• 03 May

    9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants - WHO figures show


    On May 2nd the World Health Organisation (WHO) released its last findings on global air pollution. WHO Ambient Air Quality Database includes now more than 4300 cities in 108 countries, making it the most comprehensive of its kind.

    Data show that pollution levels remain high in many parts of the world: 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air, causing diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

    More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.

    According to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO “Political leaders at all levels of government, including city mayors, are now starting to pay attention and take action…The good news is that we are seeing more and more governments increasing commitments to monitor and reduce air pollution as well as more global action from the health sector and other sectors like transport, housing and energy.”

    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 approximatively stable, with declining concentrations in some part 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 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.

    On October 30th and November 1st this year, WHO will host the first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in its headquarters in Geneva. The conference should bring governments and partners together in a global effort to improve air quality and combat climate change.

    More information are available on WHO website.