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WHO: 92% of the urban population exposed to toxic air

Beijing, London, Mexico City, New Delhi and Paris are among the cities that have registered the highest levels of air pollution over the last year. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that 92% of the word’s urban population are exposed to toxic air.

Indoor and outdoor, unclean air takes its toll on human health.

  • In Europe, around 85% of the urban population are exposed to dangerous fine particulate matter, responsible for an estimated 467,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries.
  • In India, 41 cities of more than a million people have had bad air quality in nearly 60% of the total days monitored.
  • China has been the target of all the media attention on pollution-related news but 74 major Chinese cities have improved their level of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in recent past. The authorities declared a war on gas emissions.
  • Africa has buried 712,000 victims of dirty air pollution.

Health at risk

If you gave up smoking because it’s bad for your lungs, you might consider moving out of town for the same reasons. One lungful of poor quality air equals 6 cigarettes a day, WHO warns. Other facts sound just as worrying:

  • There are numerous health impacts of air pollution, such as dementia and Alzheimer.
  • 600,000 children under the age of five die because of air pollution every year.
  • We could place the planet on the sick list as well. Black carbon is melting the mountain glaciers and destabilizing the climate.

Finances on pollution’s leash

On the economic side, researchers from the World Bank estimated that:

  • The global economic cost of air pollution-related deaths rises to US$225 billion in lost labor income (in 2013).
  • More than $5 trillion are lost in welfare expenses related to poor quality air.
  • The OECD predicted that global air pollution-related healthcare costs will increase from $21bn in 2015 to $176bn in 2060.
  • And by 2060, the global annual number of lost working days that affect labour productivity is projected to triple to reach 3.7bn – it is currently around 1.2bn.

Although the causes and effects of air pollution should have been elementary knowledge by now, governments and individuals alike seem oblivious to the scourge of the new old world.

Alexa Stewart