Category Archives: Media

India, Once a Coal Goliath, Is Fast Turning Green: The New York Times

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“Just a few years ago, the world watched nervously as India went on a building spree of coal-fired power plants, more than doubling its capacity and claiming that more were needed. Coal output, officials said, would almost triple, to 1.5 billion tons, by 2020.

India’s plans were cited by American critics of the Paris climate accord as proof of the futility of advanced nations trying to limit their carbon output. But now, even as President Trump pulls the United States out of the pact, India has undergone an astonishing turnaround, driven in great part by a steep fall in the cost of solar power.

Experts now say that India not only has no need of any new coal-fired plants for at least a decade, given that existing plants are running below 60 percent of capacity, but that after that it could rely on renewable sources for all its additional power needs.

Rather than building coal-fired plants, it is now canceling many in the early planning stages. And this month, the government lowered its annual production target for coal to 600 million tons from 660 million.

The sharp reversal, welcome news to world leaders trying to avert the potentially deadly effects of global warming, is a reflection both of the changing economics of renewable energy and a growing environmental consciousness in a country with some of the worst air pollution in the world.

What India does matters, because it is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States. And its energy needs are staggering — nearly one-quarter of its population has no electricity and many others get it only intermittently.

With India’s power needs expected to grow substantially as its economy continues to expand, its energy use will heavily influence the world’s chances of containing the greenhouse gases that scientists believe are driving global warming.

Much attention at the time of the signing of the Paris agreement was focused on the role President Barack Obama played in pushing India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, to sign. In doing so, Mr. Modi committed India to achieving 40 percent of its electricity capacity from nonfossil-fuel sources by 2030…”  The New York Times. Read the full article on Delhiair.org

India, Once a Coal Goliath, Is Fast Turning Green

This is how much air pollution we breathe every day in Britain’s cities: The Independent

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“Apart from the occasional blast of fumes so strong it left an acrid, industrial taste for a few fleeting seconds, there was little to suggest there was anything unusual about the air.

But, as crowds of people made their way to work on London Bridge on a breezy spring morning, they passed through clouds of exhaust fumes that could eventually make them one of the tens of thousands of people whose lives are brought to a premature end by air pollution every year in the UK.

If only there was a way to make them see the invisible poison all around them, there might be a greater demand for something to be done.

The sensor in the camera took seven minutes to cool down to its operating temperature of minus 176 degrees Celsius. The FLIR GF343 infrared camera is designed to detect leaks of carbon dioxide, mainly in industrial processes.

However, as exhaust fumes are rich in carbon dioxide as well as pollutants harmful to human health, such as fine particles, ozone and nitrogen oxides, the camera can effectively render the invisible visible…” The Independent. Read the full article on delhiair.org.

This is how much air pollution we breathe every day in Britain’s cities

Omega-3 oils could tackle damage caused by air pollution, research shows: The Guardian

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“Supplements of healthy fats could be an immediate way of cutting the harm caused to billions around the world by air pollution, according to emerging research.

However, the research also shows air pollution particles can penetrate through the lungs of lab animals into many major organs, including the brain and testicles. This raises the possibility that the health damage caused by toxic air is even greater than currently known.

The new research on mice showed that omega-3 fatty acids (OFAs), found in flax, hemp and fish oils, can both prevent and treat the inflammation and oxidative stress caused by air pollution, with the OFAs delivering a 30-50% reduction in harm.

Air pollution around the world is rising at an alarming rate, according to the World Health Organization, with virtually all cities in poorer nations blighted by unhealthy air and more than half of those in richer countries also suffering.

Low air quality has long been linked to lung and heart disease and strokes, but scientists are now uncovering links to brain problems such as dementia, mental illness and reduced intelligence, as well as diabetes, kidney disease and premature births.

Dr Jing Kang, at Massachusetts General Hospital, part of Harvard Medical School in the US, who led the research said: “These pathological changes are very important because they are the fundamental mechanisms for the common chronic diseases we have today.

“I can anticipate the same things [that happen in mice] would happen in humans, because many other inflammatory diseases in humans can be treated with OFAs. We feel very confident OFAs can do something very good.”

“I would definitely recommend taking OFAs to counter air pollution problems,” he said. “OFAs are well known to have many other healthy benefits and the key thing is they are not like a drug, but a nutrient with so many benefits.”

Kang said two to four grammes per day would be the equivalent dose in humans to that given to the mice. A small human trial in 2012 also indicated OFAs offered protection against the adverse effects of air pollution and the US Environmental Protection Agency has now begun a larger trial. There is also supporting evidence from work on human cells in the lab.

Two to four grammes of OFAs would be roughly equivalent to two 85g portions a day of salmon or herring, but the NHS recommends no more than one such portion a day and significantly less for children and pregnant women due to the risks of mercury and other pollutants in fish. Flax oil is about 50% OFA and OFA capsules are also widely available but the NHS says people should get medical advice before taking them.

Dr Richard Russell, a consultant respiratory physician in the NHS and medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation (BLF), said the new research from Kang’s team is “a thorough piece of work and the science is good”. But he added: “The findings need to be interpreted with some caution, given that responses in mice are quite different to humans.” He also noted the level of air pollution the mice were exposed to was high.

Nonetheless, Russell said: “There is an increasing amount of evidence showing that these fatty acids do have significant anti-inflammatory effects. Can they be recommended as a healthy thing to be supplementing the diet of us all? Yes, probably. They do not do harm and may well do good.”

Cutting air pollution at source is the ultimate solution to the problem, said Kang: “Pollution is a very critical issue for human health, but we cannot change the environment right away.” His team concluded that OFAs present “an immediate, practical solution for reducing the disease burden of air pollution”.

In September, a new inhaler that could protect the lungs was revealed, and the BLF recommends avoiding hotspots such as busy road junctions when pollution levels are high and reducing strenuous outdoor exercise.

In the experiments, Kang’s team exposed the mice to fluorescent particles of similar size to the tiny specks that form dangerous PM2.5 air pollution. This made it easier to track the progress of the particles through the bodies of the mice.

“Fine fluorescent particles were observed not only in the lungs but also in other organs, including the brain, liver, kidneys, spleen, and testes,” the researchers reported. “These results demonstrate that fine particles can penetrate the [lung] barrier and travel to other organs, potentially inducing systemic illnesses.”

The discovery of particles in the testes “is a concern for fertility and reproduction”, said Kang. Further research is needed to investigate whether this also occurs in men and the risk posed, but he said: “At least we know the particles can harbour in that type of tissue.”

Previous work in rats has found that nanoparticles are able to pass through the lungs into internal organs, but the particles used in Kang’s work are about 200 times larger. The discovery of “abundant” toxic nanoparticles from air pollution in human brains was revealed in September.

How much omega-3 fatty acids could protect against air pollution?

The research is at an early stage but the doctor leading the latest study, conducted in mice, said 2-4g of omega-3 fatty acids (O3FAs) would be the equivalent human dose. A small human trial found benefits from 3g of fish oil per day, though only some of which will be O3FAs.

Does this mean we should eat fish every day?

Two portions (85g) a day of salmon or herring would give roughly 3g of O3FAs a day, but the NHS recommends not more than one such portion a day and just three a week for pregnant women due to the risks of mercury and other pollutants in fish.

How else can you consume these fats?

Both flax and hemp seed oils are rich in O3FAs, with the former containing about 50%. Supplement capsules of O3FAs are also available and, while the fats are widely thought to the beneficial to health, the NHS says people should get medical advice before taking supplements.

Is food a better way to consume O3FAs than supplements?

A balanced and healthy diet is the best way to get the nutrients the body needs and there is some evidence that supplements do not provide the same benefits as O3FAs obtained from food.

What other measures can you take to protect against air pollution?

When air pollution is high, the British Lung Foundation advises avoiding hotspots such as main roads and strenuous outdoor exercise. If in a vehicle, the BLF says keep the windows closed and recycle the air. It says there is little evidence to recommend the use of face masks.

Can planting more trees and plants help cut air pollution?

Trees do reduce pollution, by 7-24% according to one recent study. But poorly planned trees could actually make things worse. If they are too close together along a street they can form a tunnel that traps traffic pollution and prevents the wind from dispersing it. Hedges and plants can help form physical barriers that protect gardens and playgrounds: The Guardian. Read it on Delhiair.org.

Omega-3 oils could tackle damage caused by air pollution, research shows