National Dialogue on Air Quality

Strong connection between high pollution levels and COVID-19

Panelists for the "National Dialogue on Air Quality and its impact on Public health.” (Photo: Frida Madanat/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Air pollution is a leading cause of death worldwide, with seven million people dying each year due to the low quality of air they breathe, especially indoor air.  More worrisome, studies conducted worldwide by the World Health Organization (WHO) point to a strong connection between air pollution and COVID-19: the higher the level of pollution, the higher the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.اضافة اعلان

A “national dialogue on air quality and its impact on public health” convened on Tuesday under the patronage of HRH Princess Sumaya Bint El–Hassan, president of the Royal Scientific Society (RSS), who presented a keynote address, delivered on her behalf by Rafat Assi, Executive Director of Sustainable Solutions Sector.

Princess Sumaya urged stakeholders to work together to draft and enforce legislation on monitoring, assessing, and improving the quality of ambient and indoor air.

The national dialogue, jointly organized by Urban95, The RSS and Bernard Van Leer Foundation aimed to share experience on how to preserve the quality of air, a right humanity should enjoy, with expert panelists from the ministries of environment, health and public works and housing, the Greater Amman Municipality and the World Health Organization’s Regional Center for Environmental Health Action.

Topics covered ways to monitor, assess and improve air quality, challenges and prospects, urban planning and design, with a focus on solutions for better air quality.

The panelists were in accord about the findings of the recent international studies suggesting the connection between pollution and COVID-19; especially in the Middle East region, which is surrounded by deserts that blow sand and dust into urban areas, increasing the risk of viruses being transmitted via aerosols.
The meeting highlighted the need to secure the basic human right to breathe clean air, particularly so in the case of babies and children, who have no control over the quality of air they are surrounded by.  One study conducted in India, known for its high level of pollution, found that an Indian baby in New Delhi inhales pollutants equivalent to 15 cigarettes per day.   

Indoor air is as important to be monitored and assessed, said the panelists, as children and their caregivers spend most of their time indoors, where there are many contaminants that could affect the air quality, like building construction materials, painting or coatings, gas stoves, cleaning solvents, detergents and indoor smoking. Lack of proper ventilation further downgrades the quality of air.

The Urban 95 Convening’s focus this year is “Clean Air” to strengthen government action in support of babies, toddlers and those who care for them, especially the most vulnerable.  The Global Urban95 network includes leaders in government, academia, civil society and business working on a broad range of urban issues such as planning, public space, mobility, health and nature.

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