Hundreds of millions of city dwellers breathe air so polluted with chemicals, smoke and particles that it dramatically exceeds World Health Organization limits with major impacts on health and the environment.
A major study on the state of air pollution in 20 of Asias key cities shows that while there have been improvements in achieving better air quality, air pollution still poses a threat to health and quality of life of many people.
The study led by the Stockholm Environment Institutes (SEI) centre at the University of York (UK) and the Clean Air Initiative for Asia Cities (CAI-Asia) is being published as Asian Environment Ministers hold the first governmental meeting on urban air quality in Asia on 13-14 December in Yogyakarta, Indonesia as part of the Better Air Quality 2006 Workshop.
The World Health Organization estimates that 537,000 people in Southeast Asia and the Pacific die prematurely each year due to air pollution.
The study found that there has been a general improvement in the ability of Asia cities to manage urban air quality since the 1990s. But air quality in the majority of the cities examined still exceeds international guidelines for the protection of human health for certain pollutants. Concentrations of sulphur dioxide, the gas responsible for acid rain, have stabilized at a relative low level and rarely exceed health guidelines. However, the use of high sulphur fuel content in some countries may result in an increase in emissions.
Emissions of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, mainly from the transport sector, are of concern in all cities currently experiencing rapid motorization. In addition, tropospheric ozone, a main constituent of photochemical smog, will increase if motor vehicle use continues to rise.
The international collaborative effort was led by the Stockholm Environment Institutes (SEI) centre at the University of York (UK) and the Clean Air Initiative
Contact: David Garner
University of York