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Analysis and Comment (33)

The South Australian town of Port Pirie – home to a historic smelter – has some of the worst reported toxic air pollution in Australia. The South Australian town of Port Pirie – home to a historic smelter – has some of the worst reported toxic air pollution in Australia. Photo by Imre Hillenbrand www.universalfocus.com.au

Australia’s dirty secret: who’s breathing toxic air?

Australians living in poorer communities, with lower employment and education levels, as well as communities with a high proportion of Indigenous people, are significantly more likely to be exposed to…
Taking precautions in Manchester. Taking precautions in Manchester. Dave Thompson/PA Archive

Understanding the pollution that’s hurting our health

The visibly high levels of pollution southern England is experiencing have drawn all of our attention to the ill-effects bad air quality can have on our health. Wherever we live, there is always a risk…
Sahara on the move. Sahara on the move. SeaWiFS/NASA/ORBIMAGE

Explainer: how does Saharan sand end up in the UK?

Being perched off the northwest edge of Europe means that people in the UK are not often reminded of the vast Sahara desert situated only a few thousand miles to the south. This great desert is located…
Spoiler alert. Spoiler alert. Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious

The particles big and small that make up Saharan smog

The UK news media has been buzzing with reports of air pollution alerts associated, at least in part, with the long-range transport of dust from the Sahara. Colleagues from Africa have asked why British…
Canary where? Canary where? Stefan Rousseau/PA

Smog cloud is the same old pollution with a Saharan twist

It might seem strange to some that dust from the Sahara is falling on their cars in England. Stranger still, that Saharan sand is mixing with general air pollution from both continental Europe and the…
Forbidden forest to replace the Forbidden City? Forbidden forest to replace the Forbidden City? myheimu

Planting forests across Beijing could help combat pollution

Smog has become an unfortunate feature of Chinese city skylines. Air pollution has gotten so bad in recent years that citizens have rallied and the government has declared a war upon it. One weapon in…
Firefighters say they have the Hazelwood mine fire under control, but it’s still expected to burn for some time. Firefighters say they have the Hazelwood mine fire under control, but it’s still expected to burn for some time. AAP Image/Incident Control Centre hazelwood

Stronger laws needed to prevent another Hazelwood coal mine fire

The Hazelwood coal mine fire shows that Victoria’s current mining laws are not strong enough to prevent a similar disaster in the future. While the mine’s owner GDF SUEZ has vehemently rejected claims…
Visibility is slightly better than last week. Visibility is slightly better than last week. EPA/Adrian Bradshaw

Chinese state and citizens must battle airpocalypse together

Pollution has gotten so bad in China that Prime Minister Li Keqiang opened the annual meeting of parliament on Wednesday declaring a “war against pollution”. This followed the surge in smog over Chinese…
Tourists wear protective masks in smoggy Tiananmen Square on February 26, 2014, when the air quality was officially ‘hazardous’. Tourists wear protective masks in smoggy Tiananmen Square on February 26, 2014, when the air quality was officially ‘hazardous’. EPA/Rolex Dela Pena

China can’t smother growing public demands to clear the air

Beijing has once again experienced extremely poor air quality, in what is becoming a regular event for the Chinese capital and other parts of the country. But has anything changed since the last “airpocalypse…
Firefighters battling the blaze at an open-cut coal mine in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, with Hazelwood power station in the background. Firefighters battling the blaze at an open-cut coal mine in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, with Hazelwood power station in the background. AAP Image/Incident Control Centre Hazelwood

Victoria’s coal fire poses a rare challenge for firefighting

Victoria’s Hazelwood coal mine is still burning, nearly three weeks after it started from a grassfire during severe fire conditions. Police are currently investigating the original fire for arson. Meanwhile…
Some chemicals are still used in industrial products or are found in the environment. Some chemicals are still used in industrial products or are found in the environment. Solovyova Lyudmyla/Flickr

Toxic chemicals and pollutants affect kids' brain development

The news that toxic chemicals may be triggering a rise in autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia in the United States has rightly prompted concern among parents. But what…
We pay for the product, but not the carbon cost. We pay for the product, but not the carbon cost. Kin Cheung/AP

Carbon as a commodity: a trade in pollution could help clean up dirty economies

Is it fair that China is blamed for the carbon dioxide emissions it generates to manufacture products destined for the West? Would the West do more to reduce greenhouse gases if it had to pay for the emissions…
Have catalytic converters changed the cost-pollution-benefit in petrol’s favour? Have catalytic converters changed the cost-pollution-benefit in petrol’s favour? Mike Egerton/PA

Failure to test for the real world has left a polluting diesel legacy

Which is the better option for cars in cities, diesel or petrol-driven engines? As a report reveals the new fleet of green, hybrid electric-diesel buses in London produce less CO2 but more harmful pollutants…
Thick haze has shrouded Shanghai for the past week, in the latest instance of extreme air pollution. Thick haze has shrouded Shanghai for the past week, in the latest instance of extreme air pollution. Wikimediacommons/Galaxyharrylion

Shanghai’s ‘airpocalypse’: can China fix its deadly pollution?

The current “airpocolypse” emergency in Shanghai - which has seen schoolchildren ordered indoors to protect them from the polluted air, flights grounded and companies ordered to cut production - comes…
The role pollution aerosols play in climate change is incredibly complicated. The role pollution aerosols play in climate change is incredibly complicated. CzechR/Flickr

Masking and unmasking of global warming by aerosols

Climate scientists have established a convincing case for the link between increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and observed warming of the Earth since the 19th century. The Fifth Assessment Report…
Touch of salt needed, I think. Touch of salt needed, I think. Heng Sinith/AP

Improving cookstoves will help save lives - and the planet

Around three billion people in the world, largely in developing countries, rely on fuels like wood and charcoal for cooking and heating in the home. But burning these biomass fuels, not least in confined…
Cold weather and coal-burning fires have plunged China into another air pollution disaster. Cold weather and coal-burning fires have plunged China into another air pollution disaster. EPA/Hao Bin

China is groping its way through another ‘airpocalypse’

The cold weather has come, the coal-powered heating has been switched on, and China’s north is once more swathed in thick smog. Air pollution has been a worsening problem in China in recent years, and…
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans. Andrew Tseng

Air pollution causes cancer, so let’s do something about it

Late last week, the world’s leading experts on cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans. The agency’s report, Air Pollution…
Cheap emissions permits means industry hasn’t traded in its polluting ways. Cheap emissions permits means industry hasn’t traded in its polluting ways. David Davies/PA

Permits to pollute can be bought too cheaply

When the carbon price collapsed to below €3 in April this year, EU policymakers sought to prop up carbon prices by a deal that would delay the release of carbon allowances (known as “backloading”). This…
What is coming out of our tailpipes that we can’t see? What is coming out of our tailpipes that we can’t see? Lewis Whyld/PA

Explainer: nanoparticles in air pollution

Hearing the words “airborne nanoparticles” for the first time, one would probably ask: just how tiny are they, where do they come from, and do we need to worry about them? These tiny particles between…
Clean up your act, Shanghai. Just add some more trees at the right places. Clean up your act, Shanghai. Just add some more trees at the right places. Corinna A. Carlson

Fixing air pollution is like walking: easy until the ground starts moving

There is something of a sensory dissonance in modern cities. Glamorous as they are, the breath of contemporary cities stinks. A recent study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found…
Pollution face masks are not just for China. Pollution face masks are not just for China. Dave Thompson/PA

Air pollution is not yet a thing of the past

It may seem odd for the European Commission to declare 2013 the “Year of the Air” in order to focus on improving air quality standards. Most would feel air pollution is a problem that has been more or…
Thousands of dead pigs pulled from a Chinese river are pushing China’s parliament to take the environment more seriously. Thousands of dead pigs pulled from a Chinese river are pushing China’s parliament to take the environment more seriously. Philippe Semanaz

Pigs and pollution: China can’t keep ignoring the environment

In a joke currently circulating on China’s most popular social media, Sina Weibo, a Beijing resident boasts about his happy life in the badly air-polluted capital, saying that every morning when he opens…
Heavy smog is descending on Beijing again, a week after record air pollution choked China’s capital and much of northern China. Heavy smog is descending on Beijing again, a week after record air pollution choked China’s capital and much of northern China. AAP/EPA/Adrian Bradshaw

Deadly air: the smog shrouding China’s future

Beijing has been smothered by a dense and dangerous smog this month, which has set new air pollution records over several days. The World Health Organization advises that the acceptable level of fine particles…
Why hasn’t human health been considered in the push for expanded coal facilities? Why hasn’t human health been considered in the push for expanded coal facilities? AAP Image/Paul Miller

Newcastle’s T4 project puts short-term profit before health

A massive expansion of Newcastle’s coal export terminal has been proposed by Port Waratah Coal Services. Approval is likely soon, but the expansion’s effect on human health has been ignored in the project’s…
Unsafe: thousands of Port Pirie children have been poisoned over decades, and yet government after government fails to stop it. Unsafe: thousands of Port Pirie children have been poisoned over decades, and yet government after government fails to stop it. Flickr/Viola Ng

Lead poisoning of Port Pirie children: a long history of looking the other way

It is shocking to discover that more than 3000 children have been lead poisoned in the South Australian town of Port Pirie during the last decade. Whilst Australia continues to be a world leader in lead…
Nice when a few sandstone houses get smoking, but what are people breathing in bigger rural towns where wood stoves are common? Nice when a few sandstone houses get smoking, but what are people breathing in bigger rural towns where wood stoves are common? Flickr/welshmackem

Should we worry about winter chimney haze in rural towns?

Winter in many Australian country towns is accompanied by a pall of smoke from wood-fired heaters that lasts from late afternoon to the following morning. In larger towns and cities burning wood has been…
It’s currently difficult to limit your exposure to traffic pollution because you can’t smell it. It’s currently difficult to limit your exposure to traffic pollution because you can’t smell it. Flickr/pəruse

Creating a stink about traffic pollution

The World Health Organization’s recent decision to categorise diesel fumes as carcinogenic is yet another reminder of the negative health effects of traffic pollution. Cancer can now be added to a list…
It’s not just greenhouse gases that affect climate: other air pollution could be changing atmospheric circulation. It’s not just greenhouse gases that affect climate: other air pollution could be changing atmospheric circulation. NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Poleward-shifting climate zones - where are they headed and why?

The Earth’s principal climatic zones appear to be shifting poleward. If this continues, as climate models project, the weather patterns that give rise to deserts in the subtropics, and stormy wet weather…
Australians should be more aware of the health effects of pollution. Australians should be more aware of the health effects of pollution. OZinOH

Why petrol bowsers deserve the same treatment as cigarette packs

Every time smokers pull a cigarette pack out of their pocket, they’re reminded of the harms their habit is likely to cause. In much the same way, Australian petrol stations should display health warnings…
Smoking is sickening, but coal and coal-fired power stations? Don’t you worry about that. Smoking is sickening, but coal and coal-fired power stations? Don’t you worry about that. AAP/Greenpeace

Something in the air: time for independent testing in coal areas

Tens of thousands of Australians live and work close to coal-fired power plants. The cocktail of gaseous and particulate pollutants arising from coal power generation is injurious to human health. All…
The risk of cancer from air pollution is a fraction of the hazard posed by smoking. The risk of cancer from air pollution is a fraction of the hazard posed by smoking. EPA/Alex Hofford

Unproven cancer risks diverting focus from real cause: lifestyle

The fixation on potentially cancer-causing chemicals in the air, food and consumer products is diverting attention from the real risks, according to a review of global evidence by an Australian cancer…

Research and News (3)

Research Briefs (13)

China’s air quality kills

China’s high level of polluted air is costing lives, according to researchers at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…