ICYMI: What we learned about air in June

Sometimes it seems that just about anything can impact the air we breathe. In June, for instance, we added pizza and soccer (of all things) to the list. Here’s what we learned about air quality this month.

Birdhouse for Good

A Dutch designer has created a birdhouse that measures nitrogen dioxide and provides free Wi-FI — sometimes. When pollution levels are low, LEDs on the device, called TreeWifi, glow green to indicate that Wi-Fi is available. If NO2 concentrations spike, however, the birdhouse glows red, and Wi-Fi shuts down. The goal of the project, its founder tells City Lab, is to incentivize biking and public transportation and to give residents easy access to air-quality information.

Grand Plan

A plan to halve worldwide air pollution by 2040 could prevent more than three million premature deaths, a new report by the International Energy Agency claims. Specifically, the report calls on governments to provide clean cooking facilities and establish emissions controls for power and energy companies. It also encourages factories to strive for greater energy efficiency and for automakers to adopt fuel-switching policies.

Cookin’ Up Bad Air

Last year, an Italian town temporarily banned wood-fire pizza ovens to cut down on particulate matter. Pizza cookery is under fire once again, this time in São Paulo, Brazil, home to a remarkable 8,000 pizza parlors. Unlike factory smokestacks, which tend to release pollutants higher in the air, pizzeria chimneys are closer to the ground and, thus, human airways. São Paulo’s pizza parlors, a new paper says, burn nearly 370,000 tons of wood each year, enough to negate the air-quality improvements generated by the city’s switch to biofuels in its fleet vehicles.

Working Stiff

This month, a new study quantified indoor air pollution’s effect on our productivity. According to researchers, call center employees in China handled 0.35 percent fewer calls for every 10-unit increase in air pollution, The Washington Post reports. While 0.35 percent might not seem like a sizeable drop, it translates to billions of dollars in lost productivity when spread across China’s sprawling service sector.

Kickin’ Around

We love major sporting events like the Olympics, but new data says they might be producing excessive amounts of unhealthy air. During this month’s Copa America soccer tournament, Santiago, Chile recorded spikes in air pollution on days when the country played a match, The New York Times reports. Officials believe the uptick is due to game-day increases in barbecues, wood-burning for cooking, and traffic.

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