Friday November 16, 2018

Air Pollution Not Fatal But Could Reduce Life Expectancy By A Year

In countries like India and China, the benefit for elderly people of improving air quality would be especially large.

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Air pollution, asia
Air pollution shortens life by more than one year in India. Wikimedia Commons
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If air pollution were removed as a risk for death, people in the world could live at least a year longer and in India, which is battling a severe air pollution, the benefit would be even more — about 1.5 years, says study.

“Here, we were able to systematically identify how air pollution also substantially shortens lives around the world,” said lead researcher Joshua Apte from The University of Texas at Austin in the US.

“What we found is that air pollution has a very large effect on survival — on average about a year globally,” Apte added.

For the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, the researchers looked at outdoor air pollution from particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns.

These fine particles that can come from power plants, cars and trucks, fires, agriculture and industrial emissions can enter deep into the lungs, and breathing PM2.5 is associated with increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, respiratory diseases and cancer.

Delhi air pollution
Stubble burning is one of the main reason behind heavy pollution in the Delhi and NCR region. Wikimedia Commons

The team used data from the Global Burden of Disease Study to measure PM2.5 air pollution exposure and its consequences in 185 countries.

They then quantified the national impact on life expectancy for each individual country as well as on a global scale.

“A body count saying 90,000 Americans or 1.1 million Indians die per year from air pollution is large but faceless,” Apte said.

“Saying that, on average, a population lives a year less than they would have otherwise — that is something relatable,” he added.

In the context of other significant phenomena negatively affecting human survival rates, Apte said this is a big number.

Also Read: How Auxillary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) in Remote Tribal Belts of Andhra Pradesh in India Have Brought Down Maternal Deaths to Zero

“For example, it’s considerably larger than the benefit in survival we might see if we found cures for both lung and breast cancer combined,” he said.

“In countries like India and China, the benefit for elderly people of improving air quality would be especially large. For much of Asia, if air pollution were removed as a risk for death, 60-year-olds would have a 15 per cent to 20 per cent higher chance of living to age 85 or older,” Apte said (IANS)

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WhatsApp Announces 20 Teams To Curb Fake News Globally

In India, WhatsApp has partnered with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to train community leaders in several states on how to address misinformation

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WhatsApp selects 20 teams to curb fake news globally, including India. Pixabay

Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Tuesday announced that it has selected 20 research teams worldwide – including experts from India and those of Indian origin — who will work towards how misinformation spreads and what additional steps the mobile messaging platform could take to curb fake news.

Shakuntala Banaji from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Anushi Agrawal and Nihal Passanha from Bengaluru-based media and arts collective “Maraa” and Ramnath Bhat from LSE have been selected for the paper titled “WhatsApp Vigilantes? WhatsApp messages and mob violence in India”.

The research examines the ways in which WhatsApp users understand and find solutions to the spate of “WhatsApp lynchings” that has killed over 30 people so far.

The Indian government has also directed WhatsApp to take necessary remedial measures to prevent proliferation of fake and, at times, motivated/sensational messages on its platform.

Among others selected were Vineet Kumar from Ranchi-headquartered Cyber Peace Foundation (principal investigator), Amrita Choudhary, President of the Delhi-based non-profit Cyber Café Association of India (CCAOI) and Anand Raje from Cyber Peace Foundation.

They will work as a team on the paper titled “Digital literacy and impact of misinformation on emerging digital societies”.

P.N. Vasanti from Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi woll work withS. Shyam Sundar, The Pennsylvania State University (Principal Investigator) to examine the role of content modality in vulnerability to misinformation, under the topic titled “Seeing is Believing: Is Video Modality More Powerful in Spreading Fake News?”

WhatsApp had issued a call for papers in July this year and received proposals from over 600 research teams around the world.

“Each of the 20 research teams will receive up to $50,000 for their project (for a total of $1 million),” WhatsApp said in a statement.

Lipika Kamra from O.P. Jindal Global University and Philippa Williams from the Queen Mary University of London (Principal Investigator) will examine the role of WhatsApp in everyday political conversations in India, in the context of India’s social media ecosystem.

According to Mrinalini Rao, lead researcher at WhatsApp, the platform cares deeply about the safety of its over 1.5 billion monthly active users globally and over 200 million users in India.

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

“We appreciate the opportunity to learn from these international experts about how we can continue to help address the impact of misinformation,” Rao said.

“These studies will help us build upon recent changes we have made within WhatsApp and support broad education campaigns to help keep people safe,” she added.

The recipients are from countries including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Singapore, Spain, the UK and US.

WhatsApp said it is hosting them in California this week so they can hear from product leaders about how it builds its product.

“Given the nature of private messaging – where 90 per cent of the messages sent are between two people and group sizes are strictly limited – our focus remains on educating and empowering users and proactively tackling abuse,” said the company.

WhatsApp recently implemented a “forward label” to inform users when they received a message that was not originally written by their friend or loved one. To tackle abuse, WhatApp has also set a limit on how many forwards can be sent.

In India, WhatsApp has partnered with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to train community leaders in several states on how to address misinformation.

Also Read- Facebook Blocks Accounts Engaged in Malicious Activities

“We are also running ads in several languages — in print, online, and on over 100 radio stations — amounting to the largest public education campaign on misinformation anywhere in the world,” the company noted.

Sayan Banerjee from University of Essex, Srinjoy Bose from University of New South Wales and Robert A. Johns from University of Essex will study “Misinformation in Diverse Societies, Political Behaviour & Good Governance”.

Santosh Vijaykumar from Northumbria University, Arun Nair from Health Systems Research India Initiative and Venkat Chilukuri, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology are part of the team that will study “Misinformation Vulnerabilities among Elderly during Disease Outbreaks”. (IANS)