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Air Pollution Kills 7 Million People Each Year: WHO

Indoor and outdoor air pollution causes more than 7 million deaths each year, according to the findings of a new study released by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The new report focuses on global air pollution data collected for 2016, warning that most of the world’s population is exposed to dangerously high levels of air pollution.

In findings published this week, the researchers indicate that nine out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of air pollution. The report focused on both ambient, or outdoor, air pollution and indoor air pollution from cooking sources that don’t burn cleanly.

Globally, the effects of poor air quality resulted in 4.2 million deaths in 2016 from outdoor air pollution and 3.8 million deaths from household pollution, like that created from cooking with polluting fuels.

The findings of the new report echo WHO research published in 2016, which involved data collected in 2012. That report also indicated the majority of the world, or 9 out of 10 people globally, are effected by poor air quality.

Most of the air pollutuion deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, according to the report.

“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

In India, 37 million women living below the poverty line were given free liquefied petroleum gas connections to switch to clean household energy use. Mexico City committed to cleaner vehicle standards, including soot-free buses and a ban on private diesel cars by 2025.

Researchers indicate access is improving and efforts in poor countries are being made. However, the efforts are still not in line with global population growth.

Furthermore, the report indicated many cities have average pollution levels which exceed WHO limits by a factor of five. Exposure to air pollution, even at levels considered “safe” and below U.S. safety standards, increase a person’s risk of premature death.

Research has shown exposure to polluted air can penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, resulting in heart disease from damaged blood vessels, lung cancer, increased risk of stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

In fact, air pollution causes 24% of all deaths from heart disease, 25% of deaths from stroke, 43% from COPD, and 29% of deaths from lung cancer.

Research published in March warned failing to control air pollution would result in more than 153 million deaths in the long term.

The new WHO report indicates actions to reduce pollution are increasing, and more of the world’s major cities are joining the WHO Ambient Air Quality Database, which collects average concentrations of particulate matter. More than 4,000 cities and 108 countries are now a part of the effort.

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