Three-Quarters of National Governments Fail to Provide Fully Transparent Data on Air Pollution

New report by OpenAQ offers insights into monitoring of air quality around the world and how the data are shared

Governments have a responsibility to address air pollution — a leading health concern across the entire world that disproportionately harms residents of low- and middle-income countries. Reliable data on air pollution are fundamental to understanding and taking corrective action to improve air quality.

OpenAQ researched the world’s countries to determine which have government-led air quality monitoring programs and whether and how they are opening their monitoring data to the public.

The resulting report, Open Air Quality Data: The Global Landscape 2022, finds that 61% of countries are conducting or sponsoring some level of air quality monitoring at the national level. But in many of the most populated, polluted countries, no national air quality monitoring is occurring. At least one billion people are living where their national government doesn’t monitor the most serious environmental risk factor for their health.

Percentage of countries (and dependencies with more than 1M people) that do/do not generate air quality data and to/do not share their data publicly.

Furthermore, although 53% of countries publicly share their air quality data, most are not doing so in a way that is fully transparent and usable, i.e., sharing the pollutants’ physical units, sharing monitoring station locations, and sharing the data in a timely, analysis-ready format (programmatic access to near real-time data). In fact less than one-quarter of countries provide open access to maximally useful air quality data.

“We urge governments to monitor air quality and to make the underlying data fully accessible to the public,” said Viraj Sawant, PhD candidate at the University of California Los Angeles and lead author of the report. “Full and transparent data access allows everyone across private, public and civil society to innovate and apply effective solutions towards clean air.”

Air pollution takes a tremendous toll on human health. The average person loses 2.2 years of life expectancy because of exposure to particulate pollution, with those living in the most polluted areas of the world losing as many as 7 (Air Quality Life Index Annual Update, June 2022). Although some progress has been made since OpenAQ published its first global assessment in 2020 of whether and how national governments are producing and sharing air quality data with the public, the progress is too slow.

“OpenAQ is here to support governments in applying best practices for opening up their air quality data,” said Chris Hagerbaumer, OpenAQ Executive Director. “And we encourage far greater philanthropic support and international development aid in support of air pollution monitoring and mitigation, with conditions for data transparency in funding agreements.”

Link to the report.

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OpenAQ

We host real-time air quality data on a free and open data platform because people do amazing things with it. Find us at openaq.org.