2 billion since 2011 to encourage motorists to buy ultra-low emission vehicles and support greener transport schemes.

Tens of thousands of “smog refugees” have reportedly fled China’s pollution-stricken north after the country was hit by its latest “airpocalyse” forcing almost half a billion people to live under a blanket of toxic fumes. 

Huge swaths of north and central China have been living under a pollution “red alert” since last Friday when a dangerous cocktail of pollutants transformed the skies into a yellow and charcoal-tinted haze.

Greenpeace claimed the calamity had affected a population equivalent to those of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined with some 460m people having to breathe either hazardous pollution or heavy levels of smog in recent days.

Lauri Myllyvirta, a Beijing-based Greenpeace activist who has been chronicling the red alert on Twitter, said that in an attempt to shield his lungs he was avoiding going outside and using two air purifiers and an industrial grade dust mask “that makes me look like Darth Vader”. 

“You just try to insulate yourself from the air as much as possible,” said Myllyvirta, a coal and air pollution expert.

According to reports in the Chinese media, flights to some pollution-free regions have been packed as a result of the smog. 

Ctrip, China’s leading online travel agent, said it expected 150,000 travellers to head abroad this month in a bid to outrun the smog. Top destinations include Australia, Indonesia, Japan and the Maldives. 

Jiang Aoshuang, one of Beijing’s “smog refugees”, told the state-run Global Times she had skipped town with her husband and 10-year-old son in order to spare their lungs.

Jiang’s family made for Chongli, a smog-free ski resort about three hours north-west of the capital, only to find it packed with other fugitives seeking sanctuary from the pollution.

“It really felt like a refugee camp,” she was quoted as saying. 

Yang Xinglin, who also fled to Chongli, said she had requested time off from her job at a state-owned real estate firm so she did not have to inhale the smog. 

“You ask me why I left Beijing? It’s because I want to live,” Yang, 27, told the Guardian. 

Emma Zhang, a third “smog refugee”, told the South China Morning Post she and her young son had swapped their home in the western city of Chengdu, which has also been blighted by severe pollution, for a hotel in the temperate south-western province of Yunnan.

“I finally saw the blue sky. It was wonderful!” she said.

Li Dongke, a 27-year-old Beijinger, said her entire family had decamped to Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, or the tropical island of Hainan in the South China Sea. “It’s terrible,” she complained of the current pollution crisis.

Fleeing the danger zone has not been completely straightforward for China’s environmental exiles.

The China Daily reported that smog had paralysed airports in Beijing and across the country’s northern industrial heartland in cities such as Tianjin and Shijiazhuang, making escape impossible.

Beijing’s domestic Nanyuan airport cancelled all flights on Tuesday while the Beijing Capital international airport cancelled at least 273 flights.

Myllyvirta, the Greenpeace activist, said his group had been warning of a winter smog crisis since July when it began noticing the government was pumping economic stimulus into heavily-polluting industries such as cement and steel.

“A big part of what happened is that the steel price went up when the government started a huge wave of construction projects to stimulate the economy,” he said.

One consequence was that a large number of smaller, poorly-regulated steel producers had “gone on a tear” leading to increased emissions that were now blackening the skies over northern China.

Myllyvirta said he was convinced the future looked brighter for China’s environment, despite its latest airpocalypse.

A fall in the use of coal and air pollution were likely over the next three to five years as more urgent steps were taken to restructure the economy and preserve the environment.

For now, however, some locals saw temporary or permanent exile as their only option while many outsiders refused to come at all.

“People are definitely thinking about how to get out and … companies are complaining that it is hard to recruit talent [to come to China],” Myllyvirta said. 

“People don’t want to live in places with terribly polluted air.”

Oct 31st 2016

Three hundred million of the world’s children live in areas with extreme air pollution, where toxic fumes are more than six times international guidelines, according to new research by Unicef.

The study, using satellite data, is the fist to make a global estimate of exposure and indicates that almost 90% of the world’s children - two billion - live in places where outdoor air pollution exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) limits.

Unicef warned the levels of global air pollution contributed to 600,000 child deaths a year – more than are caused by malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution, Unicef warned, pointing to enduring damage to health and the development of children’s brain and urging nations attending a global climate summit next month to cut fossil fuel burning rapidly.

“The magnitude of the danger air pollution poses is enormous,” said Anthony Lake, Unicef’s executive director. “No society can afford to ignore air pollution. We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future.”

Children are especially at risk, the Unicef report says, because they breathe more rapidly than adults and the cell layer in their lungs is more permeable to pollutant particles. The tiny particles can also cross the blood-brain barrier, which is less resistant in children, permanently harming cognitive development and their future prospects. Even the unborn are affected, as the particles inhaled by pregnant women can cross the placental barrier, injuring fetuses.Air pollution is world’s single biggest environmental health risk, according to the WHO, and is getting worse, with levels of toxic air rising 8% in the last five years. Over three million people a year die as a result of outdoor air pollution – six every minute on average – and this is set to double by 2050 as fast growing cities expand. Indoor air pollution, mainly from wood or dung stoves, causes another three million deaths a year.

Prof Jos Lelieveld, at the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany, said the report was excellent: “Air pollution is typically a problem in developing countries, where infants have little resistance due to poor nutrition and where health care is insufficient.”

The Unicef study combined particle pollution data from a range of satellites with ground-level monitors to estimate the number of children in polluted areas. Of the 300 million exposed to levels of pollution six times over WHO limits, 220 million live in south Asia, where India hosts many of the world’s most polluted cities.

Another 70 million children living with very toxic air live in east Asia, mainly in China. But more children are exposed to air pollution levels above the WHO limit in Africa - 520 million - than in east Asia.

The air pollution crisis is worst in low and middle income nations, where 98% of cities do not meet WHO guidelines, but over half the cities in rich countries also fail to meet the guidelines. In Europe, 120 million children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international limits, and 20 million suffer levels over double the limit.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “In the UK, we know that children’s health is being put at risk every day by unsafe levels of pollution in many of our towns and cities. At least 3,000 schools are located within illegal levels of pollution. Yet very few of these schools have monitors around them. It’s time for the government to enact a new clean air act to tackle this modern pollution problem and protect all our health.”

In the report, Unicef urges all countries to cut air pollution by reducing fossil fuel burning in power plants and vehicles, which also helps tackle climate change. This double benefit has led to significant action in China in recent years. Tackling air pollution is also cost-effective: the World Bank estimates that the welfare losses from air pollution are more than $5tn a year.

Unicef also recommends minimising children’s exposure by ensuring sources of pollution such as busy roads and factories are not sited near schools and playgrounds and by the roll-out of cleaner cooking stoves.

27th Oct

Last year, Derek and Lloyd both wrote about Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde's Smog Free Project where he installed giant air purifying towers in parks in Rotterdam and Beijing to provide clean air in public spaces and as an art project where the compressed filtered smog material collected from the machines was made into jewelry and other items that you could buy.

It was a compelling project because it was dealing with the issue of smog and air pollution while also making the issue highly visible.

Now, a team of Dutch inventors has unveiled a giant air-cleaning vacuum that they say filters out fine particle pollution from the surrounding air, but this project isn't about art, it's purely about functionality.

"It's a large industrial filter about eight meters long, made of steel... placed basically on top of buildings and it works like a big vacuum cleaner," Henk Boersen of the Envinity Group, the makers of the device, told the AFP.

The device can suck in air from a 300-meter radius and from up to four miles above and can clean 800,000 cubic meters of air an hour. It filters out 100 percent of fine particles and 95 percent of ultra-fine particles, based on prototype tests carried out by the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands.

Fine particle pollution, created by the burning of fossil fuels and industrial processes, can cause serious respiratory health problems like asthma and even cancer and 90 percent of European residents are exposed to levels above those recommended by the World Health Organization, according to the European Environment Agency.

Envinity Group unveiled the technology at this year's Offshore Energy trade show in Amsterdam, saying that a large column of air can be sucked through the filter and come out clear. The company says that a variety of airports, governments and businesses have already expressed interest in the device.

May 14th

Toxic, black smoke has forced 9,000 people from their homes in a city just 35 kilometres south of the Spanish capital.

A huge fire is raging at a sprawling tyre dump in Seseña, prompting an emergency to be declared amid fears for the health of local residents and the environment. Three nearby schools have also been closed.

“We knew it was going to happen. It’s happened now, but it could have happened ten years ago,” said one local resident.

Local mayor Guillermo Gross del Rio said there were a number of open complaints concerning the dump.

“Our city was actually invaded by this dump. There were several complaints open concerning the impact on the environment and the company was even convicted for crimes against the environment.”

The site’s owner has not been located. He reportedly owes more than 600,000 euros in fines relating to the dump, which is said to contain up to five million tyres.

The mayor revealed the fire appeared to have been started deliberately. Emergency services have the blaze under control, but say they have yet to determine its cause.

May 13th

Outdoor air pollution has grown 8% globally in the past five years, with billions of people around the world now exposed to dangerous air, according to new data from more than 3,000 cities compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

While all regions are affected, fast-growing cities in the Middle East, south-east Asia and the western Pacific are the most impacted with many showing pollution levels at five to 10 times above WHO recommended levels. 

According to the new WHO database, levels of ultra-fine particles of less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5s) are highest in India, which has 16 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities. 

China, which has been plagued by air pollution, has improved its air quality since 2011 and now has only five cities in the top 30. Nine other countries, including Pakistan and Iran, have one city each in the worst 30. 

For the larger, but slightly less dangerous PM10 particles, India has eight cities in the world’s top 30. Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan each have two cities in the top 10. The true figure for the growth in global air pollution is likely to be worse because only a handful of African cities monitor their levels.

The most polluted city in the world, according to the WHO data, is Onitsha, a fast-growing port and transit city in south-eastern Nigeria that recorded levels of nearly 600 micrograms per cubic metre of PM10s - around 20 times the WHO recommended level. 

Air pollution levels were generally much lower for cities in developed countries with Sydney, New York and London registering 17, 16 and 22 micrograms per cubic metre for PM10s respectively. However, the data only includes measurements for particulates and does not include forms of air pollution such as NO2 and ozone.

“We have a public health emergency in many countries. Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with terrible future costs to society,” said Dr Maria Neira, director of public health at the WHO in Geneva. 

“The cost for countries is enormous. Air pollution affects economies and people’s quality of life. It leads to major chronic diseases and to people ultimately dying,” she said. 

The new data, drawn from city and academic records, shows a rapid deterioration in air quality as low-income cities grow unchecked and populations become unable to escape clouds of smog and soot from transport, industry, construction sites, farming and wood-burning in homes. 

Outdoor air pollution causes more than 3m deaths a year - more than malaria and HIV/Aids - and is now the biggest single killer in the world. The toll is expected to double as urban populations increase and car numbers approach 2bn by 2050. 

Air pollutants such as sulphates, nitrates and black carbon penetrate deep into the lungs and into the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health, says the UN. 

“As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them. When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations - the youngest, oldest and poorest - are the most impacted,” said Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director general.

Encouragingly, there is evidence from the WHO data that many cities are addressing air pollution. More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third of those in low- and middle-income countries reduced their air pollution levels by more than 5% in five years. Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, has banned large diesel cars from going into the city centre. 

Measures taken by cities include reducing industrial smokestack emissions, increasing the use of renewable power sources like solar and wind, and prioritising rapid transit, walking and cycling networks in cities. Many cities are also committed to reducing reducing car traffic and diesel vehicles in particular.

The UN’s third outdoor air pollution database suggests the cleanest cities in the world are generally small, wealthy and situated far from industrial centres. Muonio in Finland, a town above the Arctic circle, has the world’s purest recorded urban air, recording just 2 micrograms per cubic metre of PM2.5 pollution and 4 micrograms per cubic metre of PM10s. It is closely followed by Norman Wells in Canada, Campisábalos in Spain and Converse County, Wyoming in the US. 

Of 52 UK towns and cities included in the UN database, Port Talbot in south Wales, a hub for the UK steel industry, is the most polluted, ahead of London, Glasgow, Southampton and Leeds. The cleanest UK city in the WHO list is Inverness, followed by Bournemouth, Newcastle and Sunderland. 

The most polluted city in Australia, according to the data, is Geraldton, a major seaport on the west coast, north of Perth. The most polluted city in the United States is the inland city of Visalia-Porterville in California.

“More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organisation limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted; 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high income countries, that percentage decreases to 56%,” said the WHO.

“It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” said Dr Carlos Dora, co-ordinator of the WHO’s Interventions for Healthy Environment programme. “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”

May 7th

A toxic cloud of dirty air from the continent is heading towards the UK - and could hit our shores tomorrow.

The Department for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Defra) has issued a warning of “moderate” air pollution for the south of England from Thursday.

Forecasters have said the toxic cloud, formed from the Sahara desert, will then spread to northern parts of England by Friday, with a risk of “high” air pollution in some areas.

In many parts of the country the conditions will be “moderate” and a health warning has been issued by officials for people suffering with lung problems, reports the Manchester Evening News .

A forecast on the Defra Air Quality Index website said: “Moderate air pollution is likely to become more widespread on Thursday, potentially affecting much of England and Wales.

“Scotland and Northern Ireland, meanwhile, should retain predominately low air pollution levels.”

The forecast for Friday said: “With southeasterly winds from Continent dominating, the risk of moderate air pollution is likely to be widespread through this three-day period, with localised areas of high air pollution also possible.”

Health advice states adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce physical exertion particularly if they are outdoors.

People with asthma may find they need to the use their reliever inhaler more often, while older people should also reduce physical exertion.

The dust cloud is expected to become widespread, affecting much of England and Wales by Thursday.

It is expected to continue from Friday to Sunday.

The dust phenomenon is formed when air pollution levels are high and there is not much wind, during pleasant weather conditions.

This causes a combination of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and ground level ozone to build up.

A yellowish or black fog is created, which can cause respiratory problems when breathed in.

Those suffering with lung and heart problems are particularly at risk.

May 7th

Air pollution warnings have been issued with temperatures forecast to climb towards 27C (80F) in south-east England and the Midlands this weekend.

Some parts of Britain will be hotter than areas of the Mediterranean, but the warm weather will be accompanied by moderate levels of air pollution, which can cause breathing difficulties in vulnerable people. Areas of south-west England and western Scotland could be at higher risk by Sunday. The highest levels are expected in Northern Ireland.

Thursday was the warmest of the year so far, with temperatures topping 20C, bringing Britons out to enjoy the sunshine in parks, streets and on beaches. Sunshine activates photochemicals in polluted air, however, creating problems with pollutants such as ozone, which can cause shortness of breath in susceptible people.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said those with lung or heart problems who experience symptoms should consider avoiding strenuous activity, -particularly outdoors.

A department spokesman said: “Strong south-easterly winds blowing in air from the continent could lead to moderate levels of pollution … over the weekend in parts of England and Wales. Levels are expected to fall after the weekend. This does tend to happen during the change in the temperature around springtime.” 

Pollution levels were classed as moderate over much of south-east England on Thursday, as winds brought air from continental Europe laced with industrial and agricultural pollutants. These chemicals then combined with locally produced pollutants, such as particulates and nitrogen oxides from diesel vehicle engines, to produce a toxic mix.

Diesel cars produce particulates – tiny pieces of unburned fuel that can lodge in the lungs and cause breathing problems – and nitrogen dioxide, another pollutant gas that affects breathing

Gary Fuller, of King’s College London, said: “As spring is moving towards summer the sun is getting stronger, and able to drive chemical reactions between pollutants that cause ozone to be formed, along with the particles [of unburned fuel].”

Simon Birkett, director of the campaigning group Clean Air in London, said there should be clearer public warnings about levels of pollutants: “This is the fourth air pollution episode this year, and the first summer ozone episode,” he said. “It is expected to reach moderate or high levels, and last through the weekend until the wind speed increases on Sunday evening or Monday. It may come and go into the following weekend.

“People may experience tightness in their chest or shortness of breath, and would be sensible to carry their medication if they are asthmatic. Organisers of marathon, half-marathon and other long-distance events this weekend should warn participants.”

Defra tweeted that pollution levels were low across the country on Thursday morning, prompting campaigners to accuse the agency of playing down the threat of air pollution levels, which rose during the day.

Birkett said: “Defra hasn’t published an annual media release warning of the first summer smog episode – like this one – since 2011. This is a national disgrace and explains why so many people are confused by Met Office, government and other forecasts that omit air pollution warnings or show pollution as low relative to alert levels, not according to [international standards].”

April 19th

Even though commercial aviation and ocean shipping are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, they were excluded from the Paris climate treaty, to be signed by more than 100 countries this week at the United Nations in New York.

Now governments and advocacy groups are pressuring these industries to take stronger steps to curb pollution.

A coalition of European, North African and South Pacific nations is lobbying the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency that oversees shipping, to start discussing an emissions-reduction commitment at a meeting in London that will begin Monday.

“We need to do something and go beyond what we already have, and set some very specific targets,” said François Martel, the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Development Forum. The forum’s members include the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands, two of six nations that have made a proposal, expected to be taken up at the meeting, that shipping contribute a “fair share” to reducing emissions.

Another United Nations agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, has for years been considering a market-based strategy in which airlines could purchase “offsets,” or emissions reductions from renewable energy or conservation projects, to cover at least some international flights.

Advocacy groups are pressuring the agency to adopt as strict a system as possible when it meets for its triennial assembly in Montreal this fall.

 “If we’re going to have offsets, then they actually have to deliver the tons of reductions they say they will,” said Bill Hemmings, the director of aviation and shipping at Transport & Environment, an environmental group based in Brussels.

Nigel Purvis, the chief executive of Climate Advisers, a consulting group in Washington, said airlines were likely to increase spending significantly on offsets from forest conservation projects.

“Airlines know this sector and are ready to play,” he said.

While some previous forest projects have been criticized for not delivering the reductions that were claimed, “now we have new rules about how to do forests in a way that as we scale up we maintain integrity,” Mr. Purvis added.

Aviation and shipping each contribute a little more than 2 percent of annual worldwide human-produced emissions of carbon dioxide. Together that is more than the emissions from Japan, the world’s fifth-largest emitter.

Both industries are expected to grow over the next few decades, and their percentages of worldwide emissions may increase significantly as emissions are reduced elsewhere. Environmental groups say steps the industries have already taken, including regulations to reduce emissions from new aircraft and ships, will not help much because they are tied to baselines for improvement that are too low.

Yet after being included in initial drafts of the climate treaty, a paragraph on limiting or reducing emissions from the two industries was eliminated from the final version, which was agreed upon in Paris in mid-December.

The treaty commits nations to setting emissions-reduction targets, with a goal of keeping global warming “well below” a target of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.

Experts cite several reasons that aviation and shipping were not in the treaty, including a desire to keep the text as concise as possible to improve the chances of reaching an agreement. The issue also would have exacerbated disputes about the responsibilities of developed versus developing nations that could have threatened the overall accord, they said.

Industry representatives and environmental groups alike say that despite the lack of any mention in the treaty, there is still momentum for action on emissions by both industries.

Simon Bennett, the director of policy and external relations for theInternational Chamber of Shipping, an industry group, said that there was a “misunderstanding” about the Paris accord and that “somehow that means shipping has escaped.”

“That isn’t the case,” Mr. Bennett said. The chamber has filed its own proposal for the International Maritime Organization meeting; it uses language other than “fair share” but still calls for emissions-reductions targets.

But there are disagreements between the shipping industry and environmental advocates about the best ways to cut emissions. The industry generally favors a global fuel tax over carbon offsets, and notes that most ships have already reduced their emissions and that there is a maritime organization program in place, the Energy Efficiency Design Index, to reduce emissions from new ones.

Environmental groups, however, argue that the efficiency index program’s improvement standards are too low, and that most ships built in the last several years already meet the standards for 2020.

“They need to come up with more stringent targets,” Mr. Hemmings of Transport & Environment said.

The aviation industry also points out that it is not relying solely on so-called market-based measures like offsets to reduce emissions.

“The global offsetting scheme is just one aspect of the sector’s climate action, albeit a crucial one,” said Michael Gill, the executive director of theAir Transport Action Group, an industry organization.

Like shipping, aviation has adopted efficiency standards. The International Civil Aviation Organization approved them in February, and will limit emissions from jets built after 2023 from current designs, and from new models introduced after 2028.

Critics say that those standards are weak, and that most advanced jets being built already meet them. That makes adopting tough market-based measures more important than ever, they say.

“The level of the CO2 efficiency standard for new aircraft, set in February, was disappointing in its ambition,” said Kat Watts, a global climate policy adviser with Carbon Market Watch, in Brussels. With aviation left out of the Paris treaty, she added, the International Civil Aviation Organization “was handed the baton for climate action for international aviation.”

“Whether they run with, or drop, that baton will be decided in this October’s assembly,” she added.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun what is expected to be a yearslong process to develop emissions rules for aircraft, and has said the rules would be at least as strict as the international organization’s standards.

But environmental groups have argued that the E.P.A.’s rules must be far more stringent. Last week, several groups, including Friends of the Earth, sued the environmental agency in an effort to compel it to move faster to develop the rules

April 4th

A huge Saharan dust cloud is expected to bring 'blood rain' to the UK as the country basks in what could be the hottest day of the year.

Weather experts say that temperatures could soar to up to 19 degrees Celsius in parts of the country on Thursday.

This will make it hotter than Barcelona and Ibiza.

Officials warn we could be in for high air pollution in the South East as southerly winds sweep dust from the Saharan region northwards.

Met Office spokesman Marco Petagna said parts of Kent and the far South East would see the highest levels of pollution, reports the Birmingham Mail.

“On Thursday, dust from the Sahara region was lifted up into the atmosphere”, he said.

“At the moment, certainly across the south of the UK, we’ve got southerly winds that’s allowed that dust to transport northwards towards the UK.

“And with outbreaks of rain developing at times over the next couple of days, some of that will get washed out of the atmosphere and give a slight deposit of dust on cars.”

The pollution could pose a potential health risk to vulnerable groups.

At-risk individuals, including those with lung and heart problems, should “reduce strenuous physical exertion” if they are in an affected area, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

The last time there was a warning over Saharan dust in the West Midlands was in December, when it was feared it would bring toxic smog and “blood rain.”

The West Midlands was said to be at ‘moderate’ risk of the smog and “blood rain” - which is caused by Saharan dust mixing with rain leaving a reddish residue on buildings and cars.

This phenomena is more common in southern European areas, such as Spain and the south of France, however due the dust can travel as far as Scandinavia.

March 6th

A new Greenpeace study shows that last year was the first year on record that the average Indian was exposed to more air pollution than the average Chinese.

Levels of the most harmful fine particulates, PM2.5 (short for “Particulate Matter up to 2.5 micrometres in size”), have fallen by 17 per cent in China between 2010 and 2015, while in India they have expanded by 13 per cent.

By comparison, in the United States they have fallen 15 per cent, and in the EU by 20 per cent in the period 2005-2013.

“Greenpeace analysis of satellite-based particulate matter measurements over the past decade shows that China’s systematic efforts to combat air pollution have achieved an impressive improvement in average air quality in the country in the past few years –although pollution levels remain alarmingly high,” Greenpeace India said in a report, Clean Air Action Plan: The Way Forward.

Greenpeace said the reduced levels were testimony to government efforts on a national level to tackle air pollution in China, including setting targets for air quality and for clean energy.

“In contrast, air pollution levels in India, and in particular North India, have risen rapidly, with 2015 being the most polluted year on record.”

According to the World Health Organisation, India is home to 13 out of

20 most polluted cities in the world with air pollution levels deteriorating during the past decade.

China still has more deaths per day from air pollution – 2,700 in 2013 compared to 1,800 in India (in the EU it was 640).

Last week, a government official said that air quality in Beijing has improved over the last two years despite the city’s first smog red-alert during the winter, when a blanket of air pollution shrouded the capital for more than three weeks.

“Many people feel things got worse, because the impression of the pollution in December remains very deep,” said city official Yu Jianhua.

Meanwhile, new research shows that air pollution has even wider health implications than previous thought, as it may lead to childhood obesity.

“In a rodent model, we found that breathing Beijing’s highly polluted air resulted in weight gain and cardiorespiratory and metabolic dysfunction.

“Compared to those exposed to filtered air, pregnant rats exposed to unfiltered Beijing air were significantly heavier at the end of pregnancy,” researchers said in a study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

At 8 weeks old, the rodent offspring prenatally and postnatally exposed to unfiltered air were significantly heavier than those exposed to filtered air, the scientists found.

March 1st

China is surging ahead in switching to renewables and away from coal in what its officials say will allow it to surpass its carbon emissions targets.

The country’s solar and wind energy capacity soared last year by 74 and 34 per cent respectively compared with 2014, according to figures issued by China’s National Bureau of Statistics yesterday.

Meanwhile, its consumption of coal – the dirtiest of the fossil fuels – dropped by 3.7 per cent, with imports down by a substantial 30 per cent.

The figures back up claims last month in Hong Kong by Xie Zhenhua, China’s lead negotiator at at the UN climate talks in Paris last December, that the country will “far surpass” its 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions per unit of national wealth (GDP) by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels.

Wind power record

Since China emits nearly a third of the world’s carbon dioxide, which is heating up the planet, this could make a major contribution to holding back temperature increases to the 2 °C degree maximum global target agreed by governments last December in Paris.

“The latest figures confirm China’s record-breaking shift toward renewable power and away from coal,” says Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, an energy consultancy in Cleveland, Ohio.

“China’s official 2015 wind installations are an all-time global record of 32.5 gigawatts,” says Buckley. “China itself is the only nation to have come anywhere near this, delivering 20.7 gigawatts of new wind capacity in 2014.”

Competing with fossil fuels

The latest figures state that “clean energy” – a combination of hydro, wind, solar, nuclear and natural gas – now accounts for 18 per cent of all its energy, up from 13 per cent in 2011.

“We’re now at the point where these technologies can compete head-to-head with gas and coal on price, meaning that this growth is only going to accelerate,” says Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, representing the UK’s wind and wave power producers. “The UK alone has increased the amount it generates from wind power from 1 to 11 per cent in a decade.”

“It’s a really positive signal, a perfect example of an emerging economy trying to shift the way it develops,” says Ranping Song of the World Resources Institute think tank in Washington DC.

Peak coal?

China is due to issue its next five-year economic plan this month. “So it’s a perfect time to see how serious they are about tackling emissions,” Song says.

Despite renewables gains, coal still provides almost two-thirds of China’s power consumption. But the dip in coal consumption over the past two years – which equals an entire year’s coal consumption in Japan – suggests that China may now have reached “peak coal”. “China’s market for coal consumption has started to become saturated, and should gradually decline,” Xie said in Hong Kong.

Feb 14th 2016

More than 5.5 million people worldwide are dying prematurely every year as a result of air pollution, according to new research.

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.

"In Beijing or Delhi on a bad air pollution day, the number of fine particles (known as PM2.5) can be higher than 300 micrograms per cubic metre," explained Dan Greenbaum from the Health Effects Institute, in Boston, US.

"The number should be about 25 or 35 micrograms."

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.

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

Elderly factor

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.

And 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.

"So, we think more aggressive policies are urgently needed to reduce the emissions from coal combustion and other sectors," stated project researcher Qiao Ma, a PhD student at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

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".

And 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.

Chandra Venkataraman, from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in Mumbai, warned: "Despite proposed emissions control, there is significant growth in the demand for electricity as well as industrial production.

"So, through to 2050, this growth overshadows the emissions controls (in our projections) and will lead to an increase in future air pollutant emissions in 2050 in India."

Cost benefit

Michael Brauer, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, said the statistics should make governments think hard about the scope of their anti-pollution policies.

They ought to spur greater ambition, he added.

"The trick here is to not take the 50 or 60 years that it took in the high income countries, and to really accelerate the process; and that's really where we think these statistics, the data, will come in handy," he told BBC News.

"In the US, we know that for every dollar spent on air pollution improvements, we can get between a $4-$30 benefit in terms of reduced health impacts."

The research team was presenting its findings here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Well it looks like the Paris talks on climate change and air-pollution have let the aircraft industry and  the polluting big ships  that use the low-grade fuel  off the hook for now, and it's a crying shame because they are responsible for a very big proportion of our atmospheric air-pollution.

having said that, the talks were very positive and it looks as if at last the powers to be are getting the message, it's a pretty that they talk of such long-term aims,  why can't they say you should do this now.

Jan 12th 2016

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — It will never soar into the wild blue yonder, but the dusty Peterbilt truck parked outside a hangar at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center here may represent the future of low-carbon aviation.

Perched on steel supports behind the truck’s cab is a 30-foot airplane wing, the kind found on a small plane. Instead of a fossil-fuel-burning engine or two, however, the wing is outfitted with 18 electric motors along its leading edge, each with a small red propeller.

The truck-plane mash-up, a NASA project called LeapTech, is meant to test a new approach to powering flight. Technicians and engineers have been driving the truck down a dry lake-bed runway at this desert base at more than 70 miles per hour, the battery-powered propellers spinning as if a takeoff were imminent.

“We’re able to simulate full takeoff and landing configurations and measure lift, drag, motor efficiency and aerodynamic performance,” said Sean Clarke, an engineer and a principal investigator on the project.

The concept, called distributed propulsion, is one of several being studied here and at other research centers to develop technologies that could lead to completely new and far less polluting aircraft designs. Future planes may be powered by batteries or hybrid gas-electric systems, for instance, and have lighter wings that can quickly change shape to better handle the stresses brought on by turbulent air. Others may eliminate the conventional wings-and-fuselage design in favor of one that blends the two elements, all to further the cause of lower emissions.

Commercial aviation currently accounts for about 2 percent of the global total of carbon dioxide emitted annually by human activity, or a little less than is produced by Germany. Although manufacturers and airlines have made air travel far more efficient — the Air Transport Action Group, an industry organization, estimates that emissions per seat-mile are down 70 percent from the 1960s, when jets began operating — the industry’s tremendous growth has resulted in higher total emissions.

That growth shows no signs of stopping. The International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations agency that oversees the industry, forecasts that the worldwide commercial fleet will double, to about 40,000 airliners, in the next 15 years. And a recent European Commission report noted that as countries and other industries rein in their emissions, aviation could eventually be responsible for more than one-fifth of the global total.

Although aviation was left out of the climate treaty adopted in Paris last month — that omission has some environmentalists questioning just how “historic” the accord actually was — reducing emissions remains a priority for the I.C.A.O., a spokesman said. Among other initiatives, the agency is expected to approve certification standards next year that would limit CO2 emissions for new aircraft.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year moved to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, although the rule-making process is expected to be contentious and lengthy.

Because emissions are directly related to fuel consumption, and fuel accounts for one-third or more of an airline’s costs, carriers and manufacturers continue to make improvements. Planes have become lighter through the use of composite materials, like those that make up about half of the airframe of a Boeing 787. Jet engines have become more efficient. Alternative fuels, like biofuels, are starting to be used that sharply cut net carbon emissions. And operational measures like better management of airplane traffic, both at airports and in the air, have further reduced emissions.

Daniel Rutherford, who studies aircraft emissions as a program director at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a research group, said that improvements in fuel consumption, which have averaged a 1.3 percent reduction per year, should continue through the next decade.

“Efficient designs fleshed out in the ‘00s when fuel prices were high are coming to market now,” he said.

Many of the improvements involve changes to existing planes — like adding winglets to wings, which reduce drag and improve efficiency by a few percentage points, or replacing older engines with more efficient models. So-called re-engining, in fact, “has been the biggest single contributor to improving fuel efficiency over the long term,” Dr. Rutherford said.

Some aircraft have been partially redesigned. Later this decade, for example, Boeing will introduce a variant of its 777 model, the 777x, with new composite wings and more efficient engines.

Further improvements can be expected beyond the 2020s, Dr. Rutherford said, depending on how aggressively the industry adopts other advanced technologies like open-rotor engines, which improve efficiency by eliminating the shroud that surrounds most jet engines, and aerodynamic modifications that smooth the airflow over surfaces to reduce drag. (Boeing already uses such a system, referred to as hybrid laminar flow control, on the tail of its latest 787 model.)

But even with all the improvements, actual and potential, the basic design of an airplane remains the same — a tube and wings. “From a basic structure standpoint, a 787 doesn’t look a whole lot different from a 707,” said Jay E. Dryer, who Directs NASA,s advanced air vehicles program. 

To achieve the drastic emissions reductions that may be required by the middle of the century and beyond — to make aviation as carbon-free as possible — new “clean sheet” aircraft designs may be needed, incorporating new technologies and approaches. That’s where the Armstrong Flight Research Center comes in, developing technological concepts that manufacturers may one day use in radical new designs.

Not far from the LeapTech truck is another hangar containing a Gulfstream business jet that has been stripped bare and wired with hundreds of sensors. It is a flying technology test bed, and is testing modifications to the trailing edge of the wings. Where a flap would normally be, there is instead a continuous, bent surface, which changes the aerodynamic characteristics of the wing.

The concept is still being developed, but the eventual goal would be wings that could morph in response to real-time conditions. “The idea is to ultimately replace the entire trailing edge of an aircraft wing with technology like this, so you could continuously change the shape of the wing to reduce drag and increase lift,” said Ethan Baumann, chief engineer for the test jet. The technology could also allow the drag and lift forces to be shifted around the wings to avoid overloading, so the wings could be lighter than conventional ones.

The idea behind distributed propulsion is to take the engines from their usual position hanging below the wings and put them elsewhere. Since jet engines are complex, heavy devices, distributed propulsion designs almost always involve simpler and smaller electric motors.

“It makes a lot of sense to rethink where you put motors when you design a vehicle from scratch,” Mr. Clarke said.

In a typical jet turbine engine, a central core burns fuel and air, providing power to turn a fan. That fan draws in more air that bypasses the core and exits out the back, producing more thrust. Engines have become more efficient in part by incorporating larger fans to move more of this “bypass” air, but there is a limit to how big the fans can get.

A distributed design can simply add more fans, as long as there is enough electricity to run them. “Now you’re not constrained by the size of the engine,” said Panagiotis Laskaridis, who researches distributed propulsion at Cranfield University in Britain.

Distributing the motors around the plane can also bring aerodynamic advantages. With the LeapTech wing, the position of the motors on the leading edge results in accelerated airflow over it, which increases lift at the low speeds of takeoff and landing. As a result, the wing can be made narrower, which improves efficiency at cruising speeds by reducing drag. An eventual airplane design using distributed propulsion may have leading edge motors only for takeoff and landing, and a single motor at each wingtip that would be used for cruising.

LeapTech uses batteries to power its motors, but Dr. Laskaridis and a Cranfield colleague, Devaiah Nalianda, are studying the feasibility of hybrid turbine-electric systems that might use batteries and a single jet engine to generate electricity for the motors.

At Boeing, researchers are looking at several variants of distributed propulsion, said Marty Bradley Sr., an aerospace engineer with the manufacturer. They are also studying other advanced concepts. These include truss-braced wings, which would allow longer and thinner and thus more fuel-efficient wings, and aft-mounted fans, which would speed up the airflow over the fuselage, reducing drag.

“We have a road map for all of these technologies that could benefit future airplanes,” Dr. Bradley said, although whether any of them would be adopted would depend on many factors.

For NASA researchers, the next step is to modify an actual aircraft — a four-seat Italian-made model — to operate on batteries and wing motors.

Given the current limitations of batteries, the modified aircraft will only be able to make short flights. Battery technology may never improve enough to make all-electric planes practical, Mr. Clarke said, but a hybrid turbine-battery design is a realistic possibility.

“I could imagine in 20 years technology like this being integrated into aircraft,” he said.

Dr. Nalianda said that although there was much development work ahead, he had no doubt that the technology would eventually be used, perhaps even for large aircraft. “When the jet engine replaced the piston engine in the 1940s and 1950s, it was very disruptive,” he said. “I believe distributed propulsion is a similar kind of disruptive technology.”

Global air pollution

Pollution is most keenly felt in cities that are positioned where there is little wind, a dense population and many motor vehicles, with dozens of factories on the city outskirts air conditions sometimes forces people to wear breathing masks.

Having taken steps to protect the ozone layer by banning some chemicals that used to be freely used in spray cans and refrigerators we can now see steps that we’re winning this battle with the ozone holes over the poles gradually closing up.

see also our Gobal warming page

The main task now seems to be to reduce the amount of carbon that we discharge into the atmosphere, some of this is absorbed by the forests and other green plants and more disappears into the ocean, but we are a long, long way from achieving a carbon balance.  There is hope as measures intensify to attack the problem on all fronts, that one day, hopefully before it is too late, that we can turn our attention to the next problem.
Fred Pearce is an environmental consultant to New Scientist magazine He reveals that the super-ships that keep the West in everything from Christmas gifts to computers pump out killer chemicals linked to thousands of deaths because of the filthy fuel they use.

As ships get bigger, the situation is getting worse. The most staggering statistic of all is that just 16 of the world’s largest ships can produce as much lung-clogging sulfur in the air as all the world’s cars.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1229857/How-16-ships-create-pollution-cars-world.html#ixzz3PAWfpjEl

And now in 2015 This is what we are doing

Click this link


for more information just google  for pollution from ships

Go to http://www.vesselfinder.com/ to see where they are now

Fortunately with modern communication systems these dangerous situations can be monitored easily and warnings issued by local government, civil defense, police, local radio and television.

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