Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 – Update: ‘Air Quality Around the World’

Well, here it is May 3, 2019, day number five, the final day of the five-day Air Quality Awareness Week of 2019 and what I want to convey is this:

All of the ground that was covered in this “Air Quality Awareness Week 2019” series could be expanded to more broadly apply to what is going on air quality-wise worldwide. That is exactly what is in store for today.

As it relates, in a May 2, 2018 news release, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that “[n]ew data from WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.”

The WHO further states: “Ambient [outdoor] air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.”

It’s a serious problem worse than probably most people are aware.

As a matter of fact, the WHO “recognizes that air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), causing 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.”

The problem is indeed a very serious one. How serious an issue is this? According to information presented in the State of Global Air/2019: A Special Report on Global Exposure to Air Pollution and Its Disease Burden report, the Health Effects Institute finds that in 2017, with respect to the number of total mortalities stemming from all causes and for risk factors associated with that, air pollution was ranked fifth.1

Meanwhile, as detailed in the news release in question here are the WHO’s key findings:

  • “WHO estimates that around 90% of people worldwide breathe polluted air. Over the past 6 years, ambient air pollution levels have remained high and approximately stable, with declining concentrations in some parts of Europe and in the Americas.
  • The highest ambient air pollution levels are in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in South-East Asia, with annual mean levels often exceeding more than 5 times WHO limits, followed by low and middle-income cities in Africa and the Western Pacific.
  • Africa and some of the Western Pacific have a serious lack of air pollution data. For Africa, the database now contains PM [particulate matter] measurements for more than twice as many cities as previous versions, however data was identified for only 8 of 47 countries in the region.
  • Europe has the highest number of places reporting data.
  • In general, ambient air pollution levels are lowest in high-income countries, particularly in Europe, the Americas and the Western Pacific. In cities of high-income countries in Europe, air pollution has been shown to lower average life expectancy by anywhere between 2 and 24 months, depending on pollution levels.”

The good news is that more and more countries are taking measures to reduce particulate matter in air, according to WHO. There is more about worldwide mitigating action being taken in the: “9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, but more countries are taking action” May 2, 2018 WHO news release here.

For more related to matters dealing with global air, see Air Quality Around the World here.


  1. Health Effects Institute. 2019. State of Global Air 2019. Special Report. Boston, MA:Health Effects Institute.

This post was last revised on May 3, 2019 @ 9:43 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

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