With the current warm weather and levels of ambient air pollution creeping back up post COVID-19, it is also a timely reminder of the importance of what is largely an invisible problem.
It is also six months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) updated their “Global Air Quality Guidelines” – the first in 16 years, and recognising:
“Each year, there are 7 million premature deaths as a result of air pollution exposure. Unfortunately, low and middle-income countries are at an increased risk, as air pollution levels continue to increase exponentially. This is largely due to wide-scale urbanisation and economic development, both of which almost exclusively rely on burning fossil fuels.”
This is supported on their website with a number of fast facts, including:
- “In 2019, the majority of the world’s population lived in regions that did not meet the WHO's air quality guidelines.
- If the WHO’s updated air quality guidelines were met, approximately 80% of deaths caused by PM2.5 could be circumvented.”
Supporting information on Clean Air Day indicates air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK each year too. Air pollution is defined by the WHO as:
“The contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.”
Amongst the most common sources of this pollution are motor vehicles, forest fires, household fuel combustion and industrial activities. And in particular the WHO identify five pollutants of “major public health concern”, these being particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.
The new guidelines see these pollutants targeted as follows (for ground-level):
- PM10 - 15 micrograms per cubic meter annual mean, 45 micrograms per cubic meter 24-hour mean;
- Ozone - 100 micrograms per cubic meter 8-hour mean;
- Nitrogen dioxide - 10 micrograms per cubic meter annual mean, 25 micrograms per cubic meter 24-hour mean;
- Sulphur dioxide - 40 micrograms per cubic meter 24-hour mean; and
- Carbon monoxide - 7 micrograms per cubic meter 24-hour mean.
Post pandemic we’ve also seen much discussion on indoor air quality (IAQ), although with over 35 years’ worth of data to draw on, we typically demonstrate that inside air quality is almost always significantly better than that found outside, in well maintained and well managed buildings.
This does fly in the face of a lot of the rhetoric coming from several suppliers selling “solutions” for indoor air quality issues and air handling system contamination. But when the operation of the latter was seen as a control measure for COVID-19, how have things so badly changed?
The truth is for most the assumption that our indoor air quality is bad is erroneous, many people just didn’t know what it was actually like. Of course, if you want an unbiased, independent and accredited assessment of your IAQ, Assurity Consulting would be very happy to help you.
Further information on the WHO Air Quality Guidelines can be found at here.