Quantcast

Air Pollution Kills 7 Million a Year, Mostly in Poorer Countries

Health + Wellness
According to new WHO data, Cairo is one of the world's most polluted mega-cities. Gary Denham / Flickr

The latest World Health Organization (WHO) air quality report revealed that air pollution is as much a global public health threat as ever, killing seven million people every year, a number that study authors told The Guardian is distressingly close to 2016's assessment.


"There are cities and regions where improvement is happening," report author Sophie Gumy told The Guardian. "But even if things have started to move, they aren't moving quickly enough. Seven million deaths is a totally unacceptable figure. The fact that 92% [of people] are still breathing unacceptable air is the news. Pollution remains at dangerously high levels," she said.

The report, based on what the WHO claims is the most comprehensive air pollution database in the world, was released Tuesday, CNN reported. The report covers data from 108 countries and 4,300 cities.

"No doubt that air pollution represents today not only the biggest environmental risk for health, but I will clearly say that this is a major, major challenge for public health at the moment and probably one of the biggest ones we are contemplating," director of the WHO's Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health Dr. Maria Neira told CNN.

The report found that air pollution from cars, factories and wood fires accounts for 43 percent of chronic lung-disease deaths, 29 percent of lung cancer deaths and 25 percent of deaths from strokes and heart attacks, The Guardian reported. More than 90 percent of those deaths were in poorer countries in Africa and Asia.

In fact, the recent report marks the first time the WHO has included comparisons to past years, revealing that the pollution gap between rich and poor countries is growing.

More than 61 percent of cities in Europe and 57 percent of cities in the Americas saw a fall in particulate matter levels between 2010 and 2016; on the other hand, air quality deteriorated by 70 percent in poorer cities in south and southeast Asia, The Guardian reported.

According to The Guardian, large cities with the worst pollution were, in order, Delhi, Cairo, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Mumbai and Beijing. Delhi and Cairo had PM10 particulate matter levels 10 times worse than WHO guidelines while Dhaka, Mumbai and Beijing had levels that eclipsed safety limits by a factor of five.

The report's authors praised the progress that China had made in its "war on pollution."

"One of the reasons for that, is the health argument is strongly presented and citizens felt the link between air pollution and their own health," Neira told The Guardian. "We'd like to see the same movement now in India, which is a country of particular concern."

In the U.S., Los Angeles and Indianapolis were particularly polluted, while Honolulu was a large U.S. city with relatively clean air, CNN reported.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A verdant and productive urban garden in Havana. Susanne Bollinger / Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown

When countries run short of food, they need to find solutions fast, and one answer can be urban farming.

Read More Show Less
Trevor Noah appears on set during a taping of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" in New York on Nov. 26, 2018. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah / YouTube screenshot

By Lakshmi Magon

This year, three studies showed that humor is useful for engaging the public about climate change. The studies, published in The Journal of Science Communication, Comedy Studies and Science Communication, added to the growing wave of scientists, entertainers and politicians who agree.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
rhodesj / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cities around the country are considering following the lead of Berkeley, California, which became the first city to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes this summer.

Read More Show Less
Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less