Air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths every year

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Air pollution, the silent killer. The alarm comes from the World Health Organization which, for the first time since 2005, has strengthened its guidelines on air quality. “Every year, according to estimates, exposure to air pollution causes seven million premature deaths and causes the loss of millions of years of life,” explains the United Nations agency, which urges urgent action, comparing the danger to “important risks to global health, such as an unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking».

Since 2005, many decisive elements have emerged showing that air pollution affects health even at lower concentrations than what was believed. “The accumulated evidence is sufficient to justify actions aimed at reducing the exposure of the population to the main air pollutants, not only in particular countries or regions, but on a global scale,” added the WHO.

“What matters most is that governments implement effective policies to reduce polluting emissions, for example they put in place an end to investments in coal, oil and gas and give priority to transition to clean energyAdded Aidan Farrow, an air pollution scientist for Greenpeace. “Failure to comply with WHO guidelines must not be repeated.”

The major pollutants are ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide. The others are PM10 e PM2,5, particulates equal to or less than 10 and 2.5 microns in diameter – both are able to penetrate deep into the lungs, but research shows that the PM2.5 can even enter the bloodstream, causing mainly cardiovascular and respiratory problems, but also disturbances to other organs. For this, the level of PM2.5, in the guidelines, has been halved.

According to Greenpeace, in 79 of the 100 most populous cities in the world, annual average levels of PM2.5 air pollution were recorded last year that violated the 2005 guidelines. not in order would rise to 92. Among the cities with the most polluted air are Delhi (PM2.5 exceeded the limit 17 times), Lahore (16 times), Dhaka (15 times) and Zhengzhou (10 times). In eight of the 10 largest cities in the world, even PM2.5 data was not available.

“Air pollution is a threat to health in all countries,” added WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “but it hits people the hardest in low- and middle-income countries“. Indeed, while air quality has significantly improved since the 1990s in high-income countries, it has deteriorated in most other countries, in line with their economic situation.

In children, air pollution could cause a impaired growth and function of the lungs, respiratory infections and asthma. In adults, coronary heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of premature death attributable to air pollution. There is also evidence of other effects, such as diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.

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