The history of air quality measurement and legislation

Air quality has long been a historical issue, reaching back as far as the Roman times. It is only after a series of serious smog incidents that authorities finally took action, starting first with the curbing of emissions. As years passed, new legislation and guidelines were put into effect through research on the impact pollutants had on human health, leading us to where we are today. Since 2015, Breeze Technologies is revolutionizing how we think about the topics of air quality sensing, air quality data and clean air actions.

  • 1948

    Donora Smog (US)

    From October 27 to October 31, the Pennsylvania city of Donora was befallen by smog. 6000 residents fell ill and 20 died. This incident is considered to be the worst air pollution disaster in U.S. history.

  • 1952

    Great Smog of London (UK)

    On December 5, a thick fog descended on London, causing 4000 deaths before it dissipated on December 9. While London had experienced smog before, this had been by far the worst.


  • 1955

    Air Pollution Control Act (US)

    This was the first U.S. federal air pollution legislation, which provided funds for research and technical support on the scope and sources of air pollution in the States.

  • 1956

    Clean Air Act (UK)

    This was established in response to the Great Smog of London with the aim of reducing smoke pollution. Smoke-free areas were established throughout the city, the burning of coal was restricted, and homeowners were offered grants for switching to heating sources other than coal.


  • 1961

    National Survey (UK)

    This was the world’s first coordinated national air pollution monitoring network, which kept track of black smoke and sulphur dioxide at 1200 sites across the UK.

  • 1963

    Clean Air Act (US)

    This was the first US federal legislation for air pollution control, which established a national program on promoting public health and welfare and provided research funds for ways to minimize air pollution.


  • 1967

    Air Quality Act (US)

    This authorized enforcement procedures regarding the interstate transport of air pollution and expanded research studies on air pollutant emission inventories and monitoring and control techniques.

  • 1968

    Clean Air Act (UK)

    An extension of the 1956 Clean Air Act, this addition focused on controlling smoke from chimneys burning coal, liquid, and gaseous fuels by defining height and position as well as emission limits.


  • 1970

    EPA Clean Air Act (US)

    The first most comprehensive law dealing with air pollution in the U.S. It allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health while regulating air pollutant emissions from mobile and stationary sources.

  • 1977

    Amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1970 (US)

    The first amendment of the EPA Clean Air Act, provisions in regards to the Prevention of Significant Deterioration in areas striving to meet NAAQS and requirements for non-attainment areas relating to the NAAQS were added.


  • 1987

    Automatic Urban Monitoring Network (UK)

    This was established to monitor pollutants in compliance with the then-emerging EC Directive limit values on air quality.

  • 1987

    Air Quality Guidelines for Europe (WHO)

    The very first edition on guidelines for acceptable values of 28 air pollutants in Europe was published by the World Health Organization (WHO).


  • 1990

    Amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1970 (US)

    The second amendment to the EPA Clean Air act, this addition strove to curb acid rain, urban air pollution and toxic air emissions for Americans and improved upon previous NAAQS provisions.

  • 1996

    Air Quality Framework Directive (EU)

    The first major instrument regarding ambient air pollution, this directive established acceptable standards for pollutants.


  • 1997

    National Air Quality Strategy (UK)

    This was a framework of standards and objectives of the 8 most concerning air pollutants by taking account the effects of air pollution on human health.

  • 1997

    Air Quality Guidelines for Europe 2nd Edition (WHO)

    This provided updated guidelines on acceptable air pollutant values and ranges  using new data.


  • 1998

    Automatic Urban and Rural Network (UK)

    This is the most important and comprehensive national air pollution monitoring network, formed through combining previously separate urban and rural networks. It has a total of 127 sites across the UK.

  • 2005

    Air Quality Guidelines: Global Update (WHO)

    The most current version of the WHO’s standards on key air pollutants detrimental to human health.


  • 2008

    Ambient Air Quality Directive (EU)

    This combined the original 1996 Air Quality Framework Directive with Three Daughter Directives and serves as the current framework for ambient air pollution control in the EU.

  • 2015

    Breeze Technologies started development

    Breeze Technologies has been founded in Hamburg, Germany. It is the startup’s mission to combine the capabilities of lower cost IoT-based sensors, cloud analytics and artificial intelligence to provide ubiquitous air quality data and make clean air actions 10 times more efficient.