REPORT 2 October 2016

A new WHO air quality model confirms that 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. “The new WHO model shows countries where the air pollution danger spots are, and provides a baseline for monitoring progress in combating it,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO.

It also represents the most detailed outdoor (or ambient) air pollution-related health data, by country, ever reported by WHO. The model is based on data derived from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground station monitors for more than 3000 locations, both rural and urban. It was developed by WHO in collaboration with the University of Bath, United Kingdom.

Some 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6% of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together.

Nearly ninety percent of air-pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with nearly 2 out of 3 occurring in WHO’s South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions.

Ninety-four per cent of air-pollution-related deaths are due to non-communicable diseases – notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Air pollution also increases the risks for acute respiratory infections.

“Air pollution continues to take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations – women, children and the older adults,” adds Dr Bustreo. “For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last.”

Major sources of air pollution include inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities. However, not all air pollution originates from human activity. For example, air quality can also be influenced by dust storms, particularly in regions close to deserts.

The model has carefully calibrated data from satellite and ground stations to maximize reliability. National air pollution exposures were analysed against population and air pollution levels at a grid resolution of about 10 km x 10 km.

“This new model is a big step forward towards even more confident estimates of the huge global burden of more than 6 million deaths – 1 in 9 of total global deaths – from exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “More and more cities are monitoring air pollution now, satellite data is more comprehensive, and we are getting better at refining the related health estimates.”

“Fast action to tackle air pollution can’t come soon enough,” adds Dr Neira. “Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cooking-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions.”

In September 2015, world leaders set a target within the Sustainable Development Goals of substantially reducing the number of deaths and illnesses from air pollution by 2030.

In May 2016, WHO approved a new “road map” for accelerated action on air pollution and its causes. The roadmap calls upon the health sector to increase monitoring of air pollution locally, assess the health impacts, and to assume a greater leadership role in national policies that affect air pollution.

Thank you to the WHO Media Centre for this report.

Amateur Radio volunteers went on alert following an afternoon explosion on September 21 at a power station in Salinas that left some 1.5 million residents of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico without power. ARRL Public Information Coordinator Angel Santana, WP3GW, said that as the evening wore on, the most sought-after items were ice and potable water — which depend on electricity to power the pumps that deliver it. The outage also resulted in traffic jams due to non-functioning signal lights. The governor of Puerto Rico declared a State of Emergency.

“On the Amateur Radio side, the VHF/UHF linked repeater system of the Federación de Radio Aficionados de Puerto Rico (FRA), an ARRL-affiliated club, was the main source of information,” Santana told ARRL. “As soon as the situation began, lots of mobile and portable stations got on the air from east to west to report on the power loss, and ham radio was among the first to report the explosion, as smoke was observed soaring towards the sky.”

According to FEMA, the fire at the Salinas switching station caused the island-wide power generation plant to shut down as a safety precaution. FEMA said that all critical facilities operated on back-up generators, and airports, police stations, and water plants received priority as power was restored. The agency said telecommunications were operating normally. Thank you to the ARRL letter of 29 September for news of radio amateurs at work during national calamities.

Hot on the heels of Cyclone MEGI-16 last week, Cyclone CHABA-16 is proceeding North West and then North East bearing down on Japan, with maximum wind speeds of 167kph. More than three million people are threatened by winds of more than 120kph.

And in the Gulf of Mexico, Cyclone Matthew-16 with winds of at least 120kph is travelling due West, but expected to turn North and strike Jamaica and then the Bahamas in the next two days. Please stand by for requests from IARU Region Two for radio silence on their centre of emergency communications frequencies over the next days.

These reports come from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.