The World Health Organization has released new air quality guidelines (the first since 2005) which show that most people live in areas with poor air quality for one or more pollutants.
The new standards are the result of an enormous scietific review which has taken place over the last few years. The headline changes can be seen in Table 1 below
I’m pleased to say I had a small part in the process attending a couple of international meetings to discuss and report on a systematic review that was carried out for WHO namely:
Fairburn, J.; Schüle, S.A.; Dreger, S.; Karla Hilz, L.; Bolte, G. Social Inequalities in Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution: A Systematic Review in the WHO European Region. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2019, 16, 3127. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16173127
The UK along with many other European countries had already been struggling to meet air quality standards agreed years ago with actions by the Commission against 18 member states.Of particular note are the new standards set for Nitrogen oxides and Particulates (PM2.5) which will be especially challenging.
A large number of research programmes are examining ways to deal with this issue including Transitions Network (I chair the Advisory Board of this project), BioAirNet, Breathing City, CleanAirV, HEICCAM, and TAPAS.
The EU has already stated that they will be placing greater empahsis on the WHO standards and have recently opened a consultation on cleaner air.
Good practice exists particularly for some cities in continental Europe – the problem in the UK has long been a lack of political will to deal with the problem BUT radical measures will be needed to get the UK anywhere near to these standards and so reduce the 40,000 premature deaths due to air pollution which happen in the UK every year.
WHO Guidelines for air quality 2021
You can read about some of my recent work with the World Health Organization here