Air pollution is a major, preventable and manageable threat to peoples’ health and well-being. Air pollution is estimated to contribute to at least 5 million premature deaths each year across the world. No one remains unaffected by dirty air, but the adverse impacts of air pollution fall most heavily upon vulnerable populations, such as children, women, and people living in poverty. Clean air is as vital as clean water. The scientific evidence is unequivocal: Air pollution can harm health across the lifespan, from beginning until the end of life. It affects disease, disability, and death and thus impairs everyone’s quality of life. It damages lungs, hearts, brains, skin and other organs and increases the risk for disease and disability, affecting virtually all systems in the human body. Thus, the costs of air pollution to society and the economies of low- and middle-income countries are enormous.
The Academy of Science of South Africa, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the US National Academy of Medicine, and the US National Academy of Sciences have started an initiative on “Air Pollution and Health” relating to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The five academies brought together leading scientists from Brazil, Germany, South Africa, and the United States as well as representatives of the UN and civil society. The outcome of this initiative is a compact science-policy statement, which addresses global options and measures to reduce air pollution associated risks to health. This statement will be launched and handed over in a ceremony to the Brazilian, German, South African, and US Permanent Representatives to the UN and further high UN representatives at the headquarters of the UN in New York on 19 June 2019. The statement aims at being distributed within the UN system and among national stakeholders on global health.