Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Geneva, Switzerland (4E) – More than 90 percent of the global population is breathing in high levels of pollutants and of these, some seven million will die every year from pollution, reported the World Health Organization (WHO).
A new WHO report reveals the entire world is being battered by air pollution, which is at its worst in developing countries in Africa and Asia. It examined health-hazardous levels of both outdoor and household air pollution, and found that “around seven million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air.”
More than 90 percent of deaths linked to air pollution occur in low- or middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, said WHO. “Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalised people bear the brunt of the burden,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The data focused on PM10, or the dangerous particulate matter with a diameter of between 2.5 and 10 micrometers, and particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5). PM2.5 includes toxins like sulfate and black carbon, which pose the greatest health risks since they can penetrate deep into the lungs or cardiovascular system. These toxins can cause diseases like strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
WHO is also concerned that more than 40 percent of the global population still does not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes. The use of dirty cooking fuel like charcoal is a major source of household air pollution, which is estimated to cause some 3.8 million premature deaths each year.
“It is unacceptable that over three billion people — most of them women and children — are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes,” said Tedros.
The report said access to clean fuels was increasing in every region, but warned “improvements are not even keeping pace with population growth in many parts of the world”, pointing especially to sub-Saharan Africa.
Outdoor air pollution was meanwhile linked to 4.2 million fatalities annually. In around one million of those cases, a combination of indoor and outdoor pollution is to blame, said WHO.
The report provides air quality data from more than 4,300 cities and towns in 108 countries, constituting the world’s biggest database of ambient, or outdoor, air pollution.
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