Anyone who has anything to do with environmental issues has it: The feeling that people are simply not interested in the state of those things crucial to their lives. Now there is a wind of change blowing, at least in Switzerland, where the quality of air is concerned. And people are noticing it, too. Fantastic news!
The environmental policies of rich nations were once crystal clear: Science brings forth knowledge with regard to the impact of human (economic) activities on the environment. If this impact is found to be negative, then politicians propose countermeasures based upon recommendations drawn from the results of research. Left and right make their demands, which are more or less based on which way the economy happens to be meandering at the time, before agreeing on a catalogue of possible ideas to be realised.
Now, however, Switzerland is able to boast a success story with respect to air quality, a local problem with a local solution. Many years ago, Switzerland was also among those countries that allowed traffic and factories to simply release their harmful emissions into the air unabated. However, it was soon noticed that people exposed to said emissions became ill and died earlier than the average. According to an interview on the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment FOEN website, Prof. Dr. Nino Künzli declares that the higher the concentration and the more often particulate matter and nitrogen oxides can be found in the air, the greater the damage to human lungs. These compounds are responsible for triggering inflammatory reactions and damaging the cardiovascular system. Moreover, they are also said to increase the likelihood of contracting COVID 19, or of it taking an unnecessarily severe course.
This is why the Swiss Ordinance on Air Pollution Control has set so-called ambient air quality limits that not only take into account directly emitted pollutants, but also include secondary pollutants, such
as ozone, which form in the atmosphere. And these measures to protect our air quality have paid off: The 15'000 litres of air that flow through our lungs each day are indeed less unhealthy in composition today than in the past. The best news, however, is that the amount of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides in the air is constantly sinking. This is a great example of how, given enough urgency, people can find the energy to pull together as one for a cause. In view of the above-average warm month of May, and the drought in many parts of the world, you would think a common approach with regard to the climate is not beyond the realm of possibility in the near future.
The UN's International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies takes place this year under the motto & quot; Healthy Air, Healthy Planet & quot; on September 7. This rallying call to action serves to highlight the ongoing
urgency of the air pollutants issue, if not in Switzerland, then in many emerging countries. Visit the organiser's website here
Previous years' reports based on data provided by the National Air Pollution Monitoring Network (NABEL) can be found here (German only).