Thursday, October 6, 2011

WHO: Air Pollution Kills More Than 2 Million People Each Year

Air quality data compiled by the World Health Organization shows alarming rates of dangerous particles in many cities. Photo by Ekhinos.
The World Health Organization released an unprecedented compilation of air quality data last week hat shows a dangerous increase in air pollution levels. According to the data, over 2 million people die every year from indoor and outdoor air pollution, and the collected air quality levels are alarmingly threatening people’s health in many cities.
According to WHO, the responsible element in air pollution are PM10 particles, pieces that are 10 micrometers or less, which can “penetrate into the lungs and may enter the bloodstream, can cause heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, and acute lower respiratory infections.”
The WHO air quality guidelines dictate that a maximum annual average of PM10 particles should be at 20 micrograms per cubic meter. Yet, the data indicate some cities as having already reached and surpassed that maximum annual average with an air quality measure of 300 micrograms per cubic meter—15 times the recommended WHO levels. According to the WHO, only a few cities currently meet its guidelines in air quality.
WHO also states that elevated levels of fine particle pollution are common across many urban areas, and these particles originate from combustion sources, like power plants and motor vehicles. “In both developed and developing countries, the largest contributors to urban outdoor air pollution include motor transport, small-scale manufacturers and other industries, burning of biomass and coal for cooking and heating, as well as coal-fired power plants,” the organization explains. “Residential wood and coal burning for space heating is an important contributor to air pollution, especially in rural areas during colder months.”

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