Almost entire global population breathes unhealthy air: WHO

Large variation in PM2.5 levels across global economies, NO2 concentration almost same

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 04 April 2022
Almost entire global population breathes unhealthy air: WHO

Around 99 per cent of the global population breathe unhealthy air, said the World Health Organization (WHO) April 4, 2022. 

People living in low- and middle-income countries are the most exposed to toxic quantities of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, the United Nations agency noted as it launched its 2022 air quality database.

The number of cities monitoring air quality has increased to 6,000 in 117 countries, WHO noted in the launch of the database update April 4, 2022, ahead of World Health Day. 

The concentration of particulate matter of size 10 and 2.5 micrograms or less in 17 per cent of the cities monitored in high-income countries fall within the thresholds recommended by WHOIn low- and middle-income countries, the number is less than 1 per cent. 

“About 4,000 cities / human settlements in 74 countries collect nitrogen dioxide data at the ground level,” the body noted. The levels of this pollutant, however, showed lower variation based on the income-level of cities, the update showed. 

Only 23 per cent of people in these places breathe annual average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide that meet levels in the recently updated version of WHO’s air quality guidelines, it added. 

Read more: Bangladesh PM2.5 levels 7 times higher than WHO limit: Study

There is a data gap in many low- and middle-income countries where PM2.5 measurements are still not available, according to WHO. These countries, however, have seen an improvement since the last update in 2018.

Europe and, to some extent, North America, were the regions with the most comprehensive data on air quality, the global health organisation added. 

It highlighted “the importance of curbing fossil fuel use and taking other tangible steps to reduce air pollution levels”.

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