Clean air - a universal human right

Clean air – a universal human right

Air pollution was once celebrated as a smell of
prosperity but the filthy air is now seen as a global disgrace. But a change in
mind set about air does little to actually clean it. 

 

More than four million people still die each year          
from exposure to polluted outside air — a situation perpetuated by urbanization
and regulatory impotence. 

 

Nine out of ten people live in places where air
pollution exceeds WHO guidelines. While actions are underway in many countries,
fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide from vehicular traffic, energy
production, industry and heating remain a serious public-health risk in most
built-up areas.
Hotspots are congested urban areas in low- and
middle-income countries such as India, Nigeria and China. In Europe, in spite
of action underway in many countries to reduce pollution, most have made little
or no progress over the last decade in reducing particulate matter pollution or
in reducing nitrogen dioxide levels. Although emissions of air pollutants have
been decreasing overall, most EU member states still do not fully comply with
stringent EU air-quality standards set up in 2008.
 Effectively tackling the causes and effects of
air pollution requires a more joined-up approach. Air-quality regulations in
the EU, for example, must be taken into account more fully when setting
policies on climate, transport, enterprise, trade and innovation. 
Science, too, can do more to mitigate health
risks from poor air quality. It is important to unpick how different types and
levels of pollution affect human health. The epidemiological research needed to
do that requires more-consistent methodologies to monitor and report pollution
and human exposure to it.
Scientists can also help to develop and provide
well-tested modelling tools that local authorities can use to improve
assessments of their specific circumstances, and to design action plans. 
The results of this environmental science should
be shared with countries worldwide. About half of city dwellers in developed
nations are exposed to air that does not meet WHO guidelines. In cities of more
than 100,000 people in the developing world, that figure rises to include
almost everybody (97%). India alone has nine of the world’s ten most-polluted
cities. 
Air is a shared resource. Research and tools to
make it safe to breathe should be shared as well. (Nature)