Air pollution at alarming level, WHO announces

CENEVRE (CIHAN)- The World Health Organization (WHO) said today (7 May) that air quality is deteriorating in many of the world’s cities.

According to a new report -which covers air quality database of 1,600 cities across 91 countries- only 12 percent of the urban population being monitored reside in cities that meet air quality guideline levels.

In an interview in Geneva, the WHO Director for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health Maria Neira said “we all know that air pollution is having a very negative impact on our health, representing in total more than 7 million deaths every year, but if we refer to outdoor air, it will be pollution 3.7 premature deaths that could be reduced.”

She stressed “we want more action, we want more cities reporting regularly on air pollution. We want more interventions at the city level to make sure that we increase the quality of the air we breathe, as this is an important determinant of our health.”

Neira also said “80 percent of the diseases that are representing a problem for air pollution are cardiovascular, 12% will be lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and asthma included. Therefore, as I say, is one of the biggest risks for our health.”

She noted “the major causes are our vehicles, our industrial production is about energy, the way we produce electricity, coal powered plants, and industrial production and agricultural production. And there are interventions to reduce them, so we can protect our health.”

The newest report notes that individual cities can take local action to improve air quality and thus go against regional trends. It says that good air quality can go hand in hand with economic development, as indicated by some major cities in Latin America which meet, or approach, the WHO air quality guidelines.

Measures include ensuring that houses are energy efficient, that urban development is compact and well served by public transport routes, that street design is appealing and safe for pedestrians and cyclists, and waste is well managed. Such activities not only clean the air but can also serve as a catalyst for local economic development and the promotion of healthy urban lifestyles.

The release of today’s data is a significant step in WHO’s ongoing work to aance a roadmap for preventing diseases related to air pollution. This involves the development of a global platform on air quality and health to generate better data on air pollution-related diseases and strengthened support to countries and cities through guidance, information and evidence about the health gains associated with different activities.


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