More Than 90% Of World's Population Breathing Unsafe Air, Says WHO

China tops the list of number of deaths directly due to air pollution. Testing/Shutterstock.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the state of the world’s air pollution and the danger it poses to the global population a “public health emergency” in a new report announced today.  

92 percent of the world’s population live in places that don’t meet the WHO’s safe air quality levels, resulting in up to 6 million deaths a year directly from air pollution.  

“To date, air pollution – both ambient (outdoor) and household (indoor) – is the biggest environmental risk to health, carrying responsibility for about one in every nine deaths annually,” Dr Maria Neira, head of the WHO's department of public health and environment, writes in the report.

An international team, led by the University of Bath, UK, worked with the WHO to gather and analyze data from 3,000 locations, both urban and rural, worldwide. They used pollution monitors on the ground and in the air as well as satellite measurements to produce the most detailed air quality model and air pollution-related health data ever recorded.  

This is also the first time the WHO has broken down the data to a country by country level, revealing the worst offenders.  

It’s not surprising after last year’s widely-reported news of Shenyang’s air pollution reaching 50 times the recommended safety limit that China tops what has to be one of the least desirable leagues in existence. An estimated 1 million people died from breathing dirty air there in 2012.

India followed with approximately 600,000 deaths and Russia came in third with 140,000. The US came in at ninth out of the 184 countries listed, with the UK coming in 25th, with 16,000 deaths. The top 10 reads as follows:

  1. 1. China - 1,032,833
  2. 2. India - 621,138
  3. 3. Russia - 140,851
  4. 4. Indonesia - 61,792
  5. 5. Pakistan - 59,241
  6. 6. Ukraine - 54,507
  7. 7. Nigeria - 46,750
  8. 8. Egypt - 43,531
  9. 9. USA - 38,043
  10. 10. Bangladesh - 37,449
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