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Barcelona Could Cut Deaths from Air Pollution and Improve Quality of Life by Implementing in Full Plan

A study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), published in the journal Environment International, found the city of Barcelona

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Barcelona, Deaths, Air Pollution
FILE - Pollution and clouds are seen over the sky of Barcelona, Spain, July 25, 2019. VOA

Barcelona could cut deaths from air pollution and improve quality of life by implementing in full a plan to calm traffic and free up space for residents, researchers said Monday.

The compact Spanish city is home to more than 1.6 million people and is plagued by contaminants and noise largely due to heavy density of traffic, as well as lack of greenery.

A study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), published in the journal Environment International, found the city of Barcelona could prevent 667 premature deaths every year if it created 503 “superblocks” as first proposed.

The superblocks — which keep cars out of designated areas in the city and develop public space in streets — have been complex to roll out, with only six put in place so far.

Barcelona, Deaths, Air Pollution
Barcelona could cut deaths from air pollution and improve quality of life by implementing in full a plan to calm traffic and free up space for residents. Pixabay

“What we want to show with this study is that we have to go back and put the citizen at the center of … urban plans, because the health impacts are quite considerable,” said lead author and ISGlobal researcher Natalie Mueller.

As a city with the highest traffic density in Europe, Barcelona also needed to make it easier for people to commute in from the wider metropolitan area by public transport, she added.

The projected reduction in deaths from the superblocks plan would be achieved mainly as a result of a 24% decrease in air pollution from nitrogen oxide (NO2), along with lower traffic noise and urban heat, the study said.

Data released Friday from the Barcelona Public Health Agency showed air pollution accounted for 351 premature deaths in the city in 2018, around the same as in 2017.

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Motor vehicles generated the main pollutant, with almost half the city’s population regularly exposed to NO2 levels above the safe limit set by the World Health Organization, the city council said.

From January 2020, Barcelona will implement low-emission zones on weekdays, keeping 125,000 vehicles out of the city.

The city council will also declare a climate emergency including a package of urgent measures to cut down on private vehicle use and boost public transport, among other actions.

It has already extended cycle paths and upgraded its shared bike scheme, while shrinking on-street parking.

 

Barcelona, Deaths, Air Pollution

The compact Spanish city is home to more than 1.6 million people and is plagued by contaminants and noise largely due to heavy density of traffic, as well as lack of greenery. Pixabay

‘Courage’ needed

Barcelona City Hall told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it aimed to start drafting plans for three new superblocks shortly, as well as launching public consultations for others.

The ISGlobal study found that, besides reducing deaths, a full roll-out of the superblocks project would increase life expectancy by almost 200 days on average per inhabitant, and generate an annual economic saving of 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion).

The superblocks have sparked opposition in some local areas, notably among small traders who fear they could deter customers.

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But Mueller said the concept was similar to banning smoking in bars and restaurants, which was initially unpopular but quickly accepted once people realized the benefits.

“Even if they don’t see it in the beginning, often in the end they are quite happy,” she said, noting the need for “courage” in public policy making. (VOA)

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Risk of Multiple Sclerosis High in Urbanites due to Air Pollution

Air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) among urbanites, says researcher

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Air pollution may up multiple sclerosis risk in urbanites. Pixabay

Air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), say researchers, adding that MS risk was 29 per cent higher among people residing in urbanised areas.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. Whilst MS can be diagnosed at any age, it frequently occurs between the ages of 20-40 and is more frequent in women.

Symptoms can change in severity daily and include fatigue, walking difficulty, numbness, pain and muscle spasms. The study, presented at the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Virtual Congress, detected a reduced risk for MS in individuals residing in rural areas that have lower levels of air pollutants known as particulate matter (PM).

According to the researchers, it is well recognised that immune diseases such as MS are associated with multiple factors, both genetic and environmental. “We believe that air pollution interacts through several mechanisms in the development of MS and the results of this study strengthen that hypothesis,” said study lead researcher Professor Roberto Bergamaschi from the IRCCS Mondino Foundation in Italy.

Particulate matter (PM) is used to describe a mixture of solid particles and droplets in the air and is divided into two categories. PM10 includes particles with a diameter of 10 micrometres of smaller and PM2.5 which have a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or smaller.  Both PM10 and PM2.5 are major pollutants and are known to be linked to various health conditions, including heart and lung disease, cancer and respiratory issues.

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Air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis. Pixabay

The analysis was conducted in the winter, given that this is the season with the highest pollutant concentrations, in the north-western Italian region of Lombardy, home to over 547,000 people.

For the findings, the research team included over 900 MS patients within the region, and MS rates were found to have risen 10-fold in the past 50 years, from 16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 1974 to almost 170 cases per 100,000 people today. Whilst the huge increase can partly be explained by increased survival for MS patients, this sharp increase could also be explained by greater exposure to risk factors.

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“In the higher risk areas, we are now carrying out specific analytical studies to examine multiple environmental factors possibly related to the heterogeneous distribution of MS risk”, Professor Bergamaschi said. (IANS)

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64% Deaths in Males, 36% in Females: Covid-19 Death Analysis

Health Ministry reveals that there are 64% males among COVID-19 fatalities

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There are said to be 64 per cent deaths in males and 36 per cent in females, according to an analysis of COVID deaths in India. Pixabay

There are at least 64 per cent deaths in males and 36 per cent in females, revealed an analysis of COVID deaths in India, a Health Ministry document said on Thursday.

The analysis further indicated that, in terms of age distribution, 0.5 per cent deaths are reported in less than 15 years of age group, 2.5 per cent in 15-30 years age group, 11.4 per cent in 30-45 years age group, 35.1 per cent in 45-60 years age group and 50.5 per cent in people above 60 years of age.

Further, 73 per cent of the death cases had underlying co-morbidities. Elderly people (above 60 years of age) and people having co-morbidities are identified as high risk groups for COVID-19.

According to the Union Health Ministry data, at least 3,435 individuals so far have lost their lives due to COVID-19 in India.

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The analysis revealed that 35.1 per cent deaths are reported in 45-60 years age group. Pixabay

The Health Ministry stated that the case mortality rate in India is 3.06 per cent, as against the global average of 6.65 per cent. The ministry attributed the outcome to its efforts towards timely case identification and proper clinical management of the cases.

India currently has 63,624 cases under active medical supervision. Of these, approximately 2.94 per cent cases are in the ICU, said the Health Ministry.

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“A total of 45,299 patients are cured of COVID-19. A total of 3,002 COVID-19 patients have been reported cured in the last 24 hours. The recovery rate is improving continuously and is 40.32 per cent presently,” it added.

In addition, it advised that community awareness, personal hygiene, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and environmental sanitation are the most important tools to combat COVID-19.

“Face covers and masks should be used in public places and physical distancing should be followed. Large gatherings should be avoided. Individuals in high risk groups should stay at home except for essential and health purposes,” said the Health Ministry. (IANS)

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Here’s How You Can Reduce Indoor Pollution and Chances of Asthma While in Lockdown

Poor Ventilation is a primary cause of Indoor pollution

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Indoor Air Pollution is increasing day by day while we are at home due to the lockdown. Pixabay

Indoor air pollution is a major global public health problem. According to reports, the concentration of indoor pollutants can be many times higher as compared to outdoor, primarily due to poor ventilation.

Now that people are spending most of their time indoors with the current COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures, exposure to indoor pollution becomes a major health concern, points out Dr. Prashant Chhajed, HOD-Respiratory Medicine, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi and Fortis Hospital, Mulund.

What are the causes of Indoor pollution?

Particles >10 em are usually removed at the upper airways, whereas those <10 em may be deposited in the airways and alveoli, informs the expert. Some bio-aerosols of concern in homes are indoor allergens i.e. dust mites, pet allergens, cockroaches, molds. Other common reasons of indoor pollution he underlines:

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Smoke from incense sticks, dhoop, etc is a reason of indoor pollution. Pixabay

Environmental tobacco smoke

Cooking using bio mass fuel

Cleaning and renovation activities

Unvented gas and Kerosene heaters used indoors

Smoke from incense sticks, dhoop, etc.

Burning of Camphor and mosquito coils

These are of major concern for an asthma patient, as they can aggravate their asthma and lead to flare ups.

Decreasing air pollution at home to reduce the likelihood of Asthma flare ups is easy to achieve. Dr Chhajed recommends few ways to reduce indoor air pollution:

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You can reduce the likelihood of Asthma by decreasing air pollution at home. One way to achieve this is proper ventilation. Pixabay

Stop smoking

Use fragrance-free household products

Minimize carpeting in the home

Use of an exhaust hood while cooking is a must

Keep the windows open and keep the house well ventilated

Dehumidifiers and air conditioning may help prevent mold and also help to reduce dust mites, which don’t survive at humidity levels below 35%

Air purifiers or filters may help to take care of the pet dander that is light-weight and floats in air.

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Vacuum cleaning carpets and upholstery regularly can also help to reduce dust mites and dust particles

Washing bedding, cushion covers, blankets regularly helps to keep these allergens under control

Avoid burning incense sticks and dhoop at home. (IANS)