Where’s the air quality data?

In many highly polluted countries, there are often the least amounts of open air quality data available from governments. A new report released today by OpenAQ reveals the huge global inequality in access to information about air quality. Despite the fact that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants, over half of the world’s population has no access to official government data on air quality.

The study, entitled ‘Open Air Quality Data: The Global State of Play’ examined 212 countries and found 109 (51%) governments are not producing air quality data of any major pollutants, while 103 are. This information vacuum is preventing people from demanding action from their governments to tackle the biggest environmental risk to health, and changing their own behaviour.

Basic access to air quality data is the first step to improve the air we breathe. By providing access to fully open data, governments can enable the power of civil society – from scientists to policy analysts to activists to tackle the problem together. This will unlock the maximum potential and impact of government data, encourage innovation, and mobilise communities to act.

Christa Hasenkopf, OpenAQ

OpenAQ analysed 500 million data points from 11,000 air monitoring stations in 93 countries to compare the number of air pollution monitoring stations with levels of PM2.5 (particulate matter – a deadly form of air pollution linked to heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and diabetes), and found that the greater the number of stations, the lower the pollution levels.

The report calls on governments and policy makers to link overseas aid spending to clean air and data transparency. It says: “Organisations and governments that support air quality programs must ensure that their investment promotes data transparency and openness. Doing so – through the criteria outlined in this report – will unlock the full potential applications from the data and lead to improved air quality as a result.”

Removing the hurdles of formats, cumbersome access issues, and variations in way data is presented by various countries, OpenAQ makes it easier for the public, researchers, and even public bodies to understand the geographical patterns in air quality over time.

Sarath Guttikunda, UrbanEmissions
Download the report and follow OpenAQ on Twitter or Facebook. 

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