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2023: A wake-up call for global air quality awareness

2023: A wake-up call for global air quality awareness

Global air quality concerns rise in 2023

As 2023 unfolded, air quality emerged as a prominent global concern, largely due to the lingering impacts of COVID-19 and widespread environmental challenges. The WHO has reported that a staggering 99% of the human population breathes air that surpasses pollutant level guidelines, with the most severe impact felt in low- and middle-income countries. Major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai face lethal air quality issues, often described as "invisible killers." Even Beijing experienced emergency responses to debilitating smog. These events signal an urgent need for effective solutions to combat air pollution.

Air quality woes worsen in the US amid wildfires and indoor pollution concerns

Despite overall improvements since 1980, air quality in the western United States has deteriorated due to increasing wildfires. A study highlighted in Nature points to air pollution as a leading cause of death, with disproportionate effects on Black communities. Wildfires in Canada further exacerbated the situation, leading to historically poor air quality across the US, including major cities like New York. The indoor air quality, often overlooked, remains up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, raising alarms about everyday items like gas stoves, which are linked to significant health risks.

Navigating air quality challenges: individual actions and policy shifts

While combating air quality issues might seem daunting, there are steps individuals can take to mitigate risks. Using filtering face masks, air purifiers with HEPA filters, avoiding activities that degrade indoor air quality, and experimenting with gasless cooking are practical measures. On a policy level, significant strides are being made, such as the Biden administration's $2 billion fund for clean energy and air pollution prevention projects. These efforts, along with increased public awareness and legislative support, are crucial in tackling both air pollution and climate change challenges.

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