Nine-in-ten breathe polluted air, so says WHO

When it comes to air-pollution-related analysis, the World Health Organization (WHO), regarding its most recent, has determined that the world over, 92 percent – or better than nine-in-ten – breathe polluted air.


“A new WHO air quality model confirms that 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits,” the WHO submitted in its “WHO releases country estimates on air pollution exposure and health impact,” Sept. 27, 2016 news release.

“‘The new WHO model shows countries where the air pollution danger spots are, and provides a baseline for monitoring progress in combatting it,’ says Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO.

“It also represents the most detailed outdoor (or ambient) air pollution-related health data, by country, ever reported by WHO. The model is based on data derived from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground station monitors for more than 3000 locations, both rural and urban. It was developed by WHO in collaboration with the University of Bath, United Kingdom,” the WHO in the release continued.

2012 represents the year for which the most recent data exists.

The deaths of approximately 3 million people annually can be directly attributed to outdoor air pollution alone. In all, 6.5 million people prematurely die from the effects of all pollution – indoors and out, the WHO estimates. These deaths represent 11.6 percent of all worldwide deaths.

“Nearly 90% of air-pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with nearly 2 out of 3 occurring in WHO’s South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions.

“Ninety-four per cent are due to noncommunicable diseases – notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Air pollution also increases the risks for acute respiratory infections,” the health organization continued.

“Major sources of air pollution include inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities.” Dust can be a factor as well.

And, the most vulnerable populations – the elderly and women and children – continue to be affected, according to the WHO.

Reliable data…

“The model has carefully calibrated data from satellite and ground stations to maximize reliability,” the WHO related. “National air pollution exposures were analysed against population and air pollution levels at a grid resolution of about 10 km x 10 km.

“‘This new model is a big step forward towards even more confident estimates of the huge global burden of more than 6 million deaths – 1 in 9 of total global deaths – from exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution,’ said Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. ‘More and more cities are monitoring air pollution now, satellite data is more comprehensive, and we are getting better at refining the related health estimates.’”

Help on the way

Starting this fall, the WHO introduces its BreatheLife campaign for the purpose of increasing public awareness of the dangers of polluted air as a serious climate and public health risk. There are “practical policy measures that cities can implement (such as better housing, transport, waste, and energy systems) and measures people can take as communities or individuals (for example, to stop waste burning, promote green spaces and walking/cycling),” which is what the campaign emphasizes, the WHO stated, all with air quality improvement in mind.

The very kinds of relief so desperately needed to set the world on a cleaner air track.

For more information, look here.

2 thoughts on “Nine-in-ten breathe polluted air, so says WHO”

  1. And yet we can’t get municipalities to create or amend bylaws to spare people from wood smoke pollution. What does it take to wake these council members and mayors up?

    • A couple of things:

      1. “… – 1 in 9 of total global deaths – …” the tragic outcome of the effect of air pollution inhaled


      2. “… relief (from this dreadful scourge) so desperately needed …” A fact.

      Only if the prescribed resolutions are comprehensively applied and thorough enough, will there be marked, positive change regarding no. 1 above.


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