• Dr. Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City, Mexico
    Dr. Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City, Mexico

    Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City, Mexico

    Dr. Claudia Sheinbaum is Mayor of Mexico City. She graduated in Physics Doctorate of Sciences from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM); Master and PhD in Energy Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering of UNAM. She completed a 4-year academic stay for her doctoral research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, associated with the University of California at Berkeley.

Sensing technologies are the new eyes and ears for cities to understand air quality, as well as the sources and health risks from pollution. We have a unique opportunity to work with technology innovators, academia, private sector and civil society to connect health and technology to truly clean the air we breathe.

  • Denae W. King, Houston, Texas
    Denae W. King, Houston, Texas

    Denae W. King, Houston, Texas

    Denae W. King is the Research Program Manager in the Mickey Leland Center for Environment, Justice, and Sustainability at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston. Dr. King developed an interest in community-based participatory research (CBPR) as it relates to environmental health and cancer while completing a Kellogg Scholars in Health Disparities postdoctoral fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She continues to work on environmental health assessment projects designed to address community-identified environmental health concerns in Houston’s underserved environmental justice communities.

    She received her Ph.D. in environmental science/toxicology from the University of Texas Health Science Center – Houston, School of Public Health in 2001.

Why do you fight for clean air?

Clean air should be a human right. I fight for clean air to help people of color and communities that are more likely to be located along the fencelines of harmful sources of pollution. I spent my formative years in communities bombarded by businesses and facilities that impacted air quality. There were car-crushing facilities, landfills, and major freeways in close proximity to our homes. It is important to work to ensure that families and children don’t continue to face poor air quality concerns and the resulting poor health outcomes.

Why is EDF’s work on clean air important to you personally?

In the Houston metropolitan area, we don’t have zoning, so we are faced with ongoing air quality concerns. EDF’s work on clean air enhances awareness and advocacy in environmental justice communities. Recent projects focused on community air monitoring enable residents, as well as public health and elected officials, to begin to understand and address ongoing and emerging air quality issues. Education has been valuable for increasing awareness related to air quality and clean air efforts.

I am hopeful this new Global Clean Air initiative succeeds because it will equip citizens with the information needed to advocate for healthier and safer environments.

  • Jemima Hartshorn (far left), London, UK

    Jemima Hartshorn, London, United Kingdom

    Jemima Hartshorn (pictured on far left) is co-founder of Mums for Lungs. She was born in London and raised in Hamburg, Germany. She returned to London for an LLM degree in human rights and good governance. She is a human rights lawyer and previously worked as a public prosecutor.

Why do you fight for clean air?

I fight for clean air, because I want all children across the U.K., no matter where they live to grow up healthily and happy. Air pollution has been shown to result in stunted lung growth in children, cause cancer, diabetes, respiratory illnesses and has even been linked to mental health issues in teenagers. That is just wrong. Breathing is most essential for all of us, but in our current set-up with a high reliance on cars and enjoying comforting but often unnecessary woodburning, the air millions of us breathe is not actually safe to breathe.

Why is EDF’s work (inc. Breathe London) on clean air important to you personally?

I think it is really powerful to show how and especially why the air is so polluted. Only when policymakers and many of us understand that driving a road vehicle in London is the single biggest contributor to air that makes us sick, will change be demanded.

I am hopeful this new Global Clean Air initiative succeeds because it is enabling anyone to understand the what and how we all can clean up our shared air.

Photo credit: Mums for Lungs

  • Dr. Melissa Bilec
    Dr. Melissa Bilec, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Dr. Melissa Bilec, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Dr. Melissa Bilec is an associate professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; she is the Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. She is also the Roberta A. Luxbacher Faculty Fellow, and she serves as the Pitt STRIVE Director of Faculty Community Building and Engagement for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

    Dr. Bilec’s research is motivated by her strong commitment to develop positive, quantitative, and sustainable solutions for the built environment. Most recently, she is working to solve the global plastic waste challenge through the advancement and development of design for circular economy.

Why do you fight for clean air? Why do you find this work so critical, especially today?

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I lived near one of the most polluted towns. When I was a baby, my mom dressed me in a white outfit, put me in the carriage, and by the time our stroll started, I was covered with soot. This story, along with witnessing the disproportionate impact of poor air quality on community of color, has inspired me to work in this space.

What sort of air pollution work are you focused on?

I primarily see the world and my research from a systems-level view, using the sustainability tool of life cycle assessment to quantify the environmental impacts of the built environment (BE). In working in the BE space, it is important to examine both the external impacts of the ambient air, but also the indoor air impacts as people spend most of their time indoors.

  • First up MCAF: EcoMadres
    Cinthia Zermeño Moore, Las Vegas, Nevada

    Cinthia Zermeño Moore, Las Vegas, Nevada

    Cinthia Zermeño Moore is Nevada Field Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force and leads the Ecomadres program, which brings Latina moms together to address issues of clean air, climate, and toxics that affect the health of Latino children and families. She has called the Silver State her home most of her life. Her family moved to Las Vegas from North Hollywood in the early 1990s during the construction boom. She has been advocating for clean air, clean energy, and water conservation for over 10 years through her work with various organizations in Nevada. She served on the Parks and Recreation Board for the City of North Las Vegas, where she advocated for access to more green spaces.

    Cinthia is a mother to a toddler boy and a part time realtor in Las Vegas. During her free time, she volunteers as the Chair of the Scholarship Committee for the Nellis Area Spouses’ Club (a Nellis Air Force Base spouses’ organization), which each year is committed to awarding $30,000 in scholarship money to military dependents.

How did you become involved in fighting for clean air?

I do not want other communities to have to go through what folks in my hometown (Jalisco, Mexico) are going through. They had this beautiful river with a waterfall, where families spent a lot of time. Now they have a high rates of cancer, birth defects and breathing issues.

My son motivates me to fight for clean air. He has extreme allergy issues made worse by the poor air quality that we have in Las Vegas. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report recently ranked Las Vegas #9 in the entire country for ground level ozone pollution. Last year they ranked us #13. We are not improving, and I do not want us to end up being #1 on that list in the next few years. Our city and our community deserve better.

What motivates you to fight for environmental justice for your community?

Growing up, I often heard my dad talk fondly about his memories of growing up in a town in Jalisco. He talked about swimming and fishing in Rio Santiago. He has so many amazing memories from his childhood, because of this river and the beautiful waterfall. As a kid, I often found myself imagining being by the river and looking at that beautiful waterfall.

However, that moment never came, because that river no longer exists in the way my dad remembers it. In the 1970s, El Salto Jalisco, which is part of the Guadalajara metropolitan area, and the place where both my dad and I were born, became a popular spot for foreign companies. These companies built an industrial park to manufacture their products – tires, electronics, vehicles, and so many other things. The government provided no oversight and no environmental regulations. These companies got rid of their waste by dumping it into the river. As a result, that beautiful river and waterfall where my dad has so many fond memories is now polluted.

My dad was never able to share with his children the experiences he had in that river, because of the environmental harm these companies did. I’m in this fight, because I want to protect the places I love so that I can share them with my young son in a way that my dad was never able to do with his children.

What is your hope for the Global Clean Air Initiative?

I have always felt it was important for us to do as much as we can in order to preserve our planet for future generations. Children have the right to breathe clean air. Together, we can make this a reality.

  • Qin Qin, Cangzhou, China

    Qin Qin, Cangzhou, China

    Qin Qin works for Cangzhou City Air Pollution Prevention and Control Work Leading Group Office. She coordinates with various departments including environmental protection, urban management, housing development, and transportation on air pollution control.

Why do you find this work so critical, especially today?

This year is the final year of China’s “Three-year Action Plan for Defending the Blue Sky,” however, air pollution control can’t be finalized.

We must continue to come up with solutions, brainstorm ideas, and deliver good results. At the same time, in response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s solemn pledge that China aims to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, air pollution control should become an effective way to combat climate change, an important measure to promote the continuous improvement of the quality of the ecological environment, and an absolute guarantee for improving people’s health and living standards. As environmentalists, we are obliged to “make the sky bluer, mountains greener, water clearer, and environment more beautiful in China.”

What sort of air pollution work are you focused on?

Since 2017, our department has undertaken the air pollution hotspot grid monitoring pilot (“clairvoyance project”) work carried out in Cangzhou. The project was announced by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE). My department is also responsible for the comprehensive management, coordination, and dispatch of air pollution prevention and control in Cangzhou.

I am involved in the air pollution prevention and control, and responsible for the hotspot grid monitoring pilot, which mainly includes the effective identification of air pollution hotspots and the coordination of various departments (environmental protection, urban management, housing development, transportation, etc.), to deal with urban air pollution hotspots in a timely and effective manner, expecting to reduce the degree of air pollution and improve the quality of the atmospheric environment. I am also responsible for promoting the application of new monitoring technologies and big data in air pollution prevention, urban planning and sustainable development.

I am hopeful this new Global Clean Air initiative succeeds because:

From my perspective, the aim of Global Clean Air initiative is to build a “global village”, in which everyone participates, explore ideas, and works together to achieve the magnificent goal of environmental protection across the globe.

In the era of big data, comprehensive innovations of technologies and systems related to air quality management are able to accurately target the source of pollution, effectively improve regulatory efficiency, implement environmental regulatory responsibilities, and strengthen corporate responsibility. Meanwhile, the initiative is strongly advancing towards precise governance based on risk and assessment, and is gradually integrated into the smart city system. It is believed that the initiative will definitely play a greater role in building a “beautiful city” in the near future.

  • Xingyu Qi

    Xingyu Qi graduated from the Environmental Engineering Department of Tsinghua University. His studies focus on environmental ecology and environmental management information systems, including information system design, big-data analysis, data processing and mining, algorithms and modelling for carbon emission, life-cycle assessment research of carbon emission, water and air pollution-related impacts on city ecology. In recent years he has led research on ecology and carbon emission for the Ministry of Ecology & Environment, Shenzhen City government, Xiangtan City government and Beijing Fanghan District government.

How did you become interested in air pollution related work?

In 2013, China issued an Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan. The plan is meant to improve overall air quality across the nation over the course of the next five years, reducing heavy pollution by a large margin and improving air quality in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Province, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta.

Scientific and technological development is necessary to achieve these objectives. Key areas of research include source analysis, monitoring of and emergency response to haze and ozone levels, and analysis of formation mechanisms and transfer patterns. The policy created great opportunities for research institutes to utilize science and technology for pollution control. Since 2015, there has been a gradual increase in research related to the causes, monitoring, analysis and movement of atmospheric pollution.

Since 2016, I have participated in science-based pollution control projects at the city and park levels. These projects gather monitoring data through low-cost sensor monitoring deployment. This data is combined with multi-dimensional data sources including pollution sources, economic information, and electricity and meteorology related data. All of this information is then analyzed to see where pollution has come from and where it has gone. This provides scientific support for the formulation of regional pollution control and prevention policies, helping policymakers achieve good results and gain local government recognition.

Through the years, I have developed my data analysis and statistics skills to help create successful, directly applicable research projects. My interest in the field has gotten stronger as I have done more in-depth work.

What motivates your current air pollution monitoring work?

On a large scale, atmospheric environmental protection is fundamental to the health of people, the success of sustained economic development, and the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Through research that helps create a future with cleaner air, I can play my part in the realization of the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of China. Seeing the results of my scientific research applied in real life to solve real issues has been very fulfilling. This has motivated my current air pollution monitoring work.

Please describe your work as director of the Ecology Research Institute of SUSTC Engineering Technology Innovation Centre (Beijing).

The Engineering Technology Innovation Center of Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) is affiliated with the School of Environment of SUSTech and focuses on environmental consulting and research. My work at the Ecology Institute mainly involves regional ecological and environmental protection planning, regional low-carbon green development, multi-dimensional data mining and analysis, and other related research. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s goal is the “coordinated control of atmospheric pollution and carbon dioxide.” Therefore, for the Ecology Institute, our work can cover the synergy of these two aspects pretty well.

What are your hopes for the future of mobile monitoring of air pollution?

After five years of effort by governments, enterprises and researchers at all levels, the air quality in China’s 339 prefecture-level cities has been significantly improved. Each city has developed its unique management mechanisms and systems. Through economic development and air quality enhancement, people have become more concerned about the impact of air pollution on health.

It would be great to develop a mobile monitoring device that many people can carry easily. Such devices could collect data on the surrounding air quality to guide people’s travel plans, and, at the same time, upload the data onto cloud servers for modeling and analysis. This can be further used on mobile phone applications to guide the travel plans of even more people, creating a great mobile monitoring application. This would require mobile monitoring equipment to be smaller, more accurate and lower in cost. It may also involve incorporating edge computing into mobile monitoring equipment to reduce both the operating cost of cloud servers and the carbon emissions from cloud services and communications.

What do you see as the role of international collaboration in the fight against air pollution?

Much of my work is at the local level, helping promote clearer air in cities with little impact on the neighboring countries. However, to improve international collaboration on the issue of air pollution control, I think we need to strengthen the exchanges of science and technology, learn from each other’s practical and feasible experiences, and promote more global scale research and innovative technologies. This way, we could avoid detours and speed up progress.

  • Ernesto Sánchez-Triana, Global Lead for Pollution Management and Circular Economy, the World Bank

    Ernesto Sánchez-Triana is the Global Lead for Pollution Management and Circular Economy for the World Bank, where he manages the Program on Pollution Management and Environmental Health and the Program on Pollution Management and Circular Economy. Ernesto has led the preparation of numerous policy-based programs, investment projects, technical assistance operations, and analytical work in several countries. Before joining the World Bank, he was Professor at the National University of Colombia and Director of Environmental Policy at Colombia’s National Department of Planning. Ernesto also worked for the Inter-American Development Bank. He holds two master of science degrees and a PhD from Stanford University.

Why do you fight for clean air?

My best friend died of lung cancer when he was less than 40 years old. Like me, he had completed graduate studies in environmental engineering. In addition, one of my sons had respiratory problems associated with air pollution that resulted in bronchitis and asthma. This experience, as well as over three decades of working closely with the most vulnerable populations on the planet, have led me to specialize in this area. This is more than a professional obligation for me; it is an unconditional commitment that brings meaning to my life.

Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats the world faces and is the world’s leading environmental risk to human health. Exposure to PM2.5 (particles equal to or less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) pollution, both outdoors and indoors, caused an estimated 6.4 million premature deaths and 21 million years lived with disability in 2019, according to the Global Burden of Disease Report. About 95% of those deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

The World Bank has estimated that the annual health costs of PM2.5 pollution are US$8.1 trillion. Thus, in addition to causing pain and suffering, air pollution causes significant economic costs, equivalent to nearly 6.1% of global gross domestic product. Unless ambitious and concrete interventions are implemented, ambient (outdoor) air pollution is likely to increase its health and social burden in the future as low- and middle-income countries continue to urbanize, industrialize, and experience population growth.

Helping low- and middle-income client countries to address pollution-related challenges is indispensable to the World Bank’s mission of ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity in a sustainable manner. The poor and other vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly, and women, are primarily affected by air pollution. They are exposed to higher concentrations of PM2.5 for reasons that include worse air quality in their neighborhoods, reliance on solid fuels for cooking and heating, and occupational exposure.