The air we share: metropolitan strategies for clean air · Issue Paper #13 · Metropolis Observatory

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“Air pollution” comprises a variety of health, ecosystem, and climate-damaging compounds. These compounds come from many sources, many of which are intertwined with our daily lives, infrastructure choices, and economic activities such as cooking at home or in restaurants.

Children, women, and older people are especially vulnerable to pollution’s health impacts.
But, beyond immediate health concerns, there are also indirect impacts, for example, gendered effects.

The responsibility to care for children or other dependents generally falls on mothers who may have to take time off work and suffer income losses. This reinforces gender inequalities in caregiving and may result in women taking an extra job when they are suffering from the effects of poor air quality.

As a result of the increasing awareness of the impacts of air pollution, there is growing demand for clean air in cities and their leaders are responding.

For example, London’s air quality efforts since 2016 reduced the number of primary and secondary state schools located in areas exceeding legal pollution limits from 455 in 2016, to just 14 in 2019, and led to a 94% reduction in the number of Londoners living in these types of areas.

Clean air is an opportunity and a challenge. It’s a growing threat to public health, climate, and ecosystems that are intertwined with business as usual. But it also offers the possibility for a “triple win” for climate, ecosystems, and human wellbeing. Action to reduce polluting emissions—to change business as usual—have multiple benefits for the environment and society.
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