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Hidden danger: keeping your house clean can harm your kids’ health, Hong Kong study finds

Researchers suggest limiting frequent exposure to chemicals to avoid rhinitis

Blocked noses, headaches, sneezing and other allergic symptoms among children in Hong Kong could be caused by household cleaning products, an alarming news study
has found.

Research by Chinese University of Hong Kong – the first to examine such products’ health effects on children in Asia – found that frequent use of the chemicals at home could increase the risk of children having rhinitis, or inflammation of the lining of the nose, by between 29 and 97 per cent.

The condition affecting up to 50 per cent of local primary school students could impair their quality of life as well as their scholastic performance, the researchers warned.

How living near a landfill can be harmful to health, especially for children ( Dr Xiangqian Lao, an assistant professor at Chinese University’s school of public health and primary care, said the findings suggested it was “necessary to develop healthier cleaning products”.

“Parents are also recommended to prevent triggering rhinitis in children by reducing their exposure to chemical cleaning products at home,” he said.

The three-year study surveyed over 2,299 students from 21 local primary schools on the use of 14 cleaning products at home.

It found the youngsters were most often exposed to kitchencleaning products, followed by floor-cleaning and bathroomcleaning products.

Children with the highest level of exposure to cleaning products – tallying more than 3.2 hours per week – had a 29 per cent higher risk of experiencing occasional rhinitis, a 97 per cent higher risk of frequent rhinitis, and a 67 per cent higher risk of persistent rhinitis.

Every additional hour of exposure was associated with a 2.1 per cent higher risk of occasional rhinitis, a 3.6 per cent higher risk of frequent rhinitis, and a 1.2 per cent higher risk of persistent rhinitis.

The results suggested the ensuing health effect could be due to one’s total exposure to an array of cleaning products rather than to just a single type of product.

But no such associations were observed regarding the use of clean water for daily household cleaning.

Hong Kong children wait more than a year for mental health treatment as list increases to 27,000 (The researchers suggested that common household cleaning products contained harmful chemicals, including propylene glycol, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid or EDTA, and volatile organic compounds.

They said their study was in line with others noting the adverse effect of cleaning products, especially relating to various respiratory health outcomes like infections and
wheezing.

The study was published this month in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

According to the World Health Organisation, allergies affect up to 40 per cent of the world’s population, and the rate is rising, with allergic rhinitis being the most common.

The global air pollution ‘blindspot’ affecting 1 billion people

More than 100 of the world’s poorest and most poorly governed countries have no or limited monitoring of the polluted air their citizens are breathing

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/17/the-global-air-pollution-blindspot-affecting-1-billion-people

More than 1 billion people live in countries that do not monitor the air they breathe, according to data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Guardian analysis has revealed a great air pollution blindspot stretching the length of Africa, across large parts of the former Soviet Union, south-east Asia and the Caribbean. In 92 countries the monitoring equipment and staff needed to measure one of the world’s most deadly pollutants – particulate matter (PM) – are simply not available.

A further 33 countries, including Indonesia, Egypt and Russia monitor just one or two cities.

Outdoor air pollution kills 3.3 million people each year and it is getting worse. Globally, pollution levels have risen by 8% in five years. But there are signs that it can be brought under control. According to the WHO, pollution is falling in many places where monitoring occurs, including a third of cities in low- and middle-income countries.

Setting up stations to record pollution was the first step, said a WHO spokeswoman: “The cities which have invested in the capacity to regularly monitor and report the local air quality measurements have already demonstrated a commitment to starting to address air quality issues and public health.”

missing-monitors

In those countries with no checks, citizens’ lungs remain the only place where pollution is recorded. People may be acutely aware of the corrupted air, but without the evidence that global or national standards have been breached, there is little imperative for governments to act.

The WHO data, made public last week, showed air pollution was a hallmark of global inequality. Where it is monitored, denizens of poor cities are almost twice as likely as the rich to be breathing bad air.

Poverty is also a common theme. Of the world’s poorest 50 countries by GDP per capita, 35 are not monitoring air in any of their cities. Because they are predominantly poor- to middle-income, unmonitored countries are very likely to have high air pollution in their cities, meaning the majority of city-dwellers in those places will be be unknowingly exposed to pollution that breaches WHO standards.

The cost of setting up a single monitoring station is currently around $150,000-200,000, according to the UN Environment Programme. This does not include the ongoing staffing and maintenance costs. Although new technology may be significantly cheaper.

In Africa, the world’s poorest continent, just 10 out of 54 countries are doing any monitoring at all. Africa has just 1.3% of the cities where the WHO records air quality, despite having 16% of global population and cities set to set to triple in size in the next 50 years.

But it is not only the poor who lack information – the poorly governed also live in the dark. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) democracy index labels 51 countries as “authoritarian”. Of these, 36 do not monitor their air. Just five non-monitoring countries appear in the democratic top 50.

In post-Soviet states, most of which rank as middle-income countries, barely any investment has been made in keeping tabs on the air. Across the vast expanse of Russia, with its thousand towns and cities, only Moscow records air quality.

Tiny Latvia boasts more monitoring stations than its former imperial master. Only the three Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – have managed to implement thorough surveillance. Each of these rates above 7 out of 10 on the EIU index – Russia scores 3.31.

Even in countries where democratic freedom is limited, public information about air pollution can force great change. In China, the public outcry that followed the release of air quality data by the US embassy at Beijing’s forced the Communist party to make air a national priority. The consequent control measures, including a mass shutdown of coal power stations and steelworks, has lead to falling pollution in some of the worst-affected Chinese cities.

The pressure has also encouraged more monitoring. In China, 210 cities are now monitored, compared to 111 just two years before. This fits with an improving trend across the world. In 2014, 1,622 cities were monitored. Now it’s 2,974.

With high costs associated with monitoring, it is necessary to target high-risk areas first. One satellite study found that 96% of west Africans live above the WHO guidelines. However satellite observations are notoriously inexact. Professor Randall Martin is head of the Spartan project, which operates a network of on-ground sites at which satellite measurements can be calibrated.

“Satellite remote sensing offers a global observation source to fill that monitoring gap,” he said.

With these improvements, the blindspot is growing smaller. The number of cities monitored in Africa has doubled, with the notable addition of Nigeria. Africa’s most populous country had no cities being recorded in 2014. Now it has 12, with the city of Onitsha named as the worst city in the world for PM10 (particles under 10 but above 2.5 microns in width) pollution.

Similarly, because of an expansion of monitoring in Iran, the city of Zabol has superseded Delhi as the city with the worst fine particle (PM2.5) pollution.

With hundreds, perhaps thousands, more cities (including Lagos, Nigeria’s largest conurbation) waiting for the fog to be lifted on their own air quality, it is unlikely these two will remain at the top for long.

Air pollution levels rising in many of the world’s poorest cities

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/air-pollution-rising/en/

More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.

According to the latest urban air quality database, 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%.

In the past two years, the database – now covering 3000 cities in 103 countries – has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.

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.

“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it they have a benchmark,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant-Director General, Family, Women and Children’s Health. “When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations—the youngest, oldest and poorest—are the most impacted.”

Global urban air pollution trends

WHO was able to compare a total of 795 cities in 67 countries for levels of small and fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) during the five-year period, 2008-2013. PM10 and PM2.5 include pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which penetrate deep into the lungs and into the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health. Data was then analysed to develop regional trends.

Key trends from 2008-2013:

  • Global urban air pollution levels increased by 8%, despite improvements in some regions.
  • In general, urban air pollution levels were lowest in high-income countries, with lower levels most prevalent in Europe, the Americas, and the Western Pacific Region.
  • The highest urban air pollution levels were experienced in low-and middle-income countries in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions, with annual mean levels often exceeding 5-10 times WHO limits, followed by low-income cities in the Western Pacific Region.
  • In the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions and low-income countries in the Western Pacific Region, levels of urban air pollution has increased by more than 5% in more than two-thirds of the cities.
  • In the African Region urban air pollution data remains very sparse, however available data revealed particulate matter (PM) levels above the median. The database now contains PM measurements for more than twice as many cities than previous versions.

Reducing the toll on human health

Ambient air pollution, made of high concentrations of small and fine particulate matter, is the greatest environmental risk to health—causing more than 3 million premature deaths worldwide every year.

“Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health,” says Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “At the same time, awareness is rising and more cities are monitoring their air quality. When air quality improves, global respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses decrease.”

Most sources of urban outdoor air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers to promote cleaner transport, more efficient energy production and waste management.

More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third in low- and middle-income countries reduced their air pollution levels by more than 5% in five years.

Reducing industrial smokestack emissions, increasing use of renewable power sources, like solar and wind, and prioritizing rapid transit, walking and cycling networks in cities are among the suite of available and affordable strategies.

“It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” says WHO’s Dr Carlos Dora. “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.”

During the World Health Assembly, 23-28 May, Member States will discuss a road map for an enhanced global response to the adverse health effects of air pollution.

WHO’s Air quality guidelines offer global guidance on thresholds and limits for key air pollutants that pose health risks. The Guidelines indicate that by reducing particulate matter (PM10) pollution from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m), air pollution-related deaths could be reduced by roughly 15%.

Notes to editors:

The WHO urban air quality database builds on well-established, public air quality monitoring systems as a source of reliable data in different parts of the world. National efforts to create operational and representative air quality monitoring systems should be strongly encouraged and supported.

The primary source of data include official reporting from countries to WHO, and official national and sub-national reports and web sites containing measurements of PM10 or PM2.5. Measurements reported by the following regional networks were used: the Clean Air Asia for Asia and the European Environment Agency for Europe’s Air Quality e-Reporting database. In the absence of data from the previous sources, data from UN and development agencies, peer-reviewed journal articles and ground measurements compiled in the framework of the Global Burden of Disease project were used.

Annual mean concentrations of particulate matter (PM10 and/or PM2.5) based on daily measurements, or data which could be aggregated into annual means, were included in the database. In the absence of annual means measurements covering a more limited period of the year were exceptionally used.

WHO Ambient Air Quality Guidelines

PM2.5
10 μg/m3 annual mean
25 μg/m3 24-hour mean

PM10
20 μg/m3 annual mean
50 μg/m3 24-hour mean

For more information, please contact:

Nada Osseiran
WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health
Telephone: +41 22 791 4475
Mobile: +41 79 445 1624
Email: osseirann@who.int

Kimberly Chriscaden
WHO Department of Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 2885
Mobile : +41 79 603 1891
Email: chriscadenk@who.int

许多世界最贫困城市的空气污染水平上升

新闻稿

2016年5月12日 | 日内瓦 – 全球80%以上生活在监测空气质量的城市的人,呼吸着质量超出世卫组织限值的空气。虽然全世界所有区域都受到影响,但是低收入国家的人口受影响最大。

根据最新的城市空气质量数据库,低收入和中等收入国家中人口超过10万的城市,有98%不符合世卫组织空气质量指南。但是,在高收入国家,该比例为56%。

过去两年间,随着更多城市开始测量空气污染水平并认识到相关健康影响,数据库规模几乎翻了一番,现在覆盖103个国家的3000多个城市。

随着城市空气质量下降,这些城市居民也就面临更大的罹患脑卒中、心脏病、肺癌以及包括哮喘在内的急慢性呼吸道疾病的风险。

世卫组织家庭、妇女和儿童卫生事务助理总干事Flavia Bustreo博士说:“空气污染是造成疾病和死亡的一个主要原因。好消息是更多城市正在加紧监测空气质量,这样在采取行动改善空气质量的时候,它们就有了可以参照的标准。当肮脏的空气像毯子一样裹住我们的城市,最弱势的城市人群受影响最大,也就是最年轻、最年老和最贫困的人。”

全球空气污染趋势

世卫组织在2008-2013年五年时间内比较了67个国家总计795个城市的颗粒物(PM10)和细颗粒物(PM2.5)水平。颗粒物和细颗粒物包括硫酸盐、硝酸银和黑炭等污染物,它们可以深入肺部和心血管系统,给人类健康带来极大风险。随后对数据进行了分析,以了解区域趋势。

2008-2013年的重要趋势:

虽然一些区域有所改善,但全球城市空气污染水平上升了8%。
总体而言,城市空气污染水平在高收入国家是最低的,大部分较低的污染水平出现在欧洲、美洲和西太平洋区域。
城市空气污染水平最高的地方是世卫组织东地中海区域和东南亚区域的低收入和中等收入国家,年平均水平往往超过世卫组织限值的5-10倍;紧随其后的是西太平洋区域的低收入城市。
在东地中海区域和东南亚区域,以及西太平洋区域的低收入国家,三分之二以上城市的空气污染水平上升了5%以上。
非洲区域的城市空气污染数据仍然很少,但是可获得数据显示颗粒物和细颗粒物水平高于中位数。现在,数据库的颗粒物和细颗粒物测量涵盖的城市数量是之前版本的两倍还多。
降低对人类健康的影响

高浓度的颗粒物和细颗粒物造成的周边环境污染是健康面临的最大环境风险,在全世界每年导致三百多万人过早死亡。

世卫组织公共卫生、环境和健康问题社会决定因素司司长Maria Neira博士说:“城市空气污染继续以惊人的速度增加,严重破坏人类健康。同时,人们的意识也在提示,更多城市正在监测空气质量。空气质量改善,全球呼吸道和心血管相关疾病就相应减少。”

城市室外空气污染的大部分来源是个人无法控制的,需要城市采取行动,也需要国家和国际决策者促进更清洁的交通以及更高效的能源生产和废物管理。

高收入国家半数以上及低收入和中等收入国家三分之一以上开展监测的城市,在五年间将空气污染水平降低了5%以上。

现有可负担策略包括减少工业烟囱排放、增加使用太阳能和风能等可再生电力来源以及在城市中重点发展快速公交、步行和骑行网络。

世卫组织的Carlos Dora博士说:“城市和国家政府使空气质量成为卫生和发展重点至关重要。空气质量改进时,与空气污染有关的疾病导致的卫生费用就会减少,工人的劳动生产率提高,预期寿命延长。减少空气污染还会带来额外的气候红利,这可以是各国对气候条约承诺的一部分。”

5月23-28日世界卫生大会期间,会员国将讨论加强全球应对空气污染的不良健康影响的路线图。

世卫组织的空气质量指南为构成健康风险的重要空气污染物的阈值和限值提供全球指导。该指南支出,将颗粒物污染从每立方米70微克降到20微克,空气污染相关死亡可能减少约15%。

世卫组织城市空气质量数据库以全世界各地信誉卓著的公立空气质量监测系统为基础和可靠数据源。应强烈鼓励和支持各国努力建立并运行有代表性的空气质量监测系统。

给编辑的说明:

世卫组织查收空气质量数据库覆盖三千多个人类居住区,其人口规模从几百人到九百余万不等。大部分数据来自有五万或以上人口的城市。但是,约25%数据来自居民数量不超过两万的较小城市地区。

主要数据来源包括各国向世卫组织提交的官方报告、国家和次国家级正式报告以及包含颗粒物或细颗粒物测量结果的网站。还使用了以下区域网络报告的测量结果:亚洲清洁空气中心报告的亚洲数据和欧洲环境局向欧洲空气质量电子报告数据库报告的数据。在缺乏上述来源数据的情况下,使用了来自联合国和发展伙伴、经过同行评议的期刊文章和全球疾病负担项目框架下汇编的实地测量结果数据。

数据库内容包括根据每日测量结果计算的颗粒物和细颗粒物年度平均浓度或者可以被总和为年度平均值的数据。在没有年度平均值的情况下,作为例外使用了覆盖一年之内较有限时间段的测量结果。

世卫组织环境空气质量指南

PM2.5
年平均值:10微克/立方米
24小时平均值:25微克/立方米

PM10
年平均值:20微克/立方米
24小时平均值:50微克/立方米

欲获更多情况,请联络:

世卫组织公共卫生、环境和健康问题社会决定因素司
Nada Osseiran
电话:+41 22 791 4475
手机:+41 79 445 1624
电子邮件:osseirann@who.int

世卫组织通讯联络司
Kimberly Chriscaden
电话:+41 22 791 2885
手机:+41 79 603 1891
电子邮件:chriscadenk@who.int

Tougher air pollution targets needed

Revision of EU’s key legal instrument for improving air quality – the NEC directive – is currently the subject of intense negotiations.

Starting in late February, representatives of the EU’s three legislative bodies (the Council, Parliament and Commission) have held a series of trialogue meetings over spring and early summer to negotiate a revised National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) directive with the aim of reaching a final compromise by June 2016.

While the Commission and the Parliament aim for an ambition level that would result in a 52 per cent reduction in premature deaths from air pollution between 2005 and 2030, the Council (i.e. the member states) argues for a significantly less ambitious target of 48 per cent. The latter would in effect result in an additional 16,000 annual premature deaths in 2030, on top of the more than a quarter of a million annual premature deaths that are expected to remain if the Commission’s proposal was to be implemented.

According to the environmental group European Environmental Bureau (EEB), approximately 130,000 EU citizens could die prematurely between 2016 and 2030 if the emission reduction targets for air pollutants are weakened in line with the Council’s position.

The Council’s 48-per-cent target was the outcome of mismanaged negotiations under the Luxembourg Presidency last year, when many member states got away with very unambitious emission reduction commitments (ERC). For example, Denmark, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania got away with weakening their ERCs for all five pollutants, and Italy and the UK managed to lower their national targets for four of the pollutants. (See table in AN 1/16, page 9.)

Now it is up to the Parliament and the Commission, hopefully with support from the Dutch Presidency, to push member states to accept more ambitious ERCs, especially for particulate matter (PM) and ammonia (NH₃) – pollutants that have particularly high adverse effects on human health. Ammonia is also the main culprit for ecosystem damage through eutrophication.

A possible compromise that would achieve a 50 per cent reduction in premature deaths has ben put forward by the Dutch Presidency to the member states. This would among other things simply that big member countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK, which are also responsible for large shares of the emissions, would need to accept slightly stricter ERCs, especially for PM and ammonia.

Another issue of debate is that the Parliament is also pushing for binding targets for 2025, compared to the Commission’s proposed indicative targets, while the Council only wants some sort of vague guiding figures for 2025. Having binding intermediary targets would obviously better ensure that countries really are on track to meet their 2030 ERCs.

When the Council agreed its position in December 2015, member states removed the ozone precursor methane completely from the directive. However, both the Commission and the Parliament want to keep it in, although a majority in the Parliament supported exclusion of the main source of methane emissions from agriculture, i.e. from livestock’s enteric fermentation, which in 2005 contributed more than a third of the EU’s total methane emissions. A compromise has been tabled that would reduce the EU’s overall methane ERC from 33 to 20 per cent, which equals the result of excluding enteric methane.

Other issues of contention include among others the five additional flexibilities introduced by the Council in order to make it easier for member states to comply; to what extent emission abatement measures listed in Annex III should be binding or just voluntary; the timing and extent of reporting and review; and public access to information and justice.

A fourth, possibly final, trialogue meeting on the revision of the NEC directive is due in early June.

Christer Ågren

Exposure to Particulate Air Pollutants Associated With Numerous Types of Cancer

http://www.aacr.org/Newsroom/Pages/News-Release-Detail.aspx?ItemID=886#.V5nH6Gh95hE

Long-term exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, a mixture of environmental pollutants, was associated with increased risk of mortality for many types of cancer in an elderly Hong Kong population, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Long-term exposure to particulate matter has been associated with mortality mainly from cardiopulmonary causes and lung cancer, but there have been few studies showing an association with mortality from other cancers,” said the study’s co-lead author, Thuan Quoc Thach, PhD, a scientific officer at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong. “Co-lead author Neil Thomas and I suspected that these particulates could have an equivalent effect on cancers elsewhere in the body.” Thomas, MPhil, PhD, is a reader in epidemiology in the Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Institute of Applied Health of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at The University of Birmingham.

Particulate matter is the term for particles found in the air, including hydrocarbons and heavy metals produced by transportation and power generation, among other sources, Thach explained. This study focused on ambient fine particulate matter, or matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5).

For this study, Thach, Thomas, and colleagues enrolled 66,280 people who were age 65 or older when initially recruited between 1998 and 2001. The researchers did not have data on whether they had cancer before they were enrolled. Researchers followed the study subjects until 2011, ascertaining causes of death from Hong Kong registrations. Annual concentrations of PM2.5 at their homes were estimated using data from satellite data and fixed-site monitors.

After adjusting for smoking status and excluding deaths that had occurred within three years of the baseline to control for competing diseases, the study showed that for every 10 microgram per cubic meter (µg/m3) of increased exposure to PM2.5, the risk of dying from any cancer rose by 22 percent. Increases of 10 µg/m3 of PM2.5 were associated with a 42 percent increased risk of mortality from cancer in the upper digestive tract and a 35 percent increased risk of mortality from accessory digestive organs, which include the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, and pancreas.

For women, every 10 µg/m3 increase in exposure to PM2.5 was associated with an 80 percent increased risk of mortality from breast cancer, and men experienced a 36 percent increased risk of dying of lung cancer for every 10 µg/m3 increased exposure to PM2.5.

Thach and Thomas indicated possible explanations for the association between PM2.5 and cancer could include defects in DNA repair function, alterations in the body’s immune response, or inflammation that triggers angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels that allows tumors to spread. In the case of the digestive organs, heavy metal pollution could affect gut microbiota and influence the development of cancer, the authors added.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a series of monographs on the evaluation of various carcinogenic risks. In a monograph on air pollution, the organization pointed out the difficulty of assessing the effects of pollution on multiple types of cancers, given their different etiologies, risk factors, and variability in the composition of air pollutants in space and time. The IARC also identified certain key components of air pollution, including particulates. The large scale of Thach and Thomas’s study, as well as its documentation of cancer-specific mortality, enables the detailed investigation of the contribution of particulate matter to these cancers, the authors said.

Thomas added that further research would be required to determine whether other countries experience similar associations between PM2.5 and cancer deaths, but this study combined with existing research suggests that other urban populations may carry the same risks.

“The implications for other similar cities around the world are that PM2.5 must be reduced as much and as fast as possible,” he said. “Air pollution remains a clear, modifiable public health concern.”

Thach said a limitation of the study is that it focused solely on PM2.5. He said emerging research is beginning to study the effects of exposure to multiple pollutants on human health. He also cautioned that pollution is just one risk factor for cancer, and others, such as diet and exercise, may be more significant and more modifiable risk factors.

This study was funded by the Wellcome Trust. Thach and Thomas declare no conflicts of interest.

Parents unconvinced as Chinese authorities pledge investigations into soil blamed for students’ health problems, including cancer

Parents of students suffering health problems blamed on polluted soil near a school in Jiangsu are sceptical of investigations by state environmental and education authorities.

Some do not even trust local hospitals to carry out health checks on their children, suspecting they may have been pressured by the city authorities.

Many are questioning whether to continue sending their children to the school, which charges 8,500 yuan (HK$10,170) per ¬semester and is among the best in Changzhou.

The ministries of environmental protection and education ordered investigations into the problems at Changzhou Foreign Language School, prompted by an expose by state broadcaster CCTV.

The broadcaster said 493 pupils had developed health problems, including bronchitis, blood and thyroid abnormalities, and even lymphoma and leukaemia, after the school moved last September to a new campus adjacent to a site that had been contaminated by three chemical plants.

The plants left in 2010 and when the school moved to the campus, a project to remedy the polluted soil was launched. However, the project was thought to have released some of the site’s toxins into the atmosphere.

The city’s environmental authorities say the air and soil are now safe, after the project was suspended and the site covered with a layer of clay in February.

But CCTV said the soil and groundwater still contained toxic compounds. It said the level of cancer-causing chlorobenzene in the groundwater was nearly 100,000 times the safety limit.

“We are very scared and don’t know which side we should believe,” the mother of a 14-year-old boy said.“It’s horrific… the chemical pollution poses long-term [health] risks.”

She took her son to a hospital in nearby Wuxi for a checkup, as parents suspect hospitals in Changzhou have been told by the government to give “special treatment” to pupils from the school.

“I was told that all students from the school received the same result: that there is no problem with their health,” she said.

The doctor in Wuxi found the boy to have a slight thyroid problem, but did not directly link the illness to the environment.

A father surnamed Kang whose daughter is in grade eight hoped the school would relocate.

“My daughter took a week off at the start of this semester [over pollution concerns]. But she wanted to go back to school so dearly. Every day I am in a dilemma over whether I should let her go to this school or not,” he said.

He told his daughter not to drink the water at the school, and hired a maid to prepare and deliver lunch to her every day.

On January 15, nearly 1,000 parents joined an overnight protest demanding the school relocate. Hundreds of police were deployed to scatter the crowds. They later visited protesters’ homes and said those who worked at government agencies or state-owned companies were risking their jobs.

The mother said some students were reluctant to leave the school as they had grown emotionally attached to teachers and schoolmates.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said the scandal revealed “loopholes in almost every link of environmental supervision”. “The fact the [plants] were able to pump so many pollutants underground reflects a chronic lack of supervision,” he said.

The soil remedy project had obviously failed to identify potential health concerns – and China still did not have a law to regulate such practices, Ma said.

A lack of transparency over soil pollution and chemical pollutants in general made public supervision near impossible, he added.

Simply covering the soil with a layer of clay would not solve the problem, as the health implications of polluted soil and groundwater could take decades to emerge, Ma said.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1936990/parents-unconvinced-chinese-authorities-pledge

Finland: 1,600 early deaths every year due to air pollution

Air pollution is estimated to cause some 1,600 premature deaths in Finland every year, says a new report from the Environment Ministry. Deaths caused by air pollution shorten the lifetime of the individuals by an average of 16 years.

Taken across the entire population, this means that the life expectancy of Finns is shortened by an average of over five months due to air pollution.

Most of the health damage is caused by tiny particles (PM) or by nitrogen oxides.

About half of the PM concentrations in Finland emanates from emissions from outside the country, while the other half comes from domestic emission sources, primarily from small-scale wood burning (46%), other energy production (16%), traffic exhaust gases (12%), street dust (10%), peat production (9%), and industry (7%).

Source: Environment ministry press release, 13 April 2016

http://www.ym.fi/en-US/Latest_news/Press_releases/New_report_over_1000_premature_deaths_in(38896)

Hong Kong indoor air pollution so bad it could be making you chronically ill, tests show

Pollutant levels up to 1,250 per cent higher indoors than outdoors, and PM2.5 fine-particle pollution worse than beside some of the city’s busiest roads, shock research by Baptist University finds

http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health-beauty/article/1935398/hong-kong-indoor-air-pollution-so-bad-it-could-be-making-you

The air pollution inside some Hong Kong homes is worse than beside some of the city’s busiest roads, tests show. And it could be making the homes’ occupants chronically ill, worried scientists say.

Levels of small-particle pollution, known as PM2.5, that can lodge deep in people’s lungs were on average nearly 10 per cent higher indoors than the highest level found outdoors.

Levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature – were, on average, over 1,250 per cent higher in kitchens than outdoors. And the median level of VOCs in 27 of 32 homes tested exceeded the recommended maximum level for Hong Kong offices.

One of the researchers said indoor air pollution – from perfumes, cleaning products and cooking fumes – turned the average Hong Kong home into a “mini chemical warehouse”.

Studies in other countries have also found indoor air pollution is higher than that outdoors. The situation in Hong Kong could be aggravated by factors such as high-rise living, subdivided flats, a lack of windows and ventilation in some rooms, and restaurants occupying ground-floor premises in residential buildings, one of the researchers said.

The research was conducted by Baptist University’s biology department and household appliances manufacturer Dyson. Air quality was tested in 32 homes, with samples taken in their living rooms and kitchens, and directly outside these rooms.

The tests showed the median level of indoor VOCs in most of the homes tested was 345 parts per billion (ppb) compared with 95.5ppb outside the flats. Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department says VOCs should not exceed 200ppb in offices. Kitchen VOC levels were far higher.

“VOCs are consistently higher indoors than outdoors. Even so, the research found that the kitchen VOCs are on average 1,258 per cent higher than outdoors,” said Baptist University’s Dr Lai Ka-man, who led the research in March.

The researchers’ report, citing the US US Environmental Protection Agency, says: “Toxic fumes released from cleaning solvents, deodorants and scented candles are some of the most common indoor air pollutants. Other major indoor air pollutants include gases from cooking, mould, pet hair, pollen and allergens.”

The scientists tested for two classes of particulate matter (PM), fine particles resulting from combustion such as that by vehicle engines and power stations. In the home, particulate matter can be produced by cooking and by smoking tobacco. Exposure to excessive levels can lead to allergic reactions of the lower respiratory tract, such as asthma, and to strokes and heart attacks, according to health professionals.

Readings were also taken at seven outdoor locations around the city.

The tests found micro-particle pollution, or PM0.1, was on average 68.5 per cent higher inside homes than outside. (PM0.1 is one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair, and can penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream.)

“The highest outdoor PM0.1 was 94 million particles per litre (ppl), recorded at the junction near the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay. The highest indoor sample was a worrying 46.8 per cent higher, at 138 million ppl [recorded in a Tai Wo flat in the New Territories]”, Lai said.

Hong Kong has no guidelines on recommended levels of indoor particulate matter, but it is indicative that outdoor readings in busy roadside areas often reach dangerous levels on the air pollution index – levels that, ironically, trigger warnings to residents with respiratory problems to stay in their homes.

Surprisingly, Lai said, indoor levels of PM2.5 were higher than outdoors. Indoor readings were on average 9 per cent higher than the highest reading recorded outdoors, of 369 ppl, outside Sogo in Causeway Bay; the PM2.5 reading in Nathan Road, Mong Kok, one of the city’s busiest urban roads, was 363ppl.

Six million Americans have lead-tainted water in homes, schools: report

Some six million Americans have drinking water tainted with higher levels of lead than allowed by US federal guidelines, the USA Today reported on Thursday.

With the nation focused on a major crisis in Flint, Michigan, where lead from aging pipes leeched into the municipal water supply, the newspaper launched an investigation which found higher than acceptable lead levels in about 2,000 water systems across the United States.

Tainted water was supplied to hundreds of daycare centers and schools, the report said.

Children are the population most vulnerable to the pernicious effects of lead, a toxin which affects the neurological system and can lead to permanent learning delays and behavioral problems.

Higher than allowed lead levels were found in all 50 US states, USA Today reported.

A sample of water drawn from one elementary school in Maine found lead levels some 42 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency limit of 15 parts per billion, while a preschool in Pennsylvania recorded lead levels 14 times higher than allowed.

An elementary school in Ithaca, New York tested earlier this year showed 5,000 parts per billion of lead — a level so high it met the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s designation for “hazardous waste.”

More than 8,000 children in Flint, economically devastated by shutdowns and layoffs in the car industry, were exposed to lead for more than a year before the tap water contamination was uncovered by citizen activists.

The news report was published as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder prepared to appear Thursday before a congressional oversight committee probing the Flint crisis.

Critics are calling for the resignation of Snyder, who ordered water from the Flint River to be diverted to supply water to the city, in a cost-cutting measure.

Experts believe that the chemical-laced Flint River water corroded lead-bearing pipes, allowing large amounts of the chemical element to leech into the city’s water.

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