New data from the from the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that more than 80 percent of the world's cities are choked with poor quality air.
Their data also said that the air quality in 98 percent of cities in “low- and middle-income countries with more than 100 000 inhabitants” do not meet WHO standards. In high-income countries, the percentage decreases to 56 percent, display a worrying rich-poor divide when it comes to countries and their levels of air quality. The statistics come from a database of 3,000 cities in 103 countries.
As you can imagine, this is not good news for your health. Decreasing air quality directly increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases.
“When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations – the youngest, oldest and poorest – are the most impacted,” Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant-Director General for Family, Women's, and Children's Health, said in a statement.
Among the trends in the data, they also found that urban air pollution levels were up by 8 percent, although they noted that several regions had improved their quality of air. The increase in global air pollution was largely coming from poorer countries.
Fairly depressing stuff. And to add some more bleakness to the findings, the WHO say that fixing the solution is well out of the reach of individuals. Instead, the power solely lies with national and international lawmakers, particularly when it comes to cleaner transport, energy production, and waste management.
However, hope might be around the corner, with more and more governments beginning to realize the scale and seriousness of the issue. From May 24 to 30, the World Health Assembly will gather representatives from 194 countries across the globe to discuss a global response to the adverse health effects of air pollution.
Dr. Carlos Dora from the WHO also pointed out that addressing the problem won’t just be helping our lungs: “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution-related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”