Air pollution is now the fourth biggest killer in the world after smoking, high blood pressure and diet. It causes more than six million deaths every year. Mostly they are in poorer nations. Unfortunately, air quality may become increasingly worse with rapidly expanding urbanisation.
More than half the world's population now live in cities. In the near future, this will reach two thirds. This is because more people move from rural areas to cities. There will be more cars on the roads, more traffic near homes and workplaces, and less green space.
City inhabitants are already suffering from fumes and smog on their daily commutes. It's healthier for some people to stay inside rather than walk outside and breathe polluted air.
Nation, political leaders, experts and campaigning organizations want to reduce air pollution to improve people's health. This problem might be solved by rethinking the way cities work changing how to design cities in the future.
Air pollution is considered "the silent killer" because it is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing its levels, countries can reduce strokes, heart diseases and lung cancer.
Nowadays there are different efforts to reduce emissions or develop cleaner and more efficient fuels. Lawmakers apply taxes and ban older cars on cities. The car industry is producing hybrid and electric vehicles, which are more environmentally friendly.
What if we rethought the purpose of our streets? Are they really just meant for cars, or we can see them as a place to walk and cycle, where children play and neighbours meet.?
Researchers in London studied the impacts of cutting emissions. The scenario promoted walking and cycling instead of driving. It resulted in improved air quality and health improvements from increased physical activity.
Sadly, current levels of pollution may be putting people off from enjoying the outdoors. A recent study in London compared the health effects of walk in Hyde Park against one along Oxford Street. For people over 60, toxic air pollution cancelled out some of the benefits they got from the physical activity. And in some of the world's most polluted cities cycling for more than an hour every day can do more harm to you than good.
Some cities like Milan and Paris announced car free visions, and Oslo plans to ban all cars from the city center by 2019.
Imperial's Network of Excellence in Air Quality aims to identify the next big frontiers in air quality research. Scientists and researchers are coming together to share expertise and find solutions to some of the biggest challenges.
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