Almost the entire world population (99%) breathes polluted air that is bad for health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has urged to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
These findings are the result of a combination of data collected from thousands of cities, Dr. Sophie Gumy, from the WHO Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.
In a report, the WHO indicates that a record number of more than 6,000 urban areas in 117 countries now monitor air quality. This represents “about 80% of the world’s urban population,” according to Gumy.
However, these inhabitants breathe in dangerous levels of fine particulates and nitrogen dioxide, and the most exposed are populations living in low- and middle-income countries.
“Having survived a pandemic, it is unacceptable to continue with 7 million preventable deaths and lose countless years of good health due to air pollution,” laments Dr. Maria Neira, director of the WHO Environment Department.
“There are more investments dedicated to a polluted environment than to an environment of clean and healthy air”, assures Neira.
Most of the measures mentioned in the report were taken between 2010 and 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, which had an impact on transport and on several polluting economic and industrial sectors.
For the WHO, the report’s conclusions reveal the importance of reducing the use of fossil fuels and the adoption of other concrete measures to reduce air pollution levels.
– Particles –
“Current energy concerns highlight the importance of accelerating the transition to cleaner and healthier energy systems,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, in a statement.
“Rising fossil fuel prices, energy security and the urgency of tackling the two health challenges – air pollution and climate change – underscore the urgent need to make faster progress towards a world far less dependent on fossil fuels.” , indicates.
Updated data from the WHO Air Quality Database present for the first time terrestrial measurements of mean annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a common urban pollutant and precursor to particulate matter and ozone.
About 4,000 sites in 74 countries collect data on soil nitrogen dioxide. Only a quarter of the inhabitants of these locations breathe average annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide according to WHO guidelines.
Nitrogen dioxide is associated with respiratory diseases, especially asthma, and causes respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, shortness of breath, etc.) that can lead to hospitalizations.
In the 117 countries that monitor air quality, the WHO finds that the air quality of 17% of high-income cities is below WHO guidelines.
In low-income countries, air quality in less than 1% of cities meets WHO recommended limits.
The particles are able to penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory problems.
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