WHO: Air pollution is getting worse and risking the health of millions

Air pollution across the world is getting worse, is missing targets for safe levels and is putting the lives and health of millions at risk – figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show.

A reliance on fossil fuels, the use of private cars and buildings which use energy inefficiently can all be blamed for the deterioration of outdoor air quality.

In announcing new figures on the state of air quality in cities, WHO has said half of the urban population monitored for air pollution are exposed to levels 2.5 times higher than recommended.

It follows the announcement that in 2012 3.7m people under the age of 60 died due to air pollution, and combined indoor and outdoor air pollution is one of the biggest threats to public health that exists.

Dr Carlos Dora from the WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health warned that cities need to improve the levels of pollution being generated.

“We cannot buy clean air in a bottle, but cities can adopt measures that will clean the air and save the lives of their people,” he said.

Recent figures revealed by WHO show that the most polluted areas of the United States include Fresno, San Bernardindo and Los Angeles, all in California.

Air pollution is monitored on two difference scales, which relate to the diameter of particles in the air.

Fine particles (known as PM2.5) are produced by all types of combustion including the use of cars, power plants, wood burning and some industrial processes.

Coarse dust particles (PM10) are created from crushing or grinding operations and dust stirred by vehicles travelling on roads.

Internationally, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bahrain have the highest mean for coarse particles. Parkistan and Afrhanistan also feature in the top three countries for fine particles, but are also joined by Qatar.

China, which has received much negative press for its high smoggy cities, does not feature in the top ten of either fine or coarse particles – however the WHO data for the country is from 2010.


Despite the overall bad news from WHO, it does say that some countries are improving the levels of air pollution in their cities.

This is being achieved by a greater use of green energy sources and also optimising mass public transport, rather than private vehicles.

Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health said there is a long way to go but it is possible to combat air pollution.

She said: “Effective policies and strategies are well understood, but they need to be implemented at sufficient scale.

“Cities such as Copenhagen and Bogotà, for example, have improved air quality by promoting ‘active transport’ and prioritizing dedicated networks of urban public transport, walking and cycling.”

The WHO database can be found here.

Featured image courtesy of Lei Han via Flickr/Creative Commons Licence 

Blood sugar: How an invasive sensor will help people lose weight and live longer

A sensor that is implanted in the body to detect sugar levels in your blood will help people to lose weight and live longer, its manufacturers have said.

The sensor is inserted under the skin by a ‘place and go’ application, which the company assures us is not painful, where it detects glucose levels electrochemically.

Made by Glucovation, it lasts seven days broadcasting the stats to a smartphone, smartwatch or activity tracker every five minutes. This gives the user a guide to how their glucose levels are impacted by what they eat.

CEO Robert Boock told Factor the technology can help people to lose weight or tell when they are going to crash from a lack of sugar.

He also claimed that it is more accurate that wearable technology that is strapped on the body as it has access to what is happening inside.

Boock said: “This data is coming from your body and it’s exactly what is happening in your at that particular moment. Here’s something where you get the information about your body and you can get the information and you can respond to it.

“If you can basically manage to control your blood glucose and keep it in a narrower range, keep it a lot more moderated you can actually lose weight, you can feel better, you can do all of the things that the premise of an activity tracker for the average consumer.”


The data provided by the device is then distilled into information that the user can understand and be used to change a lifestyle. This includes reducing glucose variability which can lead to a longer life.

Blood sugar variability has been linked to cardiovascular disease and increased mortality.

Glucovation are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to help develop the product further. The company includes three former members Dexcom who created blood sugar measuring devices for diabetics.

The company has high ambitions for the future as they want to make the sensor a launch pad for them to build on so they are able to help monitor other levels in the body.

“If we can accomplish our goals with glucose we can basically start to add other metaboli. If you were to talk about an elite athlete we can add things like lactate, we can do continuous lactate with the glucose.

“If you’re talking about a dietary market we may be able to monitor fatty acids, we can give you a lot more information with a combination centre,” Boock said.

He added: “If we really look ahead what we’re looking at is that we’re trying to develop a platform technology that we can get out to people and we can start to add a whole bunch of other metaboli so we can give you a much more rounded picture of what’s happening in your body and tailored to what you want to know.”

However it is possible users would be put off by the need to put the sensor inside of the body.

Boock says it gives more accurate results and provides a better kind of wearable technology than those that are simply strapped on.

This could mean a future where we need to insert wearable technology into our body if we want to receive real-time data on our health and how our body is performing.

Boock said: “It is a minimally invasive sensor and that’s kind of the price you have to pay for real science. I know there’s a lot of companies out there on some of the other crowd funding sites that are really trying to push that they’re a non-invasive technologies and things like that for measuring glucose.

“There isn’t a non-invasive technology that I know of that works. This is a really great product for people that really want to understand what’s going on with their metabolism.”

Image two courtesy of Glucovation