Tag: UK

London Reaches Legal Air Pollution Limit Just One Month Into The New Year

London has now reached its annual air pollution limit less than a month into the new year.

European Union rules – and UK law – state that monitoring stations are allowed to exceed hourly limits of 200 micro-grams of NO2 [nitrogen dioxide] per cubic meter of air just 18 times in a year.

Today, Brixton Road in Lambeth recorded its 18th breach marking the official limit for the entire year.

This is actually a significant improvement on previous years. Last year London broke the limit for the year in just five days while the capital as a whole has consistently broken its own limits on air quality for the last five years.

To try and tackle the air pollution crisis that’s currently facing the capital, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has introduced a number of tough new measures including the T-charge which charges the most polluting types of car that wish to drive through the city.

Other actions include introducing new greener buses on routes that are classed as particularly dangerous air pollution hotspots including Putney.

This has reportedly led to a 90% drop in the harmful emissions since their introduction. Throughout 2016 Putney high street broke the EU limit a shocking 1,600 times.

World Health Organisation figures from 2016 reveal that a staggering 92% of the world’s population are living in areas that exceed its own guidelines on air quality.

Environmental law firm ClientEarth took the UK government to the High Court last week for the third time over illegal air pollution in the country.

“But it’s still only a month into 2018 and London has breached limits for the whole year, which shows there’s much more to do. Londoners are still breathing filthy air on a daily basis.”

“Ministers have to get a grip and show they’re serious about protecting our health by committing to real action to tackle our toxic air.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Jeremy Hunt Launches Opt-Out Organ Donation Plans In England

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is to launch plans for an opt-out system of organ donation, asking people to overcome their “fatal reluctance” to discuss the issue with family and friends.

Under the plans, everybody in England would be presumed to be happy to donate their organs on their death, unless they have signed up to a register stating that they do not want that to happen.

In practice, however, it is unlikely that organs would be taken against the wishes of the family.

The government’s ambition to change the NHS organ donation programme was announced by Theresa May in her Conservative party conference speech in October.

Last year, she said, “500 people died because a suitable organ was not available. And there are 6,500 on the transplant list today.”

NHS Blood and Transplant’s figures show that 1,100 families in the UK decided not to allow organ donation because they were unsure, or did not know whether their relatives would have wanted to donate an organ or not.

The consultation will ask three questions: how much say should families have in their deceased relative’s decision to donate their organs?

When would exemptions to “opt-out” be needed, and what safeguards will be necessary? How might a new system affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith?

There are particular shortages of organs for people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Only about 6% of donors are black or Asian, although those groups make up about 10% of the population.

Orin Lewis, chief executive of the Afro-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust and co-chair of the National BAME Transplant Alliance, said: “As a parent of a young man who sadly passed away from multiple organ failure, I gladly welcome the prime minister’s decision to instigate a much-needed public consultation on the relative positive and negative merits of England having an opt-out donation policy.

There is still debate over how well an opt-out system works. Spain is often hailed as a success story and has a good supply of organs.

However, the opt-out was introduced at the same time as big investments in the transplant programme, and in particular the appointment of transplant coordinators who instigate conversations with the family of a dying patient.

If families refuse, their wishes are always respected.

Wales launched an opt-out system in December 2015 and the following June it was announced that it had already been a success.

Half the 60 organs transplanted in the six months came from people whose consent had been presumed.

But a recent year-on-year comparison showed little difference, with 101 donors under the old system and 104 under presumed consent.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

The Robot Companions For The Elderly Mothers

Care homes plan to use robots to interact with the elderly – raising fears they could become a cheap replacement for staff. A £15,000 robot is to patrol care homes and seek out elderly residents in Southend to talk to.

And a separate British trial starting this month will use robots to bolster staff at homes in the UK, Poland and Greece. It is hoped that they will eventually be able to monitor pulses and signs of illness in order to alert staff.

ut critics warned that machines should not replace human interaction – and called for funds to be spent on the care crisis instead as the number of older Britons increases.

Lesley Salter, the Southend councillor in charge of care, said the robot called Pepper was “cute, kind, engaging and learning all the time“.

She said: “We strongly believe that Pepper can have a positive impact on social care.” Pepper, which is 4ft tall and gets around on three wheels, will not be used for one-to-one personal care in Southend.

Phil Webster, of the council, said he was developing a memory game for older people involving Pepper.

The robot has cameras with shape-recognition software, as well as four microphones, which allow it to decipher voice tones and expressions in order to determine if people are happy.

Mr Webster said: “In a residential home he could patrol around and seek out people to talk to.”

He could go up to someone of his own volition and… send an email back saying,I spent some time with Henry. He says he’s happy but he looks sad. And you could gain more knowledge about the service users.

But Matthew Egan, of the Unison union, said: ‘A smile or a hug from a machine is going to be small comfort to anyone feeling sad and alone.

Buying robots might be cheaper than training and employing experienced staff, but they’re essentially sticking plasters masking a much bigger problem.

As we all live longer, the one million extra care workers needed to look after us all will only materialise when the government provides the funding the system urgently needs.

The other trial, by Lincoln University, will last about four months.

Lincoln care home resident Jean Clark, 86, who has been introduced to the robot, said: “The most important thing is health – it will be able to detect the health of the person and maybe communicate that information to a doctor.”

My family don’t live in Lincoln so anything that can help me and my disabled husband is fantastic.

In Japan, a bear-shaped robot is being used to lift people out of beds and into chairs. Disability charity Scope called for more funding rather than “pipe dreams of robot carers“.

Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: “There’s a lot to be said for making smarter use of technology to help people manage health conditions, stay independent for longer and improve the efficiency of back office functions.

However, technology should only be introduced in situations where it delivers real benefits. When it comes to caring for older people there is no substitute for the human touch.

Other Pepper models, made by Japanese firm Softbank, are being used to welcome bank customers and take patients to hospital departments.

It can change its eye colour and the tone of its voice to match the mood of the person it is speaking to. It can also interact through touch sensors.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Europe Union Data Protection Regulation Is Giving Citizens Right To Be Forgotten Online

The EU adopted new legislation on data protection on Thursday that could give people more control over their personal information including the right to be forgotten online.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed on April 14 in Strasbourg after more than four years of negotiations.

It aims to give citizens back control over their data. It also means companies could face huge fines for breaching the new law.

The regulation is to replace the EU data protection directive which dates from 1995, when the internet was still in its infancy.

It intends to protect consumers and improve law for businesses in a digitized word of smart phones, social media, internet banking and global transfers.

Under the new law, companies will now have to take the issue of data protection much more seriously while the rights of individuals will be improved in the new digital age.

Companies that do not comply with the strict new requirement will face fines of up to 4 per cent of their global revenue for the previous year, or €20 million (£15.8m) depending on which is greater.

In the UK, the maximum current penalty stands at about £500,000, according to Steven Lorber, a consultant partner at Lewis Silkin law firm, who specializes in data protection.

Businesses will have to appoint a special data protection officer if they are handling significant amount of sensitive data or monitoring the behaviour of many consumers.

Under the new legislation firms must keep track of personal data in auditable ways and provide breach notification within 72 hours.

The new rules will essentially give individuals greater control over their personal data. Among other things, you will have the right to: “Be forgotten”.

This means that when an individual will no longer want his data to be processed, provided there are no legitimate reasons for retaining it, he can ask his company to erase it.

This extends to internet companies storing our data, so someone could now technically ask Facebook to erase its profile along with all the data that it has gathered while you were using it.

“Be notified”: Companies must notify individuals earlier and in a much more comprehensive manner if they process their data.

“Switch one’s personal data to another service provider”: Under the new rules, any person will have the right to “data portability” to make it easier for individuals to switch their personal data between service provider.

Any individual who uses the web, has a social network account or email address.

Managers, heads of IT and any other staff responsible for data protection within a company should pay attention.

More importantly, the rule applies to all companies conducting business in Europe regardless of where the companies are based.

This means a single set of rule will replace the current patchwork of national laws, making clearer both for businesses and consumers.

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Pass it on: New Scientist