The dangers posed by air pollution are far larger than previously thought, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has announced, as it renewed its call for rapid global action in reducing what it described as one of “the greatest hazards to human health.”
The warning came at the latest meeting of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), held in Paris, France, over the weekend, where health advocates were told that indoor air pollution had become the leading risk factor for “burden of disease” in South Asia while it was ranked second in Eastern, Central and Western Sub-Saharan Africa and third in Southeast Asia.
“The estimations we have now tell us there are 3.5 million premature deaths every year caused by household air pollution, and 3.3 million death every year caused by outdoor air pollution,” Dr. Maria Neira, the WHO’s Director of Public Health and Environment, told the CCAC meeting.
Ground-level ozone pollution was estimated to cause an additionally 200,000 premature deaths every year, the agency said in a press release, which notes that “burden of disease” is a calculation based on years of life lost combined with years lived at less than full health.
“Air pollution is becoming one of the biggest health issues we have in front of us at the moment,” Dr. Neira said.