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October, 2011:

Riders fight against pollution at the Tour of Beijing

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/riders-fight-against-pollution-at-the-tour-of-beijing

Scenic landscape at the Tour of Beijing

Scenic landscape at the Tour of Beijing

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Saxo Bank and HTC minimize the controversy and say there are remedies

Pollution in the Chinese capital is a recurring topic on the social networks when Tour of Beijing is mentioned. Garmin-Cervélo’s Andrew Talansky was one of the first to complain about the air quality on Twitter even before the start of the race, but other teams say the pollution isn’t a big concern.

After a few hours on his bike, the American talent confirmed he has been affected by the bad air. “Pollution is clearly strong here”, he told Cyclingnews. “I guess someone like David Millar who is born in Hong Kong doesn’t have the same problems here. For my part I come from California but not from a big city. At home I struggled when I rode around Los Angeles but it is really worse in Beijing.”

Amaël Moinard also said at the start of stage 2 that “it was pretty hard to breathe during the time trial”. However BMC’s Frenchman doesn’t want to take part to the controversy and says he “is really enjoying” his first experience in China.

Beijing’s pollution is hard to miss. Even on clear days, there is a haze that lingers, and it led the government to close dozen of factories around the city three weeks before the Olympic Games in 2008.

On Wednesday, weather.com.cn recorded a “pretty bad” quality of air in Beijing and Men-To Go district where stage 2 has finished. In its last forecast, published at 6pm (11am in London), the Chinese website recommends “to reduce the outdoor sport activities”.

“With 18 million people and a huge amount of car traffic that the local authorities are trying to decrease, it’s obvious Beijing doesn’t have the same quality of air as the Swiss Alps,” said Global Cycling Promotions Director Alain Rumpf, organiser of the Tour of Beijing, adding that spring and autumn are the best seasons for air quality.

“Air quality changes every day accordingly the wind, because Beijing is based in a basin,” Rumpf said. “The weather was nice when the riders arrived and they managed to give their best in the first two stages.”

HTC-Highroad’s team doctor is aware of pollution’s potential impact on his athletes. “It’s both a physiological and… a psychological problem,” Helge Riepenhof told Cyclingnews. An expert in recovery methods, the German team doctor said any issues riders might have are not serious.

The situation is similarly normal at Saxo Bank-Sungard, said team doctor Joost Maeseneer. “We were a bit worried about the quality of food and air and finally everything is OK.”

In case one of his riders would be badly affected, he brought in his suitcase some conventional medicines like anti-histamines, normally used for allergies, and some others to relax an irritated throat.

HTC has another weapon against pollution, an herbal remedy. “I tried it in 2008 during the Olympics and it was successful”, doctor Riepenhof says. “Every night, the riders who request it can inhale natural substance which doesn’t clear their lungs, but which helps the riders to feel better.”

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Courts have duty to monitor projects

South China Morning Post – oct. 5, 2011

The government’s approach to assessing the environmental impact of major infrastructure projects has survived a legal challenge. The Court of Appeal last week overturned a lower court’s decision against the government concerning the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. The court felt it should not interfere with what is essentially a matter of professional judgment to be exercised by the Director of Environmental Protection.

This decision removes uncertainties surrounding construction of the much-delayed bridge and other development plans held up by the case. The project will cost an extra HK$6.5 billion as a result of the delay and, taken together with other projects, it is clear the legal action caused a substantial economic loss. There are those who argue that the case should never have been brought, especially as the applicant – who said she was worried the noise from construction would aggravate her poor health – said she didn’t really understand the issues and had been persuaded by other people to go ahead.

But the courts have a duty to ensure the government is operating lawfully and there was clearly sufficient merit in the case for it to proceed. The proceedings provided a useful examination of the system. Lessons should be learned. There is a need to review the assessment mechanism. The High Court ruled that the director should not approve the impact assessment reports in the absence of a separate analysis of likely environmental conditions if the projects were not built. The appeal court did not dwell on the merits of such a standalone study but ruled it was not required by the law.

The victory should not stop the government improving the system. The perceived inadequacies have long been a matter of concern among those who care about the environment. Now that the court case is over, there is no reason why there should not be a public debate. It is a good opportunity to bring environmental impact assessment studies in line with international standards.

There are a number of big infrastructure projects pending. Putting in place a mechanism that strikes a balance between development and environmental protection is important. The impact on public health and the environment should be reduced to a minimum. To do so, a credible and effective assessment mechanism is essential.

Like it or not, other infrastructure projects are likely to face legal challenges from time to time. Residents who have legitimate concerns about the harmful impact they may have are entitled to take their case to the court. It will be up to the judges to decide if there is any legal merit. But officials have to ensure that the projects in the pipeline, such as the proposed incinerator in Shek Kwu Chau and the Sha Tin to Central railway, proceed on solid foundations.

Air Pollution as an Emerging Global Risk Factor for Stroke

http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/12/1240.extract

1. Author Affiliations: Departments of International Health and Neurology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD (Dr Mateen); and Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Dr Brook).

Ambient air pollution exposure is considered an important factor associated with mortality worldwide. In high-income countries, air pollution was associated with 2.5% of all deaths (eighth leading risk factor for mortality).1 Increasing evidence suggests that the highest proportion of air pollution–related deaths, especially thoserelated to particulate matter (PM), are not pulmonary related as might be speculated, but are due to cardiovascular causes. The American Heart Association concluded in an updated scientific statement that the overall evidence is consistent with PM playing a causal role in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. 2Although adverse cardiopulmonary outcomes have been the focus of most recent studies, air pollution–related stroke has received less attention. This relationship may represent a serious and increasing burden to populations, particularly in the developing world, and merits further attention on global research and public policy agendas.

Air pollution consists of a heterogeneous mixture of PM and gases

Courts have duty to monitor projects

South China Morning Post – 5 Oct. 2011

The government’s approach to assessing the environmental impact of major infrastructure projects has survived a legal challenge. The Court of Appeal last week overturned a lower court’s decision against the government concerning the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. The court felt it should not interfere with what is essentially a matter of professional judgment to be exercised by the Director of Environmental Protection.

This decision removes uncertainties surrounding construction of the much-delayed bridge and other development plans held up by the case. The project will cost an extra HK$6.5 billion as a result of the delay and, taken together with other projects, it is clear the legal action caused a substantial economic loss. There are those who argue that the case should never have been brought, especially as the applicant – who said she was worried the noise from construction would aggravate her poor health – said she didn’t really understand the issues and had been persuaded by other people to go ahead.

But the courts have a duty to ensure the government is operating lawfully and there was clearly sufficient merit in the case for it to proceed. The proceedings provided a useful examination of the system. Lessons should be learned. There is a need to review the assessment mechanism. The High Court ruled that the director should not approve the impact assessment reports in the absence of a separate analysis of likely environmental conditions if the projects were not built. The appeal court did not dwell on the merits of such a standalone study but ruled it was not required by the law.

The victory should not stop the government improving the system. The perceived inadequacies have long been a matter of concern among those who care about the environment. Now that the court case is over, there is no reason why there should not be a public debate. It is a good opportunity to bring environmental impact assessment studies in line with international standards.

There are a number of big infrastructure projects pending. Putting in place a mechanism that strikes a balance between development and environmental protection is important. The impact on public health and the environment should be reduced to a minimum. To do so, a credible and effective assessment mechanism is essential.

Like it or not, other infrastructure projects are likely to face legal challenges from time to time. Residents who have legitimate concerns about the harmful impact they may have are entitled to take their case to the court. It will be up to the judges to decide if there is any legal merit. But officials have to ensure that the projects in the pipeline, such as the proposed incinerator in Shek Kwu Chau and the Sha Tin to Central railway, proceed on solid foundations.

Deep chill tore new hole in ozone shield

South China Morning Post – Oct. 4, 2011

Massive rift opened in protective atmospheric layer over the Arctic for first time last winter, exposing Europe and Asia to higher levels of ultraviolet light

An ozone hole five times the size of California opened over the Arctic this spring, matching ozone loss over Antarctica for the first time on record, scientists said.

Formed by a deep chill over the North Pole, the unprecedented hole at one point shifted over eastern Europe, Russia and Mongolia, exposing populations to higher, but unsustained, levels of ultraviolet light.

Ozone, a molecule of oxygen, forms in the stratosphere, filtering out ultraviolet rays that damage vegetation and can cause skin cancer and cataracts. The shield comes under seasonal attack in both polar regions in the local winter-spring.

Part of the source comes from man-made chlorine-based compounds, once widely used in refrigerants and consumer aerosols, that are being phased out under the UN’s Montreal Protocol.

But the loss itself is driven by deep cold, which causes water vapour and molecules of nitric acid to condense into clouds in the lower stratosphere. These clouds in turn become a “bed” where atmospheric chlorine molecules convert into reactive compounds that gobble up ozone.

Ozone loss over the Antarctic is traditionally much bigger than over the Arctic because of the far colder temperatures there. In the Arctic, records have – until now – suggested that the loss, while variable, is far more limited.

Satellite measurements conducted in the Arcitic last winter and spring found ozone badly depleted at a height of between 15 kilometres and 23 kilometres. The biggest loss – of more than 80 per cent – occurred at a height of between 18 kilometres and 20 kilometres.

“For the first time, sufficient loss occurred to be reasonably described as an Arctic ozone hole,” said the study, which appeared in the British science journal Nature.

The trigger was the polar vortex, a large-scale cyclone that forms every winter in the Arctic stratosphere but which last winter was born in extremely cold conditions, said Dr Gloria Manney, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

“The ozone destruction began in January, then accelerated in late February and March, so that ozone values in the polar vortex region were much lower than usual from early March through late April, after which the polar vortex dissipated,” the study said.

“Especially low total column ozone values … were observed for about 27 days in March and early April,” The study said. “The maximum area with [such] values … was about two million square kilometres, roughly five times the area of Germany or California.”

This was similar in size to ozone loss in Antarctica in the mid-1980s.

In April, the vortex shifted over more densely populated parts of Russia, Mongolia and eastern Europe for about two weeks.

Measurements on the ground showed “unusually high values” of ultraviolet, although human exposure was not constant as the vortex shifted location daily before eventually fading, said Manney. The study challenges conventional thinking about the Arctic’s susceptibility to ozone holes.

This thinking is based on only a few decades of satellite observations.

Stratospheric temperatures in the Arctic have been extraordinarily varied in the past decade, the paper notes. Four out of the last 10 years have been amongst the warmest in the past 32 years, and two are the coldest.

Air-quality standards may be tightened

South China Morning Post – Oct. 4, 2011

Mainland authorities are mulling including fine particulate matter in the pollution index for the first time, under 12th five-year plan

Mainland authorities are considering tightening air-quality standards to include fine particulate matter in the pollution index for the first time, state media said.

The move – part of a review of guidelines on air, water, soil and noise pollution under the 12th five-year plan, for 2011-15 – would include particles smaller than 2.5 microns in standard reports on air quality, Xinhua reported yesterday.

Fine particulate, known as PM2.5, is one of the principal factors in visible smog and is known to cause lung damage. It may even enter the bloodstream and cause heart problems.

Chinese air pollution standards lag behind UN and World Health Organisation guidelines, but are stricter than those in parts of the United States. Fine particulate has been excluded from the pollution index – at times leaving city residents scratching their heads on smoggy days when the index records relatively “clean” air.

In its report, Xinhua quoted Zhou Jian , vice-minister of environmental protection, as saying at a recent conference that authorities had been conducting a review of pollution regulations over the past four years, and were preparing to “perfect” them and make guidelines more “scientifically rational”.

Zhao Hualin , head of the ministry’s pollution-control unit, said that the addition of PM2.5 measurements to the pollution index would be the first step, Xinhua reported.

The news was welcomed by one prominent campaigner as a move that would have a “major motivational impact” on environmental efforts on the mainland.

“I strongly support this proposal,” said Ma Jun , director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. “This is a move that really should have been made a long time ago, as China is one of the worst-affected countries in the world for PM2.5 pollution.”

Ma said China was unusual in not producing official statistics on fine particulates, which he said was standard procedure even in many developing nations.

“In a comparative study on air pollution that we conducted last year between mainland cities and 10 international cities, China was the only place that did not record PM2.5 levels,” Ma said.

“We first need to recognise the extent of the problem and work out how serious it is. That refers not just to the government – academics and researchers need to pay more attention to the problem.”

Visibility had been deteriorating rapidly in most big cities over the past two decades, he said, but including particulate in air pollution measurements could mark a turning point.

“This will have a major motivational impact for environmentalism in China,” Ma said. “It will draw the public’s attention, and that can only bring more pressure for change.

“Ordinary people are increasingly recognising that they may have wealth or a job, but they don’t want to pay for that economic growth with their health or even their lives.”

william.clem@scmp.com

Denmark imposes ‘fat tax’ on butter and oil in bid to end nation’s unhealthy eating habits

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2044800/Denmark-imposes-fat-tax-butter-bid-end-nations-unhealthy-eating-habits.html?printingPage=true

Oct. 4, 2011

Denmark has imposed a ‘fat tax’ on foods such as butter and oil in a bid to curb the nation’s unhealthy eating habits.

The Scandinavian country introduced the tax, of 16 kroner (£1.84) per kilogram (2.2lbs) of saturated fat in a product.

Ole Linnet Juul, food director at Denmark’s Confederation of Industries, said the tax will increase the price of a burger by around nine pence and raise the price of a small package of butter by around 25pence.

On the rise: The cost of burgers and hot dogs in Denmark will go up after the Government implemented a new 'fat tax' on some foods

On the rise: The cost of burgers and hot dogs in Denmark will go up after the Government implemented a new ‘fat tax’ on some foods

The tax was approved by large majority in a parliament in March as a move to help increase the average life expectancy of Danes.

Denmark, like some other European countries, already has higher fees on sugar, chocolates and soft drinks, but Linnet Juul said he believes the country is the first in the world to tax fatty foods.

More…

In September, Hungary introduced a new tax popularly known as the ‘Hamburger Law’, but that only involves higher taxes on soft drinks, pastries, salty snacks and food flavourings.

Complex: Ole Linnet Juul said the new tax involves the percentage of fat used in making the product, rather than the amount in the end product

The outgoing conservative Danish government planned the fat tax as part of a goal to increase the average life expectancy of Danes, currently below the OECD average at 79 years, by three years over the next 10 years.

‘Higher fees on sugar, fat and tobacco is an important step on the way toward a higher average life expectancy in Denmark,’ health minister Jakob Axel Nielsen said when he introduced the idea in 2009, because ‘saturated fats can cause cardiovascular disease and cancer.’

Linnet Juul said the tax mechanism is very complex, involving tax rates on the percentage of fat used in making a product rather than the percentage that is in the end-product.

As such, only the arrangements of how companies should handle the tax payments could cost Danish businesses about £18 million in the first year, he said.

Linnet Juul’s organisation is pressuring politicians to simplify the tax, but said he is unsure what will happen when the new, centre-left government takes office.

Hong Kong has one of the highest roadside PM2.5 levels in the world.

“Exposure to PM _2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) over a few hours to weeks can trigger cardiovascular disease–related mortality and nonfatal events;

longer-term exposure (eg, a few years) increases the risk for cardiovascular mortality to an even greater extent than exposures over a few days and r

educes life expectancy within more highly exposed segments of the population by several months to a few years;

reductions in PM levels are associated with decreases in cardiovascular mortality within a time frame as short as a few years; and many credible

pathological mechanisms have been elucidated that lend biological plausibility to these findings. It is the opinion of the

writing group that the overall evidence is consistent with a causal relationship between PM2.5 exposure and

cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. This body of evidence has grown and been strengthened substantially since the

first American Heart Association scientific statement was published. Finally, PM2.5 exposure is deemed a modifiable

factor that contributes to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. (Circulation. 2010;121:2331-2378.)”

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Episodic Exposure to Fine Particulate Air Pollution Decreases Circulating Levels of Endothelial Progenitor Cells

Acute and chronic exposure to elevated levels of fine airborne
particulate matter (PM) is associated with an increase in the
incidence of adverse cardiovascular events,1,2 atherogenesis, cardiovascular
disease (CVD) risk, and cardiovascular mortality. In urban
environments, fine PM (PM with aerodynamic diameter of
2.5 m [PM2.5]) is generated mostly by fossil fuel combustion in
automobiles or by industrial processes. Although several mechanisms
have been proposed to account for the link between PM
exposure and CVD risk, endothelial dysfunction has emerged as a
key feature of PM toxicity. Inhalation of concentrated PM2.5
induces acute conduit artery vasoconstriction in humans and chronic
deficits in endothelium-mediated vasodilation in mice.1,2
The adult endothelium is a differentiated cell layer that
provides a nonthrombotic interface between parenchymal cells
and peripheral blood. Defects in its function arise because of the
upregulated expression of proinflammatory and prothrombotic molecules
or from defective, endogenous repair capacity. Evidence
from multiple studies suggests that the endothelium is continuall

Acute and chronic exposure to elevated levels of fine airborneparticulate matter (PM) is associated with an increase in theincidence of adverse cardiovascular events,1,2 atherogenesis, cardiovasculardisease (CVD) risk, and cardiovascular mortality. In urbanenvironments, fine PM (PM with aerodynamic diameter of2.5 m [PM2.5]) is generated mostly by fossil fuel combustion inautomobiles or by industrial processes. Although several mechanismshave been proposed to account for the link between PMexposure and CVD risk, endothelial dysfunction has emerged as akey feature of PM toxicity. Inhalation of concentrated PM2.5induces acute conduit artery vasoconstriction in humans and chronicdeficits in endothelium-mediated vasodilation in mice.1,2The adult endothelium is a differentiated cell layer thatprovides a nonthrombotic interface between parenchymal cellsand peripheral blood. Defects in its function arise because of theupregulated expression of proinflammatory and prothrombotic moleculesor from defective, endogenous repair capacity. Evidencefrom multiple studies suggests that the endothelium is continuall ……

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Beware the Air! : Why Particulate Matter Matters

The “Six Cities Study,” as it is affectionately known by
epidemiologists, was published in 1993. This landmark
study laid the groundwork for an association between ambient
air particulate matter (ie, fine particulate matter [PM] or
PM2.5 [particulate matter of 2.5 m aerodynamic diameter or
less]) and the risk of all cause mortality in the United States.1
Simply put, the message of the study was: “Air pollution
kills.” Since then, a steady stream of studies has grown into
a river of reports that collectively have swelled the banks of
this initial association and have further specified that ischemic
heart disease (cardiovascular disease [CVD]) is the
single-most abundant cause of morbidity and mortality in this
association.2–4 Analysis of more than 100 studies (100
million people in 119 cities in the United States and Europe)
show that for each 10 g/m3 acute or chronic increase in
PM2.5, there is a significant increase in relative risk of
cardiovascular mortality (chronic relative risk, 1.06 to 1.76),
indicating that PM, even at ambient levels, has negative
health consequences.4 Moreover, chronic exposure to each 10
g/m3 PM2.5 increase is associated with a 4 to 6%increase in
CVD deaths, which translates to 800 000 deaths annually in
the world (according to the World Health Organization),
making PM exposure the 13th leading cause of CVD deaths4
and, thus, deserving of urgent scientific and social attention.
Currently, researchers in the field of environmental cardiology5
are addressing at least 1 of 2 major unanswered questions
regarding this association: (1) What constituent of inhaled PM2.5
is responsible for the association?; and (2) What is the mechanism
by which inhaled PM2.5 can specifically affect cardiovascular
disease risk?
In this issue of

The “Six Cities Study,” as it is affectionately known byepidemiologists, was published in 1993. This landmarkstudy laid the groundwork for an association between ambientair particulate matter (ie, fine particulate matter [PM] orPM2.5 [particulate matter of 2.5 m aerodynamic diameter orless]) and the risk of all cause mortality in the United States.1Simply put, the message of the study was: “Air pollutionkills.” Since then, a steady stream of studies has grown intoa river of reports that collectively have swelled the banks ofthis initial association and have further specified that ischemicheart disease (cardiovascular disease [CVD]) is thesingle-most abundant cause of morbidity and mortality in thisassociation.2–4 Analysis of more than 100 studies (100million people in 119 cities in the United States and Europe)show that for each 10 g/m3 acute or chronic increase inPM2.5, there is a significant increase in relative risk ofcardiovascular mortality (chronic relative risk, 1.06 to 1.76),indicating that PM, even at ambient levels, has negativehealth consequences.4 Moreover, chronic exposure to each 10g/m3 PM2.5 increase is associated with a 4 to 6%increase inCVD deaths, which translates to 800 000 deaths annually inthe world (according to the World Health Organization),making PM exposure the 13th leading cause of CVD deaths4and, thus, deserving of urgent scientific and social attention.Currently, researchers in the field of environmental cardiology5are addressing at least 1 of 2 major unanswered questionsregarding this association: (1) What constituent of inhaled PM2.5is responsible for the association?; and (2) What is the mechanismby which inhaled PM2.5 can specifically affect cardiovasculardisease risk?

Download PDF : 644.full