The latest report from the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that more than 80 percent of the people living in urban areas in low-income countries are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution. Some of the areas just recently started measuring air quality and were the ones included in the study.
According to the report, 98 percent of cities in low and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, cities in high-income countries increased to safer levels, as reported by WHO.
“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it they have a benchmark,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant-Director General, Family, Women and Children’s Health. “When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations, the youngest, oldest and poorest, are the most impacted,” she added.
Higher levels of pollution in the air can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, such as asthma. WHO compared data from 795 cities in 67 countries for small and fine particulate matter, more specifically for PM10 and PM2.5, from 2008 to 2013.
The particles can include pollutants like sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which can enter a person’s body through the air and reach lungs and cardiovascular system. For WHO has become important that some nations are taking serious actions against pollution and even implementing some measurement systems to keep track.
Global air quality
The global urban air pollution levels showed an increase of 8 percent, despite improvement in some regions but the addition of others not measured before. When it became to cities in general, according to WHO’s PM.2.5 data, the Iranian city of Zabol came out on top of the list.
Zabol was followed by Gwalior and Allahabad, two Indian cities, while Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, and largest city, came in fourth, as reported by the Washington Post. The list caused some surprise from the residents who did not think their situation was that bad.
PM10 data, however, showed that the most polluted city was Nigeria’s Onitsha, a city of half-a-million people on the Niger River. The difference between the PM2.5 and PM10 is the size of the particles, the first is smaller and can be more easily inhaled while the second is coarser, though it can still be inhaled and cause health problems.
Source: World Health Organization