by Jamie Keaton
GENEVA ( Associated Press) — Nearly everyone in the world breathes air that doesn’t meet its standards for air quality, says the United Nations health agency, prompting more efforts to reduce fossil-fuel use. calls for action, which generate pollutants that cause respiratory and blood-flow problems and cause millions of preventable deaths each year.
Nearly six months after tightening its guidelines on air quality, the World Health Organization on Monday released an update to its database on air quality, which draws information from a growing number of cities, towns and villages around the world – Now the total is more than 6,000 municipalities.
The WHO said that 99% of the global population breathes air that exceeds its air-quality limits and is often laden with particulates that can penetrate deep into the lungs, veins and arteries. and can cause disease. The WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia regions have the worst air quality, followed by Africa.
Dr Maria Neira, head of the WHO’s Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, said: “Even after surviving the pandemic, it is unacceptable to prevent seven million preventable deaths due to air pollution and countless years of preventable good health. ” “Yet a lot of investments are still being sunk in polluted environments instead of clean, healthy air.”
The database, which has traditionally included two types of particulate matter known as PM2.5 and PM10, included on-the-ground measurements of nitrogen dioxide for the first time. The last version of the database was released in 2018.
Nitrogen dioxide is produced primarily from the burning of human-generated fuels, such as through automobile traffic, and is most common in urban areas. The WHO said exposure could lead to more hospital and emergency room admissions, including a respiratory illness such as asthma and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. The highest concentration was found in the eastern Mediterranean.
Particulate matter has many sources, such as transportation, power plants, agriculture, waste burning and industry – as well as from natural sources such as desert dust. The developing world is particularly hard hit: India had high levels of PM10, while China showed high levels of PM2.5, the database showed.
“Particulate matter, particularly PM2.5, is able to penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke) and respiratory effects,” the WHO said. “There is emerging evidence that particulate matter affects other organs and causes other diseases as well.”
The findings shed light on the sheer scale of changes needed to tackle air pollution, said Anumita Roychowdhury, an air pollution expert at the Center for Science and Environment, a research and advocacy organization in New Delhi.
He said that India and the world need to be prepared for major changes to curb air pollution, including the use of electric vehicles, moving away from fossil fuels, mass scaling up of green energy and various forms of Including segregation of waste.
A study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a New Delhi-based think tank, found that over 60% of India’s PM2.5 load is from households and industries.
Tanushree Ganguly, who heads the council’s program on air quality, called for action to reduce emissions from industries, automobiles, biomass burning and household energy.
“We need to prioritize clean energy access to the homes that need it most, and take proactive measures to clean up our industrial sector,” she said.
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Anirudh Ghoshal in New Delhi contributed to this report.