Do Trees in Cities Help or Harm Our Health?

Air pollution: outdoor air quality and health (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Dec.1, 2016)

Also discussed here: Trees could make urban pollution even worse (quartz, Dec.6, 2016)

And here: Neighborhood greenspace and health in a large urban center (Nature, Scientific Reports, Jul. 9, 2015)

Today we review a guide about urban air pollution that looks into the role that street trees play with respect to reducing air pollution. The overall conclusion was that trees are unlikely to reduce air pollution and could add to it, especially if the trees reduce ventilation of air currents. This is true also of the more recent use of green walls. It is also acknowledged [in a Toronto study]that urban trees can improve health – as much as a $10,000 raise or feeling 7 years younger. Pine trees are singled out as a particular contributer to urban pollution through their emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) which combine with the NO2 in car emissions to produce low level ozone, one of a handful of pollutants harmful to health.

tree-area-toronto

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How Does Air Pollution Accelerate Aging?

Long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with biological aging (16 page pdf, Cavin K. Ward-Caviness, Jamaji C. Nwanaji-Enwerem, Kathrin Wolf, Simone Wahl, Elena Colicino, Letizia Trevisi, Itai Kloog, Allan C. Just, Pantel Vokonas, Josef Cyrys, Christian Gieger, Joel Schwartz, Andrea A. Baccarelli, Alexandra Schneider and Annette Peters, Oncotarget, Oct. 25, 2016)

Also discussed here: Telomere (Wikipedia)

Today we review research conducted with older men and women (median age 74) where several measures of aging and old age illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive  abilities, were studied including chromosome characteristics (telomere length) and immune cell counts. Results indicate that air pollution exposure over a long time can damage the DNA, alter immune cell counts and add to oxidative stress with greater impact on men than women.

Telomere

Telomere (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Tire and Brake Share of Traffic-Related Air Pollution

Air pollution: Tyre and brake fatigue compound an exhausting problem (OECD, Shayne MacLachlan, OECD Environment Directorate, Sep.8, 2016)

Today we review research into the impact of particles generated from tires and brake wear. The amount of particulate matter for an average urban arterial road with 25K vehicles per day can produce up to 9 kg of dust per km- bigger roads or highways with 100K VPD can produce four times that. Recycled tires from the billion cars in the road globally into materials used in playgrounds is being called the new asbestos. Banning petrol powered cars from cities to encourage e-cars and cycling means less emissions from the tailpipe and good for carbon emission reduction but it also means the same wear and particles from brakes and tires, in terms of air pollution and health, even from bicycles!

Studded tyre Español: Neumático de invierno co...

Studded tyre Español: Neumático de invierno con clavos, modelo Nokian Hakkapeliitta 4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Future of the World and Cities in It

Urban futures: anticipating a world of cities (6 page pdf, Geci Karuri-Sebina, Karel-Herman Haegeman and Apiwat Ratanawaraha, Foresight, Sep. 10, 2016)

Today we review an introduction to a series of papers on cities from a foresight point of view. It begins with a prediction that the city has evolved from the city-state in Ancient Greece to city-worlds in the next 100 years. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, compared to 54% today. While cities can improve economic prosperity, reducing poverty and becoming more inclusive socially, there are also downside risks of unemployment and poverty, as well as tensions based on religion, race and values – in addition to the major health threats that resulting congestion and emissions from downtown traffic where city government has not taken steps to alleviate. While cities are good at generating problems they also have a problem solving capability. The paper ends on an optimistic note: “In a world that increasingly appears ungovernable, cities – not states – are the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built”- something that those who try to come to grips with climate change and urban air pollution need to acknowledge and take count of in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the challenge.

Indoor and Built Environment

Indoor and Built Environment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How is Air Pollution Linked to Type 2 Diabetes?

Association Between Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Biomarkers Related to Insulin Resistance, Subclinical Inflammation and Adipokines (Abstract, Kathrin Wolf, Anita Popp, Alexandra Schneider, Susanne Breitner, Regina Hampel, Wolfgang Rathmann, Christian Herder, Michael Roden, Wolfgang Koenig, Christa Meisinger, Annette Peters, KORA-Study Group, Diabetes, Aug. 8, 2016)

Also discussed here: Air pollution a risk factor for diabetes, say researchers (ScienceDaily, Sep.8,  2016)

And here: Diabetes Research – Risk Factor Air Pollution (Press Release, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Sep. 8, 2016)

And here: Air pollution exposure found to be risk factor for type 2 diabetes (Green Car Congress, Sep. 8, 2016)

Today we review research from Germany which examined the level of air pollution at the places of residence of 3,000 participants and how this relates to blood marker levels such as impaled glucose metabolism and the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Results indicate that a 7.9μg/m3 increment in particulate matter <10μm was associated with insulin resistance and that NO2, in particular, had a highly significant effects with pre-diabetic individuals as opposed to those who were either diabetic or not.

type-2-diabetes-and-pm

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Measuring Exposure to Urban Air Pollution Where People Work rather than Where they Live.

The Impact of Mobile-Device-Based Mobility Patterns on Quantifying Population Exposure to Air Pollution (11 page pdf, Marguerite Nyhan, Sebastian Grauwin, Rex Britter, Bruce Misstear, Aonghus McNabola, Francine Laden, Steven R. H. Barrett, and Carlo Ratti, Environmental Science and Trechnology, Aug. 12, 2016)

Also discussed here: Air pollution threat hidden as research ‘presumes people are at home’: study (The Guardian, Aug. 24, 2016)

And here: Urban air pollution is worse than we think—but better data might solve the problem (Barbara Eldredge, CURBED, Aug. 30, 2016)

Today we review research into a study in New York City that compared the exposure to urban air pollution during an active day at the place of work and travelling to that rather than as earlier exposure studies have done only at the place of residence. The results indicate, first of all, that the highest concentration of PM2.5 is not surprisingly in central Brooklyn and Queens and in the southern half of Manhattan Island. Pollution levels at places of work compared to those at residences was 10 μg/m3 higher which suggests that a higher congestion charge be applied to vehicles which enter the high emission zones (which is the basis for the [present congestion charge zone in London, UK) .Future applications of this research when self driving cars are the norm might involve automatically controlling their movement to avoid adding to the pollution levels in some packets of the city.

air-pollution-smart-city-mit-study-nyhan-3

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Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Alzheimer’s Disease

High-resolution analytical imaging and electron holography of magnetite particles in amyloid cores of Alzheimer’s disease (12 page pdf, Germán Plascencia-Villa, Arturo Ponce, Joanna F. Collingwood, M. Josefina Arellano-Jiménez, Xiongwei Zhu, Jack T. Rogers, Israel Betancourt, Miguel José-Yacamán & George Perry, Nature Scientific Reports, Apr. 28, 2016)

Also discussed here: Toxic air pollution particles found in human brains (Guardian, Sep. 5, 2016)

And here: ‘Air pollution’ particles linked to Alzheimer’s found in human brain (Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph, Sep. 5, 2016)

Today we review research that has found tiny iron oxide [magnetite] particulates, produced by diesel engines as well as from brake wear in cars and trains, can enter the human brain where they pose a risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s which affects more than 5 million people over 65  in the USA alone.Researchers found magnetite in the brains of 37 people in their study areas of Manchester and Mexico.

magnetite

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