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7m people die annually from air pollution – WHO

By Asma’u Ahmad

The World Health Organisation (WHO), says an estimated seven million people worldwide die every year from outdoor and household air pollution.

The organisation revealed that on its Twitter handle @WHO on Thursday. It said that ambient air pollution alone caused 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths the same year.

WHO said that new data from the organisation showed that air pollution levels remained dangerously high in many parts of the world as nine out of 10 people still breath air containing high levels of pollutant.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus

It said that the poorest and most marginalised people bore the brunt of this burden. It added that this was because air pollution-related deaths occurred in low and middle income countries in Asia, Africa and middle income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and Americas.

“WHO estimates that around seven million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrates deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system causing diseases such as stroke, heart disease and lung cancer.

“Other diseases are chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections including pneumonia. “Around three billion people, more than 40 per cent of the world’s population still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes which is the main source of household air pollution.

“WHO has been monitoring household air pollution for more than a decade and while the rates of access to clean fuels and technologies is increasing everywhere, improvements are not keeping pace with population growth in many parts of the world particularly in Sub-saharan Africa,” WHO said.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus was quoted as saying: “It is unacceptable that over three billion people more of whom are women and children are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes. “If we do not take action on air pollution, we will never come close to achieving sustainable development.’’

The organisation said it recognised that air pollution was a critical risk factor for Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) which caused an estimated 24 per cent of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25 per cent stroke, 43 per cent chronic pulmonary disease and 29 per cent lung cancer.

WHO said that more than 4,300 cities in 108 countries were now included in its ambient air quality database which collects annual mean concentrations of fine Particulate Matter (PM) such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon.

It said that these pollutants posed the greatest risk to human health and called on countries to reduce their air pollution to annual mean values of 20 ug/m3 (for PM10) and 10 ug/m3 (for PM25).

WHO also called on countries to work together on solutions for sustainable transport, more efficient and renewable energy production and use and waste management.

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