Asia has a problem with pollution. When you look at the statistics of the cities with the worst air quality, Asia stands out. But this isn’t just a regional problem it’s a global one.The World Health Organization estimates that up to 7 million people die each year because of air pollution.
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.
Around 3 billion people – more than 40% of the world’s population – still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution.
The good news is a recent update to these depressing statistics from this year shows that countries are serious about tackling this problem with China making tremendous inroads.
- 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 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.
“Political leaders at all levels of government, including city mayors, are now starting to pay attention and take action,” adds Dr Tedros. “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.”
This year WHO will convene the first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health (30 October – 1 November 2018) to bring governments and partners together in a global effort to improve air quality and combat climate change. http://www.who.int/airpollution/events/conference/en/