99% Of World Population Breathes Unhealthy Air – WHO

A new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has disclosed that almost the entire world population (99%) breathe air which threatens their health.

This was contained in a statement issued by the Organisation on Monday, April 4, 2022.

TheFact Nigeria gathered that the country needed stricter regulation on coal, fuel, combustion.

According to the statement, A record number of over 6,000 cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality, but the people living in them are still breathing unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, with people in low and middle-income countries suffering the highest exposures.

It added that, the findings prompted WHO to highlight the importance of curbing fossil fuel use and taking other tangible steps to reduce air pollution levels.

It noted that the report was released in the lead-up to World Health Day, which this year celebrates the theme Our planet, our health, the 2022 update of the WHO’s air quality database introduces, for the first time, ground measurements of annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a common urban pollutant and precursor of particulate matter and ozone.

The statement continued: “It also includes measurements of particulate matter with diameters equal or smaller than 10 μm (PM10) or 2.5 μm (PM2.5). Both groups of pollutants originate mainly from human activities related to fossil fuel combustion.

“The new air quality database is the most extensive yet in its coverage of air pollution exposure on the ground. Some 2,000 more cities/human settlements are now recording ground monitoring data for particulate matter, PM10 and/or PM2.5, than the last update. This marks an almost 6-fold rise in reporting since the database was launched in 2011.

According to WHO, the evidence base for the damage air pollution does to the human body has been growing rapidly and points to significant harm caused by even low levels of many air pollutants.

They explained that, particulate matter, especially PM2.5, is capable of penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke) and respiratory impacts. There is emerging evidence that particulate matter impacts other organs and causes other diseases as well.

They explained that NO2 was associated with respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing), hospital admissions and visits to emergency rooms.

Lending a voice to the call for green energy, WHO’s Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted:

“Current energy concerns highlight the importance of speeding up the transition to cleaner, healthier energy systems.

“High fossil fuel prices, energy security, and the urgency of addressing the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change, underscore the pressing need to move faster towards a world that is much less dependent on fossil fuels”, he said.

WHO further urged governments to take steps to improve air quality, this includes building of safe and affordable public transport systems and pedestrian- and cycle-friendly networks,

“Adopting, revising and implementing national air quality standards according to the latest WHO Air Quality Guidelines Monitor air quality and identify sources of air pollution.

“Supporting the transition to exclusive use of clean household energy for cooking, heating and lighting

“Implementing stricter vehicle emissions and efficiency standards; and enforcing mandatory inspection and maintenance for vehicleInvest in energy-efficient housing and power generation
Improve industry and municipal waste management

“Reduce agricultural waste incineration, forest fires and certain agro-forestry activities (e.g. charcoal production) Include air pollution in curricula for health professionals and providing tools for the health sector to engage. Higher income countries see lower particulate pollution, but most cities have trouble with nitrogen dioxide.

Responding to the worrisome statistics, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, Dr. Maria Neira said:

“After surviving a pandemic, it is unacceptable to still have 7 million preventable deaths and countless preventable lost years of good health due to air pollution.

“That’s what we’re saying when we look at the mountain of air pollution data, evidence, and solutions available. Yet too many investments are still being sunk into a polluted environment rather than in clean, healthy air,” Dr. Maria said.

Pic 1: A Primary Healthcare Center administering Routine Immunisation to children

Pic 2: A malnourished child

Pic 3: Poisonous exhaust from a vehicle, a common sight on Nigeria’s roads.

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