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Air Pollution is the World’s Biggest Environmental Health Risk

March 26, 2014
Environmental Protection

smoke stackNew figures published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that nearly one in eight deaths in 2012 was linked to air pollution. Based on increasing knowledge of the links between poor air quality and conditions such as heart disease and cancer, the figures are more than double previous estimates.

Outdoor pollution from traffic and coal burning was responsible for 3.7 million deaths in 2012, while 4.3 million deaths were attributed to indoor pollution from wood and coal stoves. The figures mean that air pollution now kills more people worldwide than road deaths, smoking and diabetes combined.

Maria Neira, director of WHO’s department for public health, environmental and social determinants of health says the problem is now a major cause for concern: “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”

The majority of global deaths occurred in South East Asia and the WHO’s Pacific region, with women in developing countries who are exposed to household air pollution particularly at risk. Whilst the rate in Europe was considerably less (100,000 premature deaths) the associated health costs are put at between £300 – £800 billion. There were approximately 29,000 premature deaths attributed to air pollution in the UK last year.

You can see the results of the WHO study here