Air pollution linked to facial liver spots

Traffic-related air pollution and gases associated with air pollution may lead to the formation of dark spots on the skin, known as lentigines, or “liver spots,” says research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Lentigines are small, darkened areas of the skin that tend to appear on the face, forearms, hands and upper body. They may start small but can grow bigger, and smaller patches can merge. They are normally brown but can range from yellow-tan to black.

They affect light-skinned people, in particular. In the US, 90% of white people older than 60 years and 20% of those younger than 35 years develop them as a result of sun exposure.

Lentigines contain a higher number of the melanin-forming skins cells (melanocytes) than the surrounding skin. They are generally benign, although some may be pre-cancerous.

Both nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and soot, or particulate matter, are found in higher concentrations in traffic-related air pollution.

Dr. Jean Krutmann, of the IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Dusseldorf, Germany, had already found that skin is affected by air pollution, including a link between traffic-related soot exposure and the prevalence of lentigines.

Exposure to NO2 has been associated with decreased lung function and lung cancer, but the effect of NO2 on human skin has been unclear.

Lentigines develop on faces of women exposed to NO2

Dr. Krutmann led a large-scale study of women from Germany and China to investigate a possible link between air pollution and lentigines.

The German group comprised 806 white women with an average age of 73.5 years, ranging from 67-80 years. They spent 2.6 hours a day in the sun, on average, and 61% of them used cosmetics with sun protection. Twenty percent of them had a history of smoking,

The Chinese group included 743 Han Chinese women from the Taizhou region in China, with an average age of 59, ranging from 28-70 years. They spent an average of 3.5 hours a day in the sun, but only 4.2% of this group used cosmetics with a sunscreen. Again, 20% of the women had a history of smoking.

The German group were exposed to NO2 at an average level of 28.8 µg/m3, and the Chinese women were exposed to 24.1 µg/m3.

Photo reference scales were used to evaluate the spots and a validated skin aging score system (SCINEXA) was used to quantify them.

Higher levels of NO2 were not linked to the formation of lentigines on the back of the hands or forearms, but they did seem to increase the likelihood of patches on the cheeks of both German and Chinese women aged over 50 years, particularly the cheeks of Asian women.

Overall, an increase of 10 µg/m3 in NO2 concentration was associated with approximately 25% more dark spots.

When the researchers performed analyses to identify whether the main cause of the spots was the concentration of particulate matter or NO2 gas, they found that NO2 had a slightly stronger effect.

Protecting the skin against air pollution

But the more interesting aspect, he added, is the idea of developing the equivalent of ultraviolet (UV) filters to protect against pollution.

Dr. Krutmann explained to MNT that particulate matter contains carbon particles, which are covered on the surface by what we call polyaromatic hydrocarbons. These polyaromatic hydrocarbons, he said, are lipophilic, which means they can dissolve in oil. This enables them to penetrate through the outer layer of the skin to reach viable skin cells.

The hydrocarbons can activate these cells, he continued, through the function of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) causing oxidative stress. Therefore, products containing specific antioxidants may offer some protection against the pollution and the skin damage.

However, Dr. Krautmann told us that a more “upstream” solution of blocking the receptor would be more efficient.

He added that they have already developed an antagonist for this receptor, which is a cosmetic ingredient that can be put into creams to provide protection against pollution.

Source: medical news today

Kids living in megacities likelier to risk brain damage from air pollution

A new study has recently revealed that kids living in megacities are more prone to brain damage from air pollution.

Researchers from University of Montana revealed that children living in megacities are at increased risk for brain inflammation and neurodegenerative changes, including Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Kids living in megacities likelier to risk brain damage from air pollution

The study found when air particulate matter and their components such as metals are inhaled or swallowed, they pass through damaged barriers, including respiratory, gastrointestinal and the blood-brain barriers and can result in long-lasting harmful effects.

Researchers compared 58 serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples from a control group living in a low-pollution city and matched them by age, gender, socioeconomic status, education and education levels achieved by their parents to 81 children living in Mexico City.

The results found that the children living in Mexico City had significantly higher serum and cerebrospinal fluid levels of autoantibodies against key tight-junction and neural proteins, as well as combustion-related metals.

The breakdown of the blood-brain barrier and the presence of autoantibodies to important brain proteins would contribute to the neuroinflammation observed in urban children and raises the question of what role air pollution plays in a 400 percent increase of MS cases in Mexico City, making it one of the main diagnoses for neurology referrals.

Once there’s a breakdown in the blood-brain barrier, not only would particulate matter enter the body but it also opens the door to harmful neurotoxins, bacteria and viruses.

While the study focused on children living in Mexico City, others living in cities where there are alarming levels of air pollution such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia-Wilmington, New York City, Salt Lake City, hicago, Tokyo, Mumbai, New Delhi or Shanghai, among others, also face major health risks. In the U.S. alone, 200 million people live in areas where pollutants such as ozone and fine particulate matter exceed the standards

Source: ani news

Air Pollution Linked to Autism and Schizophrenia: Study

air pollution

A new research shows a potential link between pollution and autism.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that exposure to air pollution is tied to increased risk of autism and even schizophrenia.

The research conducted on mice shows swelling of brain areas that are usually seen in schizophrenia or autism patients.

For the study, the research team exposed newborn mice to air pollutants for nearly four hours each day. This continued for eight days.

Following this, the researchers examined brains of one set of mice after 24 hours. They found inflammation in almost all regions of the brain. The lateral ventricles, which are cerebrospinal fluid-containing chambers, were two to three times larger than those seen in normal brains.

“When we looked closely at the ventricles, we could see that the white matter that normally surrounds them hadn’t fully developed,” Deborah Cory-Slechta, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “It appears that inflammation had damaged those brain cells and prevented that region of the brain from developing, and the ventricles simply expanded to fill the space.”

The study showed that the inflammation in the brains of the mice was observed 40 and 270 days after air pollution exposure. This means that the negative effects were permanent. Moreover, researchers found an increase in glutamate levels, which is seen in humans with autism.

“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution may play a role in autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders,” Cory-Slechta said.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Source: HNGN

China Smog Is Economic, Regional Health Problem, WHO Chief Says

China’s air pollution is a regional health issue and impacts the economy in terms of foreign investment and talent retention, the United Nation’s health agency chief said.

“Talented people have actually talked to me, and they’ve changed their decision to settle in China because of the air pollution,” World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said today in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Hong Kong. “I think Chinese authorities understand this and they know what’s going on.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said earlier this month that pollution is a major problem and the government will “‘declare war’’ on smog by removing high-emission cars from the road and closing coal-fired furnaces. Air pollution led to genetic changes that may have sapped learning skills in children whose mothers were exposed to a Chinese coal-fired power plant a decade ago, researchers reported on March 19.

Pollution in Beijing today rose to more than 10 times levels considered safe by the World Health Organization. The concentration of PM2.5 — the small particles that pose the greatest risk to human health — hit 270 micrograms per cubic meter in the Chinese capital as of 12 p.m., a U.S. Embassy monitor said. The WHO recommends 24-hour exposure to PM2.5 levels of less than 25.

Smog produced by China affects not just the country, Chan said, as winds can carry pollutants across borders to neighboring states and even further afield. Pollution from China’s export manufacturers travels across the Pacific Ocean to the U.S. West Coast, contributing to smog in Los Angeles, according to a University of California, Irvine study published in January.

Source: bloomberg

Traffic pollution may alter structure of the heart; promote heart failure

Traffic air pollution has been linked to poor health in the past – with wheezing, coughing, and watery eyes just the tip of the iceberg. Later studies have also established a relationship between pollution and a host of heart problems, including left ventricular hypertrophy and heart failure, among others. However, a new study, from the University of Washington’s Medical Center in Seattle, has now found that air pollution emitted from traffic sources also changes the structure of the heart’s right ventricle – further increasing the risk of heart failure for residents’ of pollution-dense areas.

“Although the link between traffic-related air pollution and left ventricular hypertrophy, heart failure, and cardiovascular death is established, the effects of traffic-related air pollution on the right ventricle have not been well studied,” said the study’s lead author Peter Leary, MD, MS, of the UW Medical Center in a press release. “Using exposure to nitrogen dioxide as a surrogate for exposure to traffic-related air pollution, we were able to demonstrate for the first time that higher levels of exposure were associated with greater right ventricular mass and larger right ventricular end-diastolic volume. Greater right ventricular mass is also associated with increased risk for heart failure and cardiovascular death.”

The study observed the health patterns of 3,896 individuals who participated in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, each of whom had no prior history of cardiac disruption or disease. All of the test subjects had previously undertaken magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, with authors observing their levels of exposure to pollutant nitrogen oxide in the year leading up to the scan.

On average, the study found that a higher incidence of exposure to nitrogen oxide coincided with a five percent increase (around one gram) in right ventricular mass and a three percent increase (4.1 mL) in right ventricular end-diastolic volume. The researchers combed through a range of differentiating factors that could have skewed the data before confirming their findings, including variations in lung disease, socioeconomic standing, inflammation, and left ventricular mass and volume.

“The morphologic changes in the right ventricle of the heart that we found with increased exposure to nitrogen dioxide add to the body of evidence supporting a connection between traffic-related air pollution and cardiovascular disease,” said Leary. “The many adverse effects of air pollution on human health support continued efforts to reduce this burden.”

It should be noted, however, that while increased exposure to nitrogen oxide led to a notable change in the heart’s structure, the findings have not definitively been linked to traffic air pollution. However, the researchers are confident that these recent findings are aligned with previous studies on the matter, and serve to strengthen beliefs that traffic air pollution is detrimental to cardiovascular health.

The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Source: Tech Times

Beijing’s air would be step up for smoggy Delhi

In mid-January, air pollution in Beijing was so bad that the government issued urgent health warnings and closed four major highways, prompting the panicked buying of air filters and donning of face masks. But in New Delhi, where pea-soup smog created what was by some measurements even more dangerous air, there were few signs of alarm in the country’s boisterous news media, or on its effervescent Twittersphere.

Despite Beijing’s widespread reputation as having some of the most polluted air of any major city in the world, an examination of daily pollution figures collected from both cities suggests that New Delhi’s air is more laden with dangerous small particles of pollution more often than Beijing’s. Lately, a very bad air day in Beijing is about an average one in New Delhi.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing sent out warnings in mid-January, when a measure of harmful fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 for the first time this year went above 500, in the upper reaches of the measurement scale. This refers to particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which are believed to pose the greatest health risk because they penetrate deeply into lungs.

But for the first three weeks of this year, New Delhi’s average daily peak reading of fine particulate matter from Punjabi Bagh, a monitor whose readings are often below those of other city and independent monitors, was 473, more than twice as high as the same average in Beijing of 227. By the time Beijing had its first pollution breach past 500 on the night of Jan. 15, Delhi had already had eight such days. Indeed, only once in three weeks did New Delhi’s daily peak value of fine particles fall below 300, a level more than 12 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

“It’s always puzzled me that the focus is always on China and not India,” said Angel Hsu, director of the environmental performance measurement program at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. “China has realized that it can’t hide behind its usual opacity, whereas India gets no pressure to release better data. So there simply isn’t good public data on India like there is for China.”

Experts have long known that India’s air is among the worst in the world. A recent analysis by Yale researchers found that seven of the 10 countries with the worst air pollution exposures are in South Asia. And evidence is mounting that Indians pay a higher price for air pollution than almost anyone in the world. A recent study showed that Indians have the world’s weakest lungs, with far less capacity than Chinese lungs. Researchers are beginning to suspect that India’s unusual mix of polluted air, poor sanitation and contaminated water may make the country among the most dangerous in the world for lungs.

India has the world’s highest death rate because of chronic respiratory diseases, and it has more deaths from asthma than any other nation, according to the World Health Organization. A recent study found that half of all visits to doctors in India are for respiratory problems, according to Sundeep Salvi, director of the Chest Research Foundation in Pune.

Clean Air Asia, an advocacy group, found that another common measure of pollution known as PM10, for particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter, averaged 117 in Beijing in a six-month period in 2011. In New Delhi, the Center for Science and Environment used government data and found that an average measure of PM10 in 2011 was 281, nearly 2 1/2 times higher.

Perhaps most worrisome, Delhi’s peak daily fine particle pollution levels are 44 percent higher this year than they were last year, when they averaged 328 over the first three weeks of the year. Fine particle pollution has been strongly linked with premature death, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. In October, the World Health Organization declared that it caused lung cancer.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing posts on Twitter the readings of its air monitor, helping to spur wide awareness of the problem. The readings have more than 35,000 followers. The United States does not release similar readings from its New Delhi embassy, saying the Indian government releases its own figures.

In China, concerns about air quality have transfixed many urban residents, and some government officials say curbing the pollution is a priority.

But in India, Delhi’s newly elected regional government did not mention air pollution among its 18 priorities, and India’s environment minister quit in December amid widespread criticism that she was delaying crucial industrial projects. Her replacement, the government’s petroleum minister, almost immediately approved several projects that could add considerably to pollution. India and China resisted pollution limits in global climate talks in Warsaw in November.

Frank Hammes, chief executive of IQAir, a Swiss-based maker of air filters, said his company’s sales were hundreds of times higher in China than in India.

“In China, people are extremely concerned about the air, especially around small children,” Hammes said. “Why there’s not the same concern in India is puzzling.”

In multiple interviews, Delhiites expressed a mixture of unawareness and despair about the city’s pollution levels. “I don’t think pollution is a major concern for Delhi,” said Akanksha Singh, a 20-year-old engineering student who lives on Delhi’s outskirts in Ghaziabad, adding that he felt that Delhi’s pollution problems were not nearly as bad as those of surrounding towns.

In 1998, India’s Supreme Court ordered that Delhi’s taxis, three-wheelers and buses be converted to compressed natural gas, but the resulting improvements in air quality were short-lived as cars have flooded the roads. In the 1970s, Delhi had about 800,000 vehicles; now it has 7.5 million, with 1,400 more added daily.

“Now the air is far worse than it ever was,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of the Center for Science and Environment.

Indians’ relatively poor lung function has long been recognized, but researchers assumed for years that the difference was genetic.

Then a 2010 study found that the children of Indian immigrants who were born and raised in the United States had far better lung function than those born and raised in India.

“It’s not genetics; it’s mostly the environment,” said MyLinh Duong, an assistant professor of respirology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

In a study published in October, Duong compared lung tests taken in 38,517 healthy nonsmokers from 17 countries who were matched by height, age and sex. Indians’ lung function was by far the lowest among those tested.

All of this has led some wealthy Indians to consider leaving.

Annat Jain, a private equity investor who returned to India in 2001 after spending 12 years in the United States, said his father had died last year of heart failure worsened by breathing problems. Now his 4-year-old daughter must be given twice-daily breathing treatments.

“But whenever we leave the country, everyone goes back to breathing normally,” he said. “It’s something my wife and I talk about constantly.”

Source: Ndtv news

China pollution crossing Pacific to U.S.

Pollution from China travels in large quantities across the Pacific Ocean to the United States, a new study has found, making environmental and health problems unexpected side effects of U.S. demand for cheap China-manufactured goods.

On some days, acid rain-inducing sulfate from burning of fossil fuels in China can account for as much as a quarter of sulfate pollution in the western United States, a team of Chinese and American researchers said in the report published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a non-profit society of scholars.

Cities like Los Angeles received at least an extra day of smog a year from nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide from China’s export-dependent factories, it said.
“We’ve outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us,” co-author Steve Davis, a scientist at University of California Irvine, said.

Between 17 and 36 percent of various air pollutants in China in 2006 were related to the production of goods for export, according to the report, and a fifth of that specifically tied to U.S.-China trade.

Beijing’s air pollution at dangerously high levels
China’s December exports slow, imports accelerate
One third of China’s greenhouse gases is now from export-based industries, according to Worldwatch Institute, a U.S.-based environmental research group.

China’s neighbors, such as Japan and South Korea, have regularly suffered noxious clouds from China in the last couple of decades as environmental regulations have been sacrificed for economic and industrial growth.

However, the new report showed that many pollutants, including black carbon, which contributes to climate change and is linked to cancer, emphysema and heart and lung diseases, traveled huge distances on global winds known as “westerlies”.

Trans-boundary pollution has for several years been an issue in international climate change negotiations, where China has argued that developed nations should take responsibility for a share of China’s greenhouse gas emissions, because they originate from production of goods demanded by the West.

The report said its findings showed that trade issues must play a role in global talks to cut pollution.

“International cooperation to reduce transboundary transport of air pollution must confront the question of who is responsible for emissions in one country during production of goods to support consumption in another,” it said.

Air quality is of increasing concern to China’s stability-obsessed leaders, anxious to douse potential unrest as a more affluent urban population turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has poisoned much of the country’s air, water and soil.

Authorities have invested in various projects to fight pollution, but none so far has worked.

Source: cbs news

Study shows air pollution more deadly than thought

The effect of long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with increased mortality even when the pollution is below European Union limits, shows new research.

The research was conducted by the Utrecht University. The researchers, led by Utrecht professor Rob Beelen, used data from the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE), which included data from 13 European countries and a total of 367,251 people, Xinhua reported Monday.

With each increase of 5 mg per cubic metre of particulate matter, the risk that someone dies increases by seven percent, the study showed.

“This is the difference between a busy street in the city, and a place without the influence of traffic,” Rob Beelen said.

The air quality norm in Europe is 25 mg per cubic metre, but the research showed the risks are still significant under 15 mg.

“Our findings show that there are significant health benefits to be gained when the concentrations of particulate matter will be further reduced,” Beelen added.

Particulate matter is the collective name for airborne particles that are so small that they penetrate deep into the lungs. The traffic is a major source, but factory plants and heating plants contribute to affect human health.

Source: xinhua