Air pollution kills millions says WHO
Air pollution killed 3.7 million people aged less than 60 years in 2012 and a surprising 88% of city dwellers currently suffer unsafe levels making indoor and outdoor air pollution the largest risks to health worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
About half of the urban citizens being monitored suffer from pollution levels at least 2.5 times higher than WHO guidelines, putting them at risk of serious long-term health problems.
WHO reported today on its latest urban air quality database for 1600 cities in 91 countries. Encouragingly, it contains 500 cities more than the previous database of 2011, showing that more urban authorities are monitoring air pollution and recognize its health risks.
However, air pollution is getting worse in most cities where there is enough data to compare the current situation with previous years. Only 12% of the people live in cities reporting on air quality in line with WHO guidelines.
High numbers of deaths from heart disease and stroke, respiratory illnesses and cancers are associated with high concentrations of small and fine particulate air pollution. Risks are significant because only 70 developing country cities are equipped to report on the best indicator, which is measurement of fine particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter (PM2.5).
The main reasons for pollution include coal-fired power plants, low fuel quality in motor vehicles, inefficient energy-use in buildings, and the use of biomass for cooking and heating. Some cities have made improvements through bans on coal for heating buildings, and using renewable or clean fuels for electricity and motor vehicle engines.
Broader remedies to clean the air include energy efficiency throughout the economy, and compact urban development well served by public transport and properly managed waste, WHO said.