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U.N. sets out massive benefits from air pollution action in Asia

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, October 31st, 2018


FILE PHOTO: Smoke billowing from the steel plant in Tangshan, Hebei Province, China on March 2017 | REUTERS

Asia could reap massive benefits in health, environment, agriculture and economic growth if governments implement 25 policies such as banning the burning of household waste and cutting industrial emissions, according to a U.N. report published on Tuesday (October 30).

Air pollution is a health risk for 4 billion people in Asia, killing about 4 million of them annually, and efforts to tackle the problem are already on track to ensure air pollution is no worse in 2030, but huge advances could be made, the report “Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-based solutions” said.

The report’s 25 recommendations would cost an estimated $300 billion-$600 billion annually, a big investment but loose change compared with a projected $12 trillion economic growth increase.

Helena Molin Valdes, head of Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat at U.N. Environment, said there was an increasing political openness to taking action on air pollution and the report reflected three years of discussions with governments.

The report estimates its recommendations would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent compared to a baseline scenario, potentially decreasing global warming by one-third of a degree Celsius by 2050, which would also be a contribution in the fight against climate change.

One billion people would enjoy high air quality, while the number exposed to the worst pollution would be cut by 80 percent to 430 million. Premature deaths would fall by a third. — Reuters

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‘Crazy Rich Asians’ part of ‘revolution’ for representation of Asians on screen – star

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, September 5th, 2018


Actress Constance Wu as Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians movie | Courtesy to Warner Bros. via Reuters

Romantic comedy ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ hits UK cinemas on September 14th as the first Hollywood studio film featuring a large Asian cast in 25 years. Its cast hopes it is part of a “revolution” for more representation of Asians on screen.

The romantic comedy tells the story of an Asian-American New Yorker who goes to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s wealthy and tradition-bound family of Chinese descent is based on the 2013 best-selling book of the same name by Kevin Kwan.

The last Hollywood studio film to feature a large Asian cast was “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.

Twenty-seven-year-old Londoner and financial services worker of Chinese heritage, Nicola Wong, said on Tuesday (September 4) she grew up seeing few Asian actors on screen.

However with the prospect of viewers getting to see more people of their own ethnicity on the big screen, it could help the next generation “deal with their own personal issues,” she said.

Showing people of different races on screen is important for showing reality, she added.

For actress Jung Lusi, who plays the fiancee of lead character Nick Young’s friend, the film is part of a revolution for Asian actors to play “normal characters.”

“To be standing here as part of that revolution… I can’t believe I’m part of it,” she added.

The U.S. box office saw an August surge partly due to the film’s success. It topped the domestic box office for the third week in a row following its release on August 15, with a cumulative U.S. domestic gross nearing 120 million dollars. — Reuters

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Air pollution kills 7 million people each year, WHO calls for quick change

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

A man wearing a respiratory protection mask walks toward an office building during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing’s central business district, China, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday, May 1, that air pollution still kills 7 million people each year, almost all of them in poor countries in Asia and Africa, and that 9 out of 10 people on the planet breathe in polluted air, following the release of its latest data on air pollution worldwide.

According to the health institution, about a quarter of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer can be attributed to air pollution.

These numbers have remained unchanged in the past years, with, globally, outdoor air pollution remaining high and largely unchanged, while indoor air pollution has got worse, as people in many poorer countries continue to cook with solid fuel or kerosene, instead of cleaner fuels such as gas and electricity. Women and children are the most at risk.

Director, Dr. Maria Neira of WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health said almost half of the global population is “still cooking and heating and lightening their house” with solid fuels and wood which are not very clean fuels” and “this is having a very negative impact on their health.”

“This is something that we need to solve. We need to increase access to clean fuels, clean energy for this very important proportion of our population,” Dr. Neira added.

WHO’s global assessment is based on satellite data and modeling overlaid on the database of more than 4,300 cities, an almost 50% increase compared to WHO last report in 2016, and is self-selecting, because it is based on voluntary reporting, with numbers that have been hugely revised since the previous report.

The World Health Organization plans to organize in October the first Conference on air pollution and Health to speed up change at a global level. – Reuters

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Air quality linked to cardiac ‘events,’ heart disease patients unaware

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

FILE PHOTO: A cyclist wears a mask as he cycles near Buckingham Palace in London April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Poor air quality with high levels of tiny pollution particles known as PM 2.5 are tied to a spike in emergency department visits for heart- and lung-related illnesses and stroke, a California study suggests, but a nationwide U.S. survey finds that few heart patients are aware of air quality risks.

Based on analysis of areas affected by the intense 2015 California wildfire season, researchers found that within a day of residents being exposed to dense smoke, emergency room visits for heart attacks and other cardiac events and symptoms rose by 15 percent overall, and 42 percent among people over age 65.

Stroke and other cerebrovascular emergencies rose 17 percent overall, and 22 percent for older adults, the study team reports in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Unlike places that have chronic exposure to poor air quality where we can educate people about the health risks, wildfires happen at unexpected times,” said senior study author Ana Rappold of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Lab in Durham, North Carolina.

“Wildfires have become a leading cause of short-term exposure to polluted air,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s important to talk to people about how exposure to wildfire can impact their health.”

Large-scale wildfires are projected to increase through the end of the century in many areas, particularly in California, Rappold and her colleagues note in their report. Wildfire smoke contains several pollutants, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ash particles that have been associated with lung and heart problems.

It also contains tiny particles, smaller than 2.5 micrometers, that are produced by burning, such as in wildfires, indoor cooking fires and motor vehicle exhaust.

These particles are small enough to enter the bloodstream from the lungs and are linked to inflammation, heart rhythm disturbances and clotting issues, the authors write.

Rappold and colleagues analyzed emergency room visits between May 1 and September 30, 2015 in eight northern and central California basins where fires covered more than 800,000 acres of land.

Based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the research team followed smoke plumes and particulate matter concentrations as they moved across the state. They also looked at emergency room data for diagnoses such as heart attack, angina, cardiac dysrhythmia, pulmonary embolism, stroke, asthma, COPD and pneumonia.

The researchers found 361,000 cardiovascular, 15,500 cerebrovascular and 230,000 respiratory diagnoses. Emergency room visits for heart issues were associated with wildfire smoke density for all adults and were more pronounced for those over age 65. Brain and lung issues were also more severe among older adults, especially on medium- and dense-smoke days.

“We have an aging population in this country with increasing obesity, diabetes and associated heart and lung diseases, and we have an increasing number of acres that burn every year,” said one of the study’s coauthors, Dr. Wayne Cascio, who directs the EPA National Health and Environmental Effects Research Lab.

“We also have an increasing number of people encroaching on acres that have a high likelihood of burning,” Cascio said in a telephone interview. “That’s the perfect storm of increasing the number of people who are at risk for wildfire exposure.”

In future studies, the EPA team plans to look at how long wildfire smoke and particulate matter lingers in the air and causes health problems, as well as how these air pollution exposures affect healthcare expenses through programs such as Medicare.

They’ve also launched Smoke Sense (bit.ly/2gFdHTV), a mobile app that encourages people to submit information about wildfire exposures and their health and productivity.

“I tell my patients that if they have heart or lung disease, they need to be mindful about poor air quality and smoke from wildfires,” Cascio said. “Avoid them to the extent that you can and look at EPA resources or others to plan what else you should do.”

In a separate study by a team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, researchers found that people with lung disease are more likely than those with heart diseases to be aware of the risks they face during poor air quality alerts.

The research team analyzed surveys of more than 12,000 U.S. adults between 2014 and 2016. About half of participants were aware of air quality alerts, 27 percent said they avoided busy roads to reduce their exposure and 3 percent said they had talked with a health professional about ways to avoid exposure to air pollution. Compared to the other survey participants, awareness of air quality alerts was 11 percent more common among people with asthma and avoidance of busy roads was 13 percent more common. People with asthma were also five times more likely to have spoken with a doctor about avoiding pollution exposure.

“Targeted public health messages about air quality might raise awareness about alerts and motivate changes in behavior among those at risk during periods of unhealthy air quality,” said lead study author Maria Mirabelli of the CDC’s Asthma and Community Health Branch.

“Be aware of air quality alerts and discuss with a health professional the strategies to reduce air pollution exposure,” Mirabelli advised in an email. “Avoid busy roads to reduce exposure when walking, biking or exercising outdoors.”

SOURCES: bit.ly/2HGf8hz Journal of the American Heart Association; online April 11, 2018; and bit.ly/2HpUapo American Journal of Preventive Medicine, online March 15, 2018.

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