AIRE: Atmospheric Information Resource for Educators and students

ICYMI: India’s Air Pollution Crisis, By the Numbers

In this article, published in October 2017 on HuffPost India, Prof. McNeill and Dr. Julia Nunes break down the data for particulate air pollution in cities across India. Air pollution is at an unhealthy level for a large part of the year, in most Indian cities.

The pie charts show the number of days in the past year that the average PM2.5 level fell into the following three categories: Green days (PM2.5 < 35.4 μg m-3) are healthy or moderate, yellow days (35.5 μg m-3 to 55.4 μg m-3) are unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly or those with lung disease, and red days (PM2.5 > 55.5 μg m-3) are unhealthy for all. For more information on the data sources: http://outreach.mcneill-lab.org/india-aq-2016-2017/

 

How to protect yourself and your family from air pollution

This article was written by Prof. V. Faye McNeill and her colleague, Dr. Julia Nunes. It gives details on ways to protect yourself and your family from the effects of air pollution. It is the first in a set of articles. The next article in the series will break down air pollution data from across India, demonstrating that most Indians are exposed to unhealthy air for much of the year.

http://m.huffingtonpost.in/amp/dr-julia-k-nunes/no-you-do-not-become-immune-to-air-pollution-yes-it-can-kill-you_a_23241219/

Image: Smog in the Delhi/NCR area. Photo credit: Jesse Rabek.

 

Recurso Recomendado: @SmokeySpanish

Smokey es un programa que le brinda información de la calidad de aire de acceso rápido para su lugar. Simplemente Twittea el nombre de su ciudad a @SmokeySpanish y usted recibirá una respuesta en cuestión de segundos con el inidico de la calidad del aire y unos detalles como los niveles del PM2.5 y el ozono. Esta información puede ayudarle a planear sus actividades diarias.

Smokey fue creado por Amrit Sharma (@Amrit_Sharma) y usa datos del openaq.org (@openaq).

Twitteando a @SmokeySpanish
Los detalles del AQ

 

Día Mundial del Asma: “Mi hija tiene asma. ¿De qué manera la contaminación del aire afecta a su salud?”

Pregunta: Mi hija tiene asma. ¿De qué manera la contaminación del aire afecta a su salud? – M.N., New York, NY

Respuesta: Las personas asmáticas son muy sensibles a los efectos de la contaminación del aire. Al respirar el aire contaminado, esto puede desencadenar o empeorar los síntomas del asma.  El ĺndice de Calidad del Aire (AQI) es una medida que nos dice que tan ‘saludable’ es el estado actual del aire que respiramos. El AQI se calcula por los niveles de unas sustancias presentes en el aire, las cuales pueden afectar la salud humana, por ejemplo el ozono y la materia particulada. Un nivel AQI sobre 101 no es saludable para la gente asmática, mientras que para los adultos con un buen estado de salud y sin asma, un nivel de AQI sobre 151 no es saludable.

La Prof. McNeill también tiene asma y en los días con alto AQI, ella no se siente bien y usa más el inhalador. Cuando ella estudiaba en la universidad Caltech, cerca de Los Angeles, la calidad del aire fue muy mala, peor que hoy, y esto la motivó a estudiar la química atmosférica.

Este post apareció por primera vez en este sitio el 4 de Octubre de 2014. Estamos respostandolo porque hoy es el Día Mundial del Asma 2017 

 

Air Pollution and World Asthma Day

World Asthma Day reminds us at the AIRE team why we care about clean air. Air pollution is a trigger for asthma. According to the 2017 HEI State of Global Air report, most people on Earth are living with PM2.5 concentrations which the US EPA has labeled as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” which includes people with asthma. Air Quality has improved enormously in the US, to the benefit of asthmatics and everyone else, since the passing of the Clean Air Act of 1970. The improvements in US air quality are even visible from space. However, India, China, UK, and other nations worldwide are currently facing air quality crises. Cleaning up the air in order to protect public health, while at the same time meeting climate goals, will require a combination of technical insight, policy innovation, and political will.

Live reporting from Beijing: Air Quality in Crisis

V. Faye McNeill, Beijing, China, December 21, 2016

Haze over central Beijing, 12/20/2016. Photo credit: V. F. McNeill

Much of China, including the capital city, Beijing, is experiencing sustained heavy smog this week, with air pollution at hazardous levels for the past three days. Concentrations of fine particulate matter in Beijing’s air today exceeded 400 ug/m3, more than ten times China’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard (35 ug/m3). The episode has caused an increase in hospitalizations and disruptions in air traffic due to poor visibility. The government has declared a “red alert” and taken emergency measures including industrial shutdowns, odd-even traffic restrictions, and school cancellations to protect public health.

“I love Beijing.  I grew up here and spent my whole life here.  If it weren’t for the air pollution, I would love living here.  But now I think about leaving. Many people are leaving.”

Reduced visibility at Beijing’s airport. 12/20/2016 Photo credit: V.F. McNeill

Air quality is an ongoing issue in Beijing, and a major subject of concern for its residents. As one Beijing native told me: “I love Beijing.  I grew up here and spent my whole life here.  If it weren’t for the air pollution, I would love living here.  But now I think about leaving. Many people are leaving.” According to the U.S. Embassy, between 2008-2015, the daily average air quality index in Beijing fell in the “Unhealthy,” “Very Unhealthy,” or “Hazardous” categories 67% of the time. A severe air quality episode in January 2013 was somewhat of a turning point, leading to increased pressure on the government to tighten regulations. One outcome was the amendment of the national ambient air quality standards. Meeting the new standards for PM2.5 would be a major step towards protecting public health. But, as episodes like this one show, improvement is slow to come. Plans for local implementation and enforcement of the new air quality standards are still in the development stages. In some cases major changes in infrastructure are needed in order to reduce emissions, and this can take time. Local efforts alone won’t be enough: The city of Beijing has made bold moves towards eliminating coal burning within the city, but much of Beijing’s pollution comes from upwind sources, outside the city limits.

With the will of government and the people aligned, China is poised to turn around its air pollution problem. Unlike the U.S., which greatly improved its air quality in the last century and now must tackle climate, China is in a position to develop smart new policies and technology to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions simultaneously.

Air quality action day!

It’s hot as the Dickens and it’s an air quality action day in the New York city area and in much of the Northeast. Skies are currently blue but the air quality index is in the ‘Unsafe for Sensitive Groups’ range. This plus the super hot weather makes for dangerous conditions for asthmatics, the elderly, and other sensitive groups.  So do your best to chill out indoors this weekend!

Fireworks and Air Quality

Happy 4th of July from the AIRE team!  As we head into the holiday weekend, we have received some questions about fireworks and their effect on air quality.  Here is an excerpt from our 2015 post on the topic.  Have a happy and healthy holiday!

Diwali Fireworks, Melbourne, Australia (wikimedia commons)
Diwali Fireworks, Melbourne, Australia (wikimedia commons)

While they are beautiful and festive, fireworks often have a major negative impact on air quality. Concentrations of fine particulate matter skyrocket during and after holidays such as New Year’s, Diwali, or the 4th of July in the US where fireworks displays are prevalent.  The particles generated often contain elevated levels of toxic chemical components such as metals (the same ingredients that give the fireworks their impressive colors).

Fireworks are not a regulated source of air pollution since they only impact air quality a few nights a year in most places.  However, sensitive populations including asthmatics may want to think twice about breathing the smoke created on those festive nights (or at least carry your inhaler when heading out to watch the fireworks this weekend!).

NYC Air Quality – Improving? AIRE reports!

AII Air Quality NYC - US letter _Page_03ccording to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, air quality in NYC is getting better.  Here at AIRE, we hypothesized the opposite last summer.  Based on a very unscientific survey of our own asthma responses and perceptions of visibility in the city, we suspected that summertime air quality had been on the decline in recent years (2014-2015).  To test this hypothesis, summer undergraduate researcher Silvia Vina Lopez gathered Air Quality Index (AQI) data for NYC from 2000-2015, and data on criteria pollutant (SO2, CO, NO2, O3, PM) concentrations from 9 NYSDEC monitoring sites around the five boroughs. Here are some highlights of her findings:

  • Overall, air quality has been improving since 2000.  Importantly, there has clearly been a steady decrease in the number of “bad air days”. Since 2000, the number of days categorized as “Unhealthy for sensitive groups,” “Unhealthy,” or “Very unhealthy” has been on the decline.
  • Since 2008, the number of “Good” air quality days has had an overall upward trend, but there indeed has been a sharp decrease in “Good” days since 2013.  Since “Moderate” air quality is also pretty good in the big scheme of things, this trend may be subtle to perceive as you’re walking the streets of NYC unless you have asthma (like us) or think about PM 2.5 a lot (also like us).

II Air Quality NYC - US letter _Page_04To dig deeper into these trends, Silvia investigated the frequency with which each criteria pollutant exceeded the 24 h NAAQS standards. She found that SO2 violations decreased between 2004-2009 and have stayed low. The City attributes this trend to changes in heating oil regulations. On the other hand, the frequency of PM2.5 violations increased over the same time period and has remained elevated since 2009. This value decreased somewhat between 2007-2015, consistent with the data presented in the City’s survey, which covered 2008-2014. However, the average number of PM2.5 violations 2009-2015 was still significantly higher than 2000-2005.

The verdict: air quality in NYC is not bad and getting better in general.  However, work needs to be done to reduce PM2.5 violations, and hold on to the gains made between 2008-2014.  One possible source of elevated PM2.5 not mentioned in the City’s report is secondary organic aerosol formation: the formation of PM2.5 in situ, due to gas-phase reactions of oxidants and volatile organic compounds (which can be natural or man-made).

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