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News 23 January 2024

Roundup: Air quality news January 2024

From investor action to heat pumps in Polish homes, here’s your roundup of the latest news, research and action to tackle air pollution.

Air pollution is associated with an estimated 8.3 million premature deaths every year (BMJ). Sharing evidence and learning is crucial to strengthening the clean air movement. Here, we explore the latest news, articles and efforts to tackle air pollution around the world.

Poland’s Clean Household Energy Initiative could save over 21,000 deaths each year

Poland’s policy to replace 50% of its coal and wood household furnaces with electric heat pumps or natural gas could potentially save 21,247 lives annually by 2030, the European Clean Air Centre’s assessment reveals. The policy aims to align with new EU air quality standards for particulate matter pollution, aiming to reduce the country’s air pollution levels.

Investor action crucial for improving air quality

The health effects of air pollution cost the global economy at least US$8.1 trillion per year, through worker absence, lower productivity and other issues. Investors can play a key role through where they invest capital, and stewarding companies towards reducing air pollution and driving corporate transparency. Share Action’s new guide outlines practical steps for companies and investors to protect people and the economy.

Air pollution linked to increased sedentary time

Exposure to air pollution makes people more likely to sit or lie down and discourages physical activity, new research from the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre reveals. Researchers found that breathing polluted air was associated with a further 22 minutes of sedentary behaviour each day.

Wildfire smoke and exhaust fumes are triggering spikes in eczema

A dermatologist in Boston, US, noticed a surge in hospital visits for atopic dermatitis following a series of wildfires. Led by Shadi Kourosh, Director of Community Health – Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital, the study analysed Boston’s airborne particulate matter and carbon monoxide levels using data from the US Environmental Protection Agency and patient records from the Mass General Brigham hospital system.

Glasgow to monitor air pollution around schools, hospitals and care homes

Glasgow’s council plans to undertake a major review of the city’s air quality, with a particular focus on schools, hospitals and care homes. Other actions include lowering emissions of council vehicles, implementing a local heat and energy efficiency strategy, and supporting cycling and walking routes.

Growing evidence of link between air pollution link and declining brain health

A new study drawing on data from 413,000 people adds to mounting evidence linking air pollution with higher incidence of dementia and stroke. “These new findings help to clarify how air pollution plays an important role in the dynamic transitions of stroke and dementia, even at concentrations below the UK’s current air quality standards,” explained Professor Frank Kelly, Imperial College London, who was part of the study team.

Washington residents impacted by poor air quality are sicker and die younger

A new report from the Washington Department of Ecology found that residents in parts of Washington disproportionately impacted by poor air quality are sicker and die younger on average compared with the rest of the state. Researchers also found older adults in these communities are twice as likely to die from health conditions linked to breathing fine particles compared to the rest of the state.  

Less than 0.1% of philanthropic funding went to air quality projects

Our latest report reveals that philanthropic foundation funding for clean air projects has increased year-on-year from 2015-22. But funding for air quality is still too low, accounting for less than 0.1% of total philanthropic funding globally. Foundations can advance climate action, health and social justice through smarter investments.

Children more susceptible to lung conditions from air pollution

A University of Dundee study found that increased air pollution leads to higher hospital admissions for children with lung conditions, particularly those under 16. Examining 35,000 cases over 14 years in Tayside, Scotland, the research found that children may be more susceptible to lower pollution levels than adults, strengthening the case for low emission zones as a potential solution.

Growing momentum on electrifying motorbike taxis in Kenya

Reporting on Kenya’s ‘budding electric vehicle revolution’, the BBC captured the story of 27-year old motorbike taxi driver, Moses Lugalia, who swapped his petrol bike for an electric one. “Because of the cost of petrol, I am able to save a lot more using my electric bike… Electric is the future in Kenya,” Mr Lugalia reported. This follows the launch of Kenya’s national e-mobility programme last September by President William Ruto.

Air pollution linked to poor leadership

A new paper reveals a connection between air pollution and poor leadership, suggesting that exposure to toxic air may lead to more abusive behaviour from leaders at work. Published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the study emphasises the importance of recognising the potential harm of toxic air on both individual and team well-being, even if not directly breathed in on the job.

See more

Philanthropic Foundation Funding for Clean Air: Advancing climate action, health and social justice

An analysis of funding from philanthropic foundations to tackle air pollution between 2015 and 2022. We identify funding trends, gaps and opportunities for philanthropies to maximise the benefits of their investments.

Wildfires, climate change and air pollution: a vicious cycle

Wildfires are drastically increasing and wreaking more havoc on people and environment across borders. Tackling this urgent global challenge requires an interdisciplinary approach.