Air pollution is deadly. Studies have found that particles from air pollution can enter our lungs and bloodstream, contributing to major health conditions including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and kidney disease. Globally, air pollution is responsible for the premature deaths of millions of people every year.
The first line of defense against air pollution is ambient air quality standards. But according to researchers from McGill University, more than half of the world’s population lives without the protection of adequate air quality standards.
The research team focused on a specific type of air pollution called particulate matter 2.5 (more commonly called PM2.5). PM2.5 refers to tiny particles or droplets in the air that are two and one half microns or less in width. These tiny particles are responsible for an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths every year globally, including more than one million deaths in China, nearly 200,000 in Europe, and more than 50,000 in the United States.
In the study, which was recently published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, the researchers found that where there are air quality protections, the standards are often worse than what the WHO considers safe. Some regions with high air pollution levels, like the Middle East, don’t even measure PM2.5 air pollution. The researchers found that the weakest air quality standards are often violated, while the strictest standards are often met.
More than half of the world’s population is in urgent need of adequate air quality standards.
Photo, posted November 17, 2019, courtesy of Kristoffer Trolle via Flickr.