Pure air is a rare phenomenon. With 91 % of the world’s population in places where the air quality doesn’t meet World Health Organization (WHO) limits, and millions of deaths every year1), cleaning up our air is a major issue.

Air pollution, therefore, is the theme of this year’s World Environment Day. Held on 5 June, it is the United Nation’s day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. This year it draws attention to the concern of air pollution, whether it be inside or out, in cities or in the countryside.

ISO has many international standards that contribute to cleaner air and reducing pollution. ISO’s technical committee ISO/TC 146, Air quality2) , has over 170 published standards and 37 in development that cover a range of areas such as the measurement of air pollutants and emissions, workspace air and indoor air.

Secretary of the committee, Dr. Rolf Kordecki said consistent measurement of toxic substances in the air is essential in order to be able to limit them.

“Air pollutants can be very harmful, corrosive, carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic or pathogenic. Standardization of measurement methods is necessary to obtain comparable results and to ensure a consistent assessment of air quality across the world,” he said.

“What’s more, new developments in toxicology can influence what are deemed to be safe levels of air quality, as well as identify new kinds of pollutants, so we are constantly reviewing the need for new standards.”.

Another example is the range of standards from ISO technical committee ISO/TC 285, Clean cookstoves and clean cooking solutions, which aim to help drive the market for safe and efficient cooking solutions and to reduce the number of deaths and illnesses caused by polluting stoves.

ISO also has many standards either published or in development aimed at supporting new technologies that clean up our air, such as those for electric, hybrid and fuel-cell road vehicles. These include ISO 20762, Electrically propelled road vehicles – Determination of power for propulsion of hybrid electric vehicle and ISO 23274, Hybrid-electric road vehicles – Exhaust emissions and fuel consumption measurements.

In addition, we also have standards at a more holistic level aimed at improving our environment and the world we live in such as ISO 14001, Environment management systems; ISO 37101, Sustainable development in communities – Management system for sustainable development; and the ISO 14064 series on the quantification and reporting of greenhouse gases.

All of which contributes to several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 13 Climate Action and SDG 15 Life on Land.

By Clare Naden