10 principles for clean air - what to do to achieve the goal?

A recent analysis from the USA attributed 18,000,000 lost work days annually to PM2.5 exposure, and 11,000,000 school absence days to ozone exposure. Mortality increases by 6–8% for every 10 μg·m−3 increase in long-term PM2.5 concentrations in the community.

Here are the proposed 10 principles for clean air from the official journal of the European Respiratory Society:

1) Citizens are entitled to clean air, just like clean water and safe food.

2) Outdoor air pollution is one of the biggest environmental health threats today, leading to significant reductions of life expectancy and productivity.

3) Fine particles and ozone are the most serious pollutants. There is an urgent need to reduce their concentrations significantly.

4) Roadside pollution poses serious health threats that cannot be adequately addressed by regulating fine particle mass or ozone. Other metrics such as ultrafine particles and black carbon need to be considered in future research and so inform further regulation.

5) Non-tailpipe emissions (from brakes, tyres and road surfaces, etc.) pose a health threat for road users and subjects living close to busy roads.

6) Real-world emissions of nitrogen dioxide from modern diesel engines are much higher than anticipated. This may expose many road users, and subjects living on busy roads, to short-term peak concentrations during rush hours and periods of stagnating weather that may impact on health.

7) Global warming will lead to more heatwaves, during which air pollution concentrations are also elevated and during which hot temperatures and air pollutants act in synergy to produce more serious health effects than expected from heat or pollution alone.

8) Combustion of biomass fuel produces toxic pollutants. This is true for controlled fires, such as in fireplaces, woodstoves and agricultural burning, as well as for uncontrolled wildfires.

9) Compliance with current limit values for major air pollutants confers no protection for public health. In fact, very serious health effects occur at concentrations well below current limit values, especially those for fine particles.

10) Policies to reduce air pollution are needed that ultimately lead to air that is clean and no longer associated with significant adverse effects on the health. The benefits of such policies outweigh the costs by a large amount.


Ten principles for clean air. B. Brunekreef et al. ERJ March 1, 2012 vol. 39 no. 3 525-528.

Image source: OpenClipArt, public domain.

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