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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

99% of the world’s population breathing polluted air – WHO

The Who said a record number of over 6 000 cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that 99% of the world’s population is breathing polluted air that exceeds internationally approved limits, with negative health impacts kicking in at much lower levels than previously thought.

WHO said a record number of over 6 000 cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality, but the people living in them are still breathing unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.

Low and middle-income countries suffer highest exposures.

It said people in low and middle-income countries are suffering the highest exposures.

The findings have prompted WHO to highlight the importance of curbing fossil fuel use and taking other tangible steps to reduce air pollution levels.

The WHO released the report in the lead-up to World Health Day, which this year celebrates the theme Our planet, our health.

The 2022 update of the Who’s air quality database introduces, for the first time, ground measurements of annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a common urban pollutant and precursor of particulate matter and ozone.

It also includes measurements of particulate matter with diameters equal or smaller than 10 μm (PM10) or 2.5 μm (PM2.5). 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Who Director-General said current energy concerns highlight the importance of speeding up the transition to cleaner, healthier energy systems.

“High fossil fuel prices, energy security, and the urgency of addressing the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change, underscore the pressing need to move faster towards a world that is much less dependent on fossil fuels.”

The Who said World Health Day, marked on 7 April, will focus global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being.

The Who estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes.

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