The importance of air quality on our health

The importance of air quality on our health

We have talked in other posts about the determinants of health and how important it is to be aware of the impact that environmental factors and lifestyle have on our wellbeing. Something that we at HORUS want to convey in our project, addressing the imperative need to rethink the design of our cities, which sometimes does not facilitate air quality.

Because among these health determinants we find air pollution.

A European study, led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS), have analysed daily ambient concentrations of PM2.5, PM10, NO2 and O3 in a large set of European regions between 2003 and 2019 based on machine learning techniques. The aim was to assess the number of days exceeding the 2021 World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for one or more pollutants.

Pollution levels were analysed in more than 1,400 regions in 35 countries on the European continent, or 543 million people. The results, published in Nature Communications, show that overall levels of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have decreased across most of Europe. In particular, PM10 levels decreased the most during the study period, followed by NO2 and PM2.5, with annual decreases of 2.72%, 2.45% and 1.72%, respectively. In contrast, O3 levels increased annually by 0.58% in southern Europe, increasing the number of days with poor air quality almost fourfold.

The results highlight significant improvements in air quality in Europe for PM10 and NO2, while PM2.5 and O3 levels have not followed the same positive trend, resulting in more people being exposed to unclean air levels.

Air pollution is a risk of mortality and can be one of the causes of serious diseases in people such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, pneumonia and cataracts.

It is estimated that a city must maintain healthy levels of PM 10; PM 2.5; Ozone and NO2 (indicated by the air quality index) below 50 in order to be considered a healthy city, but according to the data in this article, the air quality in a city is not as good as it should be.

According to this article, air quality in Europe has improved over the last two decades, but 98.10 %, 80.15 % and 86.34 % of the European population live in areas that exceed the WHO recommended levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), says that air pollution is the biggest environmental health risk in the European Union. Each year it causes around 400 000 premature deaths in the EU.

In recent decades, EU policies have contributed to reducing emissions, but progress in air quality has not improved at the same pace and there are still considerable impacts on public health.

Urban planning can help and influence health. According to the work of our colleagues Healthy Cities, the relationship between cities and health is close and complex, making it necessary to consider health in urban planning.

The built environment should help people to live healthier lives and thereby improve the quality of life and improve mental, physical and environmental health.

Read the full article on air quality here: