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Daily air quality forecasts could save millions of lives, say scientists

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By Alice Cuddy
Daily air quality forecasts could save millions of lives, say scientists
Copyright  REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov

Improving air quality forecasts so that people across the world can check them every day would “solve half of the problem” of air pollution, which kills an estimated seven million people each year, a leading atmospheric scientist told Euronews.

Vincent-Henri Peuch, the head of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, co-authored a comment piece in the Nature journal this week, calling for international action to ensure that countries in the developing world follow Europe and North America’s example in providing daily broadcasts of air quality forecasts.

“Access to such systems needs to be made global,” they wrote, adding that this would require five key steps — expanding observing networks; improving models; devising metrics and tools for quantifying air pollution; disseminating the information; and training experts.

Speaking to Euronews correspondent Jeremy Wilks, Peuch said the idea was to make information on air pollution levels “as daily, as mundane as a weather forecast”.

“Just as [people] decide whether to take or not an umbrella, they will decide whether to take or not their very young kid outside for a walk, or to start running in the city,” he explained.

“It has been shown already that informing better is already solving half of the problem.”

Peuch said there were “lots of opportunities” to better inform people of air pollution levels, including satellites, modelling and smartphones.

He stressed that the need for such action was urgent.

It is estimated that seven million people die every year as a result of air pollution, while high levels of ozone and fine particles alter plants’ physiology, impeding food production.

“Of course the big action should be on the long-term, improving the practices…[but] taking small actions, basically saving the low-hanging fruit, is already bringing lots of benefits that would decrease this terrible toll,” Peuch said.

Watch the video in the player above for the full, un-edited interview with Vincent-Henri Peuch.