Every four seconds you breathe, so more than 20,000 times a day, good for around 150 cubic meters (!) of air. Healthy air is therefore our first necessity. You would think that conscious earth dwellers make this their main priority. Unfortunately: nothing is less true. Economic growth and profit still determine the human race (to the abyss).

The thinnest and lowest layer of the atmosphere around our planet is called the troposphere. It is approximately 7 km at the poles and 17 km thick at the equator. Herein lies the weather, and all the life of breathing animals and plants.

Dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen (N2), 20.94% oxygen (O2), 0.93% argon (Ar), 0.03% carbon dioxide (CO2) and 7 other elements. In addition to a variable amount of water vapor (approx. 1% of the volume), there are also non-gaseous components: soil, pollen, bacteria, spores, ... A humidity between 40% and 60% is ideal.

Healthy air contains a maximum of 350-1000 ppm (parts per million) carbon dioxide, a minimum amount of dust and biological material and sufficient (minimum 1000 / cm³) negative ions to keep the air clean. Since the industrial revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from around 0.03% by volume to now more than 0.04% by volume (around 401 ppmv).

Industry, agriculture, habitation (heating) and transport cause pollution. Air quality maps are almost a copy of maps of respiratory (and other) diseases.

In the Netherlands, polluted air causes 12,000 premature deaths and 10,000th long-term illnesses every year. It is often about indoor air, where we spend an average of more than 20 hours a day, more than half of which is in our own home. In Belgium, around 10,000 to 13,000 people die each year from the effects of air pollution.

A European city dweller has one chance in five of being exposed to air pollution that goes (far) beyond the EU limits. And they are far beyond the limits of the WHO, the World Health Organization. For nitrogen: 40 micrograms per cubic meter, with the WHO that is 20 µg / m³. (The same ratio for particulate matter!) In 2014, concentrations of particulate matter were responsible for around 428,000 early deaths in 41 European countries (+ -399,000 in the EU).

Air pollution is 10 times more deadly than traffic accidents!

The social cost: an average of 1 healthy year of life per Flemish and 2% of GDP in health costs.

You will find the healthiest places to live far away from crowds and production.

The lowest value of NO2 (10.9 µg / m³) was measured in Remersdaal near Voeren, the highest (75.3 µg / m³!) along a busy intersection in Houthalen-Helchteren. Schiermonnikoog has the cleanest air in the Netherlands. Southern Spain (Murcia) is the healthiest region in Europe. More and more measuring stations are being used that can be monitored via various websites. They measure fine dust, nitrogen dioxide and soot (black carbon).

Light particulate matter (PM) can float. Some are so small (one thirteenth to one fifth of the diameter of a human hair) that they penetrate deep into the lungs and, like oxygen, end up in the blood.

In addition to the coarser fraction (from PM10) and particulate matter PM2.5 and PM1, there is also ultrafine dust PM0.1. The particles have an aerodynamic diameter of less than 10, 2.5, 1 and 0.1 µm (1 µm = 1 millionth of a meter or 1 thousandth of a millimeter, the average diameter of a human hair is 50-70).

The terms are not always used consistently.

Coarse particles come from swirling road dust or tire shavings. Smaller particles are released during combustion. In particular, soot and ultra-fine dust (from combustion reactions!) are very harmful to health. Already after 12 weeks a fetus comes into contact with this!

The Environmental Performance Index compares how countries score on environmental issues. Switzerland is at 1 with 95.5 points. This is followed by Costa Rica (90.5), New Zealand (88.9), Japan (84.5), Australia (79) and Mauritius (78.1).

Air pollution can cause and worsen lung diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and COPD. She knows no boundaries, you cannot avoid sicknesses anywhere. Distribution stories are known and documented about DDT in polar animals, microplastics from the highest mountains to deep ocean troughs. Sahara fabric from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia (April 2019) that colors cars and laundry here as blood rain or wonder rain. Or volcano dust that hinders air traffic. Asbestos fibers ... More than one hundred million tonnes of Sahara sand ends up in the Atlantic every year. It can rise to the Saharan Air Layer (5 to 7 kilometers altitude) and then cross the ocean (4,400 kilometers at speeds up to 90 km / h). Usually it is dust of a few micrometres in size.. But a combination of warm air, turbulence, convection and electric charge can bring quartz grains of half a millimeter in size to Barbados. Smoke from fires in Africa and Sahara dust are the most important (phosphorus) fertilizer of the Amazon basin and the tropical Atlantic Ocean. About 12 percent of the dust from the Sahara ends up in our regions. Passengers can travel with them. In the 1980s there was an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain. The virus was also blown with the Sahara dust.

Glyphosate is found in, for example, beer, breast milk, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, surface waters and urine, which seems to indicate a ubiquity of this widely used substance, also in products (from fields or groves) that were not sprayed.

There are basic rules for the use of "plant protection products". Windbreak, emission screens or catch crops must be located in a cultivation-free zone around the site. Adapted nozzles and distances must also be used for drift reduction. No homes may be built within 50 meters of a spray zone. These measures will be insufficient for fruit growing with sideways and upward spraying.

You can't flee anything ... Healthy air must become a global concern. From tamper software to "zero emission" transport. Fluttering soil dust and ammonia emissions from agriculture, and industrial extraction and production are also an important source of particulate matter. But also wood stoves and fireworks. Just unhealthier than breathing is stopping breathing.