Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 Global Ranking of Countries by Environmental Performance

The 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) (99 page pdf, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Yale University, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University, 2012)

Also discussed here: New Rankings on Environmental Performance (The Dirt, ASLA, Jun. 5, 2012)

 The Environmental Performance Index assesses the relative progress of 132 countries with 22 performance indicators. The 2012 ranking showed Switzerland, Latvia and Norway at the top, Canada in 37th position and the USA, 49th. Rising greenhouse gas emissions are a particular challenge for developed countries while safe drinking water is the biggest one for developing countries. Major data gaps exist for monitoring air pollution and greenhouse gas with the notable exception of the European Union(which had 20 of the top
  ranked 22 countries overall).
Key Quotes:

 “Some issues arise from the resource and pollution impacts of industrialization, such as greenhouse gas emissions and rising levels of waste. These impacts largely affect developed countries”

 “Other challenges are commonly associated with poverty and underinvestment in basic environmental amenities, such as access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. These problems primarily affect developing nations”

“We are particularly distressed by the lack of global, accurate, and comparative data on waste management, recycling, toxic exposures, and several other critical policy concerns”

“Switzerland (with an EPI score of 76.69) leads the world in addressing pollution control and natural resource management challenge... ranks first in the categories Air Pollution (effects on human health) and Air Pollution (ecosystem effects)”

 “Air quality monitoring systems vary significantly between countries, often producing fundamentally dissimilar data. In addition, many countries have too few monitoring stations to produce representative samples”

 “An ideal performance measure for ecosystem vitality and air pollution would include time-specific emissions quantities, the mapping of pollutant movement, the ecological sensitivity to pollutants by area, and the level of clear policy commitments to emissions reductions. The European Union is a model in this regard because it meets all of these monitoring goals”

 “CO2 emissions correspond strongly to GDP. However, in 2010, CO2 emissions grew faster than real GDP.. By 2035..projects demands for electricity will be approximately three-quarters higher than current levels, and demands for transport fuel may grow by approximately 40%”
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Do We Need (traditional) Parking Lots?

It’s Definitely Time to Rethink the Parking Lot (The Dirt, American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), May 24, 2012)

Also discussed here: ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking (184 pages, Eran Ben-Joseph, Amazon Hardcover, Feb 17, 2012]

Parking lots have existed since the days of the Roman empire but have multiplied in the last century with the rapid growth of cars that accompanied urban sprawl. We review a summary of a recent book by Eran Ben-Joseh who examines the history of parking lots and the way that they have evolved, pointing out the large environmental impact they have on urban landscapes as well as the possibilities for creative uses of

Key Quotes:

“ there are now 600 million cars worldwide, and more than 500 million surface parking lots in the U.S. alone. In some cities, parking lots take up one-third of all land area”

 “All of those paved spaces “increase runoff and affect watersheds,” create heat islands, increase glare and light pollution, and impact the “character” of our cities”

"While this country still leads with the highest numbers of cars per capita (814 per 1,000), Qatar and Australia are close behind. The Netherlands has the highest density of cars per square kilometer, with 246 vehicles per kilometer, followed by Japan and Belgium. China is the biggest concern, though. It’s estimated that in 2010 China had some 60 million cars occupying parking lots.”

 “The average per-space parking lot cost is $4,000, with a lot in an above-grade structure costing $20,000 and a lot in an underground garage, $30,000-$40,000”

 “With just 50 percent of that space covered with trees, this space could handle 2 billion cubic meters of stormwater runoff, generate 822,264 tons of oxygen, and remove 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide annually”

 “In 2009, some 700 parking spaces were designed as mini-parks in 21 countries and 140 cities”
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Herbert Mohring on Congestion and Road Pricing

How To Reduce My Commuting Time (and yours) (Herbert Mohring, University of Minnesota Personalities, June 6, 2012)

Also discussed here: Essays in Transportation Economics and Policy: A Handbook in Honor of John R. Meyer (508 pages, Amazon paperback, published 1999)

Today the focus is on Professor Herbert Mohring, a pioneer in the field of urban transportation economics, who passed away on June 4, 2012 .


Key Quotes:   

“Professor Herbert Mohring of the University of Minnesota did much of the pioneering work in figuring out how large tolls should be. His best estimate was that an optimal toll on Interstate 35W would be of the rate of 20 cents per mile or about $2.00 to $3.00 for travel from the southern suburbs to Minneapolis”

“Congestion on roadways is an inevitable consequence of the way we charge travelers”

“Each traveler takes into account the time required to travel for himself or herself but rationally ignores the equal time cost imposed on others. The solution is to confront people with the true costs of travel in congested time periods”

“It is important the tolls be higher for peak times travel than for non-peak time travel in order to induce people to change their travel times to do so. It might even make sense to, in the toll revenues, to subsidize non-peak time travel!”
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Friday, June 22, 2012

The Politics of Road Tolls in Canada

A White Paper On Reforming Canada’s Transportation Policies for the 21st Century (21 page pdf, Brian Flemming, SRR series, Vol. 5,Issue 18, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, June 2010)

 Also discussed here: Experts urge feds to charge road tolls, user fees to pay for infrastructure (Jordan Press, Postmedia News Jun. 6, 2012) 

Today we look at a white paper aimed at creating discussion about the need for a new way to fund road infrastructure in Canada- something that has been partially paid for by gas taxes and short term stimulus funding. It points out that as fuel prices rise and electric car use increases that gas taxes are a declining source of revenue while road infrastructure will only continue to build, leaving a charge for road use as the best option. A focus by cities on this and some sort of agreement on how to proceed is needed.
Key Quotes: 

“There is no question that convincing the Canadian public to accept a road tax, or any kind of infrastructure pricing, will be a phenomenally difficult political economic exercise, no matter how sensible that policy might appear to be in the minds of experts or transportation policy wonks” 

“The need to charge user fees is being driven by the retreat of the federal government from stimulus spending as Ottawa attempts to get its fiscal house in order and cut the federal deficit over the coming three years" 

"This means something far beyond mere traditional tolling of roads and bridges. It means creating a system whereby those who use infrastructure will electronically have to pay small and sophisticated fees or this use." 

 “If governments are not keen to introduce policies to prevent further climate change, the least they should do is to help economies and citizens adapt to climate change, particularly in the transport sector“ 

 “Perhaps the mayors of Canada’s five or 10 largest cities should convene a meeting with only one issue on their agenda: who will pay for their infrastructure in the next decade and how can this best be done?”

 “In 2005, 74% of Canadian adults reported going everywhere by car, up from 68% in 1992. In 2012, 82% of Canadians commuted to work by car, 12% took public transit, and 6% walked or cycled. Trips between cities are also mainly by car.” 

 “Fuel taxes are effective at targeting greenhouse gas emissions, but they are crude instruments for targeting congestion and other externalities that vary strongly with location, time of day and population density. Road pricing in some form is a much more flexible instrument.”
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Long time Exposure to Air Pollution and Heart Disease

Air Pollution Linked to Chronic Heart Disease (ScienceDaily, June 5, 2012)

Also discussed here: Air Pollution Linked to Chronic Heart Disease (Press Release, American Friends Tel Aviv University, June 5, 2012)

And here: Cumulative exposure to air pollution and long term outcomes after first acute myocardial infarction: A population-based cohort study. Objectives and methodology (7 page pdf, Yariv Gerber, Vicki Myers, David M Broday, Silvia Koton, David M Steinberg, and Yaacov Drory, BMC Public Health, June 24, 2010)

Research from Israel reveals that air pollution not only has a significant impact on mortality but also that those in the population that have undergone one heart attack are 43% more likely to have a repeat attack, compared to those who live in areas with better air quality. The authors point out that more population health assessment is needed and that more air pollution monitoring is needed to support that.


Key Quotes:

 “Cardiac patients living in high pollution areas were found to be over 40 percent more likely to have a second heart attack when compared to patients living in low pollution areas”

 “patients exposed to air pollution were 35 percent more likely to die in the almost 20 year period following their first heart attack than those who were exposed to lower levels of pollution”

 "We know that like smoking cigarettes, pollution itself provokes the inflammatory system. If you are talking about long-term exposure and an inflammatory system that is irritated chronically, pollution may well be involved in the progression of atrial sclerosis that manifests in cardiac events"

 "fine particulate air pollution is a risk factor for CVD [cardio-vascular disease] mortality," and demonstrated that a 10-μg/m3 elevation in fine PM was associated with an 8% to 18% increase in mortality risk for ischemic heart disease, dysrhythmias, and heart failure”

 "assessment of the effects of air pollution on potentially susceptible subpopulations is key to providing policy-relevant information to better protect the vulnerable"

"Our method of assessing exposure does have limitations. Because we are using data from monitoring stations, it's a crude estimate of exposure, which most likely leads to an underestimation of the association"
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Monday, June 18, 2012

How Does Land Use and Urban Sprawl Affect Traffic?

Land Use and Traffic Congestion (292 page pdf, J. Richard Kuzmyak, Arizona Department of Transportation, March 2012)

Today we review a report from Phoenix that examines the links between congestion and land use and how the latter affects the former in terms of trip and mode selection. Some of the conclusions are surprising – that most congestion results from non work travel and that congestion of local roads comes from both through traffic and local trips. The 3D’s are the rule for compact urban communities: density, diversity and design.

Key Quotes:

“Intuition suggests that traffic volumes on a busy arterial roadway are associated with the type and density of activity built along that roadway…. Many factors are considered when deciding where to go to satisfy a particular trip purpose, although travel time and cost are frequently prominent in these decisions”

“travelers in suburban areas frequently use the freeways to make local trips, traveling only between one or two exits, or longer distance travelers use local roads to avoid congestion on higher class highways or as a shortcut”

“By reducing distances between households and activities, compact development improves accessibility by all modes of travel. Walking becomes more feasible, but also vehicle trip lengths are shortened by the existence of more local opportunities”

“87 percent of people planning to buy a home in the near future list a shorter commute as their top priority; that 57 percent of Hispanics and 78 percent of African Americans say they prefer walkable neighborhoods with shorter commutes”

“the biggest contributor to VMT is nonwork travel. More than 70 percent of the average household’s vehicle travel is for nonwork travel— shopping, personal business, school, children’s activities, and social/recreational activities.. Virtually none of these activities can be performed in suburban areas without a personal vehicle”

“High local traffic levels are also frequently linked to through traffic and an inadequate local street (grid) network to accommodate and channel that traffic”

“Design of a compact, mixed-use area is very important… an area has to be inviting for travel on foot or by bicycle. There must be activities worth walking to ..they must be clustered in a way that makes them conveniently co-located ..and they should face the street with limited setbacks, with parking either along the street or in peripheral lots, .. Walking should be made attractive and safe by a continuous sidewalk network, short blocks, frequent crossings, and buffering from traffic by trees or other barriers”
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Traffic-related Air Pollution and Health - a Canadian Literature Review

Traffic-related air pollution and health : a Canadian perspective on scientific evidence and potential exposure-mitigation strategies (112 page pdf, Michael Brauer, Conor Reynolds, Perry Hystad, The University of British Columbia, School of Population and Public Health, Mar. 1, 2012)

Today we review a significant addition to the state of knowledge about the health risks to that part of the public located near the pollution from road traffic. A third of Canadians live within 100 m of a major road or 500 m of a highway. The report concludes citing evidence from Canada and abroad that traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) is a significant public health issue and makes recommendations on how to reduce this threat.
Key Quotes:

 “approximately 10 million individuals (32% of the Canadian population) live within 100m of a major road or 500 m of a highway.. approximately one-third of Canadian urban elementary schools are located in zones of high traffic proximity”

 “Evidence also suggests the potential for causal relationships between exposure to TRAP with cardiovascular mortality and morbidity, non-asthma respiratory symptoms and impaired lung function, and lung cancer. Canadian scientific data clearly indicates that exposure to TRAP is a significant public health issue in Canada”

“Recommended approaches..
  • Install HVAC filter systems in buildings that house susceptible populations within 150m from busy roads (>15,000 AADT);
  • Limit heavy truck traffic to specific routes and times;
  • Target high emitting vehicles for retrofit or removal with inspection and maintenance programs;
  • Separate active commuting from busy roads (e.g. create bicycle routes on minor roads);
  • Implement anti-idling bylaws;
  • Implement traffic congestion reduction policies (e.g. tolls, parking restrictions, low emission zones, car-share programs, increased public transportation)…
  • Conduct integrated land use planning that incorporates health impact assessments (HIA's);
  • Site buildings that house susceptible populations (e.g. schools, daycares,retirement homes) at least 150m from busy roads (>15,000 AADT)”
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How Do Beetle-Infested Trees Pollute the Air?

Effect of Bark Beetle Infestation on Secondary Organic Aerosol Precursor Emissions (Abstract ,Hardik Amin, P. Tyson Atkins, Rachel S. Russo, Aaron W. Brown, Barkley Sive, A. Gannet Hallar, and Kara E. Huff Hartz, Environmental Science & Technology, April 30, 2012)

 Also discussed here: Beetle-Infested Pine Trees Contribute More to Air Pollution and Haze in Forests (ScienceDaily, May 23, 2012)

And here: Emerald Ash Borer (City of Ottawa)

Today we review research that looks at how trees infested with beetles contribute to poorer air quality in and near forests. Results indicate up to a 20 fold increase in Volatile Organic Chemicals. Although the focus is on forests in the wild, one can speculate that the same process may be at work in urban areas with beetle diseased trees, such as the Emerald Ash Borer which has killed millions of ash trees in Ontario and many parts of the United States.

Key Quotes:

“The emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were sampled from bark beetle infested and healthy lodgepole pine trees and from sites with and without active mountain pine beetle infestation”

“The beetles bore into the bark of pine trees to lay eggs. Gases, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which act as defense mechanisms against the beetles, are released from the bore holes”

 “ The samples from bark beetle infested lodgepole pine trees suggest a 5- to 20-fold enhancement in total VOCs emissions….that foster haze and air pollution in forested areas”

 “The data suggest that the bark beetle epidemic in the western U.S. could have led to higher monoterpene concentrations in the air that can contribute to haze, which can harm human health, reduce visibility and impact climate, say the researchers”
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Monday, June 11, 2012

The 10 Most Polluted (and Cleanest) American Cities in 2012

State of the Air 2012 (179 page pdf, American Lung Association, May 2012)

Today we review the 2012 report from the American Lung Association which showed that many if not most cities are making progress in cleaning up their urban air quality, notably New York and Detroit which the list of most polluted cities. Looking at the cities with the highest levels of short term particulate pollution, it is striking how many are in California with 6 out of the ten worse in that state. The cleanest cities are less clustered in one state but many are on or near the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. That said, over 40% of Americans live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particulate pollution and 30-45% live close (300-500m) to busy roads.


Key Quotes:

 “Four cities moved to the list of the most polluted cities this year despite having improved annual particle average levels”
  • ”Nearly one in six (16.1%) of people in the United States live in an area with unhealthful short-term levels of particle pollution”
  • ”People with Asthma—Nearly 2.5 million children and over 7.4 million adults with asthma live in parts of the United States with very high levels of ozone”
“25 US Cities Most Polluted by Short-term Particle Pollution(24 hour PM2.5)
  1. Bakersfield-Delano – CA
  2. Fresno-Madera – CA
  3. Hanford-Corcoran- CA
  4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside-CA
  5. Modesto- CA
  6. Pittsburgh-New Castle-PA
  7. Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield-UT
  8. Logan- UT
  9. Fairbanks-AK
  10. Merced- CA
Cleanest US Cities for Short-term Particle Pollution!(24-hour PM2.5)
  1. Albuquerque-NM
  2. Alexandria-LA
  3. Amarillo-TX
  4. Asheville-Brevard-NC
  5. Athens-Clarke County-GA
  6. Atlantic City-Hammonton-NJ .
  7. Austin-Round Rock-Marble Falls-TX
  8. Bangor-ME
  9. Baton Rouge-Pierre Part-LA
  10. Beckley-Oak Hill-WV
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Friday, June 8, 2012

Update on Parking Pricing in the USA

Smart Parking Revisited - Lessons from the pioneers (Jeremy Nelson and Jason Schrieber, APA- Sustainable Transportation Planning. May 2012)

 Today we take another look at how demand driven pricing for on-street parking spaces is proceeding in a number of large cities in the USA. Results indicate substantial increases in revenue (24-36%), along with increased availability of parking spaces when needed and general economic improvement for local business- as well as, incidentally, improved air quality as a result of less traffic circling the block looking for a space.

Key Quotes:

 “These days, the emphasis is on making more efficient use of the existing parking supply” “Defying conventional wisdom that "Main Street" must have free parking to compete with shopping malls, these communities are finding that demand-responsive parking pricing can smooth out parking crunches, fix deficits, and help motorists find available parking more quickly”

 "If a customer is having a good time in a restaurant, and they are happy to pay the market price for their parking spot, do we want them to wrap up their evening early because their time limit wasn't long enough? Do we want them to skip dessert or that last cappuccino in order to avoid a ticket?"

 [before in Oak Park Illinois] “high-demand streets in the commercial district had an average occupancy rate of 91 percent, often peaking at 100 percent. At the time of the study, the price of parking ranged from 25 cents to 50 cents an hour for on-street and off-street lots, with fees collected from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m

 [after in Oak Park] “the village board voted to create four tiered demand zones, increase rates to range from 50 cents to $1.50, and extend pricing until 8 p.m. All time limits were removed to let pricing drive the system.. the increased cost of street parking is "fantastic" for local businesses, and that they have "heard no complaints" from customers now that parking is always available at the curb... Overall parking revenues also have grown 37 percent; revenues in some months grew by 70 percent or more”

[San Francisco] “At all of the program's 7,000 on-street spaces (one-quarter of the city's total metered on-street spaces), located in eight pilot districts, new meters allow drivers to use coins, credit cards, or debit cards to pay for parking. Pay-by-phone technology is also available at all meters citywide. SFpark meters have longer time limits to allow longer stays for shopping.. showed a $6 million (35 percent) drop in revenue from parking fines along with a $5.2 million (24 percent) increase in meter revenue.”

Lessons learned:
  • “Support downtown revitalization with a renewed focus on increasing availability of existing parking…
  • Recognize that new garages won't get customers the front-door access they want..
  • Use parking management as a tool to accommodate "low traffic" growth…
  • Move away from a reliance on time limits and tickets, and motorists will pay more for more convenience…
  • Acknowledge, as Chicago has, that parking may be more valuable than you think; and
  • Use net parking proceeds to fund merchant priorities..”
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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Residences Near Roads and Childhood Asthma

Residential Proximity to a Major Roadway Is Associated with Features of Asthma Control in Children (9 page pdf, Meredith S. Brown, Stefanie Ebelt Sarnat, Karen A. DeMuth1, Lou Ann S. Brown, Denise R. Whitlock1, Shanae W. Brown, Paige E. Tolbert, Anne M. Fitzpatrick, PLoS ONE, May 17,2012)

Today’s review focuses on research into the relationship between proximity of residences to major roads in Atlanta Georgia, USA ( a city known for high rates of asthma as well as for traffic related-pollution) and the occurrence of asthma in children. Results indicate significant impacts as measured by wheeziness and hospital ization when the residences are within 417m as well as gastroesophageal reflux.  

Key Quotes:

 “few studies have examined relationships between residential proximity to a major roadway and asthma control in children.“

 “The distance between each subject’s home and the closest major roadway ranged from 0.23 to 9633 meters”

“Children residing within 417 meters of a major roadway had increased odds of wheezing more than two days per week compared to children residing further than 417 meters”

 “children living less than 417 meters from a major roadway had increased odds of hospitalization for asthma within the preceding 12 months, as well as increased odds of intensive care unit admissions”

“Atlanta, Georgia, has a disproportionate prevalence of asthma and affected children have an increased burden of respiratory symptoms as compared to other geographic areas... Atlanta is also plagued by some of the highest numbers of smog alert days in the United States, as well as heavy amounts of traffic”

 “An interesting but unexpected finding in the present study was the association between residential proximity to a major roadway and physician-diagnosed gastroesophageal reflux”
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Monday, June 4, 2012

Pollution "Radar" and the London Olympics

Sensors to create 3D map of Olympic pollution levels (Mark Prigg, London Evening Standards, Apr. 30, 2012)

Also discussed here: UK develops technology to study traffic impact during London Olympics (Road Traffic Technology, May 1, 2012)

And here: CityScan - The Pollution Radar And here: 3-D Map of Air Pollution in London (London Air, King’s College London)

 The site of each Olympics, it seems, is in or near a large city with high pollution levels.This year is no different with London following Beijing. By no coincidence, national authorities take steps to monitor and improve the air quality not only for the competing athletes but also for the millions of visitors to the event. Today we review progress on the development of a compact optical device, a “pollution radar”, which can produce time sequenced 3D maps of NO2 for the entire city with a resolution of 50m and 5 minutes from three monitoring sites


 Key Quotes:

 “A team of scientists are to make a 3D pollution map of the capital to show how the influx of Olympic visitors affects air quality”

 “existing technology, which can only give an accurate reading for certain “hotspots” near the sensor, CityScan can show the air quality over every point of the city — including individual roads, playgrounds and other buildings”

 “Between two or three CityScan instruments, we can map out a complete urban area and tell you where the nitrogen dioxide is in that space,”

"CityScan makes the link between emissions and poor air quality downwind, enabling better management of the respiratory health of sensitive individuals."

“Sensors will help detail the amount of nitrogen dioxide produced from traffic emissions and inform the people to avoid such places for health benefits. The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are expected to draw 11 million visitors from across the world to the UK's capital for seven weeks, with up to three million extra car journeys anticipated on the busiest days”

 “the Compact Air Quality Spectrometer (CompAQS), a CEOI project to develop a compact imaging spectrometer operating in the ultra violet and visible (UV/VIS) part of the spectrum ….These instruments will operate in the visible wavelength region to enable virtually real-time, 3D maps of atmospheric gases such as nitrogen dioxide to be constructed with five-minute time resolution. This is achieved by the simultaneous analysis of scattered solar UV/Visible radiation from multiple instruments and multi viewing geometries”
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Friday, June 1, 2012

Childhood Asthma and Ambient Air Pollution

Satellite-based Estimates of Ambient Air Pollution and Global Variations in Childhood Asthma Prevalence (32 page pdf, H Ross Anderson, Barbara K. Butland, Aaron van Donkelaar, Michael Brauer, David P. Strachan, Tadd Clayton, Rita van Dingenen, Markus Amann, Bert Brunekreef, Aaron Cohen, Frank Dentener, Christopher Lai, Lok N. Lamsal, Randall V. Martin, ISAAC Phase One and Phase Three study groups, Environ Health Perspect , May 1, 2012)

Today we review research aimed at testing the hypothesis that variations in asthma world-wide can be explained by variations in long term ambient pollution at the community level (O3, PM2.5 and NO2) which was in turn estimated using satellite-derived estimates. Although short term variations appear to be linked,
 the results indicate no such link over the long term.


Key Quotes: “There is substantial evidence from short-term exposure studies that ambient air pollution plays a role in the exacerbation of asthma symptoms…In contrast, the evidence concerning asthma and long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution is not coherent”

 “This paper investigates, on a global scale, associations between the community-level prevalence of children’s asthma symptoms and satellite-based estimates of particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter <2.5 microns (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and modeled ozone (O3)”

 “Asthma prevalence was negatively correlated with all three pollutants …and positively correlated with the three climate variables”

“we did not find evidence of positive community-level associations between the prevalence of asthma and satellite-based estimates of PM2.5 and NO2 and modelled estimates of O3, either cross-sectionally, or over time”
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