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World Health Organization is concerned about China's air quality



 Diesel exhaust is contributing to a rise in asthma, respiratory illnesses 

       Air pollution in Delhi

New Delhi, March 5, 2014: While Beijing and Shanghai make headlines for air pollution caused by factory smokestacks burning coal, the 16.8 million residents of India’s capital Delhi get their smog right in the face from cars and trucks running on cheap diesel. India subsidizes sales of the fuel to the equivalent of $15 billion a year, encouraging purchases of diesel vehicles that can pump out exhaust gases with 10 times the carcinogenic particles found in gasoline exhausts. The result: Delhi’s air on average last year was laced with twice the toxic particles per cubic meter being reported in Beijing, leading to respiratory diseases, lung cancer and heart attacks.

“I have no doubt, 100 percent, that diesel exhaust is contributing to a rise in asthma, respiratory illnesses and hospitalizations,” said T.K. Joshi, director of the Centre for Occupational & Environmental Health in Delhi at Maulana Azad Medical College. “Diesel exhaust is a carcinogen,” Joshi said in an interview last month, referencing a report by the World Health Organization in October.

Air particulate pollution causes more than 116,000 deaths annually inIndia, hitting the younger, most productive members of the population the hardest, according to Muthukumara S. Mani, senior environmental economist at the World Bank.

Diesel passenger vehicles accounted for 49 percent of all new cars sold in India last year, up from a third in 2008, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.The number of new passenger vehicles sold each year may almost double to 5 million by 2020, and the share of diesel models is surging as the fuel sells at a 24 percent discount to gasoline. Besides being cheaper, diesel gets better mileage than gasoline, adding to the fuel’s economic attractiveness.

In India, diesel exhaust systems don’t come with equipment to remove potentially lethal emissions. One reason: Oil refineries produce diesel with levels of sulfur that would ruin the exhaust-scrubbing equipment required in other countries.

Diesel engines emit PM2.5, airborne particles and liquid droplets measuring less than 2.5 micrometers, or one-30th the width of a strand of hair. Because they’re so small, they penetrate deep into the lungs and pass into the bloodstream, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In October, the World Health Organization classified PM2.5 as a Group 1 carcinogen, similar to asbestos and tobacco, saying exposure can cause lung cancer, complicate births and increase the risk of bladder cancer. Short-term spikes can kill, triggering strokes, heart failure and asthma attacks, according to the American Lung Association.

In 2013, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 in New Delhi was 173 micrograms per cubic meter, compared with 89.5 micrograms in Beijing, according to data from India’s Central Pollution Control Board and the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. The threshold for average annual exposure as recommended by the WHO is 10 micrograms. Source:

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World Health Organization is concerned about China's air quality

      Air pollution in Beijing

BEIJING, March 1, 2014: The World Health Organization on February 25, 2014 called on China to improve its air quality and urged residents of Beijing to stay indoors as the capital city suffered a sixth day of hazardous-level air pollution.

Bernhard Schwartländer, the organization's China chief, said he is concerned about the smog that has smothered Beijing in recent days. The WHO has been in contact with national authorities to discuss the problem and steps toward a solving it. "There is no easy solution," Dr. Schwartländer said, adding that solving the problem requires managing industry and the economy. 

As of February 25 night, levels of tiny, hazardous particulate matter known as PM2.5 averaged 452 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24-hour period, according to readings from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. That was more than 18 times the WHO's recommended level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

Heavily pollution has plagued much of northern and central China since Thursday. Since the weekend, governments in the northeastern city of Tianjin and northern Hebei province have taken steps that include reducing the number of cars on the road and suspending some production in industries such as steel.

China's National Meteorological Center said Tuesday it reaffirmed the region's orange alert, its second-most-severe air-pollution warning after red under a system enacted in October amid rising public pressure on authorities to act on pollution. That alert level requires a halt to construction work and orders factories to temporarily reduce emissions by 30%. Fireworks and outdoor barbecuing are also banned. Children and the elderly are advised to stay indoors, and residents are encouraged to use public transportation instead of cars.

In Beijing, where a light gray mist shrouded buildings and landmarks, WHO officials said the pollution levels pose a threat to human health, though they cautioned that they couldn't link recent pollution levels with local media reports of specific cases of lung cancer and other ailments.

"We're cautious of whether the illness is related to air pollution," said Shin Young-Soo, the WHO's Western Pacific regional director, adding, "We know it has an impact on health, but we don't know how much."  Source: WSJIndia


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