This data makes it harder for countries to ignore their responsibilities, according to Dr Neira, who told the Guardian: “Countries are confronted with the reality of better data. Now we have the figures of how many citizens are dying from air pollution... Now there are no excuses for not taking action.”
Three million deaths a year are linked to outdoor pollution through transport fumes, burning of waste and household fuel, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities. But the report warns that indoor pollution can be just as harmful, especially in poorer developing countries who still burn charcoal in the home.
According to the report, “Nearly 90% of air-pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with nearly 2 out of 3 occurring in WHO’s South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions.”
"Air pollution continues take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations – women, children and the older adults," Dr Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general at WHO, said in the statement.
Dr Neira suggests that solutions do exist on both a small and large scale, pointing towards sustainable transport, solid waste management, and clean household fuels as well as renewable energy and industrial emission reductions.
“The role of the health sector is crucial, and there is a need to engage with other sectors to maximize the co-benefits of health, climate, environment, social and development,” the report concludes. “Saving people’s lives is the overarching aim to implement policies aiming at tackling air pollution in the health, transport, energy, and urban development sectors."