Geneva - More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization’s limits, the organization said, adding that while all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.
Geneva – More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization’s limits, the organization said, adding that while all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.
According to the latest urban air quality database, 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100 000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines.
However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56%, the WHO pointed out in a press release, noting that in the past two years, the database – now covering 3000 cities in 103 countries – has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.
As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.
“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it they have a benchmark,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant-Director General, Family, Women and Children’s Health. “When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations—the youngest, oldest and poorest—are the most impacted.”
“Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health,” says Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “At the same time, awareness is rising and more cities are monitoring their air quality. When air quality improves, global respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses decrease.”
More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third in low- and middle-income countries reduced their air pollution levels by more than 5% in five years.
“It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” says WHO’s Dr Carlos Dora. “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution-related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”
During the World Health Assembly, 23-28 May, Member States will discuss a road map for an enhanced global response to the adverse health effects of air pollution.