Over 6,000 cities now monitor air quality, WHO reveals but still there are 7 million preventable deaths a year due to air pollution

6 Apr 2022

A record number of cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality, but the people living in them are still breathing unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, finds the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Released in the lead-up to World Health Day, the 2022 update of the WHO’s air quality database introduces, for the first time, ground measurements of annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a common urban pollutant and precursor of particulate matter and ozone. 

It also includes measurements of PM2.5 and PM10, which both mainly originate from human activities related to fossil fuel combustion. 

The evidence base for the damage air pollution does to the human body has been growing rapidly and points to significant harm caused by even low levels of many air pollutants. 

WHO last year revised its Air Quality Guidelines, making them more stringent in an effort to help countries better evaluate the healthiness of their own air. 

The 2022 database aims to monitor the state of the world’s air and feeds into progress tracking of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

‘After surviving a pandemic, it is unacceptable to still have 7 million preventable deaths and countless preventable lost 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 too many investments are still being sunk into a polluted environment rather than in clean, healthy air,’ said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. 

World Health Day, marked on 7 April, will focus global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being.  WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. 

‘Current energy concerns highlight the importance of speeding up the transition to cleaner, healthier energy systems,’ said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.  ‘High fossil fuel prices, energy security, and the urgency of addressing the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change, underscore the pressing need to move faster towards a world that is much less dependent on fossil fuels.’ 

As published in Air Quality News