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News Article | May 4, 2017
Site: www.newscientist.com

In rapidly growing economies, the amount of pollution in the air is undeniably rising, but it is a different story in most rich countries. Take, for instance, PM2.5 particulates – believed to account for most of the health burden of air pollution (see “What’s in the air“). Worldwide, average concentrations rose 11 per cent between 1990 and 2015, according to a report by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, both in the US. The trend reflects large increases in India, Bangladesh and China: concentrations in the US, the European Union, Canada and Australia fell over the same period (see graph). Media reports on air pollution in the West frequently don’t mention the major improvements made since the 1950s. But the rate of progress has slowed and Europe, including the UK, is showing no signs of meeting WHO guidelines for clean air any time soon. “The data from monitoring sites across western Europe shows PM2.5 levels are going down,” says Gavin Shaddick of the University of Bath, UK, who develops air pollution models for the WHO. “But they are not falling quickly enough.”


Arden Pope III C.,Brigham Young University | Burnett R.T.,Health Canada | Turner M.C.,University of Ottawa | Cohen A.,Health Effects Institute | And 4 more authors.
Environmental Health Perspectives | Year: 2011

Background: Lung cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality risks increase with smoking, secondhand smoke (SHS), and exposure to fine particulate matter < 2.5 μm in diameter (PM 2.5) from ambient air pollution. Recent research indicates that the exposure-response relationship for CVD is nonlinear, with a steep increase in risk at low exposures and flattening out at higher exposures. Comparable estimates of the exposure-response relationship for lung cancer are required for disease burden estimates and related public health policy assessments. Objectives: We compared exposure-response relationships of PM 2.5 with lung cancer and cardiovascular mortality and considered the implications of the observed differences for efforts to estimate the disease burden of PM 2.5. Methods: Prospective cohort data for 1.2 million adults were collected by the American Cancer Society as part of the Cancer Prevention Study II. We estimated relative risks (RRs) for increments of cigarette smoking, adjusting for various individual risk factors. RRs were plotted against estimated daily dose of PM 2.5 from smoking along with comparison estimates for ambient air pollution and SHS. Results: For lung cancer mortality, excess risk rose nearly linearly, reaching maximum RRs > 40 among long-term heavy smokers. Excess risks for CVD mortality increased steeply at low exposure levels and leveled off at higher exposures, reaching RRs of approximately 2-3 for cigarette smoking. Conclusions: The exposure-response relationship associated with PM 2.5 is qualitatively different for lung cancer versus cardiovascular mortality. At low exposure levels, cardiovascular deaths are projected to account for most of the burden of disease, whereas at high levels of PM 2.5, lung cancer becomes proportionately more important.


News Article | August 30, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

A recent comprehensive study has concluded that coal combustion is the single largest source of air pollution-related health impact in China, contributing to 366,000 premature deaths in China in 2013 alone. Published mid-August, the new study was led by Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, and the Health Effects Institute: Burden of Disease Attributable to Coal-Burning and Other Air Pollution Sources in China. The study, available in both Chinese and English, is said to provide “the first comprehensive assessment at national and provincial levels of current and future burdens of disease attributable to coal-burning and other major sources of particular matter air pollution.” It is also the first report of the Global Burden of Disease — Major Air Pollution Sources (GBD MAPS), a multi-year, international collaboration of Tsinghua University, HEI, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), and the University of British Columbia. “The GBD is the largest and most comprehensive effort to date to measure epidemiological levels and trends worldwide” said Zhou Maigeng, Deputy Director of the National Center for Chronic and Non-communicable Disease Control and Prevention of the China Center for Disease Control and lead author of the GBD 2013 Chinese analysis published in the British medical journal The Lancet in October 2015. “Based on Chinese data, we found that outdoor air pollution was the 5th leading cause of premature death in China in 2013.” Estimates of causes of premature death from 20 top risk factors in 2013 The new study is part of the GBD MAPS Working Group, and took advantage of enhanced satellite data and China’s ever-expanding network of air pollution monitors. The study was also the first to estimate the impact of different air pollution sources by province. “Coal-burning was the most important contributor to ambient PM2.5, causing an estimated 366,000 premature deaths in 2013,” said Professor Wang Shuxiao of Tsinghua University, a lead investigator for the study. “Industrial sources and household solid fuel combustion, from both coal and non-coal emissions, were the largest sectoral contributors to disease burden attributable to ambient PM2.5 in China, responsible for 250,000 and 177,000 premature deaths, respectively.” The study also pursued an estimate of future health burdens into 2030, based on four air pollution control and energy efficiency scenarios. Though in each of the scenarios exposure to PM2.5 will decrease, the growth of Chinese populations and their likelihood of extended lifespans will only increase the number of deaths from cardiovascular and lung diseases. Specifically, the GBD MAPS analysis forecasts as many as 1.3 million annual deaths as attributable to air pollution. “Air pollution health burdens will continue to be a challenge, but the potential for future health benefits from further control is enormous,” added Robert O’Keefe, Vice President of the Health Effects Institute.   Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report.   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.  


News Article | August 25, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

Fresh air is missing as a core part of life in areas of China. Instead, air that creates illness and hastens death is dominant. China is not alone in terms of air pollution and water pollution. (See this story or this one on the EU and this one on the US, for example.) As a case of how bad it can get, however, China is a frightening example. The problems with air pollution in China are actually global problems, as it spreads across countries and even oceans. School children wear or need to wear masks. Fashionably masked women incorporate masks into their wardrobes. For years, the World Health Organization showed an air-quality score of particulate matter in China well above levels deemed safe. A new study calls for immediate attention. “The 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), found that despite efforts to limit future emissions, the number of premature deaths linked to air pollution will climb over the next two decades unless more aggressive targets are set.” Specifics came to light in Special Report 20, Burden of Disease Attributable to Coal-Burning and Other Major Sources of Air Pollution in China. It is “the first comprehensive assessment of the current and predicted burdens of disease attributable to coal-burning and other major sources of particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5) in China at the national and provincial levels.” It was supported and initiated by the Global Burden of Disease – Major Air Pollution Sources (GDB MAPS) project, an international collaboration of Tsinghua University, the Health Effects Institute, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), and the University of British Columbia. “The GBD is the largest and most comprehensive effort to date to measure epidemiological levels and trends worldwide,” said Zhou Maigeng, Deputy Director of the National Center for Chronic and Non-communicable Disease Control and Prevention of the China Center for Disease Control. Maigeng is the lead author of the GBD 2013 Chinese analysis published in the British medical journal The Lancet in October 2015. Maigeng points out, “Based on Chinese data, we found that outdoor air pollution was the 5th leading cause of premature death in China in 2013.” Business Green notes, “Under each scenario average PM 2.5 levels are expected to fall as clean technologies become more widespread. But the report also warns the impact on public health could still worsen over the coming decade.” Photo by leniners (some rights reserved) and charts via Burden Of Disease From Coal-Burning and Other Air Pollution Sources in China Small Increase In Energy Investment Could Save 3 Million Lives From Air Pollution In 2040 Road Traffic Pollution Is Significant Cause Of Childhood Asthma, Research Finds   Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report.   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.  


News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: www.nature.com

Alzheimer’s setback The pharmaceutical company Merck announced on 14 February that it is stopping a major late-stage clinical trial of its Alzheimer’s drug because the compound has been judged ineffective. Like other experimental Alzheimer’s drugs that have recently failed in trial, Merck’s verubecestat targets the protein amyloid-β, which clumps into plaques in the brain in people with Alzheimer’s. Genetic evidence suggests that amyloid-β plays a key part in dementia, and the trials may have failed because they recruited people in whom the disease had advanced too far for therapy to help. Verubecestat is also being tested in people with very early-stage Alzheimer’s, and several other clinical trials with drugs that target amyloid-β are in progress in people with a high risk of the disease. Sunken gardens surrender their secrets Divers are exploring deep-sea coral and sponge habitats as well as hydrothermal vents near American Samoa and its surrounding islands and atolls. The expedition, which began on 16 February, will map the sea floor, collect data on water chemistry and capture geological and biological samples. The trip is part of the final phase of a three-year campaign led by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to explore the deep-sea environments of US marine sanctuaries in the central and western Pacific Ocean. Animal-data dispute Following a backlash from advocacy groups, lawmakers and the public, the US Department of Agriculture began to restore previously deleted animal-welfare data to its website on 17 February. The move reverses the agency’s decision two weeks ago to censor tens of thousands of facility inspection reports, including those on violations of the Animal Welfare Act, because of privacy concerns and litigation. The advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, along with five other organizations, is suing the agriculture department over its previous decision. It says that it will continue to fight until all the records have been restored. NASA crew plans NASA is considering putting astronauts on the first flight of its new heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule, the agency announced on 15 February. Astronauts would ride in the Orion capsule atop the Space Launch System (SLS), a behemoth even more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that took humans to the Moon in the Apollo programme. Launching a crew would push back the date of the flight, currently scheduled for 2018, by at least a year, but give it a higher profile. The SLS is the foundation for NASA’s long-term plans to send humans to Mars and deep space. CRISPR patents The US Patent and Trademark Office has upheld the patents it granted for CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The decision on 15 February concludes one part of a row over intellectual-property rights to the potentially lucrative technology. The Broad Institute was awarded its patents first; but the University of California, which was first to apply for a patent on the technology, argues that its team in Berkeley had invented CRISPR before competing researchers at the Broad Institute. GM rice theft A federal jury convicted a Chinese scientist on 16 February of stealing genetically engineered rice from a Kansas laboratory. Weiqiang Zhang, a rice breeder formerly with Ventria Bioscience in Junction City, stole hundreds of rice seeds from the company and stored them in his apartment, the US justice department said in a statement. In 2013, US customs officers found seeds belonging to Ventria in the luggage of Chinese crop researchers who had visited Zhang at his home. Ventria develops genetically programmed rice for medical uses. Armyworm crusade Sixteen eastern and southern African countries have agreed to coordinate an emergency response to tackle the fall-armyworm infestation that is threatening food security in sub-Saharan Africa. The decision was made at a meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 16 February. Endemic to South America, the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda, pictured) was first observed in Africa in early 2016 and has since been detected in at least seven countries. In its larval form, the pest consumes the foliage and flowers of a wide variety of crops. Estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggest that more than 250,000 hectares of African cropland have been affected. Cyber threat More than 60 universities and government agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom may have been targeted by cybercriminals. According to Recorded Future, a cybersecurity provider in Somerville, Massachusetts, a Russian-speaking hacker known as Rasputin is offering unauthorized access to a wide range of information stored on databases. Affected institutions include the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, Illinois; Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; and Britain’s Oxford and Cambridge universities. The hacker is reportedly selling a tool based on a technique called SQL injection to attack applications and steal data. Recorded Future says that Rasputin used the same method to breach the US Election Assistance Commission in November last year. Satellite record The Indian Space Research Organisation sent a record 104 satellites into orbit with a single lift-off of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on 15 February. The cargo consisted of India’s Cartosat-2 Earth-observation satellite, along with 103 light-weight nanosatellites. These included 88 small commercial satellites made by Planet, an Earth-imaging company in San Francisco, California, which can now image all of Earth’s landmass every day. Pruitt confirmed The US Senate has confirmed Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On 17 February, senators approved Pruitt’s nomination with a 52–46 vote, mostly along party lines, despite his previous clashes with the agency, of which he has been a vocal critic. As Oklahoma attorney-general, Pruitt had sued the EPA on 13 occasions to stop regulations concerning clean water and air. Many senators had hoped to delay his confirmation until a batch of e-mails related to his ties with the fossil-fuel industry were released as part of a public-records request. Famine alert South Sudan has officially declared a famine in parts of the war-torn nation. A collapsing economy and stifled agriculture mean that some 100,000 people in the country’s Unity state are facing starvation, and a further 1 million people face the threat of famine, the government said on 20 February. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the spreading food crisis threatens to affect almost half of South Sudan’s 11.3 million people by the height of the lean season (the period between harvests) in July. A formal famine declaration — the first in six years by any country — means that people have already started dying of hunger. Global air pollution More than 90% of the world’s population lives in unhealthy air, and the total number of deaths from outdoor air pollution reached about 4.2 million in 2015, according to a report released on 14 February. Deaths due to inhalation of fine airborne particles increased by more than 20% from 1990 to 2015, according to the State of Global Air 2017 report from the Global Burden of Disease project and the Health Effects Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. This type of air pollution is especially high in North Africa and the Middle East, but is also a major issue in Bangladesh, India and China. Particulate matter is now the fifth major health risk, behind high blood pressure, smoking, high blood sugar and high cholesterol, says the report. Funding for research on Ebola and other African viral haemorrhagic fevers shot up to US$631 million in 2015, in response to the West African epidemic. But excluding that boost, global investment in research on other traditional neglected diseases is at its lowest level, according to the annual G-FINDER report by Policy Cures Research released on 16 February. In 2015, public and private sources invested an overall US$3.63 billion in basic research and development of products and technologies for 39 neglected illnesses. 26 February–2 March Systems biologists discuss global regulation of gene expression at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York. go.nature.com/2kq6gph 27 February–1 March Planetary scientists discuss their visions for the future at a NASA workshop in Washington DC. go.nature.com/2me4r9v 27 February–2 March A meeting in Cancún, Mexico, covers new targets in cancer therapy. go.nature.com/2m0j3h3


Hamra G.B.,International Agency for Research on Cancer | Guha N.,International Agency for Research on Cancer | Cohen A.,Health Effects Institute | Laden F.,Harvard University | And 7 more authors.
Environmental Health Perspectives | Year: 2014

Background: Particulate matter (PM) in outdoor air pollution was recently designated a Group I carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This determination was based on the evidence regarding the relationship of PM2.5 and PM10 to lung cancer risk; however, the IARC evaluation did not include a quantitative summary of the evidence. Objective: Our goal was to provide a systematic review and quantitative summary of the evidence regarding the relationship between PM and lung cancer. Methods: We conducted meta-analyses of studies examining the relationship of exposure to PM2.5 and PM10 with lung cancer incidence and mortality. In total, 18 studies met our inclusion criteria and provided the information necessary to estimate the change in lung cancer risk per 10-μg/m3 increase in exposure to PM. We used random-effects analyses to allow between-study variability to contribute to meta-estimates. Results: The meta-relative risk for lung cancer associated with PM2.5 was 1.09 (95% CI: 1.04, 1.14). The meta-relative risk of lung cancer associated with PM10 was similar, but less precise: 1.08 (95% CI: 1.00, 1.17). Estimates were robust to restriction to studies that considered potential confounders, as well as subanalyses by exposure assessment method. Analyses by smoking status showed that lung cancer risk associated with PM2.5 was greatest for former smokers [1.44 (95% CI: 1.04, 1.22)], followed by never-smokers [1.18 (95% CI: 1.00, 1.39)], and then current smokers [1.06 (95% CI: 0.97, 1.15)]. In addition, meta-estimates for adenocarcinoma associated with PM2.5 and PM10 were 1.40 (95% CI: 1.07, 1.83) and 1.29 (95% CI: 1.02, 1.63), respectively. Conclusion: The results of these analyses, and the decision of the IARC Working Group to classify PM and outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic (Group 1), further justify efforts to reduce exposures to air pollutants that can arise from many sources.


Many people do not consider air pollution as a factor that can significantly affect how long they live but polluted air is in fact very deadly it is now the fourth leading cause of death worldwide after high blood pressure, poor diet and smoking. It turns out that more people die from household and outdoor air pollution than from alcohol, drug abuse and unsafe sex as vehicle exhaust, power plants, manufacturing plants and burning of coal release small particles into the air that are harmful to human health. A new study presented at the 2016 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) showed that air pollution-related diseases such as stroke and cardiovascular diseases kill 5.5 million people globally per year making air pollution the number one environmental cause of diseases worldwide. Of these deaths, 55 percent, or 3 million occur in two highly populated countries: India and China. About 1.4 million people died because of air pollution in India and about 1.6 million in China in 2013. Outdoor air pollution from coal alone killed about 366,000 people in China. The researchers likewise said that more air-pollution related deaths will occur over the next two decades unless carbon emission targets are met. "Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population," said Michael Brauer, from the University of British Columbia in Canada. Qiao Ma, from the Tsinghua University in Beijing said that air pollution will kill between 990,000 and 1.3 million by 2030 sans ambitious emission targets are set. Although China has already imposed new standards for vehicles, cleaned up fuel and committed to reduce using coal, the levels of air pollution in the country are up to 10 times higher than the healthy standards that were set by the World Health Organization (WHO). It isn't just China. More than 85 percent of the global population actually resides in areas where WHO's Air Quality Guideline is exceeded. In India, the practice of burning wood, dung and similar sources of biomass for heating and cooking primarily contributes to poor air quality with millions of families, the poorest in the developing country, being regularly exposed to high levels of particulate matter in their own homes. "That is a very important issue in both China and India, somewhat less though in China, where they have started to move people on to propane and natural gas to get them away from using coal," said Health Effects Institute President Dan Greenbaum. "In India, a very significant number of the people still burn very poor wood and biomass fuels, cow dung and other sources. And that creates major exposures indoors to the mothers and children, for example, who are cooking or are near the stove." In the U.S., air pollution is the 13th highest risk factor for premature death killing 80,000 individuals in 2013. Older people are known to be more susceptible to the health effects of air pollution but research also suggests that exposure to polluted air also harms unborn babies upping their risk for developing asthma.


Ticked Off! Here's What You Need To Know About Lyme Disease A new study reveals that India will soon outpace its Asian neighbor, China in the context of increasing air pollution levels. U.S.-based Heath Effects Institute, along with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation released a report on Feb. 14, which indicates that 1.1 million premature deaths were encountered in 2015 due to increasing air pollution in India. The same statistic applies for China as well, but the country has taken numerous measures to keep a check on carbon emissions and also to stabilize the level of air particulates in the atmosphere. Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia and the lead author of the study, states that this situation is the "perfect storm" for India. The report states that the amount of a fine dust particulate matter known as PM2.5 has risen sharply and is largely responsible for the 1.1 million premature deaths in India. Brauer believes that the country's growing industrialization, along with the rapid growth in population, are behind the rise of PM2.5 in India. Per the report, air pollution took 4.2 million lives prematurely all over the world in 2015, out of which 50 percent of the deaths occurred in China and India. Dan Greenbaum, president of Health Effects Institute stated that problems due to air pollution are on a rise worldwide and the new report states clearly why air pollution can be considered to be a major contributor to premature death. The report also contains the reading of a website on the issue, indicating that around 92 percent of the total world's population resides in areas surrounded by unhealthy air. The surprising fact is that, despite glaring evidence linking air pollution with deaths, there are some ministers who are reluctant to accept the connection. "There is no conclusive data available in the country to establish direct correlation-ship of death exclusively with air pollution," said Anil Madhav Dave, India's environment Minister. While the Indian government has never denied the negative impact of air pollution on human health, it is not supportive of the evidence provided by various studies. The government is reluctant to accept the data, which clearly shows that a link exists between air pollution and mortality. The Indian government is backing its stance by stating that the premature deaths could also be the result of other factors like bad food habits, socio economic status, medical history, immunity and many other aspects. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.technologyreview.com

This is not a distinction any country wants. India’s toxic air is now contributing to nearly 1.1 million deaths a year, and the country is on its way toward standing alone as the site of the deadliest air pollution problem on the planet. We’ve all seen pictures of Chinese cities blanketed in smog, and China’s air pollution has been the world’s worst for years in terms of the number of premature deaths it causes. But it’s now roughly tied with India, and the two countries appear headed in opposite directions, according to a new report on global air quality released Tuesday. The study, a joint effort between the Health Effects Institute in Boston and the Seattle-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, suggests that since 1990, developed countries like the U.S. and much of Europe have made continued strides in cleaning up their air. And while China has been the poster child for foul air for years, strong government regulation has leveled off its overall deaths attributable to air pollution over the last five years, while the death rate has been on a steady downward trend. Not so for India. From 2010 to 2015, the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution each year has gone from 957,000 to about 1.1 million. While the death rate has remained the same, several factors—including rapid industrialization, a heavy reliance on coal for energy, population growth, and an aging populace that is more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution—have combined to create what one researcher told the New York Times was “the perfect storm for India.” Of course, India is far from the only country that needs to think hard about the detrimental health effects of polluted air as it pursues economic growth. A report in the Guardian on Monday found that air pollution is so bad in many cities that the physical benefits of cycling get erased after just 30 minutes of breathing in the microscopic particles that are the main contributor to air-pollution-related deaths.


Fann N.,U.S. Environmental Protection Agency | Bell M.L.,Yale University | Walker K.,Health Effects Institute | Hubbell B.,U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Health Perspectives | Year: 2011

Background: Air pollution epidemiology plays an integral role in both identifying the hazards of air pollution as well as supplying the risk coefficients that are used in quantitative risk assessments. Evidence from both epidemiology and risk assessments has historically supported critical environ mental policy decisions. The extent to which risk assessors can properly specify a quantitative risk assessment and characterize key sources of uncertainty depends in part on the availability, and clarity, of data and assumptions in the epidemiological studies. Objectives: We discuss the interests shared by air pollution epidemiology and risk assessment communities in ensuring that the findings of epidemiological studies are appropriately characterized and applied correctly in risk assessments. We highlight the key input parameters for risk assessments and consider how modest changes in the characterization of these data might enable more accurate risk assessments that better represent the findings of epidemiological studies. Discussion: We argue that more complete information regarding the methodological choices and input data used in epidemiological studies would support more accurate risk assessments-to the benefit of both disciplines. In particular, we suggest including additional details regarding air quality, demographic, and health data, as well as certain types of data-rich graphics. Conclusions: Relatively modest changes to the data reported in epidemiological studies will improve the quality of risk assessments and help prevent the misinterpretation and mischaracterization of the results of epidemiological studies. Such changes may also benefit epidemiologists undertaking meta-analyses. We suggest workshops as a way to improve the dialogue between the two communities.

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