Around 92% of the world’s human population are exposed to air pollution levels that exceed the “safe” limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO), owing to their place of residence, according to a new study.
“The new WHO model shows countries where the air pollution danger spots are, and provides a baseline for monitoring progress in combatting it,” stated Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO.
The new study/model also, notably, represents the most detailed outdoor (or ambient) air pollution-related health data (on the world scale) ever reported by the WHO.
The new model was based around various data obtained via: satellite measurement, air transport models, and ground station monitors — from 3,000 different locations (urban and rural). The model was developed by the WHO in collaboration with the University of Bath, United Kingdom.
“This new model is a big step forward towards even more confident estimates of the huge global burden of more than 6 million deaths — 1 in 9 of total global deaths — from exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution,” stated Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “More and more cities are monitoring air pollution now, satellite data is more comprehensive, and we are getting better at refining the related health estimates.”
The press release provides a bit more: “Some 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6% of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together. Nearly 90% of air-pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with nearly 2 out of 3 occurring in WHO’s South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions. 94% are due to noncommunicable diseases — notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Air pollution also increases the risks for acute respiratory infections.”
Continuing: “The interactive maps provide information on population-weighted exposure to particulate matter of an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) for all countries. The map also indicates data on monitoring stations for PM10 and PM2.5 values for about 3000 cities and towns.”
“Fast action to tackle air pollution can’t come soon enough,” Dr Neira continued. “Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions.”
In addition to direct health benefits, these solutions would of course help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well.