Climate Action

New device could prevent air pollution related deaths says UNEP

UN Environment Programme says new air quality measuring device could help prevent some for the 7 million deaths caused by air pollution every year

  • 04 September 2015
  • William Brittlebank

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says a new air quality measuring device could “revolutionise” the assessment of air quality and help prevent some for the 7 million deaths caused by air pollution every year.

Estimates suggest that the new device will cost up to 100 times less than existing alternatives and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner (pictured) said: “We know from the World Health Organization (WHO) that 88 per cent of deaths related to outdoor pollution occur in low- and middle-income countries… Yet it is these same developing countries that typically lack access to data on their air quality.”

Steiner added: “UNEP’s device can spark a data boom to help countries reduce the negative effects of air pollution, potentially saving lives that would have been lost due to air pollution-related illnesses.”

Nairobi-based UNEP is the leading global environmental authority that sets the international environmental agenda, promotes the implementation of the environmental aspects of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

In a statement, UNEP said: “the device, capable of collecting all the vital parameters of air quality, will cost around $1,500 per unit, allowing governments to establish a countrywide network of mobile and stationary air monitoring stations for as little as $150,000-200,000. Currently, roughly the same amount of money is necessary to set up just one monitoring station,” UNEP said, adding that it plans to make the blueprints of its device publically available.”

The statement added: “This will allow governments and organisations to assemble or fabricate the units themselves, creating opportunities for innovation, enterprise development and green job creation.”

A pilot project was launched on Monday in the Kenyan capital that will test the device and map the pollution hotspots across the city.

UNEP said: “Preliminary test results, collected by the mobile monitoring unit, show that large parts of the city may have unsafe levels of air pollution, with certain areas particularly affected.”

Cities across Africa are suffering the consequences of poor air quality with high levels of particulate matter containing hazardous airborne chemicals that are particularly harmful to humans.

Most fine particulate matter comes from fuel combustion, both from vehicles and stationary sources such as power plants, industry and households.

Steiner said: “Each year, air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths around the world, with outdoor pollution responsible for more than half of that total… Tragically, these deaths are wholly preventable.”