New calculator provides first-ever real-time global demographic data on air pollution exposure

10 September 2020 The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with IQAir, hasdeveloped the first real-time air pollution exposure calculator, which builds on the world’s largest air quality data platform, launched by UNEP and IQAir in February 2020.

The calculator, developed with support from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDS) and the Frontier Technologies Hub, combines global governmental, crowd-sourced and satellite-derived air quality data with population data and applies artificial intelligence to calculate – every four hours – world population exposure to the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that is largely responsible for deaths and illnesses linked to air pollution.

The real-time air pollution exposure calculation is displayed as part of the global interactive air quality map on UNEP’s World Environmental Situation Room in an intuitive live data box that specifies the exposure level per world population age group and gives us insight into which areas around the world are most vulnerable. This information is designed to prioritize efforts to improve air quality monitoring and help catalyse actions to improve air quality in urban spaces. UNEP plans to enhance the calculator to compute exposure for specific countries and cities around the world.

The need to act is urgent. Air pollution not only affects public health, it also affects ecosystems and food production; air pollution is also linked to climate change. Despite this, most citizens don’t have access to real-time air quality data and many urban spaces around the world lack air monitoring systems. Consequently, citizens are often unaware of the harmful levels of air they breathe.

“With nine in ten people on earth breathing unclean air, this real-time air pollution exposure calculator is an important step in our efforts to utilize technology to support cleaner air,” said Inger Anderson, Executive Director of UNEP. “We must continue to increase international cooperation on air quality data and research, develop new technologies and share what is working with each other.”

“We recognize that some of the world’s most vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected by poor air quality,” said IQAir CEO Frank Hammes.“Through our partnership with UNEP, the support of UNSDS, DFID and WorldPop data, we are able to leverage real-time air quality monitoring data, machine learning and data visualization to help identify those that are most affected by global air pollution. The real-time visibility of the impact of air pollution on mankind, combined with the outreach and support that the UNEP offers, can help governments and communities around the world take actions that lead to cleaner, healthier air.”

By rapidly and dynamically assessing real-time exposure to poor air quality, this unique collaboration between the UN, the private sector, academia, non-governmental and local governments is expected to accelerate efforts to change how transport, waste management and other services are managed in cities so that air pollution from these activities is significantly reduced, if not eliminated.

The launch of the calculator comes as the world marked the first-ever International Day of Clean Air for blue skies on 7 September. The Day calls for increased international cooperation at the global, regional and sub-regional levels. It provides a provide a platform for strengthening global solidarity as well as political momentum for action against air pollution and climate change, including actions like the increased collection of air quality data, carrying out joint research, developing new technologies and sharing best practices.


Find the real-time air pollution exposure calculator here:

For more information on data and knowledge on the environment, and the world environment situation room, visit:

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.


The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector to support practical problem solving for sustainable development at local, national, and global scales. The SDSN has been operating since 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. The SDSN is building national and regional networks of knowledge institutions, solution-focused thematic networks, and the SDG Academy, an online university for sustainable development.

About IQAir

IQAir is a Swiss-based air quality technology company that since 1963, empowers individuals, organizations, and communities to breathe cleaner air through information, collaboration and technology solutions. Visit and for additional information.


The WorldPop project was initiated in 2013 with an aim to produce detailed and freely available population distribution and composition maps. WorldPop produces different types of gridded population count datasets with high-resolution, open and contemporary data on human population distributions, allowing accurate measurement of local population distributions, compositions, demographic characteristics, growth and dynamics, across national and regional scales. WorldPop develops and implements open spatial demographic methods to ensure that every person is mapped and counted in decision making.

About IMC Worldwide Limited

IMC Worldwide Ltd has the mandate to empower the poor and disadvantaged in low and middle-income countries. IMC Worldwide is implementing the Frontier Technology Programme which works at the intersection of technology innovation and international development to implement pilot projects using lean and agile methodologies to solve development challenges. The programme is funded by e UKAid

For more information, please contact:

Keisha Rukikaire, Head of News & Media, UNEP

Tiffany Allegretti, Public Relations Manager, IQAir: +1 562-903-7600 ext. 1129

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