WHO: Air Pollution Over Limits For 80% Of People In Cities With Quality Monitoring

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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.

London air pollution


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.

Photo of London by DAVID HOLT (CC BY 2.0 license)

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

4 thoughts on “WHO: Air Pollution Over Limits For 80% Of People In Cities With Quality Monitoring

  • Research published by the Max Planck Society in Germany points to a link between poor farming practices and air pollution. Overuse of fertiliser on farms releases ammonia, which combines with NOX pollution from cars to form the dangerous fine particles, adding to those emitted by diesel engines. So there is a pollution synergy.

    • Yes, that’s true, agriculture contributes significantly to pollution and Global Warming, along with raising cattle. We need to replace monoculture with pesticides that are poisoning our food, with permaculture, and polyculture, to feed the world, and end the pollution caused by our bad agricultural practices. Chemical fertilizers should be banned, as they leach into rivers creating Dead Zones, like the one in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • World overpopulation is another problem that directly contributes to pollution and Global Warming. Vietnam and Egypt had 20 million people in 1960, and today have 80 million people. Countries around the world need to control their populations and adopt a one child policy. The world will have 9 billion people by 2050, and this will put more of a strain on food production, pollution, and contribute more to Global Warming, and the acidification of our oceans, as well as increased plastic pollution, that’s killing our marine life.

  • Yup, whenever I commute on my electric bicycle, motorcycle, or Miata instead of the Volt, I can taste and smell the pollution in the air. I can feel it coat the inside of my nose and throat at its worst. I am seriously considering buying at least an N95 mask to wear when doing any type of open air motoring in traffic.

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