Responding to the recent UN resolution on the right to a healthy environment, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with Swiss technology company IQAir, has made significant updates to the world’s largest air quality data platform. The big data platform, first launched in February 2020, now identifies which age groups are exposed to bad air at any given hour, in a country.
The update reveals the dynamic nature of air pollution, while at the same time drawing attention to which national population age groups are most affected by air pollution throughout the day. It recomputes estimates every hour. For instance, in South Africa, young adults (ages 20-39) are most exposed to air pollution while in China, older adults (ages 40-59) are most exposed.
“The UN General Assembly resolution reaffirms the human right to a clean, healthy, sustainable environment. This means our environmental monitoring and information systems must move with ever greater precision. This update to the world’s largest air quality data platform will take us closer to identifying which segments of society are particularly vulnerable and can therefore help refine strategies and policies to protect people from the growing threat of air pollution,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “The imperative to act is urgent –technology and international cooperation can help accelerate efforts to reduce air pollution, especially for those most exposed to poor air quality.”
The digital platform utilizes real-time crowd sourced data from public governmental sources, citizens and researchers and artificial intelligence and satellite data to deliver easy to understand estimates of localized air quality of the past 24 hours, including air quality forecast, wind, temperature, humidity and barometric pressure readings, and now, hourly exposure to unhealthy air based on the new WHO guidelines.
It is estimated that 99 percent of the world’s population breathes air exceeding the WHO PM2.5 guideline, making air quality monitoring an important tool in combating exposure. Since UNEP and IQAir began their collaboration in 2020, the number of air quality monitors added to the platform has more than doubled from less than 10,000 in 2020 to over 25,000 stations in 2022. This increase in measurement also improves the quality of estimates the system produces. UNEP and IQAir are actively encouraging data sharing from Governmental and non-governmental contributors.
“Air pollution continues to be one of the most serious threats to human health,” said IQAir CEO Frank Hammes. “Our hope is to make the extent of global air pollution exposure tangible, engaging and inspiring people around the world to take action and to support projects that help clean the air in their communities.”
The release of the updated version of the real-time air platform comes as the world celebrates the 3rd International Day for Clean Air and blue skies on 7 September. Held under the theme The Air We Share this year, the day calls for increased international cooperation at the global, regional and country levels. It provides a platform for strengthening global solidarity as well as political momentum for action against air pollution and climate change, including the increased collection of air quality data, carrying out joint research, developing new technologies and sharing best practices.
About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
IQAir is a Swiss technology company that empowers individuals, organizations and governments to improve air quality through information, collaboration and technology solutions.
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