Environment chiefs are ramping up efforts to monitor air quality in the UAE and cut down on the pollutants that people breathe in every day.
The latest step is the establishment of an air quality station at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment in Dubai.
At the end of the month a delegation from the UAE will also take part in a high-level international conference on tackling air pollution – something which kills millions every year.
The station at the ministry’s headquarters is equipped with sensors and filters to detect nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and ground ozone levels.
It can also can detect harmful microscopic liquids or solids in the air known as particulate matter. These particles have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and other illnesses.
UAE-endorsed apps that monitor air pollution show that, while much has been done, more work lies ahead. Yesterday, the Plume Air Report app recorded a "very high" air quality index of 115 in Abu Dhabi. Beijing, a city known for its air pollution, had a reading of 154 for the same time.
Air pollution in most cities exceeds recommended World Health Organisation levels. Household air pollution is a leading killer in poor rural and urban homes, while up to a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are a result of air pollution.
Aisha Al Abdooli, director of green development at the environment ministry, said work to improve air quality was not the government's alone and everyone needed to play their part.
“We are now making a big effort towards improving air quality and reducing pollution,” she said. “The UAE, as part of the international community, is working towards that.”
The air quality station will be used for research and to create a better environment for employees.
"We want to make sure the area is healthier," Ms Al Abdooli said. "If a dust storm approaches, we can warn employees with allergies to cover their faces."
The new station brings the number of air quality monitoring stations in the UAE to 42.
These stations are operated by several organisations, such as the National Centre of Meteorology, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and Dubai Municipality.
The new station follows Abu Dhabi's environment agency endorsement in August of the Plume app. This helps residents monitor air pollution and even offers guidance for exercising or eating outside.
The UAE responded strongly in 2015 when international figures showed that the country had the world's most polluted air. Emirati officials argued that dust-storm effects should not be lumped in with pollution caused by human activity. The UAE also said its own figures showed lower levels. In July, dust storms that enveloped the country also sent air pollution levels soaring. However, recent figures from the World Bank suggested that the UAE is less polluted than countries such as China and India.
The UAE is participating in the WHO’s global conference on air pollution that starts in Geneva on October 30.
It will be the first global event to focus on air pollution and health and is expected to lead to a worldwide action plan to reduce the number of related deaths by 2030.
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said that by 2021 the UAE wants to improve its air quality by 90 per cent on current levels.
"Air monitoring stations keep air pollution in check, mainly around urban areas that have far higher concentrations of pollutants," Dr Al Zeyoudi commented.
“The readings they provide play a vital role in making informed decisions to help the nation achieve its targets.”