Almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO air quality limits, and poses a threat to their health. A record number of more than 6000 cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality, but people living in them are still breathing unhealthy levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, with people in low- and middle-income countries the most. are at higher risk.
The findings have prompted the World Health Organization to highlight the importance of curbing fossil fuel use and taking other concrete steps to reduce air pollution levels.
Released in the lead up to World Health Day, which celebrates this year’s theme Our Planet, Our Health, the 2022 update of the World Health Organization’s air quality database, for the first time, introduces a ground measurement of annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. (No2), a common urban pollutant and precursor to particulate matter and ozone. It also includes the measurement of particulate matter with a diameter equal to or smaller than 10 microns (PM.)10) or 2.5 µm (PM.)2.5) Both groups of pollutants mainly result from human activities related to the combustion of fossil fuels.
The new air quality database is by far the most comprehensive in coverage of air pollution exposure on the ground. Some 2,000 more cities/human settlements are now particulate matter, PM. Recording ground monitoring data for10 and/or PM2.5, as compared to the last update. This marks a nearly 6-fold increase in reporting since the database was launched in 2011.
Meanwhile, the evidence base for the harm caused by air pollution to the human body is growing rapidly and points to significant harm caused by low levels of many air pollutants.
Particulate matter, especially PM2.5, is able to penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke) and respiratory effects. There is emerging evidence that particulate matter affects other organs and causes other diseases as well.
No2 Associated with respiratory diseases, especially asthma, causing respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing), hospital admissions, and emergency room visits
WHO revised its air quality guidelines last year, making them more stringent in an effort to help countries better assess the healthiness of their air.
“Current energy concerns highlight the importance of accelerating the transition to clean, healthy energy systems,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “High fossil fuel prices, energy security, and the urgency to address the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change underscore the need to move rapidly towards a world that is far less dependent on fossil fuels.”
Steps governments can take to improve air quality and health
Many governments are taking steps to improve air quality, but WHO is calling for the following to accelerate:
- Adopting or modifying and implementing national air quality standards in accordance with the latest WHO air quality guidelines
- Monitor air quality and identify sources of air pollution
- Support the transition to exclusive use of clean household energy for cooking, heating and lighting
- Build safe and affordable public transportation systems and pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly networks
- Enforcing strict vehicle emissions and efficiency standards; and enforce mandatory inspection and maintenance for the vehicle
- Invest in energy efficient housing and electricity generation
- Improving industry and municipal waste management
- Reducing agricultural waste incineration, forest fires and some agro-forestry activities (such as charcoal production)
- Incorporate air pollution into curricula for health professionals and provide tools to engage the health sector.
Low particulate pollution is seen in high-income countries, but nitrogen dioxide is a problem in most cities
Among the 117 countries that monitor air quality, air in 17% of cities in high-income countries falls below WHO’s air quality guidelines for PM.2.5 or PM
10. In low- and middle-income countries, air quality in less than 1% of cities complies with the WHO-recommended threshold.
Globally, low- and middle-income countries still experience greater exposure to unhealthy levels of PM compared to the global average, but not2 The patterns are different, showing little difference between high- and low- and middle-income countries.
About 4000 cities/human settlements in 74 countries NO . collects2 data at the ground level. Overall, their measurements show that only 23% of the people in these locations have NO. breathe in annual mean concentrations of2 Which meet the levels of the recently updated version of WHO’s air quality guidelines.
“Even after surviving the pandemic, it is unacceptable to prevent 7 million preventable deaths and countless preventable years of good health due to air pollution. That’s what we’re saying when we look at the mountain of air pollution data, evidence, and solutions available. Yet a lot of investments are still being sunk into polluted environments instead of clean, healthy air,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.
Monitoring needs improvement
People living in low- and middle-income countries are most affected by air pollution. They are also among the least involved in air quality measurements – but the situation is improving.
Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America, remain the regions with the most comprehensive data on air quality. in many low- and middle-income countries, while the PM2.5 While measurements are still not available, they have seen major improvements to the measurements between the last database update in 2018 and air quality monitoring with an additional 1500 human settlements in these countries.
WHO air quality guidelines
The evidence base for harm caused by air pollution is growing rapidly and points to significant harm caused by low levels of many air pollutants. Last year, WHO responded by revising its air quality guidelines to reflect the evidence, making them more stringent specifically for PM and NO.2A move strongly supported by the health community, medical associations and patient organizations.
The 2022 database is intended to monitor the world’s wind conditions and track progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
world health day 2022
World Health Day, observed on 7 April, will bring global focus to the urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy, and spur a movement to create a society focused on well-being. The WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths worldwide are caused by avoidable environmental causes each year.
Note to editors:
Report and WHO Air Quality Database 2022.
The latest WHO air quality guidelines (2021) recommend the following concentration limits for these pollutants:
PM. For2.5: Annual average 5 µg/m3, 24-hour average 15 µg/m3
PM. For10: annual average 15 µg/m3, 24-hour average 45 µg/m3
NO. For2: annual average 10 µg/m3, 24-hour average 25 µg/m3
Interim goals also exist to guide action to protect health in places where air pollution is high.