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Tube 'higher than driving' for air pollution, study finds

BBC News

Travelling on the Underground exposes commuters to more than eight times as much air pollution as those who drive to work, a university study has found. Monitors worn by commuters found those who travelled on the Tube were exposed to 68mg of harmful pollutant PM10, whereas car drivers had 8.2mg. The University of Surrey study found when train windows were open, commuters were exposed to more pollutants. Drivers were not as exposed because cars filter the pollutants out. But although drivers are not exposed to as many pollutants, the types given out by cars are more harmful than the ones found on the Underground.

'Filthy air' prompts 'very high' pollution alert for London

BBC News

A "very high" air pollution alert has been issued by the Mayor of London for the first time. Warnings are being issued at bus stops, roadside signs and Tube stations under a new alert system set up by Sadiq Khan. The rise has been attributed to cold, calm and settled weather, meaning winds are not dispersing local pollutants. The mayor said "the shameful state of London's toxic air" meant he had to trigger the alert. "This is the highest level of alert and everyone - from the most vulnerable to the physically fit - may need to take precautions to protect themselves from the filthy air," he said.

Freshwater fish can recover from mercury pollution in just a few years

New Scientist

Fish populations appear to recover rapidly from mercury pollution once humans stop adding it to their environment. A 15-year study of a lake in Canada found that eight years after the metal's supply ceased, concentrations of methylmercury – a highly toxic substance made from mercury by bacteria in aquatic ecosystems – fell by 76 per cent in northern pike (Esox lucius) and 38 per cent in lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis). "I can't imagine a much faster recovery," says Paul Blanchfield at government agency Fisheries and Oceans Canada, who led the research. The team are not suggesting the fish excrete the mercury quickly – the experiment in fact shows they hang on to it for a long time – but that quick turnover of generations sees concentrations fall fast when new pollution stops. Mercury pollution is still a major global environmental problem, with small-scale gold mining and coal burning being the two biggest sources.

High levels of air pollution may be 'major contributor' to COVID-19 deaths

Daily Mail - Science & tech

More people are dying from coronavirus in areas of the world with higher pollution levels, studies looking at death rates in Europe and the USA have found. In a European study, researchers from Martin Luther University in Germany looked at death rates across 66 administrative regions in Italy, Spain, France and Germany. They found that 78 per cent of deaths occurred in the five most polluted regions of the four countries they studied. A similar study into COVID-19 death rates in different parts of England by the University of Cambridge also shows the death rate is higher in areas with increased levels of pollution. An earlier study looking at US pollution and death rates from COVID-19 found even small increases in nitrogen dioxide levels saw a rise in death rates from coronavirus.

Cleaning products cause indoor pollution levels similar to a busy road

New Scientist

Scented surface cleaning products can expose you to a similar amount of pollutant particles as a busy urban road used by 28,000 vehicles a day. The findings suggest that professional cleaners may be especially at risk of harm caused by indoor pollutants. Surface cleaning products often contain fragrant chemicals called monoterpenes that smell like citrus or pine. Monoterpenes easily evaporate into the air where they react with unstable molecules such as ozone to produce pollutant particles called secondary organic aerosols (SOAs). SOAs – which are also generated by vehicle fumes – can irritate your airways.