Globally, exposure to air pollution causes more early deaths than malaria and HIV combined. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Lima had the most polluted air out of all Latin American cities, mainly due to vehicle emissions, which encouraged the city to take action. The city launched ‘Aires Nuevos para la Infancia’ (New Air for Children) to improve air quality and the health of Lima’s most vulnerable residents.

The project’s launch saw the installation of low-cost air quality sensors at schools, children’s health centres and shelters to measure the levels of air pollution, enabling the city to monitor local air quality. This data helped Lima to introduce measures that reduce children’s exposure to dangerous air pollutants, creating safe spaces with cleaner air for children to play, learn, develop and thrive.

To date, the project has increased air quality monitoring coverage in the city by nearly two-thirds. The data has enabled Lima to identify where to implement actions to improve air quality; over 8,000 children have benefited from measures such as accessible pathways and playgrounds that are far from busy traffic routes and have increased vegetation cover, helping to remove pollutants from the air. The measures have also improved air quality by 45% in the targeted locations. The project expects to reduce the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease by nearly 30%, and increase life expectancy by more than 11 months. 

The project is supported by Aires Nuevos, Latin America’s largest air quality network for early childhood.

This case study was originally published for the 2022 C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards, which recognise ambitious and impactful projects led by mayors that address climate challenges. The initiative featured as a finalist in the award category: Cleaning the Air We Breathe

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