The World Health Organization (WHO) warns Wednesday on levels of air pollution still too high in many parts of the world. 9 out of 10 people breathe polluted air according to the organization. So what are the health risks ?
“Levels of air pollution remain dangerously high in many parts of the world,” the World Health Organization (WHO) warns Wednesday in yet another statement recalling how much global warming is seriously damaging our health. According to these data, 9 out of 10 people would breathe polluted air. 7 million people die each year because of the pollution of the ambient air (outside) and because of the air pollution inside houses, the WHO reports.
In its last report on air pollution (October 2017), the European Environment Agency indicated that the situation is “slowly improving”, but that big European cities were still asphyxiated by clouds of fine particles , ozone and nitrogen dioxide. A toxic environment responsible for more than 530,000 deaths on the continent. At the European Union level, Germany is the country that pays the highest price (80 000 deaths), ahead of Britain (64 000) and France (63 000).
If ambient air pollution (road, rail, river) alone is responsible for about 4.2 million deaths in 2016, indoor air pollution (fuels and polluting technologies) has caused about 3.8 million deaths that same year. “Air pollution is a threat to all of us, but the poorest and most marginalized people are the first to suffer,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, “We can not accept that more than 3 billion people – mostly women and children – continue to breathe air daily contaminated by deadly fumes from stoves and polluting fuels inside their homes, and if we do not act quickly, sustainable development will remain a pipe dream. ”
About 3 billion people (more than 40% of the world’s population) still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies at home, which is the main source of pollution air inside homes. “These improvements remain slower than population growth in many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa,” notes the WHO.
According to the WHO, more than 90% of air pollution deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, and then in low- and middle-income countries in the eastern Mediterranean regions. from Europe and the Americas. “Many megacities worldwide are achieving results 5 times higher than the levels set by the WHO guidelines for air quality, which represents a major risk to the health of populations,” says Dr. Maria Neira , Director of the Department of Public Health, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health at WHO.
Pollution plays a key role in intensifying pollination and recrudescence of respiratory allergies. In the last 30 years, the number of people with allergies has almost doubled because of allergenic concentrations in the air. The WHO estimates that 50% of the world’s population will be allergic in 2050. Indeed, numerous studies highlight the deleterious effects of pollution and traffic on respiratory health, especially that of children, with the percentage of people allergic asthma and pollens rising from 20 to 30%.
An international team of researchers had already highlighted the impact of air pollution related to car traffic on childhood asthma. Their work, published March 27 in the journal Environment International, shows that up to 38% of all annual childhood asthma cases in Bradford, England can be attributed to air pollution. Atmospheric pollution related to automobile traffic is estimated at 12% of all cases of childhood asthma identified. In question: the high levels of nitrogen dioxide. This atmospheric pollutant produced by road traffic is indeed known to cause irritations of the respiratory system and significantly exacerbate the existing respiratory problems in the subjects.
Dangerous for the lungs, heart, arteries or mucous membranes, overexposure to fine particles causes diseases such as strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infections. According to a study from the University of Aarhus (Denmark), published in Ecological Indicators in July 2017, chronic exposure to fine particles also considerably shortens life expectancy: 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air decrease by 9 to 11 years the life expectancy of city dwellers. In cities in high-income European countries, air pollution has been shown to reduce average life expectancy by 2 to 24 months, depending on pollution levels, the WHO also explains.