Cost of air pollution

Death in the Air Infographic by World Bank

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The World Bank released a new report titled “The Cost of Air Pollution: strengthening the economic case for action” and in it they detail how air pollution is now the 4th leading risk factor for deaths worldwide. That’s worse than the deaths attributed to alcohol and drug use, HIV/AIDS, and even malaria. Besides the other reasons for reducing air pollution (climate change, our health, etc.) the economic one is probably the one that will communicate the strongest to everyone as air pollution costs the global economy in terms of foregone labor income to the tune of $225 Billion each year globally.

Click here for full report.

Click here to view the infographic in higher resolution.

Air pollution has emerged as the fourth-leading risk factor for deaths worldwide. While pollution-related deaths mainly strike young children and the elderly, these deaths also result in lost labor income for working-age men and women. The loss of life is tragic. The cost to the economy is substantial. The infographic below is mainly based on findings from The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the economic case for action, a joint study of the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
Air pollution has emerged as the fourth-leading risk factor for deaths worldwide. While pollution-related deaths mainly strike young children and the elderly, these deaths also result in lost labor income for working-age men and women. The loss of life is tragic. The cost to the economy is substantial. The infographic below is mainly based on findings from The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the economic case for action, a joint study of the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
Flickr Photo

Is Summer Air Better than Winter Air?

对不起,此内容只适用于美式英文。 For the sake of viewer convenience, the content is shown below in the alternative language. You may click the link to switch the active language.

 

Summer is here, bringing with it clearer skies and certainly cleaner air. Right?

Summer always seems to drive out the dense clouds of pollution that suffocate many Indian cities. However, while summer air is in fact cleaner than air during other seasons, it’s still far from safe according to the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

During the winter, cold air traps pollutants close to the ground, a process called an “inversion.” Summer heat prevents this inversion, which does improve the air quality. However, average air conditions in India are still clearly not ideal.

Here’s a map of today’s pollution levels across India:

 

pollution levels
Source: https://aqicn.org/map/india/

 

On a day like today, when the AQI in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi is in the ‘unhealthy’ or ‘very unhealthy’ range, we often wonder at Smart Air if the pollution in summer really is any better than the winter.

We got to the bottom of it by analyzing the US Embassy’s data in New Delhi and US consulates’ data in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata. So is summer air really better than winter air? We took the data from the past two years (June 2014 to June 2016) and broke it down into four seasons: winter (December to February), summer (March to June), monsoon (July to September), and post-monsoon (October to November). Next, we calculated the average particulate pollution (PM2.5) levels for each season.

Across the five cities we looked at, PM 2.5 levels were 26% better in the summer—118 micrograms in the winter compared to 49 micrograms in the summer. That means summer air is better.

Let’s take a look at the difference in PM2.5 between the five cities during different seasons:

 

 

US Embassy Air Quality Data
U.S. Department of State Data, June 2014 – June 2016. Air quality data may not be validated or verified

 

But how good is “better?” Here in India, “better” is nowhere near “safe.” Over the course of the two years we analyzed, average annual pollution levels in all five cities never fell below even the WHO’s more lenient (24-hour) exposure limit (25 micrograms per cubic meter). In fact, the average pollution levels across all the cities we tested was about 500% the WHO annual limit (10 micrograms) and 200% of the more lenient 24-hour limit (25)!

 

The lowest summer pollution level we found was Chennai (31 micrograms). But even that lowest summer level still surpassed the WHO limits.

Below are the 2-year graphs for each city. You can see that each city has two distinct swells in PM2.5 levels during the winter, each followed by 2 clear dips during the summer. Interestingly enough, comparing the summer and winter levels of each city from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 shows some cities’ PM2.5 levels improving, while others’ increase between years. Most notably, Chennai’s winter pollution levels dropped significantly between years as did Hyderabad’s, while New Delhi and Kolkata experienced clear increases. However, we’re not sure whether or not this improvement and worsening of PM2.5 levels can be attributed to cities’ environmental efforts (or lack thereof).

The conclusion? The evidence is quite clear: summer air is in fact better than winter air. However, despite all the blue skies and warm days we’ve been having lately, there’s still a need to protect yourself inside and outside the house. Don’t mistake “better” for “safe.” Neither summer nor winter air meets WHO health standards and summer air is still of significant concern to public health.

 

Chennai US Department of State
U.S. State Department Data – June 2014 to June 2016. Data may not be fully verified or validated.

 

US Embassy Air Quality
U.S. State Department Data – June 2014 to June 2016. Data may not be fully verified or validated.

 

US Embassy Air Quality Data
U.S. State Department Data – June 2014 to June 2016. Data may not be fully verified or validated.

 

US Embassy Air Quality Data
U.S. State Department Data – June 2014 to June 2016. Data may not be fully verified or validated.

 

US Embassy Air quality data
U.S. State Department Data – June 2014 to June 2016. Data may not be fully verified or validated.

 

图片 1

空气污染口罩真的管用吗?

当全国各地的中国人(以及一大批住在中国的外国人)早晨醒来时都不得不面对严重的空气污染时,现实迫使十几亿中国人民需要在一个原本复杂的科学问题上成为专家——口罩真的管用吗?

从那时开始到现在,我已经给中国各地数以百计的人做过演讲,来分享如何保护自己免受空气污染侵害的知识。在这些演讲中,我听到了一些来自聪明又富有怀疑精神的人们的质疑。在这里我想回答这些疑问,因为很幸运地,聪明又富有怀疑精神的科学家们(再加一个献身科学的书呆子——我自己)已经用实实在在的实验和数据回答了这些质疑。

  1. “口罩不能过滤掉非常微小的颗粒”

怀疑派说:

最危险的颗粒是那些最小的颗粒。但是口罩这么薄,怎么可能捕捉到最小的颗粒?

科学测试:

爱丁堡大学的研究人员测试了不同种类的常用口罩。他们通过使用柴油发电机(模仿汽车排气装置)向不同口罩排放废气,然后用一个粒子计数器测出有多少颗粒穿透了口罩。下面是我画的实验示意图:

图片 1

一个重要的细节:他们使用的粒子计数器能够测量到小至0.007微米的颗粒。我们这里讨论的可是真正的微小颗粒!

首先他们用一个简单的棉质手帕做了测试。有时我在中国看到骑自行车的人会戴着这种手帕。

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结果不是很好,过滤了28%的颗粒。

下一个测试的是便宜的医用口罩。

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效果不错!这个结果会让人感到意外(在密封性测试中它的表现会差大概20%,参考下面文章,但是已经比大部分人们直觉认为的结果好得多)。

然后他们又测试了一些自行车用口罩:

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大部分能够达到80%。

接下来测试了一些便宜的3M口罩:

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这些口罩的都过滤了95%以上的颗粒。非常棒!

结论:即使是非常微小的颗粒,口罩也能过滤掉。

2.  “好吧,就算口罩能够过滤小颗粒,但是当你戴着口罩时,空气就从口罩的边缘漏进去了。”

怀疑派说:

理论上口罩是管用的,但是这些测试不是在真人脸上做的。当你真的戴着口罩时,它不能很好地贴合脸部,所以它们还是没用。

科学测试:

这个问题更难回答,因为你必须在实际戴着口罩的时候测试口罩效果。为了做到这一点,你需要一个非常昂贵的密封性测试仪器。幸运的是,在我好几周不断的请求下,3M公司终于同意我用他们在北京的实验室。

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蓝色管子采集口罩外的空气,白色管子从口罩内采集空气(密封测试细节) 。

生活在北京的Richard Saint Cyr医生也做了口罩密封测试。所以我把我的数据跟他的数据做了个整合。这是不同口罩在我们脸上的效果:

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口罩对大多数人效果也这么高吗?

明确一点很重要:在我脸上做的测试不一定适用于其他人。但是,也有更广泛的实验数据。香港的研究者测试了22位中国人,结果发现3M口罩在他们脸上平均效果达到了99.5%。这个结果相当于Saint Cyr医生和我的测试结果中的最好成绩了。所以有实验数据说明在中国人的脸上,口罩也可以达到很高的密封性。

 

好口罩是贵的口罩吗?

下面的图是口罩测试结果和价格对比。

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好在有效的口罩并不需要花费昂贵的价钱。而且为了呼吸到洁净的空气,我们不需要买个市面上最贵的口罩。

 

注意:关于气体污染

口罩的测试结果很好,但是也要注意:这些测试都是关于颗粒污染的。大部分市面上销售的口罩都不是用来过滤二氧化氮(NO2)或者臭氧(O3)的。所以口罩不是我们100%的保护伞。

 

    3.  有实验证明戴口罩有利于健康吗?

这可能是最难回答的一个问题了。然而,还是可以参考两个可靠的研究。研究人员在北京随机分配一组人戴着或者不戴口罩在北京走路,然后测量他们的心率和血压(12)。

Mask Study Blood Pressure CN

戴着口罩的时候,参加者血压更低而且心率更有规律。

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结论:口罩可以过滤十分微小的颗粒,当你戴着口罩时也是这样。而且有专业研究结果表明戴着口罩有利于健康。这些应该足够让怀疑派们信服啦!

3m-fitting

穷人密封性测试

哪种口罩戴在你的脸上效果最好?我很有幸地拜访了一个实验室,在那里做了一个非常昂贵的密封性测试。但是我们中很少有人能有机会接触到价值10,000美元的仪器。所以普通大众应该怎么办呢?

Mask Fit Test Picture - CN

访问3M实验室的时候,我了解到了一种测试方法,我把它称作是“穷人密封性测试”。它的结果不如真正的密封性测试精确,但是可以帮你识别出口罩是不是有较为严重的漏气情况。其实很简单:

  1. 戴上口罩。确保上端的金属条紧紧贴合着你的鼻子。
  2. 如果口罩是头戴式(有两根皮筋),确保一根皮筋在你的耳朵下方,另一根在上方,像下面这样:

maxresdefault      3. 用手轻轻固定住口罩,猛吸一口气。吸气的时候,注意是否能感觉到口罩边缘有一股气流或者凉风。特别注意一下鼻子周围的区域。

4.  如果你感觉到有漏气的现象,调整口罩再试一次。如果试过几次之后都不能解决问题,那就得换一个别的口罩了。

3m-fitting

如果你的口罩没有呼吸阀,你也可以通过这种猛吸气的方式对口罩做个测试。

 

希望能你呼吸到安全的空气!

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Do ionizers actually clean air?

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The other day, someone on Quora asked whether ionizer fans actually purify the air. This is an important question because ionizer purifiers are all over the place. For example, I was at a friend’s apartment in the US, and I saw his tower fan had an ionizer button on it:

image

It’s also important because several friends in China have sent me links to products like this:

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Amazing! A “miraculous purifier” that removes PM 2.5 and formaldehyde in just 30 seconds. And all that for far cheaper than regular purifiers and even cheaper than building your own purifier.

If this is true, my life in Beijing is now so much easier. But is it true?

So how do ionizers work? 

Here’s my bedroom, with an ionizer and bad particles in the air:

image

That ionizer shoots out negative ions:

image

Those ions cause the particles to stick to surfaces, like my bed, the wall, and the floor:

image

That’s the principle behind ion generators. It’s hard to see it happening with these tiny particles, but you’ve seen it on a visible scale if you’ve seen someone rub a balloon on their hair and then stick it to a wall.

image

But wait #1

A summary of scientific tests of air purifiers found that most ionizers have no noticeable effect on particulate levels (p. 8). Their conclusion is that most ionizers are too weak to have an effect. Studies do show an effect if they use very strong ionizers–much stronger than most ionizers on the market (p. 19).

But wait #2

OK, so regular ionizers don’t work, but we can use a big one! The problem is, when you put that many ions into the air, it produces ozone. Ozone is harmful, so that’s not good!

But wait #3

Even if we use a really strong ionizer and even if we can accept the ozone, you might have noticed that the ionizer didn’t actually filter out the particles. It just made them stick to my bed, wall, and floor.

First, that’s gross. Since the particles floating around here in Beijing include things like arsenic cadmium, and lead, I’d rather not have them stick to my pillow.

Second, they’re still a danger. The particles are just sticking to my bed. So let’s say Thomas comes home:

image

When I sit down on my bed, I’ll dislodge those particles, and they’ll float back into the air. Here’s my super scientific rendering of that process:

image

Those problems are what led Consumer Reports to publish tests and warn people not to buy the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze. Sharper Image sued Consumer Reports; Consumer Reports won.

So when people send me links asking about these “miraculous” purifiers, I tell them to steer clear.

Careful not to overgeneralize

But let’s not draw too broad of a conclusion here. This doesn’t mean ALL air purifiers are junk. Instead, I use HEPA filters. HEPAs actually capture particles, and they are backed by empirical tests (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Here’s a little test I did with HEPA filters in Beijing:

 

2

蒙古有空气污染吗?

图片 1

据英国《卫报》, 乌兰巴托是世界大都市空气污染最严重第二。 2008-2011年,乌兰巴托PM 2.5平均值接近150微克;北京2014年平均PM 2.5是98微克;世界卫生组织24小时上限是25微克。

2

是快速发展的工业生产的原因吗?工业化的工厂只占蒙古经济极小的部分。满街都是汽车尾气?也不是。

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实际上,乌兰巴托大部分的空气污染来源是冬天供暖烧煤。在冬天温度达到零下40度的地方确实需要供暖。

研究者发现那么严重的空气污染导致首都人口有10%的早逝。这意味着乌兰巴托急需清洁空气的好办法。

Smart Air将在乌兰巴托举办首场蒙古DIY空气净化器沙龙!欢迎蒙古首都朋友们在9月11-12日加入我们洁净空气活动。

欢迎加入我们DIY沙龙,了解如何用简单的DIY空气净化器减少家里的有害颗粒污染。Smart Air创始人Thomas Talhelm将解释非常贵的空气净化器的工作原理及如何利用同样的道理保护自己和保护自己的钱包。参加者在现场制作自己的DIY空气净化器带回家。

slideshow_homepage_image01

常见的净化器有几种?

我写这个博客是给关心空气污染的人。买净化器的人有不同的原因,比如说,有的人对花粉、宠物毛发过敏,或者有哮喘症。但就我在中国生活的时候,我最担心的是空气污染。所以,这篇博文对空气净化器的评估只关注它们去除空气中可吸入颗粒物的能力。

1. UV紫外线

image

这类净化器的主要功能是除菌。而我更担心的问题是空气中的颗粒污染。所以这类净化器并不对我胃口。然而,客观第三方结构《消费者报告》说,许多UV紫外线空气净化器其实连空气中的细菌都不能有效去除:

美国环保局调查显示,内置UV紫外线的空气净化器并不能有效去除空气中的细菌与霉菌。原因在于,紫外线光照通常不能与空气中的细菌、霉菌接触足够长的时间,以达到灭菌效果。

结论:UV紫外线不是我需要的。

2. 活性炭

image

活性炭的确有过滤功效:空气中某些含“碳”的化学物质、有机物能与活性炭相互作用,从而被去除。颗粒污染当中,活性炭能消除一部分,但是很多颗粒跟活性炭没有反应。所以这类滤网也不能解决我的问题。

活性炭能很好地过滤含碳杂质(也就是有机物)以及氯化物。而对比如含钠、氮这类杂质,活性炭就不那么有效了。这类杂质可以畅通无阻地穿过活性炭滤网,丝毫不会减少。(Howstuffworks

结论:活性炭净化器虽然能消除一部分空气污染(还有一部分能与碳发生作用的有害气体),但对颗粒污染并不那么有效。所以,如果只靠活性炭来去除空气中的颗粒污染并不可行。

3. 静电

静电的净化器用正负电荷吸引空中的颗粒。静电能够使颗粒物吸附在一个金属板子上。好处是可以清洗滤板,延长滤网使用寿命,长期下来就节省了更换滤网的成本。

有的净化器里面用静电,但也有很多知名品牌(比如Blue Air,IQ Air)不用静电。我猜是因为静电还会产生臭氧而臭氧对人体有害,会刺激呼吸道和减少抵抗力。同时,静电滤网还需要花更多的时间维修和清洗,所以美国的《消费者报告》(Consumer Reports)建议不要买带静电的净化器

4. HEPA滤网过滤器

image

HEPA能解决我担心的问题。“HEPA”这个名字听上去高大上,但它其实只是一个业界标准。HEPA表示这个滤网能去除99%直径0.3微米及以上的可吸入颗粒物(HEPA也能去除直径小于0.3微米的颗粒;0.3微米只是测试HEPA的标准大小)。所以,HEPA净化器能去除绝大部分颗粒污染,包括大家熟悉的PM2.5。

其实,HEPA净化器并非什么高科技,它的工作原理非常简单:空气中的颗粒通过滤网时,会被卡在滤网的“玻璃纤维”间。其实,如果你家里有吸尘器,里面八成也有HEPA滤网。超市的吸尘器要几千块吗?在美国亚马逊网上,十几美金就能买一个。

像市面上常见的IQ Air和Blue Air这些空气净化器,里面都有HEPA滤网。不过他们给自己的HEPA取了一些高大上的名字(比如“Hyper HEPA”),然后要价上千块。相比DIY,那些净化器或许寿命更长一点、可能能过滤更细小的颗粒,但我觉得,不至于在它们身上“一掷千金”。

结论:如果你担心空气中颗粒污染对健康的危害,那HEPA净化器就能满足需求。而且我们完全不用花七八千块钱买空气净化器。DIY自己的净化器只要166块。

QQ20160707-2

Are Particle Counters and Government Machines the Same?

对不起,此内容只适用于美式英文。 For the sake of viewer convenience, the content is shown below in the alternative language. You may click the link to switch the active language.

My particle counter is a beast–I’ve loved it. But I’ve always wondered how the counts of laser particle counters like mine:

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…compare to the measurements of the huge stationary air quality monitoring stations that governments use, like this one in New Zealand:

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If you look at the US Embassy’s Twitter feed, you’ll notice that its raw numbers are “concentration,” which it explains are micograms per cubic meter (µg/m³). The way government (BAM) machines work is that they use a source of carbon 14 that emits beta particles and then measure how many of those beta particles make it through to a detector. They then use those numbers to estimate the weight of those particles (micrograms).

In contrast, laser particle counters like mine use a laser and a photo diode sensor to estimate the number of particles in the air. I don’t see why the weight should be any more important than the number–they’re both telling you how much particulate pollution is in the air.

As an analogy, if we want to understand the crowd at a basketball game, we could count the number of people, or we could weigh those people. Of course, the more people, the heavier the total weight. And of course the two numbers won’t correlate perfectly if we have more heavy people on some days and more children on other days. But the weight and the total number should correlate highly.

The other major difference is that laser particle counters give the number of particles at that particle size and above. Government machines give the number of particles at that size and below.

To see how the two numbers compare, I put my particle counter outside my second-story window 70 times (that’s nerd dedication!) and compared my numbers to the US Embassy’s Twitter feed at the same time. Here’s what they look like:

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They correlate at = .89, meaning the two numbers are very strongly related (remember the highest possible correlation is 1). That high correlation is especially impressive given that my house is near Gulou, and the US Embassy is out in Liangmaqiao–about 7 kilometers away.

The difference between the readings was particularly noticeable on days where a strong wind moved through Beijing. I noticed several times that my particle counts would drop before the embassy’s counts as the wind moved in from the west (where my house was) to the east (where the embassy is). (Remember, Beijing’s air gets a lot cleaner when we get winds from the west.)

If we want to get a rough conversion between the numbers, we can remove a few of the outliers and compute a regression line:

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For example, a government concentration of 100 micrograms (four times the WHO limit!) is approximately 25,000 on the Dylos particle counter:

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And the 24-hour WHO standard of 25 µg/m³ is about 3,000-4,000 on the Dylos.

During my home tests (before turning my filter on), the air inside my home was very often above 3,000 (even though it was still much cleaner than outside).

Conclusion: My particle counter is giving measurements that are highly related to the much larger air monitoring stations. The scale is different, but the two can be roughly converted.

 

 

1-34

The Limits to Counting Particles

对不起,此内容只适用于美式英文。 For the sake of viewer convenience, the content is shown below in the alternative language. You may click the link to switch the active language.

If Particle Counting has just one take-home message, it is that you can protect your yourself from particulate pollution in China, and it costs a lot less than filter companies want you to think. However, I don’t want to mislead people into thinking that turning on a filter will definitely solve any possible problem. I talked with Louie Cheng, who founded Pure Living China, a company that tests for pollutants in homes and offices, and we came to a few conclusions about the limits of filters:

  1. Particulates are not everything. 

Particulate pollution is a big deal in China, and it’s bad for your health. There are lots of studies out there showing this, but the one that pops into my head the most is the study showing babies exposed to more air pollution are born with smaller heads. If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.

However, particulates are not everything. Gas pollutants can be a problem too. Although I suspect that almost every home in China has particulate pollution while only some have gas pollution, there are dangerous gases out there like radon, carbon monoxide, and the broad category of “volatile organic compounds.” Unfortunately, even the fancy filters have trouble consistently capturing a wide range of gases.

If you’re considered about gases, consider getting a home test from Pure Living China. They’re not cheap, but I’d consider it if I had unexplained health problems or a child at home.

I try to write “particulate pollution” rather than “pollution” because not all pollutants are particulates. However, it’s easy to just covert “particulate pollution” to “pollution” in our minds.

  1. Some particles are too small for filters.

A quick look at the size of different particles and gases makes it clear that particulate filters can’t get everything:

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HEPAs are rated to .3 microns (micrometers), and I’ve seen reports that they can get particles of .1 microns, but there are still leftovers. For example viruses and gases will pass through air filters (but not bacteria). (This, by the way, explains what I call “the smoker paradox.” More on that later.)

  1. Opening your window is good (sometimes). 

The air outside in China is scary, but sometimes it is actually good to open your windows. That is because some pollutants can come from inside. Some common sources are formaldehyde used in some furniture, cooking without a good vent, and construction work.

In those cases, it can actually be a good thing to open your window, particularly on blue sky days.

Conclusion: Air purifiers will get a lot of pollutants out of your air, but there are limits to what you can filter out. Consider opening your windows on clean days–and particularly if you have renovation going on indoors or are cooking without an adequate vent.

Thank you to Louie Cheng for sharing his expertise.