Why is air quality important?

We breathe 11,000 litres of air per day

Air quality is how we measure if air is suitable for breathing by people, animals and plants. Humans need more than 11,000 litres of air a day, so it is important that the air we breathe is of good quality.


Outdoor air quality affects indoor air quality

It is vital that we understand air quality, what causes good and bad air quality, and how outdoor air quality affects indoor air quality. The air we breathe has a direct impact on our health and can cause many illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.


9/10 of the world’s population live in places that don’t meet the WHO air quality standards

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 4.2 million people die each year from illnesses related to outdoor air pollution. In 2016, 91% of the world’s population were living in places where the WHO’s air quality guidelines were not met. Air pollution also tends to be worse in low- and middle-income countries.


Jakarta’s PM levels are 6x higher than WHO standards

In Indonesia, 93% of the population lives in areas where the average yearly air pollution level is higher than the WHO guidelines. The situation is particularly bad in Jakarta: its particulate pollution levels are six times higher than recommended by the WHO. This is so high that the average Jakarta resident will lose 4.8 years from their life expectancy.

Many air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide are known to have harmful effects on human health and the environment. Factories, cars, motorbikes, and power plants send pollutants into the air, causing problems not just in the immediate surrounding areas but also further away; these particles can travel long distances.

Air pollutants also easily get inside houses and buildings. Many houses are not well-sealed and have gaps between walls and windows, for example, while in hot climates, people often open windows and doors to allow fresh air to enter. Unfortunately, this air is often not actually good for us because it is full of pollutants.


Air pollution can cause acid rain

Air pollution can also cause acid rain, which is rain that has high levels of nitric and sulfuric acids. This rain can be very damaging to plants, soil, and water, and even make water toxic for fish and shellfish. This is dangerous for humans and other animals because we are also part of the food chain.

So we can see that air quality is very important for all elements of life – ourselves, other people, animals, plants, and the environment. If the air we breathe is polluted, it can actually be dangerous for our health.


References

Air Quality Life Index. 2020. Indonesia Fact Sheet.

WHO. https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1