Scientists have sounded alarm bells on air quality in cities like Delhi and Beijing for a long time. However, a World Health Organization report released last week revealed the issue to be universal - not regional. Yikes.
Six months ago, the WHO tightened its guidelines on air quality after research showed pollution impacts us at lower levels than we thought. Then the group measured air quality in 6,000+ cities and found that 99% of the global population breathes air that exceeds these guidelines' quality limits.
And the toll dirty air takes on global health is massive. Each year, there are "7 million preventable deaths and countless preventable lost years of good health due to air pollution,” says Dr. Maria Neira of the WHO.
Some of the WHO's main takeaways:
Many contributing factors: Fuel burning (e.g., cars, power plants), agriculture, waste burning, and even natural pollutants like desert dust all degrade air quality.
Different pollution by region: The Mediterranean is high in nitrogen dioxide (from fuel), India is high in PM10 (from construction), China is high in PM2.5 (from fuel).
No easy answers: The scale of needed change is huge. Electric vehicles, a shift to fossil fuel alternatives (e.g., nuclear), and large scale waste separation are a start.
The most polluted city in the US? Los Angeles. The areas where the 1% folks breath clean air? Not shared in the study! Kind of an important detail, don't cha think?...