WHO Report: Air Pollution a Major Threat to Public Health

Public health is one of the topics for the 2015-2016 World of 7 Billion student video contest.

Next month, the new World Health Organization report on air pollution will be released. The report is based off data gathered from 2,000 world cities and shows that levels of air pollution in many parts of the world are well beyond safe levels by WHO standards. Tiny particulate matter and gases in the form of carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide in the air are causing what is being referred to as, “one of the biggest public health issues we have ever confronted,” by Dr. María Neira, WHO public health chief.

To put things into perspective consider this: poor air quality across the globe is responsible for more annual deaths than HIV and malaria combined. If we continue business as usual, the report predicts that the number of air pollution-related fatalities could reach 6 million a year by 2050. Several major cities are affected by toxic levels of air pollution including Hong Kong, Kabul, and New Delhi. Just over 7 days into the New Year, London had already reached its air pollution limits for the whole of 2016. The health implications of air pollution range from respiratory to cardiovascular disease and most diseases are chronic contributing to high medical costs for many nations.

There are ways of tackling the growing issue of air pollution at both the government and individual level. According to Dr. Neira, the improvement of public transport systems, the increased number of energy-efficient houses, and renewable energy can help lessen the detrimental effects of poor air quality.