According to new research by the WHO, an estimated 92% of the world’s population lives in areas where air pollution exceeds safety limits. Parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, India, China and the Middle East are the biggest regional danger spots. The WHO says almost all air pollution-related deaths (94%) occur in low and middle-income countries.
The WHO’s latest research is it’s most detailed to date on outdoor air pollution by country. It shows around 3 million deaths globally are linked to pollution from vehicles, power generation and industry.
However, indoor air pollution caused by smoke from cooking stoves or fires can be just as deadly, the WHO says. Together, outdoor and indoor air pollution were associated with the deaths of an estimated 6.5 million people worldwide in 2012. That’s 11.6% of all global deaths – more than the number of people killed by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and road injuries combined.
Tiny particles, known as PM2.5, have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers and can penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of acute respiratory infections and non-communicable diseases, notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic lung disease and lung cancer. WHO guidelines state annual average concentrations of PM2.5 should be below 10 micrograms per cubic meter, but the vast majority of the world’s population is living in areas exceeding this limit.
The best way to address this risk is to control or eliminate the sources of pollutants, and to ventilate your home with clean outdoor air. The ventilation method may, however, be limited by weather conditions or undesirable levels of contaminants contained in outdoor air. If these measures are insufficient, an air cleaning device may be useful.
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