Air Pollution Exposure to Adults Over 60 is Found to Cancel Health Benefits of Exercise for Them

Reason #5533 for the world to use energy sources other than fossil fuels.

Exposure to air pollution on city streets is enough to counter the beneficial health effects of exercise in older adults, according to new research.

The findings, published in The Lancet, show that short term exposure to air pollution in built up areas like London’s busy Oxford Street can prevent the positive effects on the heart and lungs that can be gained from walking.

According to the research, led by Imperial College London and Duke University, the findings add to the growing body of evidence showing the negative impacts of urban air pollution on cardiovascular and respiratory health. The authors say the effects could potentially apply to other age groups as well and highlight the need for stricter air quality limits and greater access to green spaces.

Previous research has found that diesel exhaust fumes, particularly fine particulate matter air pollution, has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death, and can cause a worsening of diseases of the airways, such as asthma.

The latest study, funded by the British Heart Foundation, is the first to show the negative effects on healthy people, people with a chronic lung condition linked with smoking called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and those with coronary heart disease — which affects the supply of blood to the heart.

“These findings are important as for many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, very often the only exercise they can do is to walk,” said senior author Fan Chung, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of Experimental Studies Medicine at National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College London. “Our research suggests that we might advise older adults to walk in green spaces, away from built-up areas and pollution from traffic,” he added.

World’s Oceans Being Significantly Harmed

This report comes as some major fishing countries have agreed to halt their commercial fishing activities in the Arctic Ocean for 16 years. It will be shameful for humanity if there is more plastic than fish in the ocean in several decades.

There’s a lot humans can learn from animals too. Radar for example was developed through studying bats. It’s therefore terrible that climate change is destroying so many ecosystems that there is a lot to gain from keeping around.

While renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough warned the world’s oceans are “under threat now as never before in human history,” green groups on Tuesday said a United Nations resolution to end plastic pollution in the world’s oceans does not go nearly far enough to combat the problem, and stressed that more urgent action is needed to eradicate the damage before it’s too late.

Attenborough’s new BBC documentary series finale airing this weekend will highlight the crisis, drawing attention to the huge amount of plastic that’s dumped into oceans and seas every year, as well as the impact of climate change, overfishing, and noise pollution on underwater wildlife.

The final episode of Blue Planet 2 will focus entirely on the damage being done, arguing that humans’ actions are the only thing capable of reversing the effects.

“For years we thought the oceans were so vast and the inhabitants so infinitely numerous that nothing we could do could have an effect upon them. But now we know that was wrong,” said Attenborough, who narrates the show, in a preview of the episode in the Guardian. “It is now clear our actions are having a significant impact on the world’s oceans…Many people believe the oceans have reached a crisis point.”

“The future of humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, now depends on us,” added Attenborough.

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In addition to the damage done by plastics, Blue Planet 2 will detail the bleaching of coral reefs, which have served as ecosystems for fish and other ocean life, brought on by the warming of oceans; the damage done to water when carbon dioxide dissolves in oceans; and the harm done by noise from shipping, tourism, and fossil fuel drilling.

“There is a whole language underwater that we are only just getting a handle on,” Steve Simpson, a coral reef researcher at the University of Exeter in England, told the Guardian, explaining that high levels of noise prevent sea animals from communicating with one another.

Another researcher featured in the program concludes that it is “beyond question” that the damage to the oceans is manmade. “The shells and the reefs really, truly are dissolving. The reefs could be gone by the end of the century,” said Professor Chris Langdon of the University of Miami.

Consumers buy about one million plastic bottles per minute, according to a Guardian report earlier this year, and Attenborough stressed that a reduction in plastic use is a step people around the world can take immediately to help combat plastic’s impact on the oceans.

Report: Pollution Costs $4.6 Trillion and Leads to 9 Million Deaths Annually

A major study is a demonstration that what’s profitable for the fossil fuels industry leads to widespread losses for people generally.

One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in the Lancet medical journal. The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, the report says, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses — or about 6.2 percent of the global economy.

“There’s been a lot of study of pollution, but it’s never received the resources or level of attention as, say, AIDS or climate change,” said epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and the lead author of the report.

The report marks the first attempt to pull together data on disease and death caused by all forms of pollution combined.

“Pollution is a massive problem that people aren’t seeing because they’re looking at scattered bits of it,” Landrigan said.

Experts say the 9 million premature deaths the study found was just a partial estimate, and the number of people killed by pollution is undoubtedly higher and will be quantified once more research is done and new methods of assessing harmful impacts are developed.

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Even the conservative estimate of 9 million pollution-related deaths is one-and-a-half times higher than the number of people killed by smoking, three times the number killed by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, more than six times the number killed in road accidents, and 15 times the number killed in war or other forms of violence, according to GBD tallies.

It is most often the world’s poorest who suffer, the study found. The vast majority of pollution-related deaths — 92 percent — occur in low- or middle-income countries, where policy makers are chiefly concerned with developing their economies, lifting people out of poverty and building basic infrastructure. Environmental regulations in those countries tend to be weaker, and industries lean on outdated technologies and dirtier fuels.

In wealthier countries where overall pollution is not as rampant, it is still the poorest communities that are more often exposed, the report says.

“What people don’t realize is that pollution does damage to economies. People who are sick or dead cannot contribute to the economy. They need to be looked after” — which is also costly, Fuller said.

“There is this myth that finance ministers still live by, that you have to let industry pollute or else you won’t develop,” he said. “It just isn’t true.”

The report cites EPA research showing that the U.S. has gained some $30 in benefits for every dollar spent on controlling air pollution since 1970, when Congress enacted the Clean Air Act, one of the world’s most ambitious environmental laws. Removing lead from gasoline has earned the U.S. economy another $6 trillion cumulatively since 1980, according to studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some experts cautioned, however, that the report’s economic message was murky. Reducing the pollution quantified in the report might impact production, and so would not likely translate into gains equal to the $4.6 trillion in economic losses.

The report “highlights the social and economic justice of this issue,” said Marc Jeuland, associate professor with the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University, who was not involved in the study.

Without more concrete evidence for how specific policies might lead to economic gains, “policy makers will often find it difficult to take action, and this report thus only goes part way in making the case for action,” he said.

Jeuland also noted that, while the report counts mortality by each pollutant, there are possible overlaps — for example, someone exposed to both air pollution and water contamination — and actions to address one pollutant may not reduce mortality.

“People should be careful not to extrapolate from the U.S. numbers on net (economic) benefits, because the net effects of pollution control will not be equivalent across locations,” he said.

The study’s conclusions on the economic cost of pollution measure lost productivity and health care costs, while also considering studies measuring people’s “willingness to pay” to reduce the probability of dying. While these types of studies yield estimates at best, they are used by many governments and economists trying to understand how societies value individual lives.

While there has never been an international declaration on pollution, the topic is gaining traction.

The World Bank in April declared that reducing pollution, in all forms, would now be a global priority. And in December, the United Nations will host its first pollution conference.

“The relationship between pollution and poverty is very clear,” said Ernesto Sanchez-Triana, lead environmental specialist at the World Bank. “And controlling pollution would help us address many other problems, from climate change to malnutrition. The linkages can’t be ignored.”

Study: 83% of Tap Water Worldwide Contains Tiny Plastic Fibers

Early research suggests that the tiny plastic fibers are possibly harmful to human health. In general, it’s also disturbing that such widespread problems with water exist in the 21st century.

“Microscopic plastic fibers are flowing out of taps from New York to New Delhi,” according to a recent investigation by Orb Media, which found plastic contamination in 83 percent of drinking water samples gathered from more than a dozen countries on five continents.

For what’s been deemed the “first global tap water survey of plastic pollution,” Orb worked with researchers at the State University of New York and the University of Minnesota to test 159 samples.

The U.S. had the highest levels of contamination, with 94 percent of its 33 samples testing positive for plastic fibers. Sources of contaminated tap water in the U.S. included Congressional buildings, Trump Tower in New York City, and even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters.

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“This should knock us into our senses,” Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said in a statement to PRI. “We knew that this plastic is coming back to us through our food chain. Now we see it is coming back to us through our drinking water.”

Precisely what that means for humans, though, will require additional studies. As Lincoln Fok, an environmental scientist at the Education University of Hong Kong, told PRI: “The research on human health is in its infancy.”

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Although the new Orb study “raises more questions than it answers,” as former New York City water commissioner Albert Appleton told PRI, among scientists’ highest concerns is the fact that studies have shown tiny plastic fibers absorb nearby toxins—meaning dangerous chemicals that may otherwise be filtered out before reaching household taps could be trapped in the microplastics and consumed.

According to Sherri Mason, a microplastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia who supervised the analyses for Orbwhile more research is needed to understand the full human impact, studies of plastic contamination’s impact on animals have revealed enough to raise alarms about what high levels of plastic fibers in drinking water worldwide will mean for humans.

“We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned,” she said. “If it’s impacting them, then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?”

In 2014, Mason and some of her students studied the guts of fish caught in Lake Erie. “Her team found plastic in the majority of the fish they tested,” PBS reported, and “the biggest source they found were minuscule plastic fibers.”