Around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles. Photo: / Ian Sane CC BY-NC-ND

WHO: 9 out of 10 people breathing polluted air

Air pollution levels remain dangerously high in many parts of the world. Nine out of ten people globally are breathing polluted air, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports, as new analysis showed improvements in Europe and wealthier cities, but a worsening situation in poorer regions.

WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles (PM) in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases that include stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

Although conditions in the world’s megacities and poor countries remain dangerous, the WHO said there was some “positive progress” as governments take measures to tackle the problem. Concentrations of ambient air pollution are generally lowest in the wealthiest countries, with declining levels in parts of Europe and the Americas.

The WHO air quality database collected mean concentrations of particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5 from more than 4,300 cities in 108 countries between 2010 and 2016. The WHO recommends countries reduce their air pollution levels to below annual mean values of 20μg/m3 for PM10 and 10μg/m3 PM2.5. EU air quality standards are set much higher – at 40µg/m3 for PM10 and 25μg/m3 for PM2.5.

Later this year the WHO will convene the first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health (30 October – 1 November 2018) to bring governments and partners together in a global effort to improve air quality and combat climate change (see:

Source: Ends Europe Daily and WHO press release, 2 May 2018
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