Nearly everyone on the planet is breathing air that could have adverse health impacts, according to a Word Health Organization report published April 4.
“The evidence base for the harm caused by air pollution has been growing rapidly and points to significant harm caused by even low levels of many air pollutants,” the report said.
Based on data from its newly updated Air Quality Database, WHO determined that almost all (99%) of the global population lives in places where these levels exceed these standards.
Air quality standards established by WHO are based on the levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide – which originate primarily from human usage of fossil fuels – in the air that people breathe in when they go outdoors.
“Particulate matter … is capable of penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke) and respiratory impacts. There is emerging evidence that particulate matter impacts other organs and causes other diseases as well. NO2 is associated with respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing), hospital admissions and visits to emergency rooms,” the report said.
People in low- and middle-income nations generally have the highest levels of exposure to air pollution, with only around 1% of cities in these countries meeting WHO’s air quality standards for particulate matter. In high-income nations, 17% of cities do not currently meet these standards.
The full report is available here.