This page is under construction. Ultimately it will provide an introduction to air quality science.

Air Quality Science

Air Pollution
Air quality has a direct influence on human and environmental health in both the developed and developing world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that indoor air pollution causes almost 2 million premature deaths annually (mostly in developing countries) and that half of these deaths are due to pneumonia in children under the age of five years 1. Outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause an additional 1.34 million deaths in urban areas 2.

Automobiles, trucks, industry, and open air fires emit complex mixtures of air pollutants (see Air Science) but small particulate matter (PM) with diameters of less than 10 microns are thought to be the leading health problem. These small particles can penetrate into the lungs and may enter the bloodstream where they are associated with a broad spectrum of respiratory infections and cardiopulmonary diseases including asthma and lung cancer. In 2011, WHO estimates that fine particulate matter caused "about 9% of lung cancer deaths, 5% of cardiopulmonary deaths and about 1% of respiratory infection deaths" worldwide 3. This is a significant rise in air pollution related deaths from previous estimates 4 and middle-income countries experience this burden disproprtionally2. For instance, in Mexico, urban populations of are exposed to a mean average annual concentration of PM10 of 55 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3)5 whereas the WHO air quality guidelines for PM10 is 20μg/m3. Global satellite-derived maps of air pollution

PM 2.5 μm averaged over 2001-2006. Credit: Dalhousie University, Aaron van Donkelaar

PM < 10μm in diameter in urban areas (2003-2010); source WHO

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution source: Envisat's SCIAMACHY

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) or Sulfate aerosol pollution (2000-2006); source NASA

Vulcan Project Animation of CO2 Emissions in US


Aaron J. Cohen,1 H. Ross Anderson,2 Bart Ostra, Kiran Dev Pandey, Michal Krzyzanowski, Nino Künzli, Kersten Gutschmidt, Arden Pope, Isabelle Romieu, Jonathan M. Samet, Kirk Smith; THE GLOBAL BURDEN OF DISEASE DUE TO OUTDOOR AIR POLLUTION; Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 68:1–7, 2005

AHA Scientific Statement Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease