9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, but more countries are taking action

Kolkata, May 2 (UNI) Air pollution levels remain dangerously high in many parts
of the world.

New data from WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high
levels of pollutants. Updated estimations reveal an alarming death toll of 7 million
people every year caused by ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution, a
WHO media statement on Wednesday said.

“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people
bear the brunt of the burden,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,
Director-General of WHO. “It is unacceptable that over 3 billion people ? most of them women and children are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes. If we don’t take urgent action on air pollution, we will never come close to achieving sustainable development,” he said.

WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine
particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household
air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated
3.8 million deaths in the same period. More than 90 per cent of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the
Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.

Around 3 billion people ? more than 40 per cent of the world’s population ? still do
not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main
source of household air pollution. WHO has been monitoring household air pollution
for more than a decade and, While the rate of access to clean fuels and technologies is increasing everywhere, improvements are not even keeping pace with population growth in many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.