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How can air pollution be reduced in urban areas?

Posted by Arunima Kumar on 29 May, 2018

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13 Solutions

Airlite's paint - Improving air quality

Posted by Leona Brewer on 11 Oct, 2018

Airlite's paints purify air with a technology based on the photocatalytic oxidation effect of Titanium dioxide (TiO2). To produce this effect, the paints use just the energy of light, and not even much of it, without making noise and without needing maintenance.

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Chakr - Convert diesel smoke to printer ink

Posted by Belinda Richards on 26 Sep, 2018

Chakr has developed world's first retro-fit emission control device for diesel generators. The technology can capture over 90% of the particulate matter emissions from the exhaust of diesel generators without causing any adverse impact on the diesel engine and and converts it into something useful.

To capture the SPM, the Chakr Shield is retrofitted on exhaust outlets of diesel energy generators.  The cooling mechanism in it causes the soot particles to cluster together. The soot particles are then captured by passing the exhaust gases through contours and meshes containing an engineered solvent. 

The meshes and contours with the soot are cleaned with a real time self cleaning mechanism containing an engineered solvent, which holds the soot without reacting to it. The soot with the solvent is then collected in a collection bin, and processed as ink thereafter. 

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Kurin Systems - Air Purifier

Posted by Hugh Phillips on 24 Sep, 2018

Launched in 2015, Kurin Systems was started by the makers of the first Android-based watch in India – Pavneet Singh Puri and Madhur Mehta.  Kurin Systems offers different air purifiers for rooms, cars, offices, and living area, priced in the range of Rs 4,999 and Rs 28,999. The purifiers reportedly come with laser sensor air quality monitoring and display systems, along with touchscreen operation, Wifi support and app control. Kurin Systems claims to have the most advanced filtration system with four levels of filtration.

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Air Purifying Bike

Posted by Carol Watts on 24 Sep, 2018

The air-purifier bike currently exists only in concept, developed by Bangkok’s Lightfog Creative & Design Company. In theory, its aluminum frame would run on a “photosynthesis system” that generates oxygen through a reaction between water and electric power from a lithium-ion battery.

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Birdhouses that reward clean air with free Wi-Fi

Posted by Earthr.org Content Team on 20 Aug, 2018

Amsterdam's pollution problem has long been criticized by officials and activists, breaking European Union standards and subjecting the region to fines. But a new initiative is showing residents just how bad the problem is — and incentivizing them to do something about it.

TreeWifi  tackles the pollution problem — with unsuspecting little birdhouses equipped with light-up roofs. If the air quality is low, the roof lights up red. If the air quality improves, the roof lights up green — and free Wifi becomes available to residents.

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Aggressive Policies Aimed at Tackling Some of the Worst Urban Air Pollution in the World

Posted by Siddhant Bhandari on 25 Jun, 2018

The problem of air pollution is widespread throughout Chinese cities, but is particularly severe in and around Beijing. For years, the exact scope of the air quality problems was difficult to assess because there was not sufficient publicly available monitoring data. Beginning around the time of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing began publicizing daily measurements of local air quality. After initially resisting the publication of this information, in 2012 the Chinese government began putting in place a system of air quality monitoring throughout the country. 

The monitoring has highlighted the poor air quality in Chinese cities. The average PM2.5 levels in China’s urban areas are often 6 times higher than WHO standards. This level of air pollution is estimated to contribute to approximately 1.2 – 1.641 million deaths per year in China. The high end of this range would mean air pollution is responsible for 1 out of every 6 deaths in China. 

Around 50% of this air pollution burden is attributable to coal.

Recognizing the need to improve urban air quality, China has promulgated a number of new laws and regulations in recent years. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region has been identified as one of the priority areas in which China is seeking to make the most substantial improvements. In 2013 and 2014 the average PM2.5 levels in that area were more than 10 times greater than the WHO recommended levels. The revised laws and regulations contain several key initiatives, many of which involve particularly ambitious goals for the most polluted areas, such as the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region:

  • China has toughened its ambient air quality standards and emissions limits. For example, in 2012-2013, for the first time, the government issued standards for PM2.5 levels.
  • China has increased the enforcement powers of its environmental agencies, which had previously been criticized for lax enforcement
  • Chinese leadership has made achieving the new environmental standards a political priority, such that there is more incentive for local officials to take actions that may adversely impact GDP numbers by reducing excess production capacity in order to improve environmental measures
  • China has adopted a variety of policies and goals to promote increased generation from renewables, increased supply and infrastructure to distribute natural gas, and increased nuclear generation.

During the first half of 2015, Beijing’s PM2.5 levels decreased. A preliminary analysis from the Paulson Institute indicates that the decrease is not attributable to natural factors such as having fewer cold days requiring heating or a change in wind patterns. Whether the emissions reductions are a result of the pollution control policies, a general economic slowdown in China, a continued restructuring of the Chinese economy away from heavy industry, or some other factor will likely not be known for several years.

Taken from the report 'Case Studies in improving Urban Air Quality' by International Gas Union.

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Province-Wide Coal Phase-out

Posted by Justin Kuhlmann on 25 Jun, 2018

While air pollution, unlike GHG emissions, has predominantly local causes and impacts, it can still spread over wide areas that span multiple governmental jurisdictions. Toronto faced this challenge in addressing its urban air quality problems. 

In 2004, Toronto Public Health estimated (based on 1999 data) that air pollution in the city contributed to 1,700 premature deaths and 6,000 hospitalizations per year. In 2014, Toronto Public Health estimated that improved air quality over the subsequent decade (based on 2009 data) resulted in premature deaths and hospitalizations being reduced to 1,300 and 3,550 respectively. 

These improvements in the health statistics were based on improvements in air quality in Toronto over the first decade of this century: SO2 went down 79% and NOx went down 36% from 2000- 2011; CO dropped 78% from 2001-2011; and PM2.5 dropped 30% from 2003-2011. 

The air quality improvements were driven by reductions in emissions in Toronto, Ontario, and the U.S. Great Lakes states that are substantial sources of upwind pollution for Toronto and Ontario. Toronto Public Health estimated in 2014 that 51% of the premature deaths and 45% of the hospitalizations were attributable to sources outside of Toronto. 

Toronto’s story is unique in that a key policy was the decision by Ontario to eliminate coal from its electricity generation. The Toronto Board of Public Health, on several occasions in the early 2000s, advocated for converting Ontario’s coal-fired generators to natural gas. The political support for such a policy extended beyond Toronto to much of the rest of Ontario. Concerns about the health impacts of air pollution were a key driver of the move to phase out coal.

Several factors made such a phase-out easier in Ontario than it might be in other jurisdictions. First, in 2000 when the phase-out movement was gaining steam, coal-fired generation only accounted for approximately 25% of Ontario’s energy supply. Nuclear and hydro provided most of the remainder. Second, all of the coal was imported to the province, meaning there were fewer job impacts from and less intense political opposition to a phase-out. Finally, Ontario owned the generation facilities, meaning it could make the decision to phase out coal and absorb any extra costs. 

The unique circumstances in Ontario allowed it to pursue a strategy that might not be possible everywhere – a complete coal phase-out. It nonetheless highlights the benefit of flexibility in pursuing a fuel-switching strategy. The decommissioned coal capacity has been replaced by increased capacity from nuclear, natural gas, and renewables. The ability of additional natural gas capacity to be built and deployed rapidly helped accelerate the timeframe for, and reduce any impact from, the coal phase-out. This allowed emissions reductions to begin earlier without having to wait for the additional capacity from nuclear and renewables to become available.

Taken from the report 'Case Studies in improving Urban Air Quality' by International Gas Union.

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Eliminating the Dirtiest Fuels in Residential Use

Posted by Siddhant Bhandari on 25 Jun, 2018

Beginning with the oil crisis in the 1970s, households in Istanbul switched from fuel oil to coal for domestic heating. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Istanbul experienced worsening air quality coinciding with population growth and increasing use of coal for domestic heating. The coal being used was primarily a Turkish lignite coal that was relatively low quality and high in sulfur. 

The high sulfur content of the lignite contributed to very high levels of SO2 in Istanbul. In 1992, the annual mean SO2 concentration in Istanbul peaked at above 220 µg/m3. This concentration is approximately 11 times higher than the current WHO guidelines for 24-hour concentration. 

Istanbul’s primary strategy in addressing its air pollution problem was to provide an alternative residential heating fuel. In the late 1980s, the city formed a gas distribution company, IGDAS, that began installing the necessary infrastructure to distribute gas to Istanbul residents. Although Turkey has no significant domestic natural gas production, Istanbul and other cities in Turkey were able to take advantage of Turkey’s growing role as an energy hub at that time, as several major pipelines from Central Asia, Russia, the Caucuses, and Iran began transmission through the country to supply part of Europe’s gas in the 1980s. 

In 1992, the Istanbul city government banned the most polluting lignite coal. IGDAS started to distribute natural gas in January 1992. By 1998, natural gas was supplying approximately half of the residential heating needs in Istanbul. In addition, the city and IGDAS established an international research center in 1999 to adapt the technical norms to the local market and train the IGDAS staff.

Over approximately 20 years from 1992, when the first gas was distributed, to 2012, the distribution network in Istanbul expanded to cover 97% of urbanized territory in the metropolitan municipality and to supply nearly 5 million residential customers. As a result of these changes, Istanbul’s air quality has improved dramatically. Particulate matter declined from over 100 micrograms per cubic meter in the early 1990s, to just above 50 by 1997.

The experience in Istanbul shows how long-term planning is essential to deploy the necessary infrastructure to support emissions reduction strategies. IGDAS was formed in the late 1980s but it took 25 years to provide near-universal access to natural gas for Istanbul residents. Istanbul also demonstrates that important gains in emissions reductions can be achieved relatively quickly, even before the full infrastructure network is deployed, as the combination of eliminating the dirtiest coal and beginning fuel-switching to natural gas produced the biggest gains in the early years of the policy.

Taken from the report 'Case Studies in improving Urban Air Quality' by International Gas Union.

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Targeted Reforms in Residential and Commercial Heating

Posted by Theresa Brooks on 25 Jun, 2018

Although New York City’s air quality has been improving for several decades, air pollution remains a serious concern. In 2007, the levels of Ozone and PM2.5 exceeded United States Environmental Protection Agency standards. That same year, New York City launched PlaNYC, its first long-term sustainability plan. PlaNYC included the goal of making New York City’s air the cleanest of any large city in the United States, as measured by levels of PM2.5. 

A comprehensive air-quality monitoring program was launched with PlaNYC. The initial results from that air quality program showed that not only were PM2.5 and ozone levels above national standards, but also that PM2.5 and SO2 levels were particularly elevated in areas with a high density of buildings burning heavy fuel oil (Grades No. 4 or No. 6) for heat and/or power. The neighborhoods with higher traffic or higher density buildings burning heavy fuel oil had annual average PM2.5 levels that were 30% higher than areas with less traffic or fewer buildings burning those dirty fuels.

The city concluded that although more than half of the PM2.5 originated outside of the city, health benefits could be achieved by reducing the consumption of heavy heating oil within city limits. 

To address this challenge, New York City initiated and supported a number of state and local regulatory reforms and incentive programs, including:

  • Working with other groups to get the State of New York to reduce the allowed sulfur content in No. 2 fuel oil to 15 ppm, a 99% reduction
  • Passing a local law in 2010 to cut in half the sulfur content allowed in No. 4 heating oil (from 3,000 ppm to 1,500 ppm) and requiring all heating oil to contain 2% renewable biodiesel by October 2012
  • Issuing regulations in 2011 to phase out No. 4 and No. 6 heating oil; first by requiring all boilers in the City to burn No. 4 oil (or cleaner) by 2015, then by requiring all boilers to transition to the cleanest available fuels (natural gas, ultra-low sulfur No. 2 oil or equivalent) by 2030
  • Launching a voluntary “Clean Heat Program” in 2011 to encourage early adoption of cleaner fuels by providing technical and financial assistance to building owners. 

The city also noted it would try to accelerate the heating oil phase-out by aiding in the development of natural gas transmission pipelines and working with utilities and neighborhoods to try to cluster buildings in underserved neighborhoods where additional gas distribution could have the greatest air quality benefits.

As a result of these policies, by the fall of 2013, approximately 30% of heavy fuel-burning buildings (2,700 out of 9,000) in New York City converted to cleaner fuels. Approximately 75% of those that made the switch converted to natural gas or ultra-low sulfur No. 2 oil. The conversion to natural gas was particularly strong because of market factors such as the increased natural gas supply to the New York area and lower prices. By mid-2015, the phase-out of No. 6 fuel oil was complete, and all buildings had converted to No. 2 heating oil or natural gas. 

A September 2013 air quality report found that the SOx concentration in the winter of 2012- 2013 was down 69% compared to the winter of 2008-2009, while the PM2.5 level from burning fuel oil was down 35 percent. The benefits were greatest in the areas that had the highest concentrations of these pollutants because of their proximity to buildings burning heavy fuel oil. 

From 2005 to 2013, New York City buildings also reduced their GHG emissions by 19%. The city noted that the two main factors in this improvement were the decrease in the carbon intensity of the electricity used by buildings and the buildings’ switching from fuel oil to natural gas.

New York’s combination of local and regional regulatory measures on fuel oil quality, combined with the voluntary Clean Heat program, enabled it to achieve important reductions in emissions in the city. The comprehensive air-quality monitoring program was an additional significant measure that allowed the city to not only identify the strategy that could have the biggest impact on air quality, but also to determine how the emissions reductions contributed to changes in air quality at a very localized level.

Taken from the report 'Case Studies in improving Urban Air Quality' by International Gas Union.

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Smog Free Tower

Posted by Mai Nguyen on 25 Jun, 2018

Smoke Free Project by Dutch social design lab Studio Rosegaarde  is a series of urban innovations led by Daan Roosegaarde to reduce pollution and provide an inspirational experience of a clean future. One of these innovations is the Smog Free Tower. Rosegaarde calls it “the world’s largest smog vacuum cleaner”. 

The 7 meter tall uses ‘positive ionization technology’ that cleans 30.000 m3 per hour, using “no more electricity than an water boiler”. Rosegaarde says it is primarily a local solution that provides clean air in spaces such as parks. In 2015, the Smog Free Tower was planted in the Dutch city of Rotterdam and has found its way across the world into China, where it has now been implemented.

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CityTrees

Posted by Theresa Brooks on 25 Jun, 2018

Green City Solutions, the German company responsible for four of Amsterdam’s new CityTrees, acknowledge that “many cities are finding it hard to breathe”. The company found that 90% of all city dwellers breathe in polluted air every day, 7 million annual deaths are caused by air pollution, and 1.48 trillion euros is lost annually in Europe due to air pollution. 

The CityTree claims it can help relieve these serious problems. The concept applies moss cultures that have the ability to filter pollutants, such as particulate matter, out of the air. They bind the particles to the leaf surfaces and integrate them into their biomass, hereby purifying the air around them.

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Turning Smoke into Brick: Repurposing Air Pollution

Posted by Kunal Nandwani on 29 May, 2018

Owing to the toxic levels of air pollution in Beijing breathing which almost 4400 people die prematurely, this 30-something artist who goes by the name ‘Nut Brother’ spent three months sucking up foul air with an industrial vacuum cleaner and accumulated enough to create hefty bricks. The industrial vacuum can suck up as much air as 62 people can breathe in a day removing the horrible quality air from the environment and repurposing it into a useful product.

However, open to be verified by scientists, if this idea actually comes to life, it can solve the pressing issue of contaminated air consumption and also the by-product, bricks, can be used for constructing homes for the poor.

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AirLabs: Airflow Engineering, AirBubbl- Working to bring you clean air.

Posted by Kunal Nandwani on 29 May, 2018

AirLabs technology is a promising approach for decreasing pollution concentrations in specific micro environments in urban areas.

HOW:

  • Airflow Engineering models the polluted area. Using airflow and pollutant sensors they first model the target area and use advanced computational frameworks to optimize directional flows of clean air.
  • Atmospheric Chemistry develops effective technology. They conduct detailed analyses of the makeup of pollution in their advanced laboratory in Copenhagen and develop the best materials to clean the air.
  • Airlabs solutions are applied to the polluted hot-spot. Gas pollutants are captured using a reaction with proprietary materials. Particles are removed using a combination of physical trapping technologies.

AirBubbl:
The air quality inside a vehicle is currently a big health concern. Toxic emissions from other cars, especially diesel engines, are drawn into air circulation systems and while some HEPA filters help to remove particles, they don’t collect nitrogen dioxide! So far there isn’t an effective solution to reduce a driver’s exposure inside their cars. Until Airbubbl. The Airbubbl. is the first technology of its kind. Designed to go around your headrest, the airbubbl. draws in polluted air and removes nitrogen dioxide along with all other pollutants before releasing clean air back to the driver and passengers.

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