In the News

October 17, 2023

Christa Hasenkopf: Bringing the Golden Opportunity for Filling PM2.5 Data Gaps into Focus

On October 5, the National Center for Atmospheric Research hosted Christa Hasenkopf, the Director of Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) and Air Quality Programs at EPIC, for a conversation on filling PM2.5 data gaps.

Fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) is one of the largest health threats on the planet, but the burden of PM2.5 is not spread evenly globally – and neither are the technical and policy resources to address the problem. While Asia and Africa bear 93 percent of the health burden of PM2.5 pollution, currently only 6.8 percent of countries in Asia and 3.7 percent in Africa make their government data fully available. Yet, across countries, the sustained production and sharing of timely air quality data has been a consistent fundamental building block to tackling air pollution.

On October 5, the National Center for Atmospheric Research hosted Christa Hasenkopf, the Director of Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) and Air Quality Programs at EPIC for a conversation on filling PM2.5 data gaps.

In her opening remarks, Hasenkopf emphasized the importance of improving PM2.5 data gaps to enhance air quality research. “At the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, we are working on building a report to assess two things: 1) where are the biggest opportunities to fill gaps in country level PM2.5 monitoring and 2) who are the local actors best suited to fill these gaps,” Hasenkopf said.

The report, set to publish by the end of 2023, aims to provide a clear strategy to those with the means to support filling the data gaps – such as groups with scientific, technical or philanthropic funding.

Discussing the preliminary findings of the report, Hasenkopf explained the mismatch between the global PM2.5 health burden and the resources that are collectively deployed to address the issue: “The 2020 State of Global Air Report from the Health Effects Institute finds that 7 percent of all deaths were attributable to PM2.5 pollution in 2019 – making it the largest environmental risk factor and the fourth overall for mortality.”

Recently, the Air Quality Life Index at EPIC released a report that finds PM2.5 pollution relative to the WHO Guideline takes 2.3 years off the global life expectancy. “You can compare that to say, transport injuries, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and nutritional deficiencies, and combining all of them is still less than an impact of PM2.5 on health…there’s also a huge funding mismatch for these issues,” Hasenkopf said.

Hasenkopf noted the staggering difference in where PM2.5 pollution impacts health the most, and where resources are deployed to address it. Data and case studies on air quality monitoring, air quality policies and standards, and air quality funding around the globe are discussed in depth to determine the “golden opportunities” for improving air quality data gaps.

“Filling PM2.5 data gaps through sustained ground-based monitoring is going to improve PM2.5 ground estimates derived from satellite products. That’s extremely valuable to the scientific community for various studies,” Hasenkopf said. Additionally, it can empower local stakeholders for clean air action.

“There are amazing people working on air pollution from every aspect with so much heart, but it’s a small community and [pollution] is getting ignored relative to the size of the problem. We need to bring more people from different sectors and different walks of life to help solve this issue,” Hasenkopf concluded.

Continue watching on NCAR…