Over 80% of those living in urbanized regions with air-quality monitoring breathe air featuring pollution levels that exceed World Health Organization safety limits, according to a new report from the organization.
The findings of the new report are based on the evaluation of data gathered in 3,000 different cities, and 103 different countries.
The new report also notes that urban air pollution levels increased roughly 8% between the years of 2008 and 2013 — this despite local air quality improvements in some regions.
“Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health,” stated Maria Neira, director of WHO’s department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health.
Think Progress provides more:
The agency said ambient air pollution — composed of high concentrations of small and fine particulate matter that includes pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates, and black carbon — causes more than 3 million premature deaths worldwide every year. Most of this harmful air is found in developing countries in Southeast Asia and what WHO calls the Eastern Mediterranean — a region that includes the Middle East as well as some North African countries — followed by low-income cities in the Western Pacific, an area that includes 28 countries and some 1.7 billion people. Air pollution was better off in developed countries’ cities like New York and London.
India has 16 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities, but its capital, New Delhi, is no longer the most polluted city in the world, according to the report. That ranking now belongs to Onitsha, a fast-growing port and transit city in southeastern Nigeria, the Guardian reports. In the United States, the most polluted city is Visalia, situated in California’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley.
Motor vehicles account for roughly 25% to 75% of urban air pollution, according to the UN. Taking this assertion into consideration, many populous cities around the world have in recent times begun banning automobiles in certain areas — or at certain times of the week or day — as a means of reducing air pollution levels in the cities in question.
While such an approach certainly has its merits, it arguably does not solve the fundamental issue of growing emission levels — nor the rising temperatures that contribute to urban air pollution (urban ozone formation primarily). For the issue to be resolved in any kind of satisfactory way, actions will have to be much bolder.
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