Air pollution is a major environmental health threat, particularly for children. Air quality is worst in urban areas in low- and middle-income countries, where there are no local air-quality alert systems. Doctoral Researcher Laura Gladson, Director of Health, Environment, and Policy, Kevin Cromar, and Marron alumna Marya Ghazipura, along with air-quality and modeling experts at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have developed a health index that provides air-quality risk-communication information “to inform communities, mitigate risk, and improve respiratory health outcomes in children.”
This study provides the first health-based air quality index reflecting children’s respiratory risk that can be used in cities around the world. The team’s analysis suggests that an index adjusted for extreme pollution values and controlling for co-pollutants most effectively communicates respiratory risk from air pollution on a global scale. This design uses simple calculations based on daily concentrations of three major pollutants—PM2.5, O3, and NO2—and the index can be used by environmental agencies throughout the world to provide local air quality alerts, using either regional observations or publicly available model forecasts such as NASA’s GEOS-CF.
In the future, as more global health data is acquired, this and other air quality indices can be evaluated and improved to best reflect local health risks to the public. Ideally, any air quality index would be further validated using local health data to confirm associations with local, population-level health risks. NYU researchers are currently working alongside agencies across the world to quantify city-specific risk values and provide local agencies with the tools and skills needed to implement air quality communications within their own communities.