Polluted air: Impacting 9-in-10 people and claiming 7 million lives annually, reports WHO

The news is grim: Ninety percent of people globally breathe polluted air. Annually, 7 million people die early from air pollution’s effects. The news is anything but comforting.

And, it is what the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined.

“9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, but more countries are taking action” is the title of the World Health Organization’s news release released on May 2, 2018.

In it the WHO writes: “New data from WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Updated estimations reveal an alarming death toll of 7 million people every year caused by ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution.”

Compared to the number of people on earth (7+ billion), 7 million may seem small. But, at the same time, that’s like the entire population of a large city losing their fight to maintain life each and every year.

To think that this many people yearly die early from air pollution’s effects, well, this is truly regrettable and tragic. But now add to this that 90 percent of all of the world’s population breathes polluted air, and you begin to see the scale of just how big a problem breathing toxic air is and just what kind of impact this is having.

“‘Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,’ says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. ‘It is unacceptable that over 3 billion people – most of them women and children – are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes. If we don’t take urgent action on air pollution, we will never come close to achieving sustainable development,’” as one citation in the WHO news release reads.

The WHO further reports that air pollution, which “is a critical risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs),” causes “an estimated one-quarter (24%) of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer.

Startling, these numbers are.

But there is encouraging news also. “Countries are taking measures to tackle and reduce air pollution from particulate matter. For example, in just two years, India’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Scheme has provided some 37 million women living below the poverty line with free LPG [liquid propane gas] connections to support them to switch to clean household energy use. Mexico City has committed to cleaner vehicle standards, including a move to soot-free buses and a ban on private diesel cars by 2025,” submits the WHO.

Adding to this, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that a growing number of governments are increasingly committed to both monitoring and reducing pollution in the atmosphere further relating that action across the globe is greater among the energy, health, housing and transportation sectors and in the doctor’s words, this is “‘the good news.’”

To learn more on this and related information, check here, here, here and here.

And, just a quick reminder that this week (Apr. 30-May 4) is Air Quality Awareness Week 2018.

This post has been updated.

Image (upper): Wikimedia Commons

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