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Blog 29 March 2023

Roundup: Air quality news March 2023

From innovative tools to capture air quality data, to ’dieselgate’ and links to long COVID, here’s the latest news from the global air quality field.

Air pollution is one of the biggest threats to human health, climate, and the environment. At Clean Air Fund, we know that sharing evidence and learning is crucial to supporting the clean air movement. Here, we explore the latest news, research and efforts to tackle air pollution across the world.

Less than 1% of the global population has safe levels of air pollution

According to a new study in Lancet Planetary Health, 99.82 % of the global land area is exposed to levels of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) that exceed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines. For more than 70% of days in 2019, daily pollution levels exceeded 15 μg/m3 – the safe threshold recommended by WHO. The highest concentrations of exposure have been traced to eastern Asia, southern Asia and northern Africa.

Cleaner air improves children’s lung capacity

A group of researchers in Stockholm found that children’s lung capacity improved as air pollution levels started declining in the early 2000s. Published in the European Respiratory Journal, the study analysed the spirometric data of 4,000 people at 8, 16 and 24 years old. Researchers compared this data with air pollution at residential addresses, discovering a 20% decrease in risk of impaired lung function in areas with improved air quality.

NASA to launch new satellite to measure air pollution

Projected to ‘revolutionise’ the way scientists measure air quality, NASA’s new satellite will observe three pollutants that are harmful to our health: nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and ozone. The satellite is called Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) and will launch in April. The TEMPO team plan to conduct air quality measurements over three major US cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City.

New open-source tool lets people check air quality, cheaply

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Senseable City Lab created a mobile pollution detector. Named ‘Flatburn’, the tool can be made by 3D printing or ordering low-cost materials. The research teams plans to make all the information about how to build and use it publicly available. “The goal is for community groups or individual citizens anywhere to be able to measure local air pollution, identify its sources, and, ideally, create feedback loops with officials and stakeholders to create cleaner conditions,” explains Carlo Ratti, Director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab.

Air pollution linked to long COVID

Young adults living in highly polluted areas have been associated with long COVID symptoms, compared to those living in areas with lower pollution. The study was published in Lancet Regional Health Europe and draws on data from the ongoing study of a birth cohort in Stockholm, Sweden. Researchers found that exposure to relatively high levels of pollution – particularly particle air pollution from traffic – increased their chance of having long COVID by 28%.

Dieselgate: 13 million polluting cars still on the roads in Europe

A new report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) reveals that 13 million diesel cars producing “extreme” levels of toxic air pollution are still on the roads in the EU and the UK. A further 6 million diesels have “suspicious” levels of emissions, indicating the likely use of a prohibited defeat device.

Air pollution hinders mating of fruit flies

Polluted air is making it difficult for female fruit flies to easily recognise a male’s scent, hindering the mating process. A study has found that exposure to higher ozone levels disrupts the male’s ability to emit fewer pheromones, raising alarm over a potential risk of population decline.

Chiang Mai tops the list of cities with worst air quality

Out of the 100 cities surveyed, IQAir identified Chiang Mai as the worst city in the world for air quality in a live ranking. Tourists have been warned to avoid visiting the city and doctors are growing increasingly concerned for the health of inhabitants. Local media footage in the northern Chiang Raid province revealed thick yellow dust in the air last Monday, as the PM2.5 reached 76.3 times the WHO standards.

Revealed: Top 10 African countries with highest levels of air pollution

The Business Insider Africa has published a list of Africa countries with the high air pollution levels, based on data from IQAir. Out of 19 African countries, the most polluted countries include Chad, Burkina Faso and Egypt.

US neighbourhoods with more people of colour suffer worse air pollution

A new interactive map by the Guardian reveals detailed air quality data for US neighbourhoods. The Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions (CACES) – a multi-university team of researchers – revealed that air pollution is worse in areas with higher shares of people of colour. The analysis bypassed the challenge of a lack of air quality monitors by using satellite, land use and other data to predict pollution levels in neighbourhoods.

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