International Day of Clean Air for blue skies



The “International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies” is an initiative promoted by the United Nations. Starting from 2020, on September 7th all member states, organisations and civil society are encouraged to emphasize the need to make further efforts to improve air quality, including reducing air pollution, to protect human healths.

2022 theme is #theAirWeShare and focused on the transboundary nature of air pollution highlighting the need for collective accountability and collective action.

Air pollution is the largest contributor to the burden of disease from the environment, and is one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally, in order to the health impact of tiny, invisible particles of pollution that penetrate deep into our lungs, bloodstream and bodies. These pollutants are responsible for about one-third of deaths from stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and lung cancer, as well as one quarter of deaths from heart attack.

Despite what people may think indoor air quality is as important as outdoor one, since people spend most of their time indoor, where it is easier to improve the overall level of air healthiness, compared to outdoor. Based on the awareness of the importance of Air Quality, every government has this subject on their agenda, planning health promotion initiatives and introducing guidelines or laws in order to improve indoor air quality. The approach is to reduce risk factors for people’s health and provide access to healthy environments and choices that encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Air Pollution

When we talk about air pollution we typically think about the air outside, but the indoor air quality, where we spent most of the life time, can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor ones: several factors can be present in confined spaces and can also penetrate from outside. Despite that indoor air quality is often overlooked and underestimated. The National Prevention Plan 2020-2025, a fundamental Italian tool for planning health promotion and prevention interventions, has introduced guidelines in order to improve indoor air quality, paying particular attention to public buildings and all those spaces attended by the children. Other countries are also pursuing similar policies. The approach is to reduce risk factors for people’s health and provide access to healthy environments and choices that encourage a healthy lifestyle. A systematic approach of air quality, whether outdoors or indoors, is necessary.

Consequences of pollution on human health

Both Indoor and outdoor air quality is fundamental for a healthy life and a sustainable planet. Dangerous substances emitted from buildings, construction materials and internal equipments, or produced by human activities causes health issues from exposure to polluted indoor air, becoming fatal in some cases.

Health effects associated with air quality are linked to various factors, including:

  • type and concentration of the pollutant;
  • presence of synergies with other pollutants;
  • exposition time;
  • susceptibility of people exposed.

The effects can be acute in short-term, or chronic in long-term. They can also lead to alterations of physiological parameters as well as an increased risk of death and a reduction in life expectancy. The causes are attributable not so much to exposure to high concentrations of pollutants, but to extremely low levels for medium-long term exposure periods.

These problems are often underestimated by the population because they do not necessarily involve hospitalization or fatal consequences.

Source: WHO, Air Quality Guideline Global Update

The main pathologies associated with indoor pollution are: allergic diseases, asthma and respiratory disorders in childhood, respiratory infections (e.g. legionellosis), lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, irritative disorders and impaired comfort (e.g. building syndrome sick).

The polluted air we breathe can inflame the lining of the lungs and spread rapidly in our bloodstream, affecting every organ in the body. The entire population is subject to these risks but there are also categories of people who are particularly sensitive such as children and elderly. The elderly because they are frail and suffering from pre-existing chronic diseases (heart and respiratory diseases), while the vulnerability of children is attributable to an undeveloped immune system that increases the incidence of respiratory infections.

To combat the onset and spread of pollutants protecting the health and well-being of all individuals, it is important to define plans of air quality that allow identifying the best actions to be taken to reduce polluting emissions and offer public health benefits.

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