People, Environment

WHO to Release Deadly Toll of Air Pollution

WHO to Release Deadly Toll of Air PollutionWHO to Release Deadly Toll of Air Pollution

The World Health Organization is set to release shock figures of premature deaths worldwide due to air pollution next month, highlighting the lethal effect of poor air quality on millions of people that is threatening to overwhelm health services across the planet.

Quoting WHO, the British newspaper The Guardian reports that the figures will show air pollution has worsened since 2014 in hundreds of cities in the world, prompting the organization to claim that there is now a global “public health emergency” that will take an unprecedented financial toll on governments.

The latest data, taken from 2,000 cities, will show further deterioration in many places as populations have grown, leaving large areas under clouds of smog created by a mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes.

“We have a public health emergency in many countries from pollution. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with horrible future costs to society,” said Maria Neira, head of public health at the WHO, which is a specialist agency of the United Nations.

“Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous,” said Neira.

According to the UN, there are now 3.3 million premature deaths every year from air pollution, about three-quarters of which are from strokes and heart attacks. With nearly 1.4 million deaths a year, China has the most air pollution fatalities, followed by India with 645,000 and Pakistan with 110,000.

With 80,000 annual pollution-related deaths every year, Iran is a top-five country in terms of air pollution mortality. In Tehran alone, more than 4,400 people die every year due to poor air quality, meaning one person dies every two hours due to dangerously high concentrations of air pollutants.

The Iranian capital’s air pollution plight this year has forced officials to cancel schools for a total of seven days in the past four weeks.

The latest scientific research, published in the journal Nature, suggests that air pollution now kills more people a year than malaria and HIV combined, and in many countries accounts for roughly 10 times more deaths than road accidents.

According to the WHO, air quality is deteriorating around the world to the point where only one in eight people live in cities that meet recommended air pollution levels.