Text Size:
Updated On: Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Development Issues

WHO Report on Air Pollution

Content by: South-South News

4 May 2018, New York, USA | South-South News — New data from the World Health Organization (WHO), released on May 2, shows that nine out of ten people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Updated estimations reveal an alarming death toll of 7 million people every year caused by ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution.

Maria Neira, the Director of theDepartment of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health of the WHO, said, “Nine out of every ten citizens in the world are breathing fine particulate that is going very deep into our lungs causing major diseases and then it goes to the cardio vascular system as well. That represents one of the biggest environmental risks for our health causing the death of 7 million every year. That is absolutely unacceptable and that is why WHO is launching this report.”

WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.

More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.

“Air pollution is affecting dramatically human health and the diseases caused by this exposure to air pollution are essentially stroke, heart diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, it is about lung cancer and of course pneumonia in children,” Neira said, “So this is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases and something that we need to act immediately if we want to reduce this major risk for our human health.”


Around 3 billion people – more than 40% of the world’s population – still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution. WHO has been monitoring household air pollution for more than a decade and, while the rate of access to clean fuels and technologies is increasing everywhere, improvements are not even keeping pace with population growth in many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

“It is extremely important that the countries are aware of this major public health problem that we are facing with air pollution. It is very important that they assess the sources of pollution, each country may have different sources of air pollution, most of them will be caused by transport, by transit, by the way we produce our energy, by the way we use the energy at household level, by the way we have access to clean sources of energy, agricultural production and all this,” said Neira, “So taking measures on that, WHO can help because we have many tools that will help the countries to do these assessment and calculate the impact on air pollution. We all have a role and we all need to reduce this unacceptable toll caused by exposure to air pollution.”

WHO recognizes that air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated one-quarter (24%) of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer.


Subscribe to our newsletter