Around the world members of the health community are taking the lead on clean air, gathering local health evidence, and teaching the health co-benefits of clean air to their patients, communities and policy holders promoting sustainable healthcare and health equity.
“The coroner said if it wasn’t for the illegal levels of air pollution on the South Circular - not only would Ella not have developed asthma at all, she wouldn’t have died on that fatal night when the spike in air pollution in Lewisham was at its highest.” - Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah CBE, Founder and director of The Ella Roberta Family Foundation.
Rosamund’s daughter Ella developed asthma at the age of 7 and suffered a fatal asthma attack at the age of 9. After her death, an inquest found that throughout Ella’s life, traffic-related air pollution levels had been dangerously high - nitrogen dioxide emissions exceeded both EU and national levels and particulate matter levels were above the WHO guidelines. After years of tireless campaigning by her mother, Ella is the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate.
If we continue to pollute the air this will have serious and wide-ranging consequences not just for human health but the environment and the planet as a whole.
Health: Air pollution is already a significant public health issue. And is the biggest environmental health risk of our time. Over 99 per cent of people breathe unsafe air. Exposure can lead to stroke, heart and lung diseases, cancer and more. Polluted air kills 6.7 million people per year, and 2.4 billion people are exposed to dangerous levels of household air pollution. Without regular air quality monitoring, how do people know they live or work near an air pollution hotspot? We are being exposed to harmful pollutants without our knowledge. Lack of awareness results in reduced public concern about air pollution, making it less likely that people will take action to reduce their exposure.
Our Planet: CO2 and Methane released into the air from sources like burning fossil fuels is contributing to global warming and climate change. We’ve seen how this is leading to rising temperatures – the 2023 Canadian wildfire season has been the largest, most devasting, on record, with nearly 14m hectares burned, an area larger than Greece. Air pollution is harming ecosystems and wildlife – damaging plants, reducing crop yields, and affecting aquatic life. Acid rain is harming forests, and lakes and altering the pH levels in water and soil. Lack of Monitoring means that natural habitats and loss of diversity may go unnoticed until they reach critical levels.
Economic: Healthcare costs are rising due to the treatment of pollution-related illnesses, and many working hours of productivity are lost due to people being too sick to work. Without monitoring, the true cost of air pollution in terms of healthcare expenses, and lost productivity may not be fully understood. Effective air quality management relies on data and evidence, without this policy makers struggle to make informed decisions that can control measures and failure to protect public health.
Failing to monitor air quality is resulting in a whole range of negative consequences that affect us all and have a huge impact on the environment.
This International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, we call upon everyone, from governments and corporations to civil society and individuals to come