Data shows that 99% of people are affected by air pollution

And pollution can increase the risk of health problems including heart disease, stroke, cancer and pneumonia, it warned. The World Health Organization (WHO) modeling estimates that 99% of people breathe air that exceeds the recommended average annual limit.

Measurements from 6,000 cities in 117 countries show that low- and middle-income countries are hardest hit by fine particulate matter, which can penetrate deep into the lungs, enter the bloodstream and damage hurt the organs.

There was less variation when it came to nitrogen dioxide – from fossil fuels such as through road transport – with many cities in both higher and lower income countries recording increases. risk of breathing problems.

Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Environment, Climate Change and Health, said: “It is unacceptable that there are still seven million preventable deaths and countless years lost. good health is preventable from air pollution.”

“However, too much investment is still drowned out in a polluted environment rather than clean, fresh air.” The WHO data, released ahead of World Health Day on Thursday, concerns a record number of cities – 2,000 more than it was last updated in 2018.

In high-income countries, only 17% recorded levels of inhaled particulate matter PM2.5 or PM10 below the WHO Air Quality Guidelines. In low- and middle-income countries, this number drops to less than one percent.

Data from this city monitoring is combined with satellite data to model global exposure. This estimates that 99% of the global population has been exposed to levels of PM2.5 that are above safe limits.

Speaking at a press conference, Dr Neira said: “We now know that those particles, especially PM2.5, are so small they will pass through our respiratory system and into our lungs. blood.”

“From there, they can cause cardiovascular diseases, especially heart diseases that restrict oxygen, or go to our brain and cause a stroke.”

“And we have a lot of evidence about the damage they can do to our neurodevelopment and cognitive systems. Basically, it can affect almost any organ in our body. We need to address the causes of air pollution, which have a lot of overlap… with the causes of climate change.”

Some 4,000 cities in 74 countries are also collecting data on nitrogen dioxide for the first time. It is most common in urban areas.

Measurements showed only 23 percent of people in those locations had breathing concentrations below the recommended threshold.

WHO calls for stronger action to improve air quality, such as supporting clean energy sources in homes and a pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly transport network.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said: “High fossil fuel prices, energy security and the urgency of addressing the dual health challenges of air pollution and climate change , highlighting the urgent need to move faster towards a world less dependent on fossil fuels”.

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