Climate Change

Air pollution: WHO report identifies ways to mitigate health hazards

The report talks about ways to reduce the emission of short-lived climate pollutants

 
By Usman Nasim
Last Updated: Wednesday 28 October 2015

A new report brought out by the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the need to reduce the emission of black carbon, methane, ozone and carbon dioxide responsible air pollution.

The first three are known as Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs). SLCPs not only add to global warming, but also cause around 7 million premature deaths yearly because of poor air quality.

The report adds that government policies and interventions aimed at reducing emission of SLCPs can effectively reduce diseases associated with air pollution and the number of deaths due to it.

It can also contribute to national food security to a great extent in various countries, improve dietary habits and physical activity of citizens.

“For the first time, this report recommends actions that countries, health and environment ministries and cities can take right now to reduce emissions, protect health and avoid illnesses and premature deaths, which often take the greatest toll on the most vulnerable,” Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general of WHO, said.

The SLCPs which are of greatest relevance to health include black carbon, a common component of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5). It is the air pollutant mostly associated with premature deaths and morbidity, as well as ozone which has significant adverse impacts on respiratory health. Methane, another SLCP, contributes to ozone formation. (see box for more details)

 

Source: Report-Reducing Global Health Risks-Through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, WHO, 2015

Steps for heath, climate benefits

The report suggests 20 available and affordable methods to reduce the emission of SLCPs. These include improved vehicle emission standards, capturing gases produced by landfill sites, transition from fossil fuels to renewables, reduction of food wastage and improvement in domestic cooking fuels.

The report underlines six major sectors that are the major sources of SLCPs’ emissions and suggests mitigation measures associated with each one of these sectors. The sectors are transport, agriculture, household energy production and built environment, industry, energy supply and electricity generation and waste management.

Sector and Mitigation Action

Main Health Benefits

 

Transport

Support active (and rapid mass) transport

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Increased physical activity

Reduced noise pollution

Reduced traffic injuries

 

Ultra-low sulfur diesel with diesel particle filter

 

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

 

Higher vehicle emissions standards

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Agriculture

Alternate wet & dry rice irrigation

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Reduced vector-borne diseases

 

Improved manure management

Reduced zoonotic diseases

Improved indoor air quality

 

Reduce open burning of agriculture fields

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

 

Promoting healthy diets low in red meat

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Reduced obesity

 

Reducing food waste

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Reduced food insecurity

Household air pollution & building design

Low emission stoves

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Fewer burns

 

Improved lighting to replace kerosene lamps

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Fewer burns

Fewer poisonings

 

Passive design principles

Improved indoor air quality

Thermal regulation

Energy supply and electricity

Shift from fossil fuels to renewables

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Fewer occupational injuries

 

Replacement of small-scale diesel generators

Improved  indoor air quality

Reduced noise pollution

Less crop damage and extreme weather

 

Control on emission from fossil fuel industry

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Industry

Improved brick kilns

Improved air quality

 

Less crop damage and extreme weather

 

Improved cook ovens

Improved air quality

 

Less crop damage and extreme weather

 

Control on emission from fossil fuel industry

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Waste Management

Landfill gas recovery

 

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

 

Improved wastewater treatment

 

 

Improved air quality

Less crop damage and extreme weather

Reduced infectious disease risk


Source: Author’s analysis of the report-Reducing Global Health Risks-Through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, WHO, 2015

Following are the ways suggested in the report to check pollution and associated health risks.

 Source: Report: Reducing Global Health Risks-Through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, WHO, 2015

This report is a major step in the health agency’s ongoing action to prevent deaths and diseases that are related to air pollution and also towards achieving the new global health goal.

The report comes ahead of the launch of WHO’s first climate change and health country profiles, a number of which will be released prior to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

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