In many cities throughout the globe, air pollution is reaching levels that threaten people’s health according to new data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The information includes data from nearly 1,100 cities in 91 countries.
WHO estimates over 2 million people die every year from breathing in tiny particles present in indoor and outdoor air pollution. These PM10 particles can penetrate the lungs and can cause heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, and acute lower respiratory infections.
Among the report’s findings:
- Persistently elevated levels of fine particle pollution are common across many urban areas. Fine particle pollution often originates from combustion sources such as power plants and motor vehicles.
- The great majority of urban populations have an average annual exposure to PM10 particles in excess of the WHO Air Quality guideline. On average, only a few cities currently meet the WHO guideline values.
- For 2008, the estimated mortality attributable to outdoor air pollution in cities amounts to 1.34 million premature deaths. If the WHO guidelines had been universally met, an estimated 1.09 million deaths could have been prevented. The number of deaths attributable to air pollution in cities has increased from the previous estimation of 1.15 million deaths in 2004. The increase in the mortality estimated to be attributable to urban air pollution is linked to recent increases in air pollution concentrations and in urban population size, as well as improved data availability and methods.
“Air pollution is a major environmental health issue and it is vital that we increase efforts to reduce the health burden it creates,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment. “If we monitor and manage the environment properly we can significantly reduce the number of people suffering from respiratory and heart disease, and lung cancer.”