The three paradoxes of air quality

Air pollution is a silent killer, especially the smallest dust particles which may take years and years of chronic exposure to show their deadly effects on human health. But this is just one of the three paradoxes of air quality.

Article by: Myriam Tryjefaczka – Camfil Farr Corporate Sustainability Manager

This article was  first published by Euractiv – November 2011

Indoor air quality and pollution

The Clean Air for Europe programme was a fundamental step for evaluating the effects of ambient air pollution and developing a European policy to deal with it. It revealed that 310,000 Europeans were dying prematurely from the negative health effects of air pollution.

On average, air pollution reduces life expectancy by nine months and could cost the European community €80 billion per year. These figures could be even higher today since new Eastern European countries, known to have serious air quality problems, have joined the EU.

The report “Air Quality in Europe 2011“, published on 9 November 2011, shows that levels of SOX, NOX heavy metals and coarse particles have decreased, but PM 10 concentrations (particle matter above 10 micrometers in diameter) and ozone levels remain alarming.

As a result, 20% of the EU urban population was living in areas where the 24-hour limit value for PM 10 concentrations was exceeded in 2009. However, 80-90% of the EU urban population was also exposed to levels of PM 10 that exceeded the more stringent air quality guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The situation does not seem to be improving, reports the European Environmental Agency.

This situation points to three paradoxes about air quality.

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