October 25, 2021

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WHO Issues New Tougher Air Quality Guidelines Aimed At Reducing Preventable Deaths

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new tougher guidelines aimed at reducing air pollutants, and prevent illnesses and deaths caused by air pollution.

The guidelines are targeting at key pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, ozone, sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide. The air quality guideline levels for much of most pollutants have been significantly reduced, compared to the original guidelines issued in 2005. The organization said the guidelines could save “millions of lives” every year.

For instance, the guidelines for the most air pollutants in the world – PM2.5 (particulate matters less than 2.5 microns in size) are half of what it was before, while the levels of nitrogen dioxide considered ‘safe’ have been reduced by over 75 percent. The updated guidelines mean almost every part of India can be classified as polluted.

According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, over seven million people die prematurely every due to air pollution, and research has shown even a low level of air pollution can affect all parts of the human body, from the brain to a growing baby still in the womb.

Additionally, data from the organization show that in 2019, over 90 percent of the world’s population lived in areas that exceeded the levels of pollutants considered safe in the previous guidelines.

The guidelines state that most global health risks can now be equally attributed to air pollution, along with tobacco smoking, unhealthy diets, and more. It estimates some 80 percent of PM2.5 related deaths could be easily avoided if countries reduce their current air pollution levels to the prescribed levels. And add that air pollution is the single biggest environmental threat to human health.

The guidelines also illustrate the growing disparities in air pollution and exposure as middle and low-income countries continue to rely on fossil fuels for economic growth.

Cover Photo: Shutterstock

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