At present, the lack of control over air quality in many places, and the inaction of various global bodies, has led people and institutions to ask themselves: do we have the right to breathe clean air?
What appears to many to be a recent demand, for the World Health Organization (WHO) is part of a right declared in the year 2000, when multiple meetings were convened to establish the declarations on "The right to a healthy indoor air", emanating from fundamental principles for human rights, biomedical ethics, and ecological sustainability.
At times when most exposure to polluted air occurs indoors, the following statements notify those responsible for healthy indoor air of their rights and obligations. These were discussed and ratified at various meetings held in Bilthoven, the Netherlands, in May 2000. Twenty-three members from 18 countries participated, most of them belonging to the European Union.
The right to healthy indoor air
P1. Under the principle of the human right to health, everyone has the right to breathe healthy indoor air.
P2. Under the principle of respect for autonomy (self-determination), everyone has the right to adequate information about potentially harmful exposures, and to be provided with effective means for controlling at least part of their indoor exposures.
P3. Under the principle of non-maleficence (not harm), no agent at a concentration that exposes any occupant to unnecessary health risk should be introduced into indoor air.
P4. Under the principle of beneficence (doing good), all individuals, groups, and organizations associated with a building, whether private, public, or governmental, bear the responsibility to advocate or work for acceptable air quality for the occupants.
P5. Under the principle of social justice, the socio-economic status of occupants should have no bearing on their access to healthy indoor air, but health status may determine special needs for some groups.
P6. Under the principle of accountability, all relevant organizations should establish explicit criteria for evaluating and assessing building air quality and its impacts on the health of the population and the environment.
P7. Under the precautionary principle, where there is a risk of harmful indoor air exposure, the presence of uncertainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent such exposure.
P8. Under the ‘‘polluter-pays’’ principle, the polluter is accountable for any harm to health and welfare resulting from unhealthy indoor air exposures. In addition, the polluter is responsible for mitigation and remediation.
P9. Under the principle of sustainability, health and environmental concerns cannot be separated, and the provision of healthy indoor air should not compromise global or local ecological integrity or the rights of future generations.
To a large extent, poor air quality in the world is due to poor articulation and understanding of basic principles related to indoor air quality. As a result, the general public is not familiar with these principles or related rights.
At AiroDoctor, we are committed to timely reporting on air quality measures in all our spaces. Without a doubt, an informed individual is an individual capable of taking action on the reality of his environment.