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WHO estimates that air pollution kills millions a year

Heavily polluted air in the northern Chinese city of Harbin. Photo:AP


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | JANUARY 20th 2021


Research done by the World Health Organisation (WHO) had recently revealed that putting more effort into curbing air pollution could help to save at least 50,000 lives in Europe on an annual basis. The WHO have made estimations that as it stands, 7 million people die from air pollution yearly.

It was a rough estimate drawn up by the WHO back in 2012, which stated that roughly 7 million people die annually due to the tiny particles of air pollution, contributing to such factors and diseases as strokes, lung cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, amongst other inflictions that can cause anything from minor to serious harm.

Though the estimates were first made in 2012, the WHO persist in their belief that the figures haven’t changed, throughout multiple studies. As such, air pollution remains one of the leading suspected causes of the spread of sickness and disease in the world.

It’s typically recommended by the WHO that the fine particles of polluted air, called PM2.5, do not go over 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air. Anything over this could be considered fairly dangerous and even poisonous. For nitrogen dioxide (NO2), this baseline is set at a much smaller 40μg/m3.

The newest research by the WHO, however, reveals that lowering the amounts of PM2.5 and NO2 to the recommended safe WHO levels may well assist in the prevention of at least 51,213 deaths annually across the continent of Europe. At the moment, not all countries are keeping their levels of air pollution at any levels that could definitively be called safe.

The WHO’s research, which had been published on Wednesday in the Lancet Planetary Health journal, “proves that many cities are still not doing enough to tackle air pollution,” according to Mark Nieuwenhuijsen of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). “Levels above WHO guidelines are leading to unnecessary deaths.”

It was found that the countries suffering the most from cases of deaths linked to air pollution included Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Italy is suffering in particular, with the cities/towns of Brescia, Bergamo and Vicenza all found on the list of the top 5 in terms of high PM2.5 concentration levels. This makes them the most vulnerable to air pollution, as well as the leading places where you’ll find fatalities linked to diseases and conditions related to air pollution.


“We need an urgent change from private motorised traffic to public and active transportation (and) a reduction of emissions from industry, airports and ports,” said a co-author of the study from ISGlobal, Sasha Khomenko. She stressed that there is great importance in the reduction of local emissions in particular – as it’s these that also contribute in large ways to the problem at hand.

Khomenko had further gone on to state that a worldwide ban on such commodities as coal and wood (for burning) could really help in reducing air pollution all across the Earth, not just in Europe. This is, however, a far more ambitious goal – though a potentially possible one, as many countries are gradually switching over to reusable energies in order to attune to the agreements set down during the 2015 Paris Accords.

Over the years, there has also been a significant and noticeable trend in the increase of forest fires, which suggests another potential link to the increase in air pollution levels. The curbing of such forest fires could ultimately help in the subsequent curbing of air pollution levels, thereby saving potentially more than 50,000 lives annually. Such tragedies have to be battled on a larger scale, however, in a war against global warming and a changing climate.


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2021