9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air

A new report on world air pollution released by the World Health Organization's has delivered some staggering figures 9 out of every 10 people in the world are breathing heavily-polluted air, and millions of people are dying every year, due to exposure to air pollution.

Air pollution levels remain dangerously high in many parts of the world. New data from WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Updated estimations reveal an alarming death toll of 7 million people every year caused by ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution.

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

Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.

More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.

Around 3 billion people – more than 40% of the world’s population – still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution. WHO has been monitoring household air pollution for more than a decade and,while the rate of access to clean fuels and technologies is increasing everywhere, improvements are not even keeping pace with population growth in many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

(WHO) recognizes that air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated one-quarter (24%) of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer.

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Major sources of air pollution from particulate matter include the inefficient use of energy by households, industry, the agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants. In some regions, sand and desert dust, waste burning and deforestation are additional sources of air pollution. Air quality can also be influenced by natural elements such as geographic, meteorological and seasonal factors.

Air pollution does not recognize borders. Improving air quality demands sustained and coordinated government action at all levels. Countries need to work together on solutions for sustainable transport, more efficient and renewable energy production and use and waste management. WHO works with many sectors including transport and energy, urban planning and rural development to support countries to tackle this problem.

The highest ambient air pollution levels are in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in South-East Asia, with annual mean levels often exceeding more than 5 times WHO limits, followed by low and middle-income cities in Africa and the Western Pacific.

Africa and some of the Western Pacific have a serious lack of air pollution data. For Africa, the database now contains PM measurements for more than twice as many cities as previous versions, however data was identified for only 8 of 47 countries in the region.

Europe has the highest number of places reporting data.

In general, ambient air pollution levels are lowest in high-income countries, particularly in Europe, the Americas and the Western Pacific.In cities of high-income countries in Europe, air pollution has been shown to lower average life expectancy by anywhere between 2 and 24 months, depending on pollution levels.