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ICYMI: February’s hottest air quality news

Our collective understanding of the effects of air pollution is constantly evolving, as researchers work to identify, quantify, and manage the impact of unclean air. Here are some of February’s top discoveries:

Cabin Conditions
Think the inside of your car is a sanctuary? Think again. A new study says that drivers may be breathing dirtier air than pedestrians: During a two-hour trip, researchers measured air inside and outside of a vehicle every minute, and found that nitrogen dioxide levels were 21 percent higher on average inside the vehicle, the BBC reports.

Fat Cats
Air pollution may cause cognitive delays and blood pressure spikes in humans, but new research indicates that contaminated air may also be linked to obesity. Duke University researchers found that rats exposed to Beijing air for 19 days were 15 percent heavier and had 97 percent higher total cholesterol than rats who breathed filtered air during that time.

New Leader
According to an analysis by Greenpeace India, India’s fine particulate matter levels reached an all-time high last year. At the same time, China’s pollutant readings decreased 17 percent between 2010 and 2015 (thanks, in part, to an “Action Plan” that restricted coal production), compared to India’s 13-percent uptick.

Life Saver
Two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) may not seem like much, but climate scientists say it could be a matter of life and death. According to a Duke University/NASA study, a 40-percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030 would slow the global temperature increase—and consequently prevent 295,000 pollution-related deaths.

Worth a Thousand
Forget sensors, a team of graduate researchers in Singapore are working on an app that would detect air quality by analyzing user-generated photos. By cross-referencing photos with data from nearby air-quality monitors, the app, called AirTick, will learn how to determine air quality from a photo alone.

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