World Health Organization (WHO) has come up with an alarming report stating that 99% of the world population is breathing poor quality air. In addition to measurements of particulate matter with a diameter of 10 μm (PM10) or 2.5 μm (PM2.5), this year WHO also introduced ground measurements of annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
While particulate matter has many sources, such as transportation, power plants, agriculture and the burning of waste, nitrogen dioxide on the other hand originates mainly from human-generated burning of fuel, such as through automobile traffic, and is more common in urban areas. The poor quality of air of this nature can have long-lasting effects on the cardiovascular, cerebrovascular as well as respiratory system.
The air quality monitoring was done in more than 6000 cities from 117 countries and it was found that 17% of cities in high-income countries have air quality below the WHO’s PM2.5 or PM10 guidelines while air quality was only met in less than 1% of cities from low and middle-income countries. The air quality is poorest in Mediterranean and Southeast Asian regions followed by Africa.
Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, said, “After surviving a pandemic, it is unacceptable to still have 7 million preventable deaths and countless preventable lost years of good health due to air pollution.”
The report mentioned that the developing world is particularly hard hit, while India had high levels of PM10, China showed high levels of PM2.5, to this a New Delhi based think tank Centre for Science and Environment said in order to curb air pollution certain measures have to be brought in with immediate effect which includes using electric vehicles, shifting away from fossil fuels, embracing a massive scaling-up of green energy and separating out types of waste.
In a run-up to World Health Day, the UN Health Agency has recommended improving public transport systems, bringing in stricter vehicle emissions, promoting energy-efficient housing and power generation, and implementing industry and municipal waste management thoroughly.