Protecting Health From Rising Air Pollution
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Objective: Air pollution is a major public health threat in cities across the world, especially in India. To protect local communities from rising air pollution levels, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology are developing an Air Quality Index (AQI), using a monitoring network called SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research). The AQI is a tool that summarizes complex air quality information for members of the public. To support the Ahmedabad AQI, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other institutions are working with the AMC on AQI development, and information, education, and communication strategies for the AQI. Significance: Air pollution is one of the highest ranking environmental and public health challenges in the world, particularly in South Asia. In a 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) assessment, 13 Indian cities ranked in the top 20 for some of the world’s worst air pollution. The WHO and several international and national studies have identified Ahmedabad, India as one of the cities with the worst air pollution in the world. Exposure to air pollutants is associated with considerable risks to respiratory health, especially to vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. Cities would lower the levels of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, such as asthma. By reducing local air pollution Ahmedabad and other cities can save lives. The basis for this is having well informed citizens about their air quality and the associated health risks. Methods: A review of the relevant and available literature was conducted. This project reviews the levels, sources, and health effects of air pollution in Ahmedabad. Second, the project discusses the best practices for an AQI and the factors behind developing the AQI scale. Lastly, the project details elements of a successful AQI for effective health risk communication. This includes, for example, discussing how to reach and inform the vulnerable populations, with which both the NRDC and AMC have experience with. Findings: The AQI is a tool that serves as a communication bridge to members of the public. It summarizes complex air quality information and informs residents about the health threats. Most AQI systems are a table with the range of air pollution levels and the associated health risks. Color-coding distinguishes these different levels, referred to as breakpoints. The AQI number reflects the daily air quality. The greater the pollution, the higher the AQI number, and potential health concerns. In situations where multiple air pollutants are monitored concurrently, the AQI typically reflects the air quality and associated health effects for the most dominant pollutant. Proper communication and outreach strategies are also essential to protect the publics’ health from air pollution. This includes displaying the information and forecast, early warnings, media campaigns, and distributing informational pamphlets. Conclusions: An effective AQI system strengthens the goals of protecting public health from air pollution and improving air quality and provides the evidence base for municipal or state agencies to act on air pollution. Combined efforts of many institutions, including of the AMC, NRDC, and SAFAR, can help effectively inform the genera; public about air pollution’s health risks. Additionally, this establishes an evidence base for municipal and state agencies to take steps to protect community health by reducing air pollution.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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