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Citizen Science App to Track UK Allergy Sufferers

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British allergy sufferers are to turn citizen scientists in a bid to decode the poorly understood world of seasonal allergies thanks to a free new app.

The app – called #BritainBreathing – a collaboration between the Royal Society of Biology, the British Society for Immunology, and The University of Manchester, aims to help the one in four people in the UK who suffer from seasonal allergies like hay fever and asthma.

Experts say the triggers are often poorly understood and little is known about why the incidence of these allergies is increasing.

#BritainBreathing is the first nationwide project aiming to better understand where and when allergy symptoms are occurring, what exacerbates them and why they’re on the rise. It launches on Android today.

By using the #BritainBreathing app, sufferers will be able to track allergy symptoms they record about their eyes, nose and breathing, over time. This might help people to start thinking about what might be triggering their allergies.

Dr Sheena Cruickshank, from The University of Manchester and British Society for Immunology, said:
“Seasonal allergies are increasing in the West but we don’t know what is driving this. It could be pollution, super pollens, increased cleanliness, or a combination of factors. What has been missing to answer this question is wide scale human data about what is really happening. Because detailed information on pollen and pollution is available, we want to map Britain Breathing data onto that and perhaps come closer to understanding what really drives allergies, on both an individual and a national level.”

The #BritainBreathing app will allow the public to record their allergy symptoms in a simple and straightforward way and then anonymously share that data with researchers. This large open data set, which will also capture information on timing and location, can then be combined with other publicly available data, such as weather, pollen or pollution statistics, to build a better understanding of allergies and their triggers. From these data, scientists can build a clearer picture of the pattern and frequency of allergy incidence across the UK.

The researchers will also create up-to-date visualisations of the national crowd data, for example maps of where particular allergy symptoms are most frequently reported on any given day, so that users can compare their experience to others in their region and beyond.

Jon Kudlick, director of communications at the Royal Society of Biology said:
“This is a ground breaking project as it will give users the chance to record and monitor the frequency of their own allergy symptoms, as well as then adding their experiences to the wider data set. Does air pollution add to the misery of those suffering with hay fever? Are people having more asthmatic symptoms in Manchester than in London, and if so why? These are the kind of questions we hope to help answer.”

“This is the Society’s fourth citizen science project. The Starling Survey, Flying Ant Survey and House Spider Survey have received tens of thousands of records over four years, and shown how effective people power can be in helping researchers to find answers to difficult questions.”

Find out more on the #BritainBreathing website: www.britainbreathing.org
Follow the project on Twitter: @BritBreathing

Environment

Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations

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green housing techniques

Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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Environment

How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions

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auto industry to clean air pollution

Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.

Progress

The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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