Why clean air is important for health productivity and for the economy

08Sep 2020
Editor
The Guardian
Why clean air is important for health productivity and for the economy

​​​​​​​Air pollution is the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials. There are different types of air pollutants, such as gases (such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide,-

-methane and chlorofluorocarbons), particulates (both organic and inorganic), and biological molecules.  

Air pollution may cause diseases, allergies and even death to humans; it may also cause harm to other living organisms such as animals and food crops, and may damage the natural or built environment. Both human activity and natural processes can generate air pollution.

Air pollution is a significant risk factor for a number of pollution-related diseases, including respiratory infections, heart disease, COPD, stroke and lung cancer.  The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the body's respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, and the individual's health status and genetics. Indoor air pollution and poor urban air quality are listed as two of the world's worst toxic pollution problems in the 2008 Blacksmith Institute World's Worst Polluted Places report. Outdoor air pollution alone causes 2.1  to 4.21 million deaths annually. Overall, air pollution causes the deaths of around 7 million people worldwide each year, and is the world's largest single environmental health risk.  

Productivity losses and degraded quality of life caused by air pollution are estimated to cost the world economy $5 trillion per year. Various pollution control technologies and strategies are available to reduce air pollution.

The very first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies was held  last Sunday. The Day aims to raise public awareness at all levels individual, community, corporate and government that clean air is important for health, productivity, the economy and the environment; demonstrate the close link of air quality to other environmental and developmental challenges such as  most and foremost climate change and the global Sustainable Development Goals; promote and facilitate solutions that improve air quality by sharing actionable knowledge best practices, innovations, and success stories and bring together diverse international actors working on this topic to form a strategic alliance to gain momentum for concerted national, regional and international approaches for effective air quality management.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution to hold an International Day of Clean Air for blue skies on December 19, 2019, during its 74th session and invited the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to facilitate the observance of the International Day, in collaboration with other relevant organisations. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) worked with UNEP and the Republic of Korea to advocate for the day in the lead up to the decision.

WHO is working with BreatheLife partners to coordinate activities for the day.

The first celebration set a precedent for an important and exciting new international day for clean air to be celebrated annually.

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