Particulate air pollution reduces average life expectancy by 2.3 years, according to the latest data from the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), making it the world’s greatest external risk to human health. Yet, 92.7 percent of life years lost due to pollution occurs in Asia and Africa, where there is little infrastructure to support air quality improvements. For example, just 6.8 and 3.7 percent of governments in Asia and Africa, respectively, provide fully open-air quality data according to the non-profit OpenAQ.

EPIC is pleased to announce that it has received funding from Open Philanthropy to more fully explore this data gap. The funding will go towards research that will assess where the biggest opportunities to fill gaps in country-level PM2.5 monitoring exist, and identify local efforts that are most often best suited to fill these gaps.

“The first few publicly available air quality monitors in a region could have an outsized impact on the public demand for clean air and in informing government decision making,” says Santosh Harish, Program Officer at Open Philanthropy. “EPIC’s new analysis will identify countries that are likely to be highly polluted, attract negligible philanthropic support for air quality, and where there is insufficient monitoring data available publicly.”

The work will culminate in a report set to publish by the end of 2023, and intends to provide the philanthropic, international development, and national clean action communities with an assessment of where a small, sustained PM2.5 monitoring effort could have an outsized national-level air pollution policy impact.

“In a world where PM2.5 air pollution stands as one of the largest threats to global health, the absence of fundamental air quality data in nearly 40% of countries isn’t just a gap—it’s a chasm,” says Christa Hasenkopf, the Director of Air Quality Programs at EPIC. “With this newly funded work, we aim to show It’s also an imminently bridgeable one by shining a bright light on the golden opportunities to support local actors to sustainably generate data and connect it to their communities to drive clean air action.”

Currently, less than 64 million USD from philanthropies worldwide in 2021 went toward outdoor air pollution issues, according to the Clean Air Fund. This is about the same amount in coins Americans are estimated to throw out each year. And of that 64 million USD, the entire continent of Africa received less than 300,000 USD in philanthropic contributions in 2021 (i.e. the current average price of a single-family home in the United States).

Are you an entity or individual who does work that helps fill air quality data gaps in countries or regions without easy access to plentiful real-time air quality information – specifically PM2.5 data? Sign up for our registry.

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