We are all breathing in polluted air


More than seven million people worldwide die every year as a result of air pollution, and we are all exposed to it. — AFP

Almost all of humanity is exposed to excessively high levels of pollutants in the air, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

An estimated 99% of the world’s population breathes air that exceeds the UN health body’s limits for particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, said its annual report published on April 4 (2022).

The estimate is based on measurements from 6,000 cities in 117 countries, as well as satellite data.

Every year, more than seven million people worldwide die as a result of air pollution, said WHO environmental health officer Maria Neira.

Fine dust can enter the lungs and blood, affect the respiratory system, damage the cardiovascular system and lead to strokes, for example.

Nitrogen dioxide, which is mainly produced in vehicle combustion engines, is associated with respiratory problems.

The WHO had significantly lowered its safety limits for air pollution last year.

Its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke of the “urgency of addressing the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change”, saying they “underscore the pressing need to move faster towards a world that is much less dependent on fossil fuels.”

The organisation called for subsidies for switching to clean energy in private households, as smoke from stoves and fireplaces is a major factor in global air pollution.

In addition, the WHO believes that measures should also be taken for the benefit of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

According to the air quality report, there are clear differences between richer and poorer regions.

In high-income countries, 17% of cities meet the WHO guideline values for particulate matter.

In low- and middle-income countries, only 1% of cities did with the poorest air quality found in the eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asian regions, and Africa. – dpa

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