• Evidence-based research has shown that the damage air pollution does to the human body has been growing rapidly.
• Particulate matter is capable of penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke) and respiratory impacts.
Almost the entire world population (99%) breathes unhealthy air with people in low and middle-income countries suffering the highest exposures.
New data by the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the health of billions of people is threatened as they are breathing unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.
The findings have prompted WHO to highlight the importance of curbing fossil fuel use and take other tangible steps to reduce air pollution levels.
“Current energy concerns highlight the importance of speeding up the transition to cleaner, healthier energy systems,” WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
“High fossil fuel prices, energy security and the urgency of addressing the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change, underscore the pressing need to move faster towards a world that is much less dependent on fossil fuels,” he added.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a common urban pollutant and precursor of particulate matter.
Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution or PM, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets.
It is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, pollen, soot, smoke, soil or dust particles.
Both groups of pollutants originate mainly from human activities related to fossil fuel combustion.
Evidence-based research has shown that the damage air pollution does to the human body has been growing rapidly.
It points to significant harm caused by even low levels of many air pollutants.
Particulate matter is capable of penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke) and respiratory impacts.
Nitrogen dioxide is associated with respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing.
In 2021, WHO revised its Air Quality Guidelines making them more stringent in an effort to help countries better evaluate the healthiness of their own air.
Currently, a record number of over 6000 cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality.
Another 2,000 more cities and human settlements are now recording ground monitoring data for particulate matter than the last update.
Meanwhile, WHO has advised countries to implement stricter vehicle emissions and efficiency standards and enforce mandatory vehicle inspection and maintenance.
They have also been advised to adopt or revise air quality standards to the latest WHO Air Quality Guidelines, monitor air quality and identify sources of air pollution and support the transition to exclusive use of clean household energy for cooking, heating and lighting.
WHO has also advised governments to build safe and affordable public transport systems and pedestrian- and cycle-friendly networks.