Archives for category: smog

Regardless of creed, ethnicity, or tax bracket, everyone must breathe the same air. This week, the World Health Organization announced that air pollution was responsible for seven million deaths globally in 2012. It is also the single largest preventable health risk worldwide. Both indoor and outdoor particulate matter is to blame for illnesses such as stroke, heart disease, respiratory infections, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Not just harmful to human bodies directly, much of the pollution also contributes to the acceleration of climate change and its catastrophic affect on agriculture, the economy, and biosphere.

Green Halo - Air Pollution Responsible for 7 Million Deaths in 2012According to the WHO, air pollution is responsible for one death in eight every year. Overall, 4.3 million deaths worldwide were linked in 2012 to indoor pollution primarily due to cooking with coal, dung, or wood stoves. Outdoor pollution from diesel engines and fires were linked to 3.7 million deaths. Many populations are exposed to poor air quality in both settings, causing a degree of overlap within the aggregate figure of seven million deaths. Further chronic health risks such as birth defects and impaired cognitive abilities in children add to the already sobering statistics.

While the entire planet is vulnerable to air pollution, low and middle income countries such as those in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific are particularly hard-hit. In addition to particulate matter expelled from fossil fuel reliant power plants, industrial operations, and auto fumes, burning black carbon for domestic cook stoves can cause diseases that lead to early mortality. By switching to cleaner forms of energy and investing in public transportation, regions most reliant on fossil fuels would see immediate improvements.

“Reducing air pollution, including black carbon soot pollution, can save millions of lives a year, reduce crop losses significantly, and cut the rate of global warming in half and the rate of warming in the Arctic by two-thirds over the next few decades,” according to the WHO. “With this combination of benefits—healthier citizens, higher crop yields, and half the rate of climate change—reducing air pollutants should be a top priority for sustainable development and climate protection.”

To help clear the air, many governments and NGOs are beginning to support the switch to clean cooking stoves, reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and put moratoriums on the construction of new coal fire power plants. As the climate changes and developing nations seek to industrialize, energy production and consumption practices on both local and commercial scales must be adjusted to ensure the health of one of humanity’s most vital shared resources.

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Beijing’s record-breaking air pollution has spurred officials and designers to come up with innovative solutions – and the architects at London-based Orproject recently proposed the creation of gigantic Bubbles filled with fresh air! The inflatable spaces would contain parks and botanical gardens that provide fresh air to residents sick of choking on the city’s ever-present smog.

Green Halo - Giant Bubbles Filled With Fresh Air for Beijing Air Pollution and SmogOrproject is an innovative design practice founded in 2006 that tends to explore advanced geometries with an ecological leaning. Bubbles is based on a lightweight structural system developed to mimic butterfly wings and the veins of leaves. The system utilizes a material known as ETFE, which is the same material used in China’s National Swim Center at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. This transparent and stretchy plastic could be used to create wonderful domes that allow light in while protecting inhabitants from pollution.

Orproject founder Christoph Klemmt envisions that this biome will create different micro-climates within the same space – bringing to life tropical forests next to deserts. Heating and cooling of the space will be controlled through a ground source heat exchange system, while electrical needs will be provided by solar panels integrated into the canopy structure. Their toughest challenge will be the Chinese government and developers – Klemmt was quoted in an interview with Co. Exist saying: “The big park is our dream, which depends on a lot of other people, including the government. If we were to realize this for a schoolyard, it’d be much easier for it to happen.”

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China warns people in its northern regions to stay indoors as air pollution in Beijing is averaging 18 times World Health Organization (WHO) recommended levels.

The concentration of fine particulates that pose the greatest risk to human health was 447 micro-grams per cubic meter near Tienanmen Square in Beijing. Compare that to an average of 456 over the past 48 hours, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website. The WHO recommends exposure to no higher than 25 micro-grams per cubic meter over a day.Green Halo China Smog Problem Air Pollution World Health Organization WHO

The smog adds pressure on the government to take measures beyond shutting steel plants and limiting the number of cars on the road to battle air pollution.

Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun declared an “all-out effort” to tackle air pollution by cutting coal use by 2.6 million metric tons and transforming 300 polluting companies this year, the official Xinhua News Agency reports.

Coal-burning boilers inside Beijing’s fifth ring road will be eliminated and measures taken against coal burning in the capital’s periphery, Xinhua said.

A rising number of Chinese cities have introduced emergency measures to counter smog amid increasing social unrest over the health effects of a spoiled environment.

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