JUN 22, 2020 7:55 AM PDT

Half of the global population is exposed to air pollution

A World Health Organization study published recently in the journal Climate and Atmospheric Science reports that half of the global population is currently exposed to increasing levels of air pollution, posing a significant public health crisis. According to the WHO, over 4.2 million deaths can be attributed to outdoor air pollution every year.

Air pollution is measured in part by the amount of particulate matter in the air, which is generated as a by-product of coal power plants, transportation emissions, agriculture, industry, and household energy use. Burning trash, deforestation, and sand and desert dust can also contribute to air pollution.

Because particulate matter is so small, it can travel through the respiratory tract into the lungs, exacerbating lung conditions like asthma. According to the WHO, worldwide ambient air pollution accounts for:

  • 29% of all deaths and disease from lung cancer
  • 17% of all deaths and disease from acute lower respiratory infection
  • 24% of all deaths from stroke
  • 25% of all deaths and disease from ischaemic heart disease
  • 43% of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

The study looked at trends of ground monitoring and satellite data of aerosol optical depth and chemical transport models to analyze global trends in air quality from 2010-2016. This wide-scale monitoring is in large part possible because of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal to expand the evidence base of the impacts of air pollution on health.

As lead researcher Professor Gavin Shaddick at the University of Exeter explains, "Although precise quantification of the outcomes of specific policies is difficult, coupling the evidence for effective interventions with global, regional and local trends in air pollution can provide essential information for the evidence base that is key in informing and monitoring future policies."

Photo: Pixabay

The study showed that certain regions of the world are more affected than others, notably Central, Eastern Southern and South-Eastern Asia. "While long-term policies to reduce air pollution have been shown to be effective in many regions, notably in Europe and the United States, there are still regions that have dangerously high levels of air pollution, some as much as five times greater than World Health Organization guidelines, and in some countries air pollution is still increasing," concludes Professor Shaddick, who is Chair of Data Science & Statistics. 

Sources: Climate and Atmospheric Science, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUL 28, 2021
Technology
Addressing The Environmental Impact Of Disposable Masks
JUL 28, 2021
Addressing The Environmental Impact Of Disposable Masks
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, mask wearing was a regular part of life as governments imposed mandates to help ...
AUG 21, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Celebrate Honeybees and Beekeepers on National Honeybee Day!
AUG 21, 2021
Celebrate Honeybees and Beekeepers on National Honeybee Day!
The third Saturday in August, this year the 21st, is National Honeybee Day! The date celebrates honeybee keepers and all ...
SEP 01, 2021
Earth & The Environment
An Introduction to Conservation Through Hunting
SEP 01, 2021
An Introduction to Conservation Through Hunting
Hunting and conservation are inextricably linked. Hunters are some of the most avid conservationists because they want t ...
SEP 15, 2021
Plants & Animals
Using Food Waste To Make Rechargeable Batteries
SEP 15, 2021
Using Food Waste To Make Rechargeable Batteries
Back in 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that nearly 133 billion pounds of food went to waste, ...
OCT 12, 2021
Microbiology
Revealing the Efficient Enzymes of Methane-Producing Microbes
OCT 12, 2021
Revealing the Efficient Enzymes of Methane-Producing Microbes
The atmospheric levels of methane, which is known to be a potent greenhouse gas, have been steadily increasing for many ...
OCT 17, 2021
Microbiology
Harmless Microbes Can be Pressured to Turn Bad
OCT 17, 2021
Harmless Microbes Can be Pressured to Turn Bad
The world is full of microorganisms. Luckily, most pose no threat to us. But some harmless bacteria have the potential t ...
Loading Comments...