Crazy for a cruise holiday? Let’s talk air quality

A cruise is one of the most sought-after holiday destinations. The Caribbean, Mediterranean, Alaska, northern Europe and some areas in Asia have the largest array of Cruises with lavish restaurants and what seems like a relaxing holiday in the middle of nature but with all the conveniences of a touristy city on board. Worldwide a total of 24.2 million passengers enjoy cruises every year.

Unfortunately for cruise holiday goers, reports conducted by journalists in France and in the UK have shown that fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5 and PM 10) is particularly high on these cruise destinations.

Cruise ships are important sources of air pollution impacting the routes they cover and the cities in which they dock. One cruise ship emits the same amount of carbon dioxide as one million cars per day. We might think that this is only the trail left by the cruise, but in fact it affects also the people on the cruise. Journalists measured the air quality on the main deck and found that the concentration of fine particles was twice as high as the concentration in London’s Picadilly Circus and similar to the measurements in New Delhi, all coming from the same ship’s funnels.

Why?

Cruises use residual fuel of very low quality, it’s the fuel left after the refined fuel for cars has been extracted.  But it’s cheap and maritime global regulation is limited and difficult to enforce. Nonetheless, the International Maritime Organization has fixed  the 1st January 2020 as the date for all passenger ships to use fuel with maximum 0.5% lead content, it is now 3 times that level at 1.5%.

All cruise goers and communities living in the ports where these cruise ships dock have the right to know what they breathe. More regulation is essential, but constant monitoring on-board and off-board is essential to reassure users and communities of the air quality they are exposed to.

Blue -Meo’s air quality monitor- measures PM2.5 and PM10.

Let’s measure and take control of the air we breathe!

…And now breast cancer?

[:en]

The last six weeks have seen an intense debate over the possible link between breast cancer and air pollution. FIGO- the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics highlighted the discovery of a link between air pollution and breast cancer following an article published in the Breast Cancer Journal on the results of research conducted by the University of Florida. This was reported by mainstream media as an alarming call to women living in areas with high air pollution.

Do not panic!

But there is no need to panic, it’s very important to be cautious with scientific results. In fact, many organizations like Cancer Research-UK, BreastCancer and others jumped to clarify that finding a link does not mean that air pollution causes breast cancer. Two things can be highly correlated without implying causation.

We know and we’ve talked about how pervasive air pollution is in our bodies, affecting our lungs, circulation, diabetes, skin and many more. The link between air pollution and lung cancer is very well researched, many research teams have worked on this subject for decades and have found how it happens and why. All the other links of air pollution to diseases are still in the very beginning of compiling research results and while it is one thing to link air pollution with skin problems, it is another step entirely to link it with a life-threatening disease like breast cancer.

Be cautious and understand the risks

We should not panic, but we should know the extent of current research on this matter. The latest research was conducted by the University of Florida, US, and looked at the link between breast density and air pollution. They found that women living in areas with high pollution had denser breast tissue. Women with dense breast tissue are up to six times more likely to develop some form of breast cancer.

In 2010, another study by the Research Institute of the MUHC, McGill University and Université de Montreal also showed a link. This study mapped air pollution against breast cancer patients and found that women living near areas with higher levels of pollution were twice as likely to develop breast cancer than the rest. However, Dr Goldberg, a researcher at The RI MUHC said:

“For example, we don’t know how much the women in the study were exposed to pollution while at home or at work, because that would depend on their daily patterns of activity, how much time they spend outdoors and so on”

In the case of this study, what is interesting is that the motivation to study the link between air pollution and breast cancer was to try to understand why cancer rates were going up in general / in these particular high pollution areas. The results showed that it could be air pollution but it may well be some other factor that the study could not control. In fact, the researchers called for more research on this subject and more research on the biological explanation behind this possible link.

Before more scientific evidence is gathered, we should make it a habit to know the quality of the air we breathe and take actions to improve the quality of the air we are exposed to, both indoors and outdoors!

[:]

Air’volution: cities improving air quality!

[:en]

We know for sure that city dwellers are highly affected by worsening air quality across the world and the majority of deaths caused by air pollution occur in cities. In the past ten years, cities have been working together as part of the group C40Cities to find solutions to protect their citizens. The Mayors of the cities that are part of this group have come up with some innovative proposals to push an Air’Volution that stems pollution in the cities. The end of March saw the announcement of bold plans to address locally created air pollution.

The C40Cities, launched in 2005, is a group created and led by cities that connects 90+ cities across 50+countries, representing 650+ million people and one quarter of the global economy. The group recognizes that cities generate most of the world’s carbon emissions and house almost 60% of the global population, hence the importance of their stance in transforming the systems that create the most carbon emissions: transport, building and waste.

What is the Air’volution?

It’s the collection of actions taken by cities to address air pollution and control vehicle emissions. Remember what started as a VW (Volkswagen) scandal? There is now a list of car manufacturers that have been found to manipulate the tests of car emissions. Not to mention that we now know the real polluting nature of diesel cars, even the EURO 6 diesel engines releases more fine particulate matter than heavy duty trucks. Such as:

  • Emissions on the road have been proven to be 15 times greater than emissions in laboratory conditions. Paris and London are working on creating a scheme to score new cars based on their real-world emissions and air quality impact, rather than a laboratory measure. All data is expected to be released by end 2017 so that consumers will be able to know the score for each car model. Seoul, Madrid, Mexico City, Milan, Moscow, Oslo and Tokyo and other cities have committed to work in the development of a global scoring system.

“For too long, some vehicle manufacturers have been able to hide behind inconsistent regulation and consumer uncertainty about the damage their cars are causing,” said Mayor of Paris and C40 Chair, Anne Hidalgo. “This announcement is a wake-up call to car companies that they need to act now. Citizens of Paris and cities around the world demand clean air to breathe and this new scoring scheme will be key to helping achieve that.  I am pleased that Paris, the city of the Climate Agreement, is working with London and Seoul to support this project.”

“This scheme is also a fantastic example of how big cities around the world can pool their expertise and their influence to encourage big industry to clean up its act. The toxicity of the air in London and many other big cities is an outrage, and schemes of the type we are introducing in London and Paris have the potential to make a massive difference to the quality of the air we all breathe.”

 

Other measures include:

  • Cities implementing low-emission zones: London has proposed to introduce an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London, where cars will have to meet the minimum emission requirements or pay a daily fine (£10). In Paris, vehicles are restricted access for the most polluting vehicles, through the use of Crit’Air stickers. And Seoul has recently designated a Green Transport Promotion Zone that restricts old diesel vehicles and construction equipment, the objective is to cut carbon emissions from vehicles by 40% and vehicle demand by 30%.

A number of Asian cities are part of the C40Cities: Auckland, Bangaluru, Bangkok, Beijing, Chengdu, Chennai, Delhi, Dalian, Dhaka, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Jaipur, Jakarta, Kolkata, Mumbi, Nanjing, Singapore, Shenzen, Shanghai, Seoul, Sydney, Yokohama, Chennai, Mumbai, Tokyo and Wuhan.  Most of these cities need to learn from experiences from other cities in reducing vehicles emissions.

We need to better understand air pollution patterns in our cities to make the most of these policies. Deployment of air quality monitors across the cities is the first step!

Sources:
http://www.c40.org/events/air-volutionhttp://www.c40.org/press_releases/press-release-mayors-of-paris-and-london-announce-car-scoring-system-to-slash-air-pollution-on-city-streetshttp://theicct.org/blogs/staff/first-look-results-german-transport-ministrys-post-vw-vehicle-testing

[:]

Healthy TIPS: With a little help from Vitamin B

[:en]

In a previous blog-post we talked about protecting our health from within and stressed the need to consume vitamin C, E, Beta-carotene and Omega3 which boosts our body’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacity. Research published in the Pharmaceutical Journal is now including Vitamin B in the realm of our must-have nutrients to fight health consequences from air pollution.

Vitamin B essentials

Our bodies need Vitamin B for producing energy through food, growth and cell division, as well as for the proper functioning of the nervous system, arteries, heart and brain. These vitamins can be found in foods such as meats, whole grains, vegetables and nuts – and especially in chickpeas, beef liver, yellowfin tuna, salmon, chicken breast, potatoes and bananas. We need to maintain a good intake of these foods at the same time as facilitating its absorption by decreasing alcohol, coffee and tea consumption. The vitamin B group includes a range of vitamins but the most essential are B12, B6 and Folic acid

Vitamin B and air pollution

Studies had first found that persons with low vitamin B6 and B12 were particularly susceptible to the adverse health effects of air pollution. Now, scientists from the Mailman School of Public Health from Columbia University looked at the possible effect of vitamin B in minimising DNA damage. The study sample size is very small but it is being conducted on people and compares DNA changes in people exposed to PM2.5 against those who were not exposed. And then compares the protective effect of Vitamin B6, B12 and Folic acid (B9).

Dr Jia Zhong from Harvard School of Public Health led the study and found that although the results from such a small sample cannot be conclusive, they do show DNA damage from exposure to PM2.5 and a protective effect from Vitamin B even when the individual is exposed to PM2.5. The sample was small and the vitamin dose used was very high, but the relevance of this finding is that more research can be done to further to understand the correct dosage and if this effect is also experienced among people who are under chronic exposure to air pollution.

As a preventive measure we can make sure we have good vitamin B intake to help our bodies protect us from air pollution

 

 

Sources:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-b6/background/hrb-20058788http://www.livescience.com/51920-vitamin-b6.htmlZhong J, Karlsson O, Wang G et al. B vitamins attenuate the epigenetic effects of ambient fine particles in a pilot human intervention trial. Proc Natl Acad Sci; published ahead of print March 13, 2017; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1618545114http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/news/vitamin-b-may-help-reduce-impact-of-air-pollution-on-health/20202468.article

 

[:]