First Brain Cancer Link to Air Pollution Found in New Study
Air pollution particles from motor vehicle exhaust have been linked to brain cancer for the first time, researchers at McGill University in Montreal say.
According to a study published this week in Epidemiology, increased exposure to ultra-fine particles (UFPs) produced by diesel engines and burning coal raises the risk of developing malignant brain tumors by 10 percent.
The researchers found that the association was present after just a one-year increase in pollution exposure of 10,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter — that's about the difference you can expect after moving from a quiet street to a busier city street, The Guardian reported.
"Any time you burn anything, these small particles are produced," co-author and epidemiologist Scott Weichenthal, told UPI. "These particles are so small they can get into our bloodstream and into our brains."
While previous research has established that these UFPs are reaching the brain and potentially damaging every cell in the body, this is the first time researchers have been able to show that even a moderate increase in UFPs could lead to one additional case of brain cancer for every 100,000 people exposed to the pollution.
The study looked at medical records and pollution exposure for 1.9 million adults in two cities, Toronto and Montreal from 1991 to 2016, CBS reported.
Pollution levels in those cities range from 6,000 to 97,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter. According to Weichenthal, these ranges are typical of most major North American cities, The Guardian reported, and that those living with air pollution levels of 50,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter or more have a 50 percent higher risk of developing brain tumors than those at only 15,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter.
"Environmental risks like air pollution are not large in magnitude – their importance comes because everyone in the population is exposed," study co-author Scott Weichenthal, told The Guardian. "So when you multiply these small risks by lots of people, all of the sudden there can be lots of cases. In a large city, it could be a meaningful number, particularly given the fact that these tumours are often fatal."
The researchers acknowledged that the study did not show that the UFPs directly caused brain cancer, and more research into the environmental factors should be done, the Daily Mail reported.
Still, the study has implications for public health policy around the world in the face of growing air pollution crises. For instance, in Kabul, Afghanistan, smog and other air pollution may now be killing more people than war, the Associated Press recently reported, and New Delhi, India, has suffered from "severe" air quality with pollution exceeding eight times the recommended maximum due to agricultural and weather patterns.
"At an individual level, it is always a good idea to reduce your exposure to pollutants," Weichenthal told The Guardian. "But the more important actions are at a regulatory level, where you can take action that reduces everyone's exposure – that is where the real benefits come in."
Currently, the World Health Organization estimates that 4.2 million people die from ambient air pollution each year.
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A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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