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Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Environment, Health, International | 5 comments

Air pollution kills millions says WHO

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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.

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  • They have 8 year old children in China with lung cancer. Air pollution is increasingly having a negative impact on their economy as well as roads and airports are shut down days. The Chinese have also shut down coal power plants in some of the most vulnerable areas and are leading the world in solar and wind installations.

  • slamfu

    Again, why I’m a fan of nuclear. Or rather, I’m a fan of not using coal. The effects of coal are so pervasive yet we continue to live with it, while saying things like nuclear are too bad for us. I’d like to go full green, but as we are decades away from that, and while we strive mightily to improve and implement green alternatives, nuclear is a good bridge replacement for a lot of our power needs.

  • JSpencer

    Another step in the right direction, which no one seems to have the political courage to address, is all the various conservation strategies that could be employed immediately. We consume far more energy, food, and crap in general than we need to. Basically we are stupid and spoiled in our conspicuous consumption.

  • slamfu
    I remain opposed to nuclear power. I live near the Columbia river and at the rate waste from the Hanford Nuclear area it will probably be glowing in the dark in the next few years. We are still clueless as to how to dispose of the waste which will have to be isolated for centuries. I also have no faith in the ability of either the government or private utilities to manage the plants safety, The disaster at Fukushima occurred because because TEPCO had been taking shortcuts when it came to safety and the Japanese regulatory agencies had been looking the other way. Every month I am still paying for a plant my utility built that was shut down after 15 years because it was not cost effective.

  • petew

    I recently had a disagreement with someone who claimed that pollution does not include Co2 and therefore that, Carbon Di-oxide has never killed anyone.

    My understanding is that pollution refers mainly to the particulate matter coming from carbon using facilities like oil refineries and coal plants—although it is far from the only greenhouse gas involved. Don’t power plant create the heat energy which drives the generators which in turn produce electricity by releasing the heat energy when Carbon atoms combine with Oxygen atoms to create Co2? Therefore isn’t the ash and soot released from large power plants the wast product of those chemical reactions which produce Co2. So doesn’t this means that Co2 is considered a significant factor in pollution, even though the gas itself is invisible, and wreaks havoc instead, by causing the atmosphere to retain heat.

    What I am saying is that, the word “pollution is not only defined as the presence of ash and soot, but also the gases that generally cause negative effects on the environment and which in turn can threaten human lives?

    I would appreciate it if the author of the article above could answer this question, or else some other comenter who also has knowledge about the meaning of the word, “Pollution.”

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