The World Health Organization issued an alarming report today, revealing that a stunning amount of people live in areas with dangerously high air pollution.
Air pollution may be hard to see, but this invisible menace has profound public health implications. According to a report from the Washington Post, the World Health Organization just revealed that four out of five people living in urban areas around the globe are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution, and it has public health officials fearing the worst.
The WHO released a damning new set of data from cities around the world with reliable measurements of particulate matter in the air. The group’s conclusions may offer insight into why chronic health problems like heart disease and severe asthma are on the rise in many developing countries.
The 80 percent figure seems bad enough, but the data reveals that poorer countries are feeling the impact of air pollution the most. According to the WHO’s report, roughly 98 percent of urban areas in low and middle income countries with a population of over 100,000 currently have air pollution levels that exceed the recommended safe concentrations.
According to Maria Neira, the director of the World Health Organization’s department of public health, environment, and social determinants of health, “Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate.”
The WHO’s air pollution database has expanded in recent years to include measurements from over 3,000 cities and towns in 103 countries around the world. Scientists are particularly concerned with particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers – known as PM2.5. These particles are exceptionally harmful as most filters are unable to remove them from the air.
The report reveals that despite international efforts to increase the usage of clean energy and reduce air pollution, the problem is only getting worse. Researchers found that air pollution in urban areas had increased by nearly 8 percent between 2008 and 2013.
Researchers believe PM2.5 air pollution contributes to 3 million premature deaths around the world each year.
A press release from the World Health Organization describing the details of the recent assessment can be found here.