Tag Archive: health

  1. Lisbon excludes cars from driving through the city centre

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    Source: Bloomberg

    Lisbon has become the latest European city to put a plan in place banning through-traffic. The Portuguese downtown capital has implemented the scheme on a temporary three-month basis for now, beginning on April 26th. Cars will be able to drive into the heart of the city but not through it, with a larger exclusion zone barring vehicles over 3.5 metric tones between 8am and 5pm. Only public transport will be exempt from the directive.

    In place of their journey through the city centre, cars will instead be ushered onto a semi-circular road network resembling a ring road. The scheme is expected to significantly reduce the amount of traffic through the historic heart of the city, while not causing major disruption for those vehicles visiting with a purpose. Some trepidation and a significant amount of cloaking accompanied the decision, one that Lisbon Deputy Mayor for Mobility Anacoreta Correia stressed, “is dynamic, it does not have an end in sight and will change as the completion of the works progresses.”

    It’s believed that the scheme will be recognised by even the most devoted of car owners who currently use the city on their journeys. Central Lisbon has some engineering and construction works scheduled for this summer that include two new metro stations, storm drains to aid in flooding along the city’s waterfront, sewerage repairs, and road resurfacing. Traffic passing through the city would only add to the disruption that is already expected.

    Although deemed to be temporary, the three-month trial has ignited some discussion in the city, with many proposing that some of the directives remain permanent, in particular the ban on daytime heavy goods vehicles.

    A number of Portuguese transit experts have concluded that the plan will aid the 2030 carbon neutrality target, implemented by Lisbon Mayor Carlos Moedas in his previous role as European Union Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation. Lisbon is one of 122 cities that have made the climate pledge, and Paris and Amsterdam are already taking measures to bar inner city through-traffic. London’s congestion charge was a precursor for such changes that are commonly gaining support and shaping the future.

  2. Air pollution exceeds WHO limits across EU and UK capital cities

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    Source: Euractiv, V. Romano

    Although NO2 emissions are on the decline, the CREA reports levels above guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation.

    Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is commonly released from combustion engine vehicles, amongst other sources. When inhaled, the gas can have harmful impacts on the individual – new research has shown concentrations of NO2 to be exceeding WHO limits in all EU27 and UK capital cities.

    In 2020, the road transportation sector was the main source of NO2 emissions, contributing approximately 37%. In urban areas, theses emissions have the largest impact, with additional traffic and dense populations multiplying human exposure to pollutants.

    Erika Uusivuori, Europe Analyst at The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and co-author of the briefing shared, “This week, the European Parliament has approved the 2035 ban on sales of new fossil fuel cars. However, NO2 concentration levels and the resulting health impacts in European cities remain too high,”

    Lawmakers need to find more solutions to reduce transport-related emissions, and other highly emitting sources, such as power generation, need to be addressed immediately, too,” she added.

    The capital cities with the lowest levels of NO2 pollution were Tallinn (Estonia) and Stockholm (Sweden), while Athens (Greece) and Bucharest (Romania) were the worst emitters.

  3. Close to a third of cyclists in the Netherlands are using e-bikes

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    Source: Fietsberaad.nl

    The capital of cycling is going electric! Almost 30% of riders in the Netherlands now use an electric bike, with older age groups showing an even higher uptake near 50%

    New research from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has revealed the growing use of e-bikes amongst the Netherlands’ population (n = 7,000). Almost a quarter of cyclists (23%) exclusively use e-bikes, with an additional 6% using both an electric bicycle and a non-electric bicycle.

    Of participants, the primary reason for making the shift to assisted riding was ‘to make cycling easier’ (70%). In particular, older individuals, individuals with a disability, and individuals who do not live an active lifestyle gave this answer. In the age bracket of 12-17, 60% of respondents gave an alternate answer, the desire to ‘cycle faster!’

    Both the electric bicycle and the non-electric bicycle are most often used for visiting shops, friends or other destinations. Followed by ‘bicycle rides’, ‘commuting’, ‘sports’ and ‘cycling to and from school’. Of these rides, e-bikes are more often used for longer-distance rides (10-20km).

  4. Cycling-related facial injuries do not vary between e-bikes and conventional bicycles

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    Source: Fietsberaad.nl

    As the usage of both e-bikes and conventional bikes increases, so does the number of bicycle-related injuries. New research explores whether e-bikes hold a larger share of facial injuries after an incident.

    Researchers at the Groningen University Medical Centre explored the nature of cycling-related facial injuries (maxillofacial fractures) and whether there are differences between those experienced by e-bike users or regular cyclists. The recently released paper will assist in emergency room injury treatment.

    311 patients were examined across 4 hospitals for the presence and severity of injury between May 2018 and October 2012. Of these patients, 73 were riders of e-bikes, and a range of other factors such as age and alcohol consumption were taken into consideration. In the sample, it appeared that e-bike riders more often suffered fractures to the centre of the face, while jaw fractures and serious dental injuries were more common for conventional cyclists.

    However, when results were corrected in line with additional factors, the conclusion was that patient-specific characteristics, such as age, alcohol use, and comorbidities (the simultaneous presence of two or more medical conditions), may have a greater influence on a rider sustaining maxillofacial fractures than the type of bicycle ridden.

    Based on the results, the researchers see reason to promote the use of bicycle helmets among the elderly and vulnerable cyclists, because it has been proven that their use reduces head injuries and has a protective effect against facial injuries and fractures.

  5. Research: The effect of e-biking on older adults’ health and lifestyle

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    Source: Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice

    In the first prospective observational study on this topic, researchers aimed to examine the effects of starting to e-bike on total and conventional biking frequencies, walking for transport, self-rated health, functionality, and life space area.

    The key observation found by researchers was a large increase in total biking frequency amongst those that started e-biking, while frequencies decreased in those who did e-bike at both time points, did not e-bike at both time points, and stopped e-biking. Conventional biking frequency decreased in all groups.

    No effects were observed on walking for transport, self-rated health, and life space area. Functionality tended to decrease in all groups, except among those who stopped e-biking for whom no change in functionality was observed.

    The conclusion reached is that e-bikes offer older adults the possibility to increase their biking levels and potentially extend their life on a bike.

    Find the full research article via Science Direct, here.

  6. Slovenia beach town benefits from bicycle ambulances

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    Source: TheMayorEU, T.V. Iolov

    Paramedics on two wheels offer healthcare with improved flexibility, mobility, and speed in some scenarios

    For the past four years, residents and visitors to Izola, a small coastal city in Slovenia, have benefitted from a unique service – paramedics on bicycles. Initially, the idea came about when considering the best way to deliver first-aid services to participants of the Istrian Marathon, which was hosted in the city.

    Igor Crnić from the Izola Health Center explained for Radio Slovenia how the idea was born: “When we realized that the paramedics have to follow (the race participants) even where the ambulance cannot, and that they have to get to the scene of the accident as quickly as possible so that the injured or accident victim can more easily wait for the ambulance.”

    Now implemented during other peak times following the scheme’s success, this service highlights the advantages and adaptability of alternative transportation methods to motorized vehicles – particularly in narrow or crowded spaces. Today, first-aiders ride specialized e-bikes, fully equipped with the necessary equipment and adapted for unpaved path riding.

    The paramedics on bicycles are on site every weekend in the summer and during holidays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. They are connected to the dispatch center, which is aware of their location at all times and, if necessary, will call them in to intervene. Last summer saw 26 interventions by bike-riding paramedics.

    The most common cases were of sudden weakness and injuries, which can be treated directly on the ground. Thus, the emergency medical aid system elsewhere is somewhat relieved, says Crnić, who is satisfied that the project is no longer dependent on volunteer work: “The Municipality of Izola pays the Health Centre Izola, which, according to the contract, pays the rescuers who perform the work. But we’ll see how it goes in the future.”

  7. Health-damaging polluted air – EU citizens could sue their governments

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    Source: euractiv, Georgi Gotev

    A top court advisor shared that citizens in European Union countries may be able to sue their governments for compensation if their health is damaged by illegal levels of air pollution

    The European Environmental Agency estimates air pollution to be responsible for roughly 300,000 premature deaths a year in Europe. Following 10 EU countries being found guilty of illegal air pollution by the Luxembourg Court of Justice of the EU in the last 10 years, an advisor to the court has stated that citizens may be able to sue their home countries.

    An infringement of the limit values for the protection of air quality under EU law may give rise to entitlement to compensation from the State,” the court said in a statement.

    An individual must be able to prove that the damage to their health was caused directly by air pollution. “This legal confirmation that there are routes to hold those in power to account is a major breakthrough in the fight for clean and healthy air,” said Irmina Kotiuk, lawyer at environmental law firm ClientEarth.

  8. Harmful noise pollution impacts 60 million Europeans at home

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    Source: Mayor.eu, Tzvetozar Vincent Iolov

    The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) releases figures obtained from the study of 749 continental cities, projecting potential health detriment.

    ISGlobal recently shared its noise pollution findings via the Environment International Journal, highlighting that 60 million people across Europe are negatively impacted by noise pollution. View the full breakdown of observed cities here.

    The main cause of environmental noise in urban areas is road traffic, with previous research linking high levels of sustained environmental noise to a range of health impacts. Such impacts include a sustained stress response, in which stress hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, and vasoconstriction. With time, such reactions may lead to chronic illnesses including depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases. Even with this in mind, it is still surprising to learn of a further conclusion in the study: if cities committed to complying with World Health Organisation (WHO) noise-level guidelines, 3,600 ischaemic heart disease deaths could be prevented annually.

    Of the 123 million adults that partook in the study, 48% were exposed to levels of environmental noise that averaged above 53 decibels in any given 24 hour period, exceeding guidelines by the WHO. Furthermore, 11 million adults admitted to being highly annoyed by road traffic noise, heightening associated stress levels.

    It should be noted that results are not fully comprehensive and standardized as varying methodologies and datasets were utilized in the study. However, there can be no doubt that this extensive noise pollution study provides insight into a worrying traffic trend.

  9. Air pollution linked to 1.8 million deaths annually

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    Source: Euractiv

    Recently published studies in The Lancet Planetary Health journal link some 1.8 million excess deaths and nearly 2 million asthma cases to air pollution globally in 2019.

    These findings reveal the desperate need for strategies to improve air pollution and reduce harmful exposures – particularly to the most vulnerable groups in society, children and the elderly. It has been revealed that 2.5 billion people, 86% of those living in urban areas worldwide, are exposed to unhealthy particulate matter levels. World Health Organisation (WHO) states, “there is a close, quantitative relationship between exposure to high concentrations of small particulates and increased mortality or morbidity, both daily and over time.”

    The European Commission is currently preparing a legislative proposal that acts to more closely align EU air quality standards to those recommended by WHO; this will make up one part of the flagship European Green Deal, planned for late 2022. The deal is crucial as many European locations fall behind the NO2 limit. There are currently 13 infringement cases open against member states, with NO2 concentrations in these locations continually exceeding the upper limit of 40 μg/m3.

    It should be noted, that pollution in the EU has seen a general decrease in the last two decades, including key pollutants PM2.5 and NO2. While this is positive, there is a long road to cleaner air and a healthier society; even with these improvements, NO2 was still associated with 1.85 million new pediatric asthma cases in 2019.

    The full studies can be read here, and here.

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