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Blog 26 March 2024

Roundup: Air quality news March 2024

From the co-benefits of decarbonisation to schools with unsafe levels of air pollution, here’s your roundup of the latest air quality news.

Sharing knowledge and learning is crucial to strengthening the clean air movement. Here we share the latest news articles, research, opinions and efforts to tackle air pollution around the world.

EU air quality has improved in the last 20 years, but there’s still a long way to go

Despite significant improvements in the last 20 years, air quality in Europe still fails to meet WHO guidelines. Acute health impacts persist, with over 80% of the population still exposed to unhealthy levels of PM2.5 which is linked to heart disease and stroke.

10 million Thais seek medical assistance for air pollution

Over 10 million in people in Thailand are seeking treatment for air pollution related health conditions, such as lung cancer, asthma, bronchitis and heart disease. The number of people seeking medical treatment has increased from 1.3 million at the beginning of the year to 1.6 million.

Only 7 countries are meeting WHO air quality standards

IQAir surveyed 134 regions and revealed that only 7 countries meet WHO air quality standards. Drawing on data from over 30,000 monitoring stations, the report connects declining air quality to wildfires and a rebound in economic activity. “Even in wealthy and fast-developing countries, progress in cutting air pollution is under threat. Canada, long considered as having some of the cleanest air in the western world, became the worst for PM2.5 last year due to record wildfires that ravaged the country, sending toxic smoke spewing across the country and into the US”, Oliver Milman reports for the Guardian. 

Nearly nine in 10 planned new school sites exceed WHO air pollution limits

Evelina London Hospital and Kings College London warn that thousands of children will experience “alarmingly poor” air quality as every new school in England is being built in an area with unsafe levels of air pollution. The study calls for mandating air quality assessments at the proposal and planning stage of any new school building, and for national guidance and legislation to be updated.

Co-benefits of decarbonisation for air quality and public health 

New research suggests that decarbonisation could lead to significant reductions in deaths associated with global PM2.5 exposure, particularly in Asia by the mid-century. While all income groups were found to benefit from improved air quality through a combination of decarbonisation and air pollution controls, the study predicts that the low-income population will experience the smallest health benefits. With low-income groups expected to face air pollution levels three times the WHO standards, the study stresses the need to make future climate change mitigation and air quality control measures better targeted towards lower-income regions.

Air pollution neglected and underfunded, warn health campaigners

Health campaigners are voicing concerns that air pollution is neglected, underfunded and not recognised as a global health emergency, Rebecca Root reports for the Guardian. “Nobody is saying stop funding work on malaria and tuberculosis and fund work on air pollution instead, but what we are saying is that if you address air pollution, you’re going to reduce multiple non-communicable diseases,” commented Sean Maguire, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Clean Air Fund.

Air pollution increases risk of children developing asthma

New research connects socioeconomic disadvantages and air pollution to increased risk of asthma in children. Published in JAMA Network, the study found that exposure to PM2.5 or NO2 during the first three years of life increased a child’s odds of developing asthma by early or middle childhood.

London ranked as city most exposed to air pollution from aviation

The UK’s capital has been ranked as the city most affected by air pollution from aviation in a new global study, tracking the world’s largest airports. The air pollution from planes taking off and landing at six of airports in London equates to the equivalent of 3.23m cars’ worth of harmful nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions every year.

Communities of colour disproportionately impacted by air pollution

According to a new study by Georgia State University, minority communities face nearly 8 times higher rates of pediatric asthma and 1.3 times higher risk of dying prematurely from exposure to pollutants. “This study highlights the need for place-based policies that allocate resources and target action into historically-overburdened communities in the United States”, said Gaige Kerr, a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Trees can significantly reduce highway air pollution

A new study by Georgia State University has revealed that trees significantly reduce air pollution from motorised vehicles along busy highways in Atlanta, US. Researchers conducted the study over three months at five sites along metro Atlanta interstates and highways, and discovered a 37% reduction in soot and 7% reduction in ultrafine particulate matter pollution.

See more

The State of Global Air Quality Funding 2023

The only global analysis of funding from international development donors to tackle air pollution. We highlight trends and gaps in international aid and public climate finance spending from 2015 to 2021. We also give recommendations for governments, bilateral donors and multilateral development banks to tackle dirty air and climate change together.

Society and air pollution

The impact of air pollution is unequal. The most disadvantaged communities tend to bear the brunt of polluted air. They’re often the least responsible for dirty emissions but the most exposed in their daily lives.