According to data released last Thursday by the World Health Organization (WHO), polluted air is able to contribute to the deaths of over 3 million individuals each year, which poses a significant threat to human health conditions worldwide.

The data comes from the latest Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database, which takes into account the air contamination levels of 3,000 cities spanning over 100 countries.

The report asserted that overall air pollution levels rose 8 percent in spite of significant improvements in certain regions. Air pollution is a key factor in the development of deadly diseases such as lung cancer, strokes, heart attack and respiratory disorders.

Photo credit: Greener Cities
According to data released last Thursday by WHO, polluted air is able to contribute to the deaths of over 3 million individuals each year. Photo credit: Greener Cities

Worsening air conditions

Over half of the cities within high-income nations reviewed by the WHO failed to meet the expected air quality levels, but the rate rises to 98 percent when looking at low-income countries, with India becoming the country with the highest level of risk.

The city with the most polluted air was Zabol, an Iranian city that undergoes frequent sandstorms over the year, a natural phenomenon which directly contributes to the worsening condition of its breathable air. On a previous report, the first spot was occupied by India’s New Dehli, as it now stands at No. 11.

WHO director Dr. Maria Neira stated the importance of air pollution contributing to the detriment of human health, “Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health. At the same time, awareness is rising and more cities are monitoring their air quality. When air quality improves, global respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses decrease.”

Most of the data reviewed by the WHO comes from academic sources, as not every city’s administration complies to provide air pollution levels. On the list, there is a clear trend of drier countries being the ones with the most contaminated air conditions, as precipitation proves to be an effective method of rinsing the air pollution.

Some of the greatest contributors to air pollution are inefficient public transport units, as they emit harmful gasses that heat up the air and are comprised of heavy particles which are then ingested by the lungs of whoever is in the near vicinity. Garbage incineration and coal-powered machinery and electric plants are also important key factors that yield harmful contaminants to the atmosphere.

Although some countries appear several times on the list, such as China and India, others are completely exonerated, as it is the case of most African countries.

Source: World Health Organization