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15 U.S. Cities with the Biggest Decline in Air Pollution

This story originally appeared on Filterbuy.

While the recent wildfires in Western states have introduced new concerns about air quality, the U.S. has made huge strides in the reduction of air pollution in recent decades.

As a result of the Clean Air Act and modern pollution control technologies, emissions of common air pollutants have dropped by more than 70% since 1970, according to new data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

These reductions, which the EPA claims have significantly improved the environment and human health, occurred despite a growing population, increased energy use and more cars on American roads.

The EPA measures air quality through the Air Quality Index, or AQI. The AQI rates air quality with values between 0 and 500. An AQI over 100 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, and anything over 150 is unhealthy for everyone. Major pollutants accounted for by the AQI and regulated by the Clean Air Act include ground-level ozone, particle pollution (or particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead.

Components of air pollution pose dangers to the environment and to overall health. Health effects can include reduced oxygen levels; respiratory symptoms; eye, ear and nose irritation; damage to the nervous system; high blood pressure; and heart disease. Those most at risk from air pollution include unborn babies, children, older adults, and people with asthma, heart, and lung disease.

To determine the metropolitan areas with the largest decreases in air pollution over the past decade, researchers at Filterbuy ranked locations by the percentage change in median AQI between the five-year period ending in 2019 and the five-year period ending in 2009. Five-year periods were used to lessen the effects of annual variability in AQI on the overall results.

Here are the large metropolitan areas with the biggest improvement in air quality over the past decade.

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Rapid COVID Testing Coming To Airport Near You, XpresCheck Test Could Boost Air Travel

KEY POINTS

  • XpresCheck rapid COVID tests began at JFK and Liberty airports Wednesday
  • The company hopes to expand nationwide
  • The test delivers results in 13 minutes

The airline industry, devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, is about to get a boost: Health and wellness company XpresSpa Group Inc. began conducting rapid COVID-19 testing at Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey, with plans to expand the program nationwide.

With the pandemic still raging across the United States, Americans have been reluctant to get on airplanes, with the total number of passengers averaging about 25% of last year’s levels.

More than 7.5 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus and more than 211,000 have died from COVID-19.

Though the virus doesn’t spread easily on flights because of air circulation systems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns exposure to people in close quarters and frequently touched services put travelers at increased risk. The CDC estimated last month 11,000 people potentially had been exposed to the virus on flights.

XpresSpa began performing its ExpresCheck rapid COVID-19 tests Wednesday, expanding its polymerase chain reaction and blood antibody testing programs.

“We believe rapid COVID-19 testing at airports can play a major role in slowing the virus spread and decreasing the risk of new community outbreaks linked to travel as cases continue to rise throughout many states,” XpresSpa CEO Doug Satzman said in a press release.

He added: “Having a rapid test inside the airport immediately upon travel could also eliminate the need for a full 14-day quarantine in states where that applies.”

The tests would be voluntary for both travelers and airport workers. The company currently is focusing on airline employees and those who are showing COVID-like symptoms.

The test uses Abbott’s portable rapid molecular ID Now COVID test, which delivers results in 13 minutes. The test, however, has yet to gain full Food and Drug Administration approval although it has been cleared for emergency use, and has been criticized for false negatives, which are possible until an infection has reached its height and depending on how the test is performed.

Even with rapid COVID-19 tests available, travelers would still need to wear masks and practice social distancing.

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CDC revises guidance, says COVID-19 can spread through virus lingering in air

By Vishwadha Chander

(Reuters) – U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday said COVID-19 can spread through virus lingering in the air, sometimes for hours, acknowledging concerns widely voiced by public health experts about airborne transmission of the virus.

The CDC guidance comes weeks after the agency published – and then took down – a similar warning, sparking debate over how the virus spreads.

In Monday’s guidance, CDC said there was evidence that people with COVID-19 possibly infected others who were more than 6 feet away, within enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

Under such circumstances, CDC said scientists believe the amount of infectious smaller droplet and particles, or aerosols, produced by the people with COVID-19 become concentrated enough to spread the virus.

The CDC has long warned of transmission through small droplets that shoot through the air and generally fall to the ground, which resulted in the six-feet social distancing rule. Aerosol droplets are much smaller still, and can remain suspended in the air, like smoke.

While CDC stresses close-contact transmission is more common than through air, a group of U.S. scientists warned in an unrelated open letter published in medical journal Science on Monday that aerosols lingering in the air could be a major source of COVID-19 transmission. (https://bit.ly/34pSPbH)

“The reality is airborne transmission is the main way that transmission happens at close range with prolonged contact,” the researchers said in a press call.

Viruses in aerosols can remain in the air for seconds to hours, travel more than two meters and accumulate in poorly ventilated indoor air, leading to superspreading events, the researchers said.

Since individuals with COVID-19 release thousands of virus-laden aerosols and far fewer droplets while breathing and talking, the scientists said the focus must be on protecting against airborne transmission.

They also said that public health officials should clearly differentiate between droplets ejected by coughing or sneezing and aerosols that can carry the virus to greater distances

Public health officials must highlight the importance of moving activities outdoors and improving indoor air, along with wearing mask and social distancing, the letter said.

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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CDC acknowledges that COVID-19 can spread through the air

The CDC updated its guidance on Monday to include aerosols as a route of transmission for COVID-19. Here's what you need to know. (Getty Images)
The CDC updated its guidance on Monday to include aerosols as a route of transmission for COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know. (Getty Images)

Two weeks after removing language that acknowledged COVID-19 spreading through aerosols, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially added a new section to its website Monday declaring that “COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission.”

The update reads: “Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space.”

The organization reaffirmed that the main route of transmission remains respiratory droplets, which are released through things like coughing and sneezing. These droplets, which are often larger in size, spread the virus through contact with a mucous membrane, such as the eyes or nose. Aerosols, which are smaller, can linger in the air for hours and can spread through inhalation alone.

Although more research is needed to determine exactly how prevalent airborne transmission is, the CDC now acknowledges that it can occur. “There is evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away,” the CDC writes. “These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example, while singing or exercising.”

Multiple outbreaks have been reported from choir practices, including one in Washington in early March that led to 53 COVID-19 infections and two deaths. The CDC elaborates on what may be happening at these events. “Under these circumstances, scientists believe that the amount of infectious smaller droplet and particles produced by the people with COVID-19 became concentrated enough to spread the virus to other people,” the CDC writes. “The people who were infected were in the same space during the same time or shortly after the person with COVID-19 had left.”

On Twitter, both epidemiologists and aerobiologists, who have at times disagreed on the issue, praised the CDC’s guidance. Dr. Kimberly Prather, director for the NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE) at the University of California, San Diego, tweeted that she was “feeling hopeful” in the wake of the CDC update, along with a newly published paper in Science urging the medical world to “harmonize discussions about modes of virus transmission”

Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention specialist at George Mason University, tweeted that the document is “important” and that it “sheds light on situational airborne (aerosol) spread, close contact as a driving factor, & prevention strategies.” She added that the new information “doesn’t change the recommendations” but “rather reinforces what we’ve been saying — mask, distance, avoid crowded indoor spaces, adequate ventilation, hand hygiene, and cleaning/disinfection.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security,

Air pollutants, metals reach the placenta, study finds

Metals and other air pollutants have been found in the placentas of new mothers, which means such pollutants may be able to reach the fetus, researchers report.

“Our study for the first time shows that inhaled carbon particulate matter in air pollution travels in the blood stream, and is taken up by important cells in the placenta. We hope that this information will encourage policy makers to reduce road traffic emissions,” said lead author Dr. Jonathan Grigg, a professor of pediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London.

His team analyzed placentas donated by 15 healthy women in London who had just given birth. Black particles that closely resembled particulate air pollution were found in an average of 1% of cells in all 15 placentas.

Most of the particles were carbon-based. But there were also trace amounts of metals, including silica, phosphorus, calcium, iron and chromium, and more rarely, titanium, cobalt, zinc and cerium.

Many of the metals are associated with vehicle-emitted air pollution from fossil fuel combustion and brake wear, according to the study published recently in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

Co-author Norrice Liu said there had been a known link between maternal exposure to high pollution levels and problems with the fetus, including low birthweight.

“We have thought for a while that maternal inhalation could potentially result in pollution particles traveling to the placenta once inhaled,” added Lisa Miyashita, a postdoctoral research assistant.

“However, there are many defense mechanisms in the lung that prevent foreign particles from traveling elsewhere, so it was surprising to identify these particles in the placental cells from all 15 of our participants,” Miyashita said.

More information

The March of Dimes has more on air pollution and pregnancy.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Clean Air & Public Health Experts and Policymakers Celebrate 50 Years of the Clean Air Act at Virtual Symposium

‘Clean Air for All’ online symposium highlights progress made and remaining obstacles to ensure clean air for all Americans

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Fifty years after the passage of the Clean Air Act – the landmark public health law that has saved millions of American lives – policymakers, air quality experts, physicians and public health experts celebrated the anniversary and shared their insights into new and remaining threats to air quality during a virtual symposium.

American Lung Association logo (PRNewsfoto/American Lung Association)
American Lung Association logo (PRNewsfoto/American Lung Association)

“Clean Air for All: 50 Years of the Clean Air Act” was hosted by the American Lung Association and American University’s Center for Environmental Policy and Center for Environmental Filmmaking. The half-day event included several panel discussions featuring Clean Air Act author Tom Jorling; former EPA administrators Bill Reilly, Carol Browner and Gina McCarthy (who served both Democratic and Republican administrations); prominent environmental justice leaders; public health and climate experts, and more.

Recordings of each panel discussion will be posted here when available.

“It was an honor to participate in today’s event to celebrate the Clean Air Act and its legacy,” said Former EPA Administrator Bill Reilly. “As a result of the Clean Air Act, we have seen hundreds of thousands of lives saved every single year. We must continue to protect the Clean Air Act, and set our sights on the public health threat of climate change. This will be the next challenge for our nation, and we already see the impact of climate change in our air quality – from wildfire smoke to increased ozone pollution from rising temperatures. It’s critical that we take action to save lives.”

“For 50 years, the Clean Air Act has driven dramatic improvements in air quality and real health benefits for American families,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer, who provided opening remarks at the virtual event. “Today’s symposium made clear that this lifesaving health law should not be taken for granted. Leading experts called attention to the fact that nearly half of Americans – including many communities of color – are breathing unhealthy air, and still waiting for the clean air promised by this law. Our work isn’t done until all Americans are breathing clean, healthy air.”

In recognition of 50 years of the Clean Air Act, the American Lung Association is celebrating improvements in air quality and championing a future of clean air for all. Through its new Stand Up For Clean Air initiative, the Lung Association is asking everyone to pledge to take action, because everyone has a role to play in addressing climate change and protecting lung health.

“As we celebrate this public health progress, we reaffirm our commitment to the Clean Air Act and to fulfilling its promise of healthy air for all communities,” Wimmer said. “In order to protect air quality, we must address climate change. Climate change is making it even harder to clean up air pollution – warmer temperatures and