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Wristband that tracks your emotional state lets bosses monitor employees’ wellbeing in lockdown

A £50 wristband created by a British health technology firm is helping people track the wellbeing of their friends, family and employees in lockdown. 

Moodbeam features two buttons that the wearer simply has to press throughout the day depending on their mood – yellow for happy and blue for unhappy. 

This is logged alongside both sleep and activity and is available for other people to view on an associated app. 

It means users can view the moods of their loved ones during lockdown on their smartphone and know when to check in with them with a quick message.  

Companies could also buy the wristbands in bulk for their employees while they’re working from home and may feel isolated.  

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Moodbeam lets users quite literally ‘see how they feel’ on an app that links up with the wristband. Wearers just need to press the blue button on the band if they’re feeling down and yellow if they’re feeling OK

Moodbeam has been created by a Hull-based firm of the same name that formed in 2016, although its solution has become especially relevant as a way to trigger connections during the pandemic and improve mental health. 

Experts have already warned of serious mental health issues proliferating around the UK during the third national lockdown. 

UK charity Mind also recently revealed its pandemic support page has seen its highest number of visitors since April — when the country was in the grips of the first wave of coronavirus.  

‘Knowing how you’re feeling at any one time can be powerful, especially when set against the backdrop of work, rest and play,’ Moodbeam says on its website. 

‘The simple act of pressing a button provides deeper insight into what’s going on in the mind of the wearer, be it you or someone you care about who has chosen to share how they’re feeling with you.’

The app presents this information in a clear and understandable way ‘providing a unique insight into the emotional wellbeing of the wearer’.  

Family members can keep track of how their loved ones are doing during the pandemic with a quick look at the app

Family members can keep track of how their loved ones are doing during the pandemic with a quick look at the app

Moodbeam says: 'With each button press, your mood is logged alongside both sleep and activity. The simple app presents this information in a clear and understandable way providing a unique insight into the emotional wellbeing of the wearer'

Moodbeam says: ‘With each button press, your mood is logged alongside both sleep and activity. The simple app presents this information in a clear and understandable way providing a unique insight into the emotional wellbeing of the wearer’

Moodbeam may, for example, let someone keep up to date on the wellbeing of a parent who lives hundreds of miles away that they haven’t seen in nearly a year due to the government’s lockdown. 

But it could also provide a new solution for professionals – managers could give their team the option to wear a wristband to create an in-app community of workers looking out for each other. 

Managers could view an online dashboard to keep tabs on their workers’ mental health, due the current inability to check-in physically with staff. 

‘Businesses are trying to get on top of staying connected with staff working from home,’ Moodbeam co-founder Christina Colmer McHugh told the BBC.

‘Here they can ask 500 members: “You OK?” without picking up the phone.’

The app, for both iOS and Android, lets users explore patterns and trends throughout the day, add notes, compare sleep and activity against mood, set mood prompts, as well as choose to share your mood profile with others. 

The silicone band, meanwhile, is tough and water resistant, meaning it can be worn while working, walking or showering.

It doesn’t have to be worn around the wrist – it can also be clipped onto work lanyards.

The app is also intended to offer a personal guide of when we feel happy and when we don't. Moodbeam says: 'Gain deeper insight into how you feel, and do more of what makes you happy'

The app is also intended to offer a personal guide of when we feel happy and when we don’t. Moodbeam says: ‘Gain deeper insight into how you feel, and do more of what makes you happy’

The firm was originally founded by Colmer McHugh when her seven-year-old daughter was going through a tough time at school.  

She was left wondering what it would be like to know how her daughter was feeling when she wasn’t with her – and realised this was an experience shared by thousands of other parents. 

‘It was developed to allow me to get closer to the thoughts and feelings of my daughter as she suffered with anxiety at a young age,’ said Colmer McHugh.

‘There was nothing like this on the market, so it became my mission to create it. 

‘We all know that the hardest thing to do when feeling low can be to admit it, so having visual sight of how my daughter was feeling without her having to do that openly acted as a conversation opener – and really helped us to support her fully.’

Moodbeam was launched in 2016 and went on to win the Innovation Partnership Award at the Barclays Entrepreneur Awards in 2019, but since the pandemic it’s been optimised for businesses.  

UK mental health charity Brave Mind is one of the organisations using Moodbeam for its own staff. 

‘One member of the team was in an uncomfortable place, struggling with a huge workload, and disillusioned with what was going on,’ Brave Mind trustee Paddy Burtt told the BBC. 

‘It’s not something he would have flagged up, and we wouldn’t have known about it unless we had seen the data.’ 

The firm is also working with national framework provider Pagabo to roll out use of the devices on construction sites for staff. 

The device is also being used by GP surgeries to support clinical and non-clinical teams and the Mintridge Foundation, a charity dedicated to enhancing life skills in young people.  

CEO who saw his life brought to a screeching halt by a mental health crisis uses Moodbeam

Ian Braid (pictured) a former chief executive, now uses Moodbeam as part his recovery after being diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

Ian Braid (pictured) a former chief executive, now uses Moodbeam as part his recovery after being diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

Ian Braid, a former chief executive who saw his life brought to a screeching halt by a mental health crisis, uses the Moodbeam electronic ‘bracelet’ and app to record his activities and mood. 

The app analyses the triggers and gives advice, and can be shared with others who can keep an eye on the user. 

‘I have a trusted circle who view the app regularly and let me know if they have any concerns,’ says Ian.

Over 18 months, Braid developed insomnia, constant concerns about his job, low mood and an inability to relax, snowballing into debilitating thoughts. 

Scared, he went to see his GP the next day, and after scoring very highly on an anxiety questionnaire, he was told that ongoing work pressures had left him with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). 

GAD is defined as chronic worrying, along with high levels of nervousness and tension which are severe enough to interfere with someone’s ability to function day to day. 

It is often accompanied by symptoms such as insomnia, restlessness, nausea, loss of appetite, muscular pains and an inability to concentrate.

The trigger for Ian’s GAD, said doctors, was intense work stress, which had caused him to lose the ability to enjoy downtime with his family and his hobbies.  

After his diagnosis, Ian’s GP prescribed a high dose of antidepressants and he was signed off work for a month. 

Gradually, the medication began to regulate Ian’s appetite and sleep.

But it was seeing a psychotherapist, who specialised in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) — a talking therapy that challenges negative thought patterns — that really helped him get better, he says. 

Dr Billy Boland is chair of the general adult faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists and a consultant psychiatrist with the NHS, who is not affiliated with the app.

He believes products like Moodbeam can help people monitor their moods, but should be used as an add-on to, not a replacement for, conventional treatment.    

Read moreChief executive saw life screeching to a halt by mental health crisis 

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Headlines UK

Seagrass ‘Neptune balls’ may be key to clearing oceans of plastic

Every year, an estimated eight million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans, threatening the lives of fish, seabirds and marine mammals. 

Now, a new study suggests that the key to clearing our oceans of plastic may lie in seagrass. 

Seagrass forms so-called ‘Neptune balls’ – oval orbs made from the base of leaves that have been shredded and intertwine into a ball. 

These Neptune balls collect plastic as they form, before carrying the rubbish to shore. 

The new study estimates that Neptune balls sieve over 867 million pieces of plastic from the oceans every year.  

The team hopes the findings will encourage environmental agencies to take urgent action to ensure conservation of seagrass meadows.

A new study suggests that the key to clearing our oceans of plastic may lie with seagrass

HOW MUCH PLASTIC IS CAPTURED BY NEPTUNE BALLS? 

The study between 2018 and 2019 was carried out around Mallorca where there are extensive meadows and high levels of plastic near the shore.

There was plastic debris among 50 percent of the 42 samples and intertwined in 17 percent of 198 fibres, known as Neptune balls.

Up to 613 and 1,470 items per kilogram were in loose leaves and Neptune balls, respectively.

They come from everyday household products including packaging, bottle caps and tableware.

Combining the data with estimates of seagrass production in the Mediterranean suggested meadows capture up to 867 million pieces a year in Neptune balls alone.

An analysis of loose leaves from four Spanish beaches found plastic pellets, cosmetic microbeads and polyester fibres from clothes entangled in half of them.

They get mistaken for food by creatures that live in the water – with some ending up on our dinner plates.

Study lead author Professor Anna Sanchez-Vidal, of the University of Barcelona in Spain, said: ‘Seagrass meadows may help counteract marine plastic pollution.’

Global losses of the plant – due to development, pollution and invasive species – are estimated at seven per cent a year since 1990.

The study between 2018 and 2019 was carried out around Mallorca where there are extensive meadows and high levels of plastic near the shore.

There was plastic debris among 50 percent of the 42 samples and intertwined in 17 percent of 198 fibres, known as Neptune balls.

Up to 613 and 1,470 items per kilogram were in loose leaves and Neptune balls, respectively.

They come from everyday household products including packaging, bottle caps and tableware.

Combining the data with estimates of seagrass production in the Mediterranean suggested meadows capture up to 867 million pieces a year in Neptune balls alone.

Seagrass forms 'Neptune balls' that trap, extract and carry hundreds of millions of plastic particles to shore every year

Seagrass forms ‘Neptune balls’ that trap, extract and carry hundreds of millions of plastic particles to shore every year

Prof Sanchez-Vidal said: ‘There is strong evidence the seafloor constitutes a final sink for plastics from land sources.

‘There is also evidence that part of the plastics lying on the shallow seafloor are washed up back to the shoreline.

‘However, little is known on the natural trapping processes leading to such landwards return.

‘Our findings show seagrass meadows promote plastic debris trapping and aggregation with natural fibres, which are then ejected and escape the coastal ocean.

The findings offer hope of protecting some of the world's most popular tourism spots. Keeping coasts pristine is critical to many economies

The findings offer hope of protecting some of the world’s most popular tourism spots. Keeping coasts pristine is critical to many economies

‘Seagrasses, one of the key ecosystems on Earth in terms of provision of goods and services, also counteract marine plastic pollution.

‘In view of our findings, the regression of seagrass meadows in some marine regions acquires a new dimension each year.’

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, follows research showing seagrasses are good for beaches.

They were found to hold sand and sediment in place around the Caribbean Sea and Mexico.

It offers hope of protecting some of the world’s most popular tourism spots. Keeping coasts pristine is critical to many economies.

Prof Sanchez-Vidal said: ‘Seagrass meadows are widespread in shallow coastal waters.

‘They provide important ecosystem services and benefits, such as water quality improvement, CO2 absorption, climate change mitigation, sediment production for seafloor and beach stabilisation, coastal protection, nursery and refuge areas for many species and support in fisheries production.’

Seagrass areas in the Mediterranean Sea have decreased by 13 to 50 per cent since 1960.

Prof Sanchez-Vidal added: ‘What is clear is the deterioration of seagrass meadows may compromise the services they provide, so it is crucial to undertake specific actions to mitigate threats causing regression and ensure conservation.’

WHAT ARE THE LATEST PREDICTIONS FOR THE FUTURE IMPACT OF OCEAN WASTE?

The amount of plastic in the oceans is expected to triple in just ten years, a report issued by the UK government in March 2018 warned.

This key environmental problem risks being ‘out of sight, out of mind’ with more known about the surface of Mars and the Moon than the deep sea bed, it added.

The toll of plastic pollution in the sea could be 150million tonnes by 2025 – treble the 50million tonnes estimated in 2015. 

Our oceans store carbon dioxide and heat while producing oxygen and food, the Foresight Future of the Sea Report stressed. 

On the growing blight of plastic pollution, the document warned this will leave a physical presence, accumulating on coasts or in particular areas of ocean.

The report also warned plastic litter on coasts can increase the risk of dangerous bacteria in the water, such as E.coli. 

It said efforts to reduce plastic pollution should focus on stopping it entering the sea, developing new biodegradable materials and public awareness campaigns. 

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Headlines UK

UK rocket firm creates space tug to move satellites and clear debris

British firm Skyrora Is a step closer to launching a space tug that could tow satellites into different orbits, replace old satellites and even clean up space junk.

The upper stage of the Skyrora XL rocket successfully completed a crucial static fire test at the engine development complex in Fife, Scotland just before Christmas.

This upper stage of the rocket doubles as a ‘ mission-ready Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV)’ that can perform a number of in-space missions after delivering its payload.

 Edinburgh-based Skyrora hope that by the end of next year, or early 2023, they will be able to launch the OTV, along with small satellites it can carry inside it, on top of the XL rocket from one of Scotland’s spaceports.

They say that this is a huge step for the UK space sector as it will allow them to provide in space services, as well as launching satellites from British soil. 

The upper stage of the Skyrora XL rocket successfully completed a crucial static fire test at the engine development complex in Fife Scotland just before Christmas

On December 23, the Skyrora test and flight operations team performed one of their most important test campaigns to date, a full upper stage static fire test. 

The engine is burnt for 450 seconds over the course of three firings and it involved a fully-integrated setup of the engine, feed systems, avionics, and flight software.

The vehicle will be able to deliver payloads into orbit – and once in space can carry out multiple missions, including replacing redundant satellites or removing junk. 

Skyrora CEO, Volodymyr Levykin, said; “Our goal was always to be mission ready once all the regulations and permissions were in place, and this development not only brings us closer to that point but also takes us beyond simply launch readiness. 

‘We have been deliberately quiet about this aspect of our Skyrora XL launch vehicle as we had technical challenges to get it to this stage and we wanted to ensure all tests had a satisfactory outcome, which they now have.’

The engine is burnt for 450 seconds over the course of three firings and it involved a fully-integrated setup of the engine, feed systems, avionics, and flight software

The engine is burnt for 450 seconds over the course of three firings and it involved a fully-integrated setup of the engine, feed systems, avionics, and flight software

He said in the current climate there was a real shortage of good news, so they wanted to make sure it was working properly before sharing it with the world.

‘It’s important to show that even in challenging times we are still a nation that continues to innovate and take the lead in some lofty ambitions,’ Levykin said.  

With OneWeb looking to launch over 600 smallsats, and SpaceX looking to build a Starlink constellation of 42,000 satellites, there will be as much demand for in-space operations as there will be for launch services, Skyrora believe.

‘The Skyrora third stage OTV will fulfil that demand while also conducting maiden launch flights’ of new satellites, the firm says.

To date the company has executed a rigorous series of engine tests, but this latest exercise involved a fully-integrated setup.

This included the engine, the flight-weight structure and feed systems, flight-grade avionics and the full flight computer software which will be used in the first flight of Skyrora XL – at some point next year or early 2023. 

The test was of the flight software and vehicle structure, as the vehicle performed a full set of engine burns and manoeuvres that simulate the flight of the upper stage in orbit above Earth. 

Passing this test puts Skyrora one step closer to the completion of their XL vehicle.

The OTV has the ability to refire its engine several times allowing it to conduct multiple missions during a single trip, making it highly configurable. 

“The Skyrora upper stage is a historic first not just for the company, but for the UK Space industry, as it is the first “mission ready” vehicle of its kind to be developed in the country,’ said Skyrora Head of Engineering, Dr Jack James Marlow. 

Back in the mid-1980s, several studies were done into the development of an Orbital Manoeuvring Vehicle (OMV) – sometime dubbed a ‘space tug’. 

With OneWeb looking to launch over 600 smallsats, and SpaceX looking to build a Starlink constellation of 42,000 satellites, there will be as much demand for in-space operations as there will be for launch services, Skyrora believe

With OneWeb looking to launch over 600 smallsats, and SpaceX looking to build a Starlink constellation of 42,000 satellites, there will be as much demand for in-space operations as there will be for launch services, Skyrora believe

The idea gained little traction due to the limited numbers of launches at the time, but the appetite for such a vehicle has been gaining strength in recent times.

This is in part due to the privatisation of the space launch sector, making it cheaper and easier to get objects into orbit.

In 2018 Spaceflight Inc. launched the Sherpa OMV onboard a Falcon 9 rocket, and in October 2019 a US consortium headed up by Northrop Grumman launched their “Mission Extension Vehicle” into orbit from Kazakhstan.

The spacecraft was used to reposition an existing satellite into a new orbit, allowing it to extend its mission length by another four years-reducing the number of required launches to replace it.

The Skyrora upper stage, once in orbit, can navigate to a wide variety of orbits and  make multiple stops – performing a number of functions during its journey. 

The vehicle will be able to deliver payloads into orbit - and once in space can carry out multiple missions, including replacing redundant satellites or removing junk

The vehicle will be able to deliver payloads into orbit – and once in space can carry out multiple missions, including replacing redundant satellites or removing junk

This represents a paradigm shift in in-orbit operations, Skyrora boasted. 

‘Having a last-mile orbital delivery service, which can drop off numerous satellites into various orbits, move satellites from one orbit to another or perform a variety of maintenance tasks, is revolutionary to the UK/EU Space Industry.’ 

It would give the UK the ability to remove space junk, launch Earth monitoring satellites and even maintain existing in-orbit satellites without multiple launches.  

‘With several missions being achieved by one single rocket launch, Skyrora optimise each launch while minimising any impact on the local environment,’ they wrote.

‘This is coupled with the use of eco-friendly fuel, Ecosene, powering the vehicle to ensure the UK has the most environmentally friendly space industry in the world.’   

WHAT IS SPACE JUNK? MORE THAN 170 MILLION PIECES OF DEAD SATELLITES, SPENT ROCKETS AND FLAKES OF PAINT POSE ‘THREAT’ TO SPACE INDUSTRY

There are an estimated 170 million pieces of so-called ‘space junk’ – left behind after missions that can be as big as spent rocket stages or as small as paint flakes – in orbit alongside some US$700 billion (£555bn) of space infrastructure.

But only 22,000 are tracked, and with the fragments able to travel at speeds above 16,777 mph (27,000kmh), even tiny pieces could seriously damage or destroy satellites.

However, traditional gripping methods don’t work in space, as suction cups do not function in a vacuum and temperatures are too cold for substances like tape and glue.

Grippers based around magnets are useless because most of the debris in orbit around Earth is not magnetic.

Around 500,000 pieces of human-made debris (artist’s impression) currently orbit our planet, made up of disused satellites, bits of spacecraft and spent rockets

Most proposed solutions, including debris harpoons, either require or cause forceful interaction with the debris, which could push those objects in unintended, unpredictable directions.

Scientists point to two events that have badly worsened the problem of space junk.

The first was in February 2009, when an Iridium telecoms satellite and Kosmos-2251, a Russian military satellite, accidentally collided.

The second was in January 2007, when China tested an anti-satellite weapon on an old Fengyun weather satellite.

Experts also pointed to two sites that have become worryingly cluttered.

One is low Earth orbit which is used by satnav satellites, the ISS, China’s manned missions and the Hubble telescope, among others.

The other is in geostationary orbit, and is used by communications, weather and surveillance satellites that must maintain a fixed position relative to Earth. 

 

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Instagram is back up and running after worldwide outage

Instagram is back up and running after worldwide outage that left thousands unable to access the desktop site or smartphone app

  • Instagram outage started around 5pm ET and lasted for several hours 
  •  Issues were plaguing users across the world – mainly the app and desktop site 
  • The desktop site was showing an ‘error’ message and the app would not refresh 

Instagram’s desktop site and app were down for roughly two hours across the globe.

The social media’s website showed an ‘error’ message and news feed was not refreshing in the smartphone app – some users were unable to log into their accounts.

The outage began around 5pm ET and any issues were fixed by 7pm ET – some users may still be facing problems.

Users flocked to Twitter to see if anyone else was experiencing issues, as some thought they had been banned from the social media site and others believed the ‘hate speech haven’ had been taken down. 

Instagram’s desktop site and app were down for roughly two hours across the globe. The social media’s website showed an ‘error’ message and news feed was not refreshing in the smartphone app – some users were unable to log into their accounts 

DownDetector, an site that monitors online outages, showed a majority of the issue reports cited trouble with the website, followed by news feed in the app and logging in to accounts. 

Major cities in the US were shown ‘red’ on the Instagram outage map including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Dallas.

While across the Atlantic in the UK, London, Manchester and Belfast were experiencing problems. 

And reports are also surfaced from Italy, Indonesia, Mexico and Australia.

DownDetector shows a majority of the issue reports cite problems with the website, followed by news feed in the app and logging in to accounts. Major cities in the US appear to be shown 'red' on the Instagram outage map including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Dallas

DownDetector shows a majority of the issue reports cite problems with the website, followed by news feed in the app and logging in to accounts. Major cities in the US appear to be shown ‘red’ on the Instagram outage map including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Dallas

Users flocked to Twitter to see if anyone else was experiencing issues, as some thought they had been banned from the social media site and others thought the 'hate speech haven' had been taken down

Users flocked to Twitter to see if anyone else was experiencing issues, as some thought they had been banned from the social media site and others thought the ‘hate speech haven’ had been taken down

Maggie Fitzerald joked that she was bored with #impeachmentday and is moving on to other news that Instagram is down. DownDetector show reports of problems began around 5:00pm ET, but the cause or when it will be restored are unknown

Maggie Fitzerald joked that she was bored with #impeachmentday and is moving on to other news that Instagram is down. DownDetector show reports of problems began around 5:00pm ET, but the cause or when it will be restored are unknown

Users seemed surprised to see the desktop site and app not working properly, as many flocked to Twitter to see if anyone else was experiencing issues – or if the may have been banned.

Maggie Fitzerald joked that she was bored with #impeachmentday and is moving on to other news that Instagram is down.

While TJ Scott seemed to be delighted at the sight of an error message where Instagram.com should be.

‘Looks like the hate speech have, Instagram has been taken down,’ Scott tweeted.

It also seems that users were surprised to see the desktop site and app are not working properly, as many flocked to Twitter to see if anyone else was experiencing issues

It also seems that users were surprised to see the desktop site and app are not working properly, as many flocked to Twitter to see if anyone else was experiencing issues

Many Instagram users were unsure if they were the only experiencing issues with the app, so they asked Twitter for help

Many Instagram users were unsure if they were the only experiencing issues with the app, so they asked Twitter for help

Instagram has been experiencing frequent outages over the past few months, with the most recent hitting in September that also impacted Facebook.

Issues surfaced around 1:30pm ET on September 17, which lasted for roughly three hours, and affected Instagram users in the US, Europe, South America and Canada.

Facebook’s issues were not as widespread, but plagued parts of California, mid-west states, southern Florida and the north east in the US.

In Europe, Facebook was glitching in parts of Portugal, the UK, Hungary, Sweden and The Netherlands.

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Headlines UK

Smart doggie ‘garage door’ nabs ‘Innovation Award’ at CES for replacing the traditional flap

Smart doggie ‘garage door’ nabs ‘Innovation Award’ at CES for replacing the traditional flap and letting users know when their pet goes outside via an app

  • The myQ Pet Portal is safe for dogs from 10 to 90 pounds
  • It comes with a collar sensor, camera and programmable myQ Pet Portal app  
  • The app lets you customize how Fido can enter/exit and sends daily reports
  • Intended to replace the front door, it retails for $2,999 including installation 

A lot of us leaned on our pets during the pandemic, and a new invention can help you return the favor as life starts to return to normal.

Now taking victory laps at CES 2021, the MyQ Pet Portal allows your pooch or kitty to get a taste of freedom when you’re not home to let them out.

The device replaces the old-fashioned doggie door flap with a smart sliding-door system built into the front door. 

The portal comes with a custom collar sensor and a programmable app so you check in on your furry friend remotely.

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The myQ Pet Portal replaces the old-fashioned doggie door flap with a programmable sliding-door system built into your house’s front door.

The portal is suitable for dogs from 10 to 90 pounds, and includes safety sensors to make sure your pet gets in and out comfortably.

Developed by Chamberlain Group, which typically produces garage-door openers, it’s already won the Best of Innovation Award in the Smart Home category CES 2021, which has moved online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With professional installation, myQ Pet Portal is available for pre-order starting at $2,999.

A sensor on the pet’s collar and an auto-close/lock system ensure other animals don’t leave (or enter) while Fido is coming or going. 

The myQ Pet Portal app allows users to customize how Fido can enter/exit and sends streaming real-time audio and video so you can check in

The myQ Pet Portal app allows users to customize how Fido can enter/exit and sends streaming real-time audio and video so you can check in

Streaming audio and video allows owners to check in on door in-real time, while the myQ Pet Portal app allows them to customize how Fido can enter/exit and sends daily reports. 

Chamberlain tapped professional down trainer Brittany McArdell, owner of North Paws Canine Services in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, to put the MyQ through its paces.

‘It definitely provides a smarter way to parent and makes time apart easier for both dogs and their owners,’ McArdell said.

Unlike other smart pet doors, the MyQ portal isn’t retrofitted into an existing front door—it replaces the whole door.

It comes integrated in a variety of Kolbe door styles, with material and color options to match your house’s style.

The app also sends daily reports on your pet's behavior. The system could be useful to help dogs adapt to changing schedules as people return to work

The app also sends daily reports on your pet’s behavior. The system could be useful to help dogs adapt to changing schedules as people return to work

‘A bright spot for many people in a challenging 2020 has been adding a furry friend to the family,’ said Beril Altiner, director of product marketing for Chamberlain Group.

‘But as COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift in 2021 many dogs will experience a dramatic change in their routine.’

Over 70 million American households owned pets by the end of 2020, and 80 percent of dog owners say they feel guilty leaving their canine companions alone.

The portal is secure and convenient, Altiner says, and can help alleviate ‘the stress and expenses that might come along as schedules change.’

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Early humans had already developed the skills and tools to survive climate change, study finds 

Early humans living two million years ago already had the skills and tools they needed in order to cope with the effects of climate change, study shows. 

Archaeologists from the Max Planck Institute studied changes to the environment and habitats of early hominins at the Oldupai Gorge heritage site in Tanzania. 

Also known as the ‘Cradle of Humankind’, new field work at the site revealed our ancestors remained stable despite environment changes over 200,000 years. 

These early humans stayed in a habitat continuously throughout – despite having to cope with global warming, wildfires, droughts and volcanic eruptions.

It shows migrations ‘out of Africa’ were possible even during the early human periods – as our ancestors possessed the ability to expand into new ecosystems.

Olduvai (now Oldupai) Gorge, known as the Cradle of Humankind, is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Tanzania. Early human used a wide diversity of habitats amidst environmental changes across a 200,000 year-long period

Co-author Professor Michael Petraglia, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, in Germany, said it is evidence of a behavioural flexibility.

OLDUPAI GORGE WAS THE CRADLE OF HUMANKIND 

The Unesco World Heritage Oldupai Gorge site is in modern Tanzania.

It is located in the Great Rift Valley, between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park.

It was formed about 30,000 years ago, the result of aggressive geological activity and streams. 

The steep ravine is about 30 miles long and 300 feet deep.

The location boasts extraordinary records of extinct human species.

They span several million years and for more than a century experts have been exploring the region to understand where we came from. 

He said this started in the context of the dawn of the evolution of the hominins – and helped ‘set the stage for the eventual global, invasive spread of Homo sapiens.’

Excavations at Tanzania’s Oldupai Gorge, previously known as the Olduvai Gorge,  uncovered the presence of hominins – our most primitive ancestors – that lived between two and one point eight million years ago.

The oldest form of stone tools, known as Oldowan, were also unearthed, along with a wide variety of mammal fossils including wild cattle, pigs, hippos, panthers, lions, hyena, primates, reptiles and birds – all had been butchered for food.

The crude Oldowan implements were used to smash open the bones and extract the nutritious marrow from the butchered animals, experts discovered.

Remains of one of the first hominins were found just 350 metres away from this site in deposits dating back 1.82 million years.

Known as Homo habilis, the four foot tall species had a short body, long arms like an ape’s – and a big brain. Its name translates as ‘handy man’ after his tool skills.

Despite having to cope with persistent weather catastrophes, the area remained occupied by early humans – proving they could adapt to climate change.

It turned from lakeside palm groves, idyllic meadows littered with ferns and mosaics of woodland to landscapes burned by natural disasters and dry steppes.

The evidence shows periodic but recurrent land use across a subset of environments – punctuated with times when there is an absence of activity.

The Oldubai Gorge, previously known as Oldavai Gorge, in northern Tanzania has produced some of the oldest remains of early human ancestors known to date

The Oldubai Gorge, previously known as Oldavai Gorge, in northern Tanzania has produced some of the oldest remains of early human ancestors known to date

Co-author Dr Pastory Bushozi, of Dar es Salaam University, Tanzania, said: ‘The occupation of varied and unstable environments – including after volcanic activity – is one of the earliest examples of adaptation to major ecological transformations.’ 

The Unesco World Heritage Oldupai Gorge site is located in the Great Rift Valley, between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park.

It was formed about 30,000 years ago, the result of aggressive geological activity and streams. The steep ravine is about 30 miles long and 300 feet deep.

The location boasts extraordinary records of extinct human species spanning several million years and for more than a century experts have been exploring outcrops. 

The latest study published in Nature Communications sheds light on the environmental contexts in which these hominins lived for the first time. 

Excavation at Ewass Oldupa uncovered the oldest Oldowan stone tools ever found at Oldupai Gorge, dating to ~2 million years ago and fossils of mammals, reptiles and birds

Excavation at Ewass Oldupa uncovered the oldest Oldowan stone tools ever found at Oldupai Gorge, dating to ~2 million years ago and fossils of mammals, reptiles and birds

Hominin occupation of fluctuating and disturbed habitats is unique in the prehistoric records. It shows complex behavioural adaptations among these early humans.

In the face of new challenges they did not substantially alter their toolkits – but instead their technology remained stable over time.

Indicative of their versatility, typical Oldowan stone tools hewn from pebbles and cobbles and sharp-edged flakes continued to be used even as conditions changed.

It shows they had the capacity to continually exploit a multitude of habitats using reliable tools to process plants and cut up animals – over the long term. 

Other hominins such as Australopithecines – the species to which the famous early human ancestor ‘Lucy’ belongs – may also have been making stone tools there.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications. 

DNA AND GENOME STUDIES USED TO CAPTURE OUR GENETIC PAST

Four major studies in recent times have changed the way we view our  ancestral history.

The Simons Genome Diversity Project study

After analysing DNA from 142 populations around the world, the researchers conclude that all modern humans living today can trace their ancestry back to a single group that emerged in Africa 200,000 years ago.

They also found that all non-Africans appear to be descended from a single group that split from the ancestors of African hunter gatherers around 130,000 years ago.

The study also shows how humans appear to have formed isolated groups within Africa with populations on the continent separating from each other.

The KhoeSan in south Africa for example separated from the Yoruba in Nigeria around 87,000 years ago while the Mbuti split from the Yoruba 56,000 years ago.

The Estonian Biocentre Human Genome Diversity Panel study

This examined 483 genomes from 148 populations around the world to examine the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa.

They found that indigenous populations in modern Papua New Guinea owe two percent of their genomes to a now extinct group of Homo sapiens.

This suggests there was a distinct wave of human migration out of Africa around 120,000 years ago.

The Aboriginal Australian study

Using genomes from 83 Aboriginal Australians and 25 Papuans from New Guinea, this study examined the genetic origins of these early Pacific populations.

These groups are thought to have descended from some of the first humans to have left Africa and has raised questions about whether their ancestors were from an earlier wave of migration than the rest of Eurasia.

The new study found that the ancestors of modern Aboriginal Australians and Papuans split from Europeans and Asians around 58,000 years ago following a single migration out of Africa.

These two populations themselves later diverged around 37,000 years ago, long before the physical separation of Australia and New Guinea some 10,000 years ago.

The Climate Modelling study

Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa used one of the first integrated climate-human migration computer models to re-create the spread of Homo sapiens over the past 125,000 years.

The model simulates ice-ages, abrupt climate change and captures the arrival times of Homo sapiens in the Eastern Mediterranean, Arabian Peninsula, Southern China, and Australia in close agreement with paleoclimate reconstructions and fossil and archaeological evidence.

The found that it appears modern humans first left Africa 100,000 years ago in a series of slow-paced migration waves.

They estimate that Homo sapiens first arrived in southern Europe around 80,000-90,000 years ago, far earlier than previously believed.

The results challenge traditional models that suggest there was a single exodus out of Africa around 60,000 years ago.

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Chicago Headline USA

Human migration over the past 500 years has resulted in spike in vitamin D deficiencies

When? September.

By who? Cordoba University in Spain.

What did scientists study? 50 Covid-19 hospital patients with Covid-19 were given vitamin D. Their health outcomes were compared with 26 volunteers in a control group who were not given the tablets.

What did they find? Only one of the 50 patients needed intensive care and none died. Half of 26 virus sufferers who did not take vitamin D were later admitted to intensive care and two died.

What were the study’s limitations? Small pool of volunteers. Patients’ vitamin D levels were not checked before admission. Comorbidities were not taken into consideration.

When? September.

By Who? University of Chicago.

What did scientists study? 500 Americans’ vitamin D levels were tested. Researchers then compared volunteers’ levels with how many caught coronavirus.

What did they find? 60 per cent higher rates of Covid-19 among people with low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’.

What were the study’s limitations?  

Researchers did not check for other compounding factors. Unclear whether or not volunteers were vitamin D deficient at the time of their coronavirus tests. People’s age, job and where they lived – factors which greatly increase the chance of contracting the virus – were not considered.

When? September.

By Who? Tehran University, in Iran, and Boston University.

What did scientists study? Analysed data from 235 hospitalized patients with Covid-19.

What did they find? Patients who had sufficient vitamin D – of at least 30 ng/mL— were 51.5 per cent less likely to die from the disease. They also had a significantly lower risk of falling seriously ill or needing ventilation. Patients who had plenty of the nutrient also had less inflammation – often a deadly side effect of Covid-19. 

What were the study’s limitations? Confounding factors, such as smoking, and social economic status were not recorded for all patients and could have an impact on illness severity.  

When? July.

By Who? Tel Aviv University, Israel.

What did scientists study? 782 people who tested positive for coronavirus had their vitamin d levels prior to infection assessed retrospectively and compared to healthy people.

What did they find? People with vitamin D levels below 30 ng/ml – optimal – were 45 per cent more likely to test positive and 95 per cent more likely to be hospitalised.

What were the study’s limitations?  Did not look at underlying health conditions and did not check vitamin D levels at the time of infection.

When? June.

By Who? Brussels Free University.

What did scientists study? Compared vitamin D levels in almost 200 Covid-19 hospital patients with a control group of more than 2,000 healthy people.

What did they find? Men who were hospitalised with the infection were significantly more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency than healthy men of the same age. Deficiency rates were 67 per cent in the COVID-19 patient group, and 49 per cent in the control group. The same was not found for women.

What were the study’s limitations?  Independent scientists say blood vitamin D levels go down when people develop serious illness, which the study did not take into consideration. This suggests that it is the illness that is leading to lower blood vitamin D levels in this study, and not the other way around.

When? June.

By who? Inha University in Incheon, South Korea.

What did scientists study? 50 hospital patients with Covid-19 were checked for levels of all vital vitamins and compared to a control group.

What did they find? 76 per cent of them were deficient in vitamin D, and a severe vitamin D deficiency (<10 ng/dl) was found in 24 per cent of Covid-19 patients and just 7 per cent in the control group.

What were the study’s limitations?  

Small sample size and researchers never accounted for vitamin levels dropping when they fall ill.

When? June.

By Who?. Independent scientists in Indonesia.

What did scientists study? Checked vitamin D levels in 780 Covid-19 hospital patients.

What did they find? Almost 99% of patients who died had vitamin D deficiency. Of patients with vitamin D levels higher than 30 ng/ml  – considered optimal – only  per cent died.

What were the study’s limitations?  It was not peer-reviewed by fellow scientists, a process that often uncovers flaws in studies.

When? May.

By Who? University of Glasgow.

What did scientists study? Vitamin D levels in 449 people from the UK Biobank who had confirmed Covid-19 infection. 

What did they find? Vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased risk in infection – but not after adjustment for con-founders such as ethnicity. It led to the team to conclude their ‘findings do not support a potential link between vitamin D concentrations and risk of Covid-19 infection.’

What were the study’s limitations?  Vitamin D levels were taken 10 to 14 years beforehand. 

When? May.

By Who? University of East Anglia.

What did scientists study? Average levels of vitamin D in populations of 20 European countries were compared with Covid-19 infection and death rates at the time.

What did they find? The mean level of vitamin D in each country was ‘strongly associated’ with higher levels of Covid-19 cases and deaths. The authors said at the time: ‘The most vulnerable group of population for Covid-19 is also the one that has the most deficit in vitamin D.’

What were the study’s limitations?  The number of cases in each country was affected by the number of tests performed, as well as the different measures taken by each country to prevent the spread of infection. And it only looked at correlation, not causation.

When? May.

By Who? Northwestern University.

What did scientists study? Crunched data from dozens of studies around the world that included vitamin D levels among Covid-19 patients. 

What did they find? Patients with a severe deficiency are twice as likely to experience major complications and die.

What were the study’s limitations?  Cases and deaths in each country was affected by the number of tests performed.

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Headline USA

Ten minutes of physical exercise a day can prevent the brain from decline, study shows 

Just ten minutes of physical exercise a day during middle age can prevent the brain from decline, study shows

  • Researchers studied 1,600 people over a period of 25 years looking at activity
  • They found that those active in middle age had healthier brains later in life
  • The team say 10 minutes of daily exercise can reduce the risk of brain issues 

Getting ten minutes of physical exercise a day while in middle age can help to protect your brain from decline as you get older, a new study shows. 

Regular physical activity – such as walking briskly, running or cycling – in middle age into later life is associated with less brain damage 25 years later, say scientists.

Colombia University Irving Medical Center researchers studied 1,600 people with an average age of 53 who had attended five physical examinations over 25 years.

Their findings suggest greater amounts of ‘moderate-to-vigorous intensity’ physical activity in middle age have a ‘protective’ effect on the brain as you get older.

Regular physical activity – such as walking briskly, running or cycling – in middle age into later life is associated with less brain damage 25 years later, say scientists. Stock image 

The participants involved in the study rated their weekly activity levels once at the start and again at two additional times over the 25 year period.

Each person reported the amount of time they engaged in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity, which researchers classified as none, low, middle or high.

The researchers then used brain scans to measure participants’ grey and white brain matter and lesions, or areas of injury or disease in the brain, at the end of the study.

Study author Priya Palta said the findings suggest physical activity – particularly during mid-life – is closely linked to brain health.

‘Getting at least an hour and 15 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity a week may be important throughout your lifetime for promoting brain health and preserving the actual structure of your brain,’ Palta said.

‘In particular, engaging in more than two-and-a-half hours of physical activity per week in middle age was associated with fewer signs of brain disease.’

After adjusting for lifestyle factors and demographics people with no moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in mid-life had a 47 per cent greater chance of developing small areas of brain damage after 25 years than those who did exercise. 

Researchers used brain scans to measure the amount of damage to the brain’s white matter – the tissue composed of nerve fibres connecting different regions.regions – and found higher activity levels were linked to more intact white matter. 

The team also looked at movement of water molecules in the brain tissue. 

Participants who reported high physical activity in mid-life had movement that was more beneficial, compared to participants who reported no activity in mid-life.

The researchers then used brain scans to measure participants' grey and white brain matter and lesions, or areas of injury or disease in the brain, at the end of the study. Stock image

The researchers then used brain scans to measure participants’ grey and white brain matter and lesions, or areas of injury or disease in the brain, at the end of the study. Stock image

Dr Palta said the results show being active in mid-life has real brain benefits, particularly ‘consistently high levels of mid-life moderate-to-vigour physical activity’. 

Other research has shown that brain lesions may be caused by inflammation or other damage to the small blood vessels in the brain.

Dr Palta added: ‘Our research suggests that physical activity may impact cognition in part through its effects on small vessels in the brain.

‘This study adds to the body of evidence showing that exercise with moderate-to-vigorous intensity is important for maintaining thinking skills throughout your lifetime.’

The study has been published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. 

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Headline USA

Coronavirus infection could lead to long-term cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s

Global study to investigate whether Covid infection could lead to long-term cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and dementia YEARS after infection

  • US and UK-based academics are planning a large-scale global study 
  • Will recruit and follow 40,000 people worldwide who have contracted Covid-19  
  • Study will investigate if the viral infection increases risk of cognitive decline  

Scientists are concerned the coronavirus could cause long-term damage to the brain and central nervous system, potentially leading to Alzheimer’s in later life. 

US and UK-based academics are planning a large-scale global study to investigate the possibility SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, could lead to cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other forms of dementia years after infection. 

The full repercussions of brain-related problems caused by the coronavirus will not be fully understood for decades as survivors age but autopsies, mouse studies and data from other respiratory viruses are cause for concern, researchers warn. 

There is currently no evidence the coronavirus does cause Alzheimer’s but it has been found the virus is able to invade the brain and scientists hope their global study can shed light on the issue.   

Scientists are concerned the coronavirus could cause severe long-term damage to the brain and central nervous system, potentially leading to Alzheimer’s in later life (stock photo)

‘Since the flu pandemic of 1917 and 1918, many of the flu-like diseases have been associated with brain disorders,’ said lead author Dr Gabriel de Erausquin at the University of Texas. 

‘Those respiratory viruses included H1N1 and SARS-CoV. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is also known to impact the brain and nervous system.’ 

The research will be carried out in conjunction with British-based experts at the University of Leicester and the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.  

The Spanish flu of 1918 was tied by scientists to a spike in brain afflictions such as sleep disruption, anxiety and psychosis, symptoms also seen in Covid patients. 

However, there is currently not enough data on how viruses impact on long-term cognitive health. 

US and UK-based academics are planning a large-scale global study to investigate the possibility SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, could lead to cognitive decline, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other forms of dementia years after infection

US and UK-based academics are planning a large-scale global study to investigate the possibility SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, could lead to cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other forms of dementia years after infection 

How coronavirus infects the BRAIN 

The coronavirus can reach the human brain after being inhaled through a person’s nose and getting stuck in their nasal mucus, a study has found. 

It is the first known proof the coronavirus can infect the brain’s neurons via the mucosal pathway.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, it has become clear the coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, does not just cause respiratory distress but neurological issues as well. 

For example, one in three report symptoms such as loss of smell or taste, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.

Scientists in Germany performed autopsies on 33 patients who died of Covid-19 and studied the mucus at the back of the nose — above the mouth where the throat joins the nasal cavity — as well as samples of brain tissue.

Genetic material of the coronavirus was present in largest quantities in the mucus of the nasal cavity, but SARS-CoV-2’s spike proteins — which protrude from the virus and latch onto human receptors to infect the cells — were also found in the brain.  

Dr Frank Heppner, co-author of the study from Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, says: ‘Once inside the olfactory mucosa, the virus appears to use neuroanatomical connections, such as the olfactory nerve, in order to reach the brain.’

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the researchers write, offers ‘a unique — if unwelcome — opportunity’ to learn more about how viruses damage the brain.  

Previous research has proved the coronavirus can cause delirium, strokes and even paralysis due to its impact on the central nervous system.

However, Dr de Erausquin says the impact will not be limited to these short-term acute symptoms seen in hospitals and will likely manifest into chronic conditions.  

Studies have found that SARS-CoV-2 has been found in brain tissue and experts believe it can attack nerves in the organ. 

The virus is also known to affect the sense of smell in many patients and it is thought it does this because the olfactory bulb in the brain which controls smell is rife with ACE2, the receptor which the virus latches onto in order to infect human cells. 

‘The basic idea of our study is that some of the respiratory viruses have affinity for nervous system cells,’ said senior author Dr Sudha Seshadri, at the University of Texas. 

‘Olfactory cells are very susceptible to viral invasion and are particularly targeted by SARS-CoV-2, and that’s why one of the prominent symptoms of COVID-19 is loss of smell.’ 

Dr Erausquin adds that the virus invades the hippocampus via the olfactory bulb and this part of the brain is integral to memory and learning. 

He says this pathway is thought to be ‘one of the sources’ of the cognitive decline seen in some Covid patients. 

‘We suspect it may also be part of the reason why there will be an accelerated cognitive decline over time in susceptible individuals,’ he adds. 

Writing in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, the researchers outline their study plan. 

Scientists in more than 30 countries will follow the lives of around 40,000 participants. 

It will compare people who had the virus with those who did not catch Covid-19 and is being initially funded by the US-based Alzheimer’s Association. 

The first batch of results are not expected until 2022. 

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Headline USA

Shocking NASA images showing how climate change is affecting Earth

Emissions

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. After the gas is released into the atmosphere it stays there, making it difficult for heat to escape – and warming up the planet in the process. 

It is primarily released from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as cement production. 

The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, as of April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration was just 280 ppm. 

CO2 concentration has fluctuated over the last 800,000 years between 180 to 280ppm, but has been vastly accelerated by pollution caused by humans. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

The gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from burning fossil fuels, car exhaust emissions and the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers used in agriculture.

Although there is far less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more effective at trapping heat.

Sulfur dioxide 

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also primarily comes from fossil fuel burning, but can also be released from car exhausts.

SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain. 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals reduce the lifetime of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Particulates

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter refers to tiny parts of solids or liquid materials in the air. 

Some are visible, such as dust, whereas others cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil and chemicals can be in particulate matter.

Particulate matter (or PM) is described in micrometres. The two main ones mentioned in reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometres) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometres).

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture 

Scientists measure the rate of particulates in the air by cubic metre.

Particulate matter is sent into the air by a number of processes including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and steel making.

Why are particulates dangerous?

Particulates are dangerous because those less than 10 micrometres in diameter can get deep into your lungs, or even pass into your bloodstream. Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads. 

Health impact

What sort of health problems can pollution cause?

According to the World Health Organization, a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be linked to air pollution. 

Some of the effects of air pollution on the body are not understood, but pollution may increase inflammation which narrows the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes. 

As well as this, almost one in 10 lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by air pollution. 

Particulates find their way into the lungs and get lodged there, causing inflammation and damage. As well as this, some chemicals in particulates that make their way into the body can cause cancer. 

Deaths from pollution 

Around seven million people die prematurely because of air pollution every year. Pollution can cause a number of issues including asthma attacks, strokes, various cancers and cardiovascular problems. 

 

Asthma triggers

Air pollution can cause problems for asthma sufferers for a number of reasons. Pollutants in traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particulates can get into your lungs and throat and make these areas inflamed. 

Problems in pregnancy 

Women exposed to air pollution before getting pregnant are nearly 20 per cent more likely to have babies with birth defects, research suggested in January 2018.

Living within 3.1 miles (5km) of a highly-polluted area one month before conceiving makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a study by University of Cincinnati found.

For every 0.01mg/m3 increase in fine air particles, birth defects rise by 19 per cent, the research adds. 

Previous research suggests this causes birth defects as a result of women suffering inflammation and ‘internal stress’. 

What is being done to tackle air pollution? 

Paris agreement on climate change

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. 

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

Carbon neutral by 2050 

The UK government has announced plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. 

They plan to do this by planting more trees and by installing ‘carbon capture’ technology at the source of the pollution.

Some critics are worried that this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offsetting to other countries.

International carbon credits let nations continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, balancing out their emissions.

No new petrol or diesel vehicles by 2040

In 2017, the UK government announced the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040.  

However,  MPs on the climate change committee have urged the government to bring the ban forward to 2030, as by then they will have an equivalent range and price.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

Norway’s electric car subsidies

The speedy electrification of Norway’s automotive fleet is attributed mainly to generous state subsidies. Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the heavy taxes imposed on petrol and diesel cars, which makes them competitively priced.

A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs nearly 334,000 kroner (34,500 euros, $38,600), while its electric cousin the e-Golf costs 326,000 kroner thanks to a lower tax quotient. 

Criticisms of inaction on climate change

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said there is a ‘shocking’ lack of Government preparation for the risks to the country from climate change. 

The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change had to be addressed – from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.

The UK is not prepared for 2°C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb temperature rises, let alone a 4°C rise, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, the committee said.

It added that cities need more green spaces to stop the urban ‘heat island’ effect, and to prevent floods by soaking up heavy rainfall.