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Air Quality is a Health Emergency Says WHO

January 18, 2016
Public Health

The World Health Organisation has described new data on the effects of poor air quality across the globe as a ‘health emergency.’ The research, which involved 2,000 cities, will be published next month and is expected to show that air pollution has deteriorated since 2014 in hundreds of urban areas.

Population growth has led to greater incidence of smogs produced by a variety of sources including transport, construction dust, power generation and wood burning in homes. WHO’s head of public health, Dr Maria Neira is concerned that existing health services may be overwhelmed: “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”.

She continued: “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.”

Figures from the WHO suggest that only one in eight people live in cities that meet current recommended air pollution levels, while research published in the journal Nature, concluded that the problem is responsible for more deaths than HIV and malaria combined. In the opening few weeks of 2016, a number of roads in London have already been shown to exceed their yearly limits for nitrogen dioxide.