In the News
December 2, 2020
December 2, 2020
Air quality impacts our health, our quality of life and even the length of our lives. Most people don’t think about what’s in the air they breathe — but perhaps they should.
That’s the driving force behind the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative. The citizen science project wants to let people know what’s in their air. While living in Beijing, a city known for poor air quality, Abid Omar became curious about the air that he and the people around him were inhaling every day. He brought this curiosity with him to Pakistan.
Omar bought several air quality monitors and soon realized that the air quality around him in the city of Karachi was notably poor. In fact, it was bad enough that in other countries the government would have shut down schools and kept people inside. With further research, Omar realized that Pakistan was suffering from a lack of data. The most recent studies conducted were outdated and insufficient. The researchers had only targeted the cities of Karachi and Lahore, and they dated back to 2008 and 2011. The study focusing on Lahore used only two weeks of data. Omar realized that no one, not even the government, was monitoring Pakistan’s air quality.
Yet there was ample evidence that air pollution was causing serious health problems. The medical journal Lancet reported in 2015 that more than 310,000 deaths in Pakistan each year can be tied to poor air quality. That’s 22 percent of all annual deaths in Pakistan. On average, people living in Pakistan have their life expectancy reduced by 2.6 years due to poor air quality, with that number reaching up to roughly 5 years in the heavily-populated Punjab region, according to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.