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WHO report warns over 90% of world’s population affected by high levels of air pollution

WHO report warns over 90% of world’s population affected by high levels of air pollution

A new World Health Organization (WHO) air quality model has found that 92% of the world’s population lives in areas where air quality exceeds iots limits.

Approximately 3 million deaths in 2012 were linked to outdoor air exposure.

The report shows that nearly 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with Eastern Europe among the worst affected regions. 94% of the deaths are due to non-communicable conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and heart conditions.

While some of the pollutants contributing to poor air quality were natural, e.g. dusts from the Sahara desert, the majority of pollutants come from the burning of fossil fuels, which releases toxic gases such as nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide into the air we breathe.

The report is the most detailed account of health data related to outdoor air pollution, with an accompanying interactive air quality map which shows pollution levels of different countries, enabling you to check the air quality in your region.

Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO, said of the findings, "air pollution continues to take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations -- women, children and the older adults. For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last."

The report highlights the importance of this year’s Healthy Lungs for Life campaign, with the true scale of poor outdoor air quality and the toll it takes on our health now at the forefront of international health discussion.

If you would like to learn more about outdoor air pollution and the impact it can have on lung health, please head to our factsheets below:

Access the WHO report.