WHO says 99% of World’s Population breathes Poor-quality Air
What’s the news?
- The World Health Organization (WHO), about six months after tightening its guidelines on air quality, issued an update to its database on air quality that draws on information from a growing number of cities, towns and villages across the globe, now totalling over 6,000 municipalities.
- The database, which has traditionally considered two types of particulate matter known as PM2.5 and PM10, for the first time has included ground measurements of nitrogen dioxide. The last version of the database was issued in 2018.
- The UN health agency says nearly everybody in the world breathes air that doesn’t meet its standards for air quality, calling for more action to reduce use of fossil-fuel, which generates pollutants that cause respiratory- and blood-flow problems and lead to millions of preventable deaths each year.
- Around 99% of the global population breathes air that exceeds its air-quality limits and is often rife with particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs, enter the veins and arteries and cause disease.
- Air quality is poorest in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia regions, followed by Africa.
Major effects of Pollutants
- Nitrogen dioxide originates mainly from human-generated burning of fuel, such as through automobile traffic, and is most common in urban areas. Exposure can bring respiratory disease such as asthma and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and difficulty in breathing, and more hospital and emergency-room admissions.
- The highest concentrations were found in the eastern Mediterranean region.
- Particulate matter has many sources, such as transportation, power plants, agriculture, the burning of waste and industry – as well as from natural sources such as desert dust.
- The database showed that the developing world is particularly hard hit. Eg: India had high levels of PM10, while China showed high levels of PM2.5.
- The Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a New Delhi-based think tank, found in a study that more than 60% of India’s PM2.5 loads are from households and industries.
What needs to be done?
- The Center for Science and Environment emphasized that India and the world need to brace for major changes to try to curb air pollution through adopting Electric vehicles, shift away from fossil fuels; a massive scaling-up of green energy; and households separating their types of waste.
- An action plan for reducing emissions from industries, automobiles, biomass burning and domestic energy needs to be framed.
- Prioritizing clean energy access for households is the need of the hour.
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