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September 7 will see the first ever day to raise awareness on air pollution worldwide. HEAL members and health partners will use the day to share information on the latest science on how poor air quality harms our health, and showcase policy measures that will allow us to breathe easy again.

The COVID-19 lockdowns have given people a glimpse of a clean air future, and it is particularly in cities where people have felt the benefits of decrease in air pollution. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has found that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which mostly stems from transport, have decreased in many cities across Europe. The EEA has launched a tracker on air quality and COVID-19, where air quality information for dozens of cities is available.

Reduced energy demand also left a mark on air quality. The Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) estimated that in April 11,000 deaths from air pollution were avoided, as concentrations of NO2 and PM fell across Europe, due to a 37% reduction  in energy generation from coal and a 1/3 reduction in oil consumption.

But as lockdowns are being eased, pollution goes up again, and in many cities concentrations are set to become even poorer, as people switch from public transport to private car use.

So for many reasons other measures than drastic lockdowns should be implemented to achieve long lasting blue skies.

7 September will therefore also be the opportunity to demand greater policy commitment for zero pollution, especially in the recovery measures, to achieve the switch from polluting to health-promoting economies.

HEAL and health partners will continue to share the 8 demands for clean air, which are still highly relevant today.

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