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Air Pollution Science

5 Infographics that Help Explain Air Pollution: Our Top Picks

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By Amalia Helen on March, 9 2021
Air pollution infographic

Air quality is a complicated topic to understand, so we’re big fans of anything that helps to communicate the impact and nature of this complex subject in a powerful and visual way. Whether you’re looking for impactful shareable content, or you’re planning to create your own infographic on this subject, here are some of our favorites for inspiration:

Infographic #1) How the US AQI Works: Visual Capital

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Why We Love this Infographic

We know first hand how complicated the topic of AQIs can be; we frequently get questions about the differences between indexes and what they mean. For this reason, we thought it was a great idea to explain the USA AQI in an easy visual way. The infographic starts by explaining some of the common gases and particle sources in the air we breathe, and explains that it is the concentrations of these pollutants which dictates air quality - then moves on to illustrate how the US AQI scale of 0-500 is constructed.

The infographic then visualizes the 6 air quality categories comprising the US AQI in terms of health impact, with real world examples of AQI scores taken from January 2020 to highlight the range of geographical differences at any one time.

Infographic #2) PM2.5 - in New York City: NYC Department of Health

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Why We Love this Infographic

The NYC Department of Health created this highly engaging interactive infographic to raise awareness of the public health impact of traffic emissions  in New York City, as detailed in this report, As an awareness initiative, it was a great idea to display the impact of their findings in this engaging and interactive way, which is far easier to engage with than a scientific-led academic report.

Starting off with a general introduction of PM2.5, what it is and the common sources for this pollutant in New York City, more information reveals itself to the user as they scroll down: The health impacts of PM2.5, the number of deaths attributed to PM2.5 in NYC each year and further interactivity, where users can choose to visualize how traffic pollution varies in different parts of the city. 

Infographic #3) Air Pollution & Cardiovascular Disease by the World Heart Federation  

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Why We Love this Infographic

As air quality relates to our breathing, many of us instinctively understand the risk to respiratory disease sufferers such as those with COPD and asthma, however a higher proportion of deaths linked to long-term air pollution exposure may actually occur among those at risk from heart disease and strokes. (See here). We think it’s great the World Heart Federation is calling attention to this issue.

The infographic starts by detailing the huge impact of air-pollution related deaths for heart-disease sufferers before exploring in more detail what air pollution actually does to the heart and the common sources of pollution indoors and outdoors. The infographic ends with practical guidance for the public - including monitoring the air pollution levels and avoiding highly polluted areas.

Infographic #4) Penetration of Particles Into the Body: See the Air

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Why We Love this Infographic

We thought this simple infographic from our friend Sotirios at See the Air was an ingenious idea. Without even needing to scroll, viewers immediately understand the categories of Particulate Matter, the differences between them, real world examples for each, and the respiratory health impacts of different size particles. In particular, PM1 and PM0.1 are lesser known types; by reminding viewers that viruses are also in essence a type of particle, Sotirios also reasserts the importance of air quality awareness in the time of COVID-19.

Infographic #5) World’s Most Polluted Cities: New York Times

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Why We Love this Infographic

It’s hard to understand the reality of air pollution through numbers alone, it’s also hard sometimes to understand the true scale of difference when you see ‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy air’. Focusing on particulate pollution, this New York Times visualization runs through some of the most polluted cities according to their data, then adds personal meaning to the information by automatically comparing the reader’s own location (presumably based on IP location). 

This New York Times article provides a wealth of educational information in terms of both the countries it speaks about and the sources of particulate matter across the globe (wildfires, industrial activity and more). By making all this information interactive and personally relevant, it really doesn’t feel like so much - you’ll find yourself hooked.

Got an infographic you think we should add? Let us know in the comments!

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