Air

Global air pollution level rose 8 per cent each year during 2008-2013

Still, the rich remain at low risk, and the poor pay the price

 
By Rajit Sengupta
Last Updated: Tuesday 31 October 2017
High- and low-income cities in Southeast Asia and Eastern Mediterranean saw PM levels increase by more than 5 per cent annually in five years. Credit: DAVID HOLT / Flickr
High- and low-income cities in Southeast Asia and Eastern Mediterranean saw PM levels increase by more than 5 per cent annually in five years. Credit: DAVID HOLT / Flickr High- and low-income cities in Southeast Asia and Eastern Mediterranean saw PM levels increase by more than 5 per cent annually in five years. Credit: DAVID HOLT / Flickr

It is true that 92 per cent of the world’s population is breathing polluted air. But this statement alone reveals half the truth. The other half of the truth is that the air pollution exposure levels for rich people in developed countries are going down. And the air pollution exposure levels for people in the urban centres of developing countries are increasing at a worrying rate.

Here is a thought: the particulate matter (PM) levels—which include PM 2.5 and PM 10— in the world increased at 8 per cent per annum between 2008 and 2013. However, the high-income cities in the US, the high- and low-income cities in Europe and the high-income cities in Western Pacific showed more than 5 per cent decrease in the PM levels.

Credit: WHO

Meanwhile, high- and low-income cities in Southeast Asia and Eastern Mediterranean, and low-income cities in Western pacific saw PM levels increase by more than 5 per cent annually in five years. These findings are part of the WHO’s 2016 Urban Ambient Air Pollution database, which collected and analysed PM data from 2,977 cities in 103 countries across the world.

The WHO database also suggests that less than 10 per cent of high-income Americans are living in areas where PM levels are on the rise.

Credit: WHO

In contrast, more than 30 per cent low- and middle-income Americans live in areas with increasing PM levels. In Southeast Asia, close to 60 per cent people reside in areas with increasing PM levels.

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