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ICYMI: April’s top air quality headlines

This April, researchers continued their efforts to learn more about air pollution, while scrappy engineers worked to build the infrastructure to fight it. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest breakthroughs:

Takes a Seat

Trees are great at absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutants, but, thanks to a new invention, we might not need to plant an entire forest to protect our lungs. The CityTree by Green City Solutions is part bench, part tree, and part air filter. It’s capable of absorbing the same amount of pollution as 275 trees at five percent of the cost of planting as many, its founders tell South China Morning Press.

Inside Information

We’ve been measuring outdoor air quality for decades, but a new study shows that we’re not doing enough to monitor indoor air, which can be filled with mold, off-gassing volatile organic compounds, and cooking fumes. Researchers from the University of Surrey say placing sensors in buildings will allow us to begin diagnosing illnesses related to “sick building syndrome” and take steps to reduce indoor air pollution.

Pollution Sleuth

Scientists have known for some time that you can gather pollution readings from moss samples, which absorb particles from the environment. This basic observation recently helped U.S. Forest Service scientists in Portland, Ore. discover the source of hitherto unexplained cadmium and arsenic pollution. The scientists noticed high levels of cadmium, arsenic, and other harmful substances in moss located near some of the city’s artisanal glass factories, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

Dangerous Path

Biking may be a healthier commuting option, but a new study says cyclists might subject to some invisible risks. University of Toronto researcher Marianne Hatzopoulou placed air-quality monitors on cyclists in Toronto, and found that the city’s bike routes are among its most polluted roadways. The paths, Hatzopoulou tells The Metro News, put cyclists at greater risk of developing breast and prostate cancer.

Moving Forward

Cities like Beijing and New Delhi have instituted car bans to reduce “code red” traffic pollution days. Now Paris is taking cars off the road, too. The city will ban cars on nearly 20 routes, including the famous Champs-Elysees, one Sunday per month. When Paris conducted a test of the scheme in September, harmful emissions fell 40 percent, The Independent reports