According to researchers from the University of Exeter, half of the world’s population is exposed to increasing air pollution despite global efforts to improve air quality. The study, which was completed in conjunction with the World Health Organization, suggests that air pollution represents a major and growing threat to human health.
For the study, which was recently published in the journal Climate and Atmospheric Science, the researchers reviewed global air quality trends between 2010 and 2016. The research team examined those findings against a backdrop of global policies to reduce air pollution. The researchers used ground monitoring data and satellite data to develop yearly air quality profiles for individual countries and regions.
The scientists focused on fine particulate matter, which is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some of the particles, like dust, soot, or smoke, are large enough to be seen by the naked eye. Others are so small that they can only be seen using a microscope. Inhaling fine particulate matter can cause all sorts of health issues, including asthma, respiratory inflammation, and even promote cancer.
For much of the world’s population, the consequences of polluted air are more deadly than war, violence, and many diseases. According to the World Health Organization, more than four million deaths every year can be attributed to outdoor air pollution. Some of the major sources of air pollution include coal-fired power plants, agriculture, transportation, and deforestation.
The study found that low and middle income countries experience the highest burden of air pollution around the world, with the largest concentrations found in central and southeastern Asia.
More long term policies are needed to curb this growing threat to public health.
Photo, posted August 2, 2019, courtesy of Ron Reiring via Flickr.