TL;DR — Though air pollution is an issue that is global in scale, action at the local level can be impactful in enacting tangible change and encouraging more widespread action. Local projects — such as establishing air quality monitoring networks or implementing different initiatives to reduce air pollution exposure levels — also help to engage community members and increase public awareness of air pollution. Local projects can also serve as models for successful work at a global scale — such as how the Breathe London air quality monitoring network is now being used as a framework for the Breathe Cities program.

Local actions can lead to global solutions: Coordinating clean air and climate action

By understanding both the impacts that air pollution has on a global level as well as the positive impacts that local actions can have, we can work towards coordinating action for cleaner air.

Air pollution and climate change are both global-scale crises that affect communities differently at the local level — making it highly important to connect global and local environmental action.

To learn more about the importance of cooperating across different levels of government, read our blog here.

Understanding the global impact of air pollution: Air quality and global public health

Air quality has severe negative impacts on global public health. The WHO estimates that approximately 7 million people die each year due to air pollution, and some estimates from other sources reach even higher.

To learn more about the multitude of ways that air pollution exposure affects the human body, read our blog here.

Particulate matter air pollution is responsible for most of these pollution-related deaths because it can be inhaled deeply into the lungs and enter the human body, causing impacts to a number of organs and major bodily systems.

Read our air quality measurements series blog here to learn more about particulate matter air pollution and its impacts.

Data from the WHO shows that 99% of the global population breathes air with pollution levels in excess of WHO guideline limits — with those in low- and middle-income countries suffering disproportionately from high exposure.

The graphic above shows the number of deaths attributable to air pollution in 2019 across the globe. Certain countries and regions of the world, such as China and India, experience some of the highest rates of pollution-related deaths. (Image source: State of Global Air)

Air pollution levels around the world have severe impacts. One study found that at the global level, more than 70% of days in 2019 had PM2.5 levels that exceeded the WHO guidelines for maximum acceptable levels. In southern and eastern Asia, this number increased to 90%, creating cause for concern when it comes to both daily and chronic exposure.

A study from the State of Global Air found that 41% of cities have air pollution levels that are over seven times the WHO’s guidelines.

Air pollution has widespread effects, from negative impacts on agriculture to real estate to tourism, making it highly important to mitigate this environmental crisis.

Read our blog here to learn more about the multitude of sectors that air quality impacts, and the ways that cleaning our air results in secondary benefits.

The role of air quality monitoring

Many communities burdened by poor air quality lack access to comprehensive, real-time air quality data that helps them understand how the air they are breathing in is impacting their health — which is why establishing air quality monitoring is an essential step when it comes to taking impactful action on air pollution at the local level.

To learn more about what air quality monitoring is and why it is a vital part of the puzzle when it comes to sustainably achieving clean air, read our blog here.

Communities leading the way in the global fight against air pollution

The Breathe London project also presents a great example of the impact that local action can have on a global scale. 

This project involves an air quality monitoring network with over 450 sensors that provides real-time, hyperlocal air quality data to London residents as well as other initiatives, such as London’s ULEZ and the Community Programme — which supplies low-cost sensors to community groups and aids in the siting and data collection processes with the goal of empowering local residents to take part in the work for clean air.

To learn more about Breathe London, read our customer story here.

Though this project was originally implemented specifically within the city of London, its success has led to the Breathe Cities model being developed for application in cities all across the globe — presenting an exciting potential for expanded air quality monitoring and clean air work.

The video how the city government of Jakarta — recently announced as a recipient of Breathe Cities funding —  worked with Vital Strategies, nongovernmental organizations, and Clarity to deploy Node-S air quality sensors. The data from these sensors will empower them to improve air quality monitoring and better mitigate its negative impacts on public health.

This local action taking place in Jakarta involved a variety of initiatives, such as establishing resilient air quality monitoring networks, increasing public awareness to reduce exposure, and testing the impacts of different clean air initiatives like car-free days.

To read more about impactful community work that is making an impact on air pollution exposure, read our customer stories with Brightline Defense in San Francisco and Valley Vision in Sacramento here.

Strategies for air pollution reduction at the local level 

The air pollution crisis necessitates action at both the local and global scale — making it highly important to understand how these spheres of influence interact and support each other.

Read our blog here to learn more about the various ways that both individuals and businesses can help reduce air pollution.

At the local level, community groups continue to make powerful impacts when it comes to campaigning for action and policy change in relation to air pollution, climate change, and environmental justice.

Despite the power of local action, it cannot exist alone — instead, government action at the national and international levels must support this work and leverage its resources to mitigate these crises.

Interested in measuring air quality for cleaner air, improved physical and mental health, and a healthier climate? Get in touch with our team to learn more about our Sensing-as-a-Service solution for governments, businesses, and community organizations, using our Clarity Node-S monitors and Modules that do not depend on infrastructure like WiFi or power — making them especially resilient during environmental disasters.