In a press release dated April 4, 2022, the World Health Organization warned about air pollution and the health risks associated with it. According to new data from the WHO, billions of people still breathe polluted air, as more than 6,000 cities monitor air quality.
“Nearly the entire population of the world (99%) breathes air that exceeds the limits established by the World Health Organization (WHO) for air quality and threatens their health. A record number of more than 6,000 cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality, but people in these cities still breathe dangerous levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, with people living in low- and middle-income countries more exposed. These findings have led the WHO to highlight the importance of reducing the use of fossil fuels and taking other concrete steps to reduce air pollution levels. Updated data (2022) from the WHO Air Quality Database, released ahead of World Health Day, whose theme this year is “Our Planet, Our Health”, introduces ground-based measurements of air quality for the first time. annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. (NO2), a common urban pollutant and a precursor to particulate matter and ozone. The update also includes measurements of particles with a diameter equal to or less than 10 μm (PM10) or 2.5 μm (PM2.5). These two groups of pollutants come mainly from human activities linked to the combustion of fossil fuels”, reports the WHO. The new air quality database is the most comprehensive yet in terms of coverage of air pollution exposure on the ground, according to the release. “About 2000 more cities/settlements than in the last update are now recording ground monitoring data for particulate matter, PM10 and/or PM2.5. This represents a nearly 6-fold increase in the number of notifications since the database was launched in 2011. Highlight the significant harm that results from even low levels of many air pollutants. Particles, especially PM2.5, can penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke), and respiratory disorders. New data indicates that the particles affect other organs and also cause other diseases. Nitrogen dioxide is associated with respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, and leads to respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath), hospitalizations, and emergency room visits.
Measures to improve air quality and health
WHO recommends measures to improve air quality, including adopting and enforcing national air quality standards in accordance with the latest WHO air quality guidelines, monitoring air quality, and identifying sources of air pollution ; support the transition towards the exclusive use of clean energy sources in homes for cooking, heating and lighting; build safe and affordable public transport networks and systems suitable for pedestrians and cyclists; enforce stricter standards for vehicle emissions and efficiency; and enforce mandatory vehicle inspection and maintenance; invest in energy efficient housing and energy production; improve the management of industrial and municipal waste; reduce the incineration of agricultural waste, forest fires and certain agroforestry activities (eg charcoal production); include air pollution in the curricula of health professionals and provide tools for the health sector to participate. “Across the 117 countries that monitor air quality, 17% of cities in high-income countries have air quality below the WHO air quality guidelines for PM2.5 or PM10. In low- and middle-income countries, air quality in less than 1% of cities meets WHO-recommended thresholds. Globally, low- and middle-income countries continue to be more exposed to hazardous levels of particulate matter than the global average, however nitrogen dioxide patterns are different, indicating a smaller gap between low-income countries . ”, the press release said.