How Can We Solve the Air Pollution Issue?

We all have different attitudes regarding the air pollution issue. Some people are simply not a single bit troubled by the quality of the air they breathe, unaware of the impact it can have on their health, while other do have concerns, but sadly often feel powerless to deal with the issue. Only a small minority is aware, knowledgeable, and actively acting to reduce its exposure and contribution.

Hopefully (in our opinion), the number of articles, awareness campaigns and global actions are making air quality a fact difficult, if not impossible, to ignore. This growing coverage stems from a painful truth: 92% of us live in dangerously polluted areas.

The Hard Facts (according to the WHO)

  • Air pollution is responsible for 1 in 9 deaths worldwide
  • 3 Million premature deaths each year are caused by outdoor air pollution
    4.3 Million premature deaths annually are the result of indoor air pollution
    As a comparison, there was 1.25 million deaths from road traffic in 2013
  • Over 80% of cities exceed the WHO’s acceptable air quality standards
  • Illnesses associated with air pollution pose a huge health burden for cities

This is the time to sit up and take notice. The WHO along with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) have created a monumental campaign, BreatheLife, to bring awareness to the dangers of air pollution, and help break down some actionable steps that we can all take to solve this air pollution issue.

BreatheLife’s goal is to promote a variety of realistic solutions for municipalities, the health sector, and for individuals.

Ideas for Cities

There are several ways that cities can contribute to clean air, and they are outlined in detail in the BreatheLife website. Here are some of main areas:

  • Waste management solutions

Landfill gas recovery, the process of trapping harmful gases to prevent them from entering the atmosphere, is one of many impactful strategies.

  • Transport

Creating more walking and cycling paths, raising vehicle emissions standards, help reduce car traffic so that air quality can increase.

  • Industry

New brick kilns have been developed to reduce black carbon pollutants that are toxic to the lungs.

  • Food and Agriculture

Healthier food production, combined and improved manure management participate in reducing methane emissions.

  • Air Monitoring

Before, during and after the implementation of policies aiming at improving air quality, cities need an interface with robust data to prepare, adjust and measure their actions.

Steps in Progress or Completed in Various Cities

  • Oslo plans to tax their most congested highway on days with heavy air pollution. This is expected to reduce car traffic by 27%.
  • Bangladesh is using a new brick kiln technology, developed in Germany, to reduce the amount of coal by half during brick production
  • Santiago’s water treatment plants are harvesting methane emissions during wastewater treatment. The end result is natural gas or electricity.
  • Paris, in its initiative “Reinventons nos places” (let’s reinvent our squares), is piloting an air quality experiment, along with noise pollution, space dynamics, and more, to understand and share pollution’s impact on residents, and adapt future urban planning for a better quality of life.

Health Sector Solutions

The health sector has an important role to play in finding a solution to the air pollution issue and must set the bar high. The WHO defines three categories of actions:

  • education & advocacy
  • sustainable facilities
  • service delivery

Some intricate solutions for the health sector are listed here.

Beyond the health sector, most industries can actually take actions to fight air pollution, and benefit from those actions.
Read our use cases to learn more, or take a look at our business section on our website

Individual Actions for the Air Pollution Issue

One great aspect of this campaign includes guidance on how individuals can also make a difference. BreatheLife explains the two main paths (with a third advocacy step) that each and every one of us can take:

Reduce your contribution to air pollution

There are many ways to do your part such as managing waste, using public transportation, and purchasing home heating systems and stoves that provide a cleaner environment with reduced pollutants. You can also make an impact by turning off lights that are not in use and buying LED bulbs to reduce energy consumption.

Minimize your exposure

To avoid air pollution, the most important factor is to stay alert and informed. If you check your daily air quality reports you can avoid being outside during the times when pollutants are at their highest. You can also avoid high-traffic areas where car emissions add to already polluted air, and as a final resort you can wear a mask to reduce your exposure.

To go further, read our post on what individuals can do against air pollution here

Encourage your city leaders

The BreatheLife campaign is offering you the chance to have your air pollution concerns heard at a global meeting of mayors in December if you fill out this form on their site.

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