One in eight deaths is linked to pollution, says EU

One in every eight deaths in Europe can be linked to pollution, according to a new report by the EU’s environment agency (EEA).

Air and noise pollution, as well as poor water quality and exposure to chemicals, contributed to 13% of all deaths across Europe. The report also noted who were hardest hit by pollution: poorer communities and vulnerable people. “Strong action is needed to protect the most vulnerable,” the agency said.

The Copenhagen-based agency released the report on was released on September 8, and was described as “a major assessment on health and [the] environment” in Europe. The report found that a total of 630,000 premature deaths in the European Union were attributable to environmental factors in 2012, the latest year for which data was available. Air pollution contributed to 400,000 annual deaths, with noise pollution being an attributable factor in 12,000. The remaining deaths were linked to extreme weather such as heatwaves.

“People are exposed to multiple risks at any time, including air, water and noise pollution, and chemicals, which combine and in some cases act in unison to impact on health,” the report said. The World Health Organization (WHO) says air pollution causes the death of millions of people around the world each year and accounts for a third of fatalities from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease.

In the UK, around 12% of deaths are said to be linked to environmental pollution.

“Socially deprived communities typically struggle under a triple burden of poverty, poor quality environments and ill health,” the EEA report said. “Eastern Europe and south-eastern Europe are both poorer and more polluted than the rest of Europe, with particulate matter emitted from the burning of solid fuel for residential heating and cooking,” it added.

The EEA said road traffic should be reduced, and fossil fuel subsidies should be removed in an effort to address the problem. The European Commission has echoed this view that a reduction in road traffic – specifically diesel-powered vehicles – would be beneficial. It has also suggested introducing measures to encourage greater use of electric cars. Last year, London introduced an Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in an effort to limit emissions of pollutants from cars, vans and lorries.

Similar schemes are already in place around Europe. Italy has the most low emissions zones – some of them permanent, many of them seasonal. There are also about 80 in Germany, and 14 each in the Netherlands and the UK.

Source: BBC News

Living in a polluted area is as bad for your health as smoking 150 cigarettes a year

Living or working in the UK’s most polluted cities and towns increases the risk of an early death by the equivalent of smoking three cigarettes a week, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned today.

The BHF has called for air pollution to be declared “a public health emergency” following the starling results of a research project funded by the charity. The study in question found that breathing in the particulate matter found in polluted air is a serious risk factor for diseases effecting the circulatory system.

Around 11,000 coronary heart disease and stroke deaths each year in the UK are caused by particulate matter air pollution. It can also worsen existing health problems such as respiratory illnesses, but in truth it effects every part of our body.

It’s the PM2.5 – the smallest of the particulate matter found in vehicle emissions – that are of most concern, as these cannot be filtered out of the air we breathe by our nostrils or the tube going down into the lungs.

The BHF analysis shows that the Chelsea, Newham, Westminster, Kensington and Islington areas of London are worst hit by air pollution – the equivalent to smoking more than 150 cigarettes a year on average. Those in Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham, Lambeth and Southwark in London are also badly affected, as are people in Slough, Dartford, Gravesham, Thurrock, Portsmouth, Medway and Luton,

The results of studies such as these have led to an increase in demands that the next government should urgently introduce the much tougher World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution limits in place of EU limits. the current EU limits – which the UK comfortably meets – for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are 25 micrograms per metre cubed as an annual average. The WHO limits are much tougher – at 10 micrograms per metre cubed as an annual average. The potential health benefits of lowering these levels would allow everyone to live healthier lives for longer.

it’s not all doom and gloom – we’ve recently written about how dietary components can help play a role in combatting the effects of air pollution, which you can read about here. Altruvita’s medical and nutritionist team has also developed Air Pollution Formula, the very first food supplement of its kind and designed to provide natural support in a polluted world.

There are many ways you can try to limit your exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollution, and to help you out we’ve gathered them together in our insightful Air Pollution Survival Guide. Download your FREE copy here.

Air pollution- At what cost?

Let’s face it, there are no winners when it comes to air pollution. Plants, animals and humans all absorb it one way or another.

If you have ever experienced true smog or breathed in the dirty exhaust fumes when an old car drives past, you’ll know that pollution irritates the parts of your body that comes into contact with it – your chest (lungs), skin and eyes. Wheezing, ageing and itchy skin and sore eyes are really common symptoms of exposure to air pollution. The latest research also shows that much more life-threatening medical changes can happen too.

A team at King’s College London published data from 9 UK cities – London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton. They found that high air pollution levels in those cities trigger hundreds more heart attacks, strokes and acute asthma attacks each year.

From ambulance call data, they calculated that the days with above average pollution levels would see an extra 124 cardiac arrests over the year. On days with high pollution levels, across the nine cities in total, they calculated that there would be a total of 231 additional hospital admissions for stroke, with an extra 193 children and adults taken to hospital for asthma treatment.

In London, high-pollution days would see an extra 87 heart attacks per year and an extra 144 strokes. 74 children and 33 adults would end up in hospital with asthma-related issues.

Among the long-term risks associated with high pollution levels are stunted lung growth and low birth weight.

The King’s College research also suggests cutting air pollution by a fifth, which is more than attainable over a short period, would decrease incidents of lung cancer by between 5% and 7% across the nine cities surveyed.

None of this should be a huge shock, after all we are breathing in toxic chemicals and particulates and of course air pollution costs lives and causes a range of illnesses, thus impacting more on the financial constraints of the health service.

The UK hosted an international clean air summit earlier in the month with the aim of exploring ways to improve air quality. Along with cleaning up the air in our environment, it may also be possible to support your health with a range of actions and a food supplement which contains ingredients proven to work against pollution. Read our Air Pollution Survival Guide to find out more.

Deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses rise when air pollution peaks

Air Pollution

As the company behind Air Pollution Formula, the very first dietary supplement designed to provide antioxidant support in a polluted world, at Altruvita we keep a close eye on the latest news and research around global air pollution. There’s no shortage of opinion, fact and evidence about the impact that the quality of the air we breathe can have on our health, and just last week yet another study highlighted why it’s something to be mindful of. The research, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined the levels of fine particulate pollution over 30 years in 650 cities in 14 countries, spread across 6 continents.

The research observed that on days when particulate pollution was high, death rates from respiratory and cardiovascular illness also rose. Interestingly, the peaks in air pollution observed were often still within World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Particulate pollution is created by car exhausts, household products and industrial processes, with fine particles known as PM2.5 causing the most concern for researchers. Their name refers to the minute size of the particles (less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter), which is around one thirtieth of the width of most human hair. The study’s lead author, Yuming Guo from Monash University’s School of Public Health in Melbourne explains: “The smaller the airborne particles, the more easily they can penetrate deep into the lungs and absorb more toxic components.”

It’s important to note that this study was observational, meaning that it doesn’t directly prove that the higher levels of air pollution made people unwell. It does highlight a link between the increase in deaths when air pollution levels rise and supports claims that even ‘safe’ air pollution levels are too high. Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, commented: “this study yet again underscores the need for the UK government to step up to the mark and protect our lungs by adopting World Health Organisation limits on PM2.5 in the anticipated Environment Bill”.

This research demonstrates once again why air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to our health. A study in July found that long-term exposure to ground-level air pollution, in particular ozone, is as bad for respiratory health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. You can read more about that study on a recent Altruvita blog post here.

Read more about our revolutionary Air Pollution Formula here.

Particular Particulates

A study just published today the 22th August, tells a tale of how our health is being affected by pollution, in particular particulates.

Teams from across the globe recorded their daily data on mortality (number of deaths) and their air pollution levels. Teams were located in 652 cities in 24 countries or regions.

Although there are dangers known for outdoor air pollutants; sulphur dioxide, ozone and nitrogen dioxide etc, this study was just looking at very small particles. They evaluated the associations of inhalable particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of 10 μm or less (PM10) and fine PM with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5) with daily all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality. In other words, they measured the particles in the air on every day and recorded number of deaths on that day.

They found that increases short-term exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 led to small but significant increases in all causes of deaths, and cardiovascular eg heart attack, and respiratory mortality eg asthma attack.

These are just 2 types of pollutants, adding in data from all pollutants lead to further deaths.

It’s a stark reminder that pollution levels need to fall to improve global health.

Liu C, et al. Ambient Particulate Air Pollution and Daily Mortality in 652 Cities. N Engl J Med. 2019 Aug 22;381(8):705-715. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1817364.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

Most fragrances cause indoor air pollution

From our hand soap to our surface spray, our body wash to our perfume, air fresheners and candles, household cleaners and laundry liquid; scents are all around us. This may not make any sense according to gathering research.

Contrary to popular belief, most exposure to hazardous pollutants that affect health and well-being occurs indoors. A primary source of these indoor pollutants and exposures are dyes, smoke, sealants, fire retardants and now fragrances.  Common fragranced consumer products include air fresheners, cleaning products, washing powder/liquid, and deodorants/body sprays and perfumes.

Do you feel unwell when you’ve been indoors for a few days or do you have symptoms that you think must be related to food sensitivities?

Exposure to fragranced products have been associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including migraine headaches, contact dermatitis, asthma attacks, respiratory difficulties, and mucosal symptoms In two previous surveys, it was found that 17.5% and 20.5% of the general US population (between 2002–3 and 2005–6 respectively) reported breathing difficulties, headaches, or other health problems when exposed to air fresheners and deodorizers.

Fragranced consumer products emit dozens of different volatile compounds, including terpenes (e.g., limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene) that are primary pollutants, and that react with ozone in our households to generate secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Even some so-called ‘green’, ‘atural’ and ‘organic’ fragranced products emit hazardous pollutants, similar to regular fragranced products because it may only include 1 ingredient of better quality. Little information exists, however, on potentially hazardous compounds emitted from fragranced products, in part because products are not required to disclose all ingredients. Thus, knowledge of potential exposures and effects is essential to effective risk reduction.

Imagine this common scenario; you recently buy an expensive candle ‘made with the finest natural ingredients’. You open it and on the back it says ‘extremely hazardous to aquatic life’ and ‘may trigger allergic reactions’. Made in China. It doesn’t state what the wax is, so it’s probably the cheapest material- paraffin. So apart from being useful for lighting the room, the company stated it’s selling something really toxic at the same time as stating it has ‘finest natural ingredients’. 

Not so relaxing to breath that scented candle any more…

There are now calls for fragrance free zones as well as smoke-free zones being initiated in the US and Australia. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indoor Environmental Quality Policy (CDC, 2009) states that “Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC.” 

For health professionals and patients, when faced with health problems such as headaches, respiratory difficulties, mucosal symptoms, rashes, asthma, and others, consider the possibility that fragranced products could be a contributor. Many people who believe that food may be making them ill may be surprised that even their favourite perfume may be the culprit.

Most fragrances cause indoor air pollution.

Look out for vitamins, oils and botanicals that have been used in air pollution studies, within our products.

Photo by Marina De Salis on Unsplash

Multi-tasking plants in combating air pollution

Air pollution is on the rise. When indoor and outdoor air pollution are combined, WHO estimates that in 2012, some 14% of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or acute lower respiratory infections, and 14% of deaths were due to lung cancer.

Emissions from vehicles are a major contributor to air pollution. They release nitrogen dioxides and fine particles, leading to local pollution especially in urban areas. The most damaging type of outdoor air pollution is fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5 ).
Other sources contributing to PM2.5 concentrations can come from afar however, as there have been many occasions where ‘Saharan dust’ has triggered respiratory problems in the UK population, but the dust has been found to contain these fine particulates and ammonium nitrate from Europe.

Air pollution reduces overall life expectancy in healthy individuals, but in combination with other existing health conditions can also cause early death.

A study from 2017 looked at the role of woodland, grassland, moorland and crops in removing a suite of air pollutants which are known to have substantial impacts on human health. The study looked at levels of PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, ground level ozone, and sulphur dioxide in these areas. 

The study showed that plants are great at removing pollutants right across the UK and this overall reduction in the levels of pollutants leads to a substantial health benefit.

Several groups got together and estimated the health benefits of removing each pollutant and calculated the economic value. The main health impacts originate from respiratory and cardiovascular health effects, and deaths. The benefits are greater in urban areas because that is where most people live.

Plants remove air pollution by providing a large surface area for particulate matter to settle on, and by active uptake of gases into the leaves or chemical reactions with the leaf surface. Collectively these processes are called ‘dry deposition’. The amount of pollution a plant can remove depends partly on its leaf area and size, but also varies greatly depending on the weather, the time of year (for deciduous species which drop their leaves in winter), and on the other pollutants present in the atmosphere.

The health benefits calculated were substantial, with estimated avoided health costs of one billion pounds in 2015, the majority of this is from removal of PM2.5. The study also estimated 5,800 fewer respiratory hospital admissions, 1,300 fewer cardiovascular hospital admissions, 27,000 less life years that were lost, and 1,900 fewer premature deaths.

So it looks like if we are filling our garden or hedges with plants, we want those with big surfaces that don’t drop leaves Autumn-Winter.

Meanwhile, indoor air pollution is also a constant problem and a threat to health. So looking further into the idea of how houseplants can fend off the potentially harmful effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a main category of air pollutants, a team of researchers have made some new discoveries. They found that certain plants are better at removing specific compounds from the air – this is especially meaningful for indoor air, as studies have shown that interior air can have three to five times more pollutants than outside (apart from in high traffic areas).

VOCs include things like acetone, benzene, formaldehyde and tolulene – they are emitted as gases and can cause short- and long-term health effects. People with asthma and COPD are especially sensitive. They are invisible to the eye and come from common things many of us have around the house, things as innocent-seeming as candles, furniture, copiers and printers, cleaning chemicals.

Since the NASA research in the 1980s, a number of studies have looked into how plants improve air quality, but most of the research has looked at the removal of single VOCs by individual plants from the air; but one groups wanted to compare the efficiency of simultaneous removal of several VOCs by a number plants. The team used a sealed chamber in which they monitored the VOC concentrations over several hours with and without a different type of plant. For each plant they measured the VOCs the plants took up, how quickly they removed these VOCs from the air, and how much of the VOCs were removed altogether. They gathered five plants (spider plant, dracaena, Caribbean tree cactus, bromeliad and jade plants) and gave them 8 VOCs.

They found that all of the plants were good at removing acetone, but the dracaena plant took up the most, around 94 percent of the chemical. The bromeliad plant was great at removing six of the eight VOCs, taking up more than 80 percent of each over a 12-hour sampling period. Likewise, the jade plant was very good for toluene.

Particular botanicals and nutrients from food have been tested in combatting all sorts of nasty bits floating around in our air, so take a look at our products!

Photo by Thomas Somme on Unsplash

Indoor air pollution getting on your wick?

The stresses of daily life are continuing to take their toll on many of us, so it’s little wonder that candles are as popular as ever. This week I even saw scented Christmas candles being advertised on prime time TV. There’s nothing like turning the lights out and breathing in the smell of vanilla and spice or gingerbread biscuits.

But while sniffing your favourite candle before bed often offers stress relief, many are made of nasty stuff, which can be really harmful. This is because they contribute to indoor air pollution (along with log fires, glue, paint, varnish, oil, flame retardants and dyes etc). The World Health Organisation say 4.3 million premature deaths were attributable to household air pollution in 2012. When indoor and outdoor air pollution are combined, WHO estimates that in 2012, some 14% of deaths were due to COPD or acute lower respiratory infections, and 14% of deaths were due to lung cancer.

Finding candles that are totally free of nasty chemicals can be tricky, especially as front labels often make it hard to distinguish what is and isn’t natural (a “blend” may mean a mixture of natural and synthetic ingredients, for example). 

So what are most candles made from?

Paraffin. When burned, paraffin wax (made from the residue leftover from oil refining) creates toxic benzene and toluene chemicals, both of which are known carcinogens. They are classed as volatile organic compounds (VOC’s- which you see a percentage for on paint tins). They are linked to cancer and neurological damage.  It means that breathing them in is as bad for your health as second-hand smoke. If you suffer from headaches when a candle is burning, it may well be down to the paraffin. Some candles even contain lead in the wick. Check with the candle’s manufacturer for a list of ingredients.

What’s better than paraffin?

As a renewable resource, soy candles are the real slow burners- more hours for your money! But while soy candles are certainly superior to the toxic fragrances and additives in conventional candles, it’s worth noting that most soy is genetically modified. Unless it boasts the certified organic label, it’s likely that your candle is made from GM soy. Is that a good or bad thing? Nobody knows!

The best of a bad bunch; beeswax is the only naturally occurring wax on earth, unless you count ear wax ….(Hmmm). Pure beeswax candles are non-toxic, non-polluting and may actually cleanse indoor air of odours and allergens. They also smell of yummy honey too so win win!

What about the scent?

Smells like… vanilla and cinnamon, nope its…

Phthalates? If you’re smelling fragrance, then there’s probably phthalates in your candle. These artificial scents and dyes often used can also release harmful chemicals when burned, possibly triggering asthma attacks and allergies. Do you sneeze or get wheezy with candles It is known that phthalates are widespread contaminants in both indoor and outdoor environments with the plastic industry being a major contributor. The toxicants can be delivered into the body via inhalation and other methods, then cause an inflammatory response, disrupt hormones and affect respiratory health.

If you want scented, I’m afraid you have to pay for pure essential oil fragrances.  If you ever wondered why some candles are so expensive, it because they aren’t made out of cheap rubbish.

Particular botanicals and nutrients from food have been tested in combatting all sorts of nasty bits floating around in our air, so have a look at our website!

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Sea of change

Microplastics found as microbeads within cleaning, beauty and dental products are so small they cannot be sived out through water plants and these tiny particles often end up in the sea. Microplasics are one type of pollution that we come across in everyday life, we can’t always see them, just like many types of air pollution. These pollutants are present throughout the marine environment and ingestion of these plastic particles (<1 mm) has been demonstrated in a laboratory setting for a wide array of marine organisms. Like plastics of any size, they look like food, but end up clogging up the insides of the animal, leading to starvation.

A study published 5 years ago investigated the presence of microplastics in two species of commercially grown shellfish: Mytilus edulis (blue mussel) and Crassostrea gigas (pacific oyster). Microplastics were recovered from the soft tissues of both species. At time of human consumption, M. edulis contained on average 0.36g plastic, while a plastic load of 0.47g was detected in C. gigas.

As a result, the annual dietary exposure for European shellfish consumers can amount to 11,000 microplastics per year. What is the effect of this pollution on our bodies? The presence of marine microplastics in seafood could pose a threat to food safety, however, due to the complexity of estimating microplastic toxicity, estimations of the potential risks for human health posed by microplastics in food stuffs is not yet possible.

Microbeads will eventually be banned, however it will take generations to leave the seas. In the meantime do we avoid shellfish and fish, and all the other pollutants they contain, like heavy metals? Or do we protect our bodies from these pollutants with a diet high in antioxidants compounds which can help prevent oxidative damage to our insides?

Photo by Moe Deerwood on Unsplash

Pollution: how & where you holiday

Air pollution is on the rise.

Emissions from transport are a major contributor to air pollution. They release nitrogen dioxides and fine particles, leading to local pollution especially in urban areas. The most damaging type of outdoor air pollution is fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5 ). These particles are particularly dangerous because they are small enough to work their way deep into the lungs and bloodstream, where they can trigger heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and asthma.

The level of these particles in the air is measured in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). It is usually given as an average yearly amount for a particular area.

According to the work of Richard and Elizabeth Muller at Berkeley Earth, an air pollution level of 22µg/m3 is the equivalent to breathing one cigarette.

Other sources contributing to PM2.5 concentrations can come from afar however, as there have been many occasions where ‘Saharan dust’ has triggered respiratory problems in the UK population, but the dust has been found to contain these fine particulates and ammonium nitrate picked up along the way through Europe.

Air pollution reduces overall life expectancy in healthy individuals, but in combination with other existing health conditions can also cause early death.

For all these reasons, its probably a good idea to look at where you holiday and what transport you’ll take.  Although the most polluted cities are in China and India, other tourist hotspots such as Los Angeles, Tokyo and Paris are also highly polluted.

In terms of transport, large boats and ships pump out huge amounts of diesel PM, and greenhouse gas emissions, but also sulphur oxides, and nitrogen oxides in their puffs of black smoke.

Per day one cruise ship emits as much particulate matter as a million cars. Thirty cruise ships pollute as much as all the cars in the United Kingdom.

Although you may be visiting countries or islands with clean air, breathing in the pollution from cruise ships is having a negative impact on the environment and your health.

While the deck is popular with sun-bathers, passengers are likely to be breathing some of these particulates, which are harmful for health and the environment. 

Our advice is obvious- don’t stay in polluted cities or near large ports for too long. Not all boats cause pollution, sailing boats and yachts with small engines are a much better option for your health for short journeys like island hopping. If you can’t avoid the big boats, stay inside and don’t go on deck where the air is at its worst.

Photo by Leonardo Yip on Unsplash