Recent data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that 99% of the global population is breathing poor-quality air. This is air that exceeds WHO’s PM2.5 air-quality limits and is full of particles that penetrate into the lungs, enter the veins and arteries, and cause health problems.
This new data comes six months after WHO tightened its Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) in an attempt to save millions of lives from air pollution. This data draws from a growing number of cities, towns, and villages from across the globe, including over 6,000 municipalities.
As a result of the latest data, the United Nations (UN) health agency has called for more action to reduce fossil-fuel use – a central source of air pollution – and transition to renewable energy alternatives.
What causes high levels of air pollution?
The WHO quality database compiles data on PM10 (particulate matter of a diameter equal to or smaller than 10 micrometres), PM2.5 (particulate matter equal to or smaller than 2.5 micrometres), and measurements of annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
PM10 and PM2.5
Often catalogued as ‘floating dust’, particulate matter is classified by its aerodynamic diameter and is made up of numerous inorganic ions, including nitrate, sulphate, and ammonium, as well as seal salt, soil dust, and organic matter. PM10 and PM2.5 have a number of sources, including power plants, agriculture, and transportation, and can cause a number of serious health issues, by penetrating the lungs and entering the bloodstream.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is a gaseous air pollutant composed of nitrogen and oxygen. Man-made NO2 sources include vehicles, industrial emissions, construction, and gardening equipment – essentially any action that burns fossil fuels – and are more prevalent in large urban areas. The pollutant has been linked to a variety of health issues, including reduced lung function, increased asthma attacks, cough and wheezing, and a greater likelihood of hospital admissions.
How can we help?
The most suggested solution to air pollution is to move away from fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy, including wind, solar and geothermal energy. As a result of the latest WHO data, the United Nations (UN) health agency has called for more action on reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and increasing the use of renewable energy alternatives.
Creating more energy-efficient buildings will also help reduce the need for fossil fuels. From planning to occupancy, Green Building aims to establish environmentally responsible and resource-efficient structures, that not only reduce negative impacts on the environment, by using less water, energy, or natural resources, but also have a positive impact by generating their own energy or increasing biodiversity.
Researchers also suggest that encouraging behaviour change could reduce both the concentrations of air pollution and public exposure. Measures include driving and parking restrictions, low emission zones or clean air zones, and public communication, such as social marketing and education campaigns.
Stroma Built Environment provides Air Quality Assessments for residential and commercial projects to determine air quality risks at the early stages of development. We're supporting clients to meet air quality mitigation and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) targets, as well as other environmental regulations. Get in touch for more information or to book an assessment:
Call: 01924 237 500