Sunday 9 February 2014

Outdoor air pollution a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths

recent report from a World Health Organisation agency, the International Agency for Cancer Research has found that sufficient exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer. It points to research that shows that in 2010, 223,000 deaths were attributable to lung cancer caused by air pollution. While air pollution has been linked for some time to respiratory and heart diseases, the link to cancer indicates increased levels of risk. The agency identifies primary sources of outdoor air pollution as being from transportation, stationary power generation, industrial and agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooling.

There are number of implications for buildings of this report. These include:

  •  Heating and cooling of residential buildings: There should be a strong focus on passive design in residential environments. In particular, solutions should be found to ensure that the burning of coal and other fuels in and around houses for heating is avoided. Where fuel is burnt it should be burnt in a way that avoids risk of diseases. 
  • Transportation: There should be stronger requirements to separate vehicular environments from environments where people live and work. In particular, workplaces and residential areas that are beside highways and roads with large volumes of traffic should be evaluated. Measures to reduce vehicular pollution should be taken such as reducing congestion, using more efficient vehicles with, for instance, start-stop technology and electric vehicles and improving provision for public transport, walking and cycling.
  • Stationary power generation: There should be increased awareness about the risk associated with pollution from local petrol or diesel powered generators and stand-by generators. Where possible these should be avoided and renewable energy systems used.     
  • Guidelines: These findings should be reflected in guidance documents including the WHO Guidelines on Indoor Air Quality shown above. In particular it needs to be translated into practical measures that can be taken by Planners and Designers in urban areas and Architects in buildings. 

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