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Monday, December 4, 2023

World Environment Day: breathing again thanks to ISO standards

Author: Clare Naden

What could be more precious than the air we breathe? This year, World Environment Day is dedicated to air pollution, a problem for which ISO has developed a whole range of International Standards to help improve air quality.

Clean air is in short supply. With 91% of the world's population living in areas where air quality does not meet the limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO), and millions of deaths every year , cleaning up the air we breathe is a major challenge.

That's why the theme of World Environment Day 2019 is air pollution. The day, celebrated every year on June 5, was established by the United Nations to raise global awareness and encourage action to protect our environment. This year, particular emphasis is placed on the problems associated with air pollution, both indoor air and the air we breathe in our towns and countryside.

ISO offers numerous International Standards which contribute to cleaner air and reduced pollution. The technical committee, Air Quality, has published over 170 standards and is preparing 37 new standards covering a wide range of fields, from the measurement of air pollutants and emissions to workplace and indoor air quality.

For Rolf Kordecki, the committee's secretary, systematic measurement of toxic substances in the air is essential for limiting them.

"Air pollutants can be very harmful, corrosive, carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic or pathogenic. Standardization of measurement methods is essential to obtain comparable results and ensure consistent assessment of air quality worldwide", he explains.

"In addition, new advances in toxicology may influence what should be considered acceptable levels of air quality, and also identify new pollutants, which is why we continually assess the need to develop new standards."

The set of standards developed by the technical committee, Clean cooking stoves and hearths, illustrates, for example, how standards can help steer the market towards safe, efficient cooking solutions and thus reduce the number of deaths and illnesses caused by polluting stoves.

ISO has also published or is developing numerous standards to support new technologies that limit air pollution, such as those relating to electric, hybrid or fuel cell road vehicles. These include the standard Electrically propelled road vehicles - Determination of propulsion power of hybrid vehicles, and Hybrid electric road vehicles - Exhaust emissions and fuel consumption measurements.

Not forgetting the range of more global standards aimed at improving our environment and the world we live in, such as ISO 14001, Environmental management systems, Sustainable development in local communities - Management system for sustainable development, and the various parts of ISO 14064 relating to the quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals.

All these standards contribute to achieving several of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), includingSDG 13 on measures to combat climate change, andSDG 15 on life on earth.