World’s largest platform for air quality data launches

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), together with UN-Habitat and IQAir have launched the world’s largest air quality data platform, bringing together real-time air pollution data from over 4,000 contributors.

The world’s largest platform for air quality data has launched at the Tenth World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi. It currently reaches over 15 million users and includes citizens, communities, governments and the private sector to work towards healthier, more sustainable cities.

Globally, seven million people die each year because of air pollution; 650,000 of these are children, according to a statement. Air pollutants not only affect our health, they also affect ecosystems and food production, and are linked to climate change. Despite this, most citizens don’t have access to real-time air quality data.

“Air pollution is a public health emergency and an environmental emergency that affects everyone, everywhere,” commented Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP. “We are excited to be launching this partnership with UN-Habitat and IQ Air to bring information and, importantly, encourage action by citizens, governments and the private sector.”

The UNEP platform builds upon Swiss company IQAir’s technology to aggregate, validate and calibrate air quality data that up until now was either restricted to individually-run websites or apps, or not shared publicly.

Even within a single country or city, access to air quality information can vary among different communities. While Europe, Asia and North America have thousands of monitoring stations providing real-time air quality information on PM2.5 – the fine particulate matter largely responsible for deaths and illnesses – to the public, many developing countries lack infrastructure. Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people, has just 50 publicly accessible air quality monitoring stations measuring PM2.5.

The platform addresses the global air quality information gap by bringing together data collected by governments, NGOs, companies and local community groups and individuals. Anyone can apply to contribute real-time air quality data.

“We recognize that some of the world’s most vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected by poor air quality,” said IQAir CEO Frank Hammes. “Through our partnership with UNEP and UN-Habitat, we empower more citizens, communities and governments around world to monitor their air quality with low-cost air pollution sensors and make the changes necessary to breathe cleaner, healthier air.”

Image credit: Liam Burnett-Blue via Unsplash

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