A new air quality model by the World Health Organization shows that practically all of the world’s population is breathing air that exceeds the limits set by WHO. While most of us may not think of our cities as particularly dangerous, the truth is that roughly 3 million deaths a year can be attributed to outdoor air pollution – and that number doubles when poor indoor air quality is taken into account. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths were linked to air pollution total, making up a shocking 11.6% of all global deaths.
This new model is the most detailed of its kind ever reported by the WHO, using health data from satellite measurements, air transport models, and ground station monitors in more than 3,000 urban and rural locations around the world. The data is broken down country by country, making it easy for readers to see how their home stacks up against neighbors and the rest of the world. (If you’re interested in the full report, you can read it here.)
The majority of the diseases caused by air pollution are non-communicable, with 94% composed of issues like cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. However, it’s important to note that air pollution also increases the risk of developing serious respiratory infections as well. About 90% of these pollution-linked deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, including Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region.
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WHO has found that the major sources of this pollution are related to human activity – inefficient methods of transportation, household fuel, waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and various industrial activities. However, dust storms, wildfires, and other natural phenomena can also contribute.
If you’re curious to learn where your city or country falls on the new scale, WHO has created an interactive map that allows users to explore their data and compare it to other areas. You can view it here.
Via Science Daily
Images via World Health Organization and Andrew Hart