Which cities have the worst air pollution? Which have the cleanest air? Find out in this interactive map by The Guardian, which plots the latest World Health Organization data on outdoor air pollution worldwide.
Click on the dots to find out how polluted the air is in any given city. How does your city’s air quality compare to others? Tell us in the comments below.
The BBC article ‘Childhood asthma ‘admissions down’ after smoking ban’ reports on the notable reversal in trends of childhood asthma hospital admissions in England since the indoor smoking ban in 2007. The statistics indicate such admissions, which were rising at a rate of more than 2% a year, sharply declined by 12% in the year following the ban, and furthermore dropped at a rate of 3% in 2 subsequent years. Furthermore, the results indicate the effects are universal- with the reductions amongst boys and girls of all ages, those from wealthy and deprived neighbourhoods, and both in urban and rural areas.
Causing some significant contention and discord in the time leading up to the ban, with arguments such as negative economic impacts and restrictions on personal liberties being cited to oppose the legislation, these trends (which are replicated in other places which have undertaken bans- including Scotland) seem to justify the ruling. Inasmuch, I believe, it will be the type legislation that will be looked back at in years to come, and we will wonder why it was never implemented beforehand.
However, while rulings on smoking have had positive impacts, another significant risk factor of chronic respiratory disease (as identified by the World Health Organisation) continues to afflict populations around the world- namely outdoor air pollution.
Such pollution, resulting from a range of sources- including power plants, construction, transport, forest fires- and exacerbated by issues such as the geography of cities and seasonal temperature changes (which interlinks with other environmental issues such as climate change) are causing significant air pollution problems to populations around the world. While the impacts are particularly being felt in developing countries (due to issues such as rapid industrialisation, lack of drugs to combat the problems, population growth)- it is certainly not exclusive to them, with rich nations, and specifically large cities, suffering from dangerously high levels of air pollution. Some recent articles indicate the scale of the issue:
- Levels of air pollution in Beijing being described as reaching ’apocalyptic’ levels this week.
- London continues to have some of the worst air quality levels in Europe- and a study suggesting that up to 9% of deaths in the city are due to air quality.
- And, in Kabul- the largest city in Afghanistan- as many civilians are killed from air pollution as are from conflict.
While a direct link between the specific issue of childhood asthma and air pollution does not seem to have been conclusively identified- it is clear that the issue of air pollution around the world, in developed/developing nations, is a substantial and rising danger to health. While we have seemingly been successful (in a UK context) of (at least starting) to tackle the respiratory risks of smoking to children, don’t we have a responsibility to extend such efforts to ensuring they experience clean air as a more universal right- both locally and globally?
Like the smoking ban legislation, will we look back in years and generations to come, and think (and wish we had acted sooner): why did we continue to, even when we knew the risks and dangers that our actions posed, pollute and degrade to such dangerous levels the most basic and fundamental physical necessity of our children- the air that they breathe?
There are a number of cross-cutting social and environmental risks that face urban areas around the world- and it is cities in the developing world that are likely to bear the greatest impact. Produced by the ‘Future Proofing Cities’ project, the above info-graphic highlights some of these risks- while the project’s website provides a number of other insightful resources and information on the topic.
The best of Edinburgh: A little video experiment I just re-discovered on my hard drive that I made up a year or so ago after leaving Edinburgh, having lived there for a couple of years. Having visited a fair number of the most beautiful and renowned cities around the world, I think Edinburgh’s aesthetic qualities, both natural and built, contribute to it being a rival to most.
(Backing track is by BT- ‘Good Morning Kaia’)