According to the air quality map that has been released by the World Health Organization (WHO), almost everyone living on Earth is breathing polluted air. The released map is interactive. It has been based on the global air pollution data. The map confirms that almost 92% of the total world’s population is living in areas whose outdoor quality of air doesn’t meet the guidelines set by WHO.
The current map brings forwards a very serious public health issue. Poor quality of air due to pollution can give rise to a lot of negative effects in the human body. According to Dr. Maria Neira, the director of WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health, air pollution can harm an individual’s heart, lungs and brain. It can even cause premature death in some cases.
The WHO has revealed that each year approximately 3 million deaths can be linked to being exposed to outdoor air pollution. Dr. Neira continued that the surprising fact is that the organization has been warning about such danger for a very long time. However, nothing has actually been done. Even though the quality of air has improved in some of the regions, overall urban air pollution has increased globally by 8% from 2008 to 2013.
Coming to the created map, it is based on the collected data related to the annual amount of particulate matter (PM) that is present in the globe’s air. PM can be described as a type of air pollutant that is consisted of small particles. These particles can either be a cluster of molecules, dust, or even pollen that can be seen by the naked eye. All of the data was collected during the years 2008-2015. Satellite measurements, air transport models and monitoring from ground stations were used. These measuring sources were based in more than 3,000 locations spread over 103 countries. WHO recommends that PM2.5 should kept limited to 10 micrograms/cubic meter. However, the current map shows that 92% of the total world’s population lived in areas with air that exceed the recommended limit of PM.
PM2.5 means that the air pollutants contain nitrates, sulfate and black carbon. These components are able to enter and harm the cardiovascular system and lungs. A lot of studies have been conducted showing the link between increased levels of PM2.5 and high risk of morbidity and mortality. Human exposure to such a high level gives rise to tissue and systemic inflammation, DNA and cell membrane lipids being damaged by increased oxidation, and even an increased threat of thrombosis. It is also responsible for lowering birth weight and has been linked to cognitive, immune and metabolic impairment. Individuals can also experience asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, hospitalization and even death.
The areas that are lacking in clean air are present in the Mediterranean region, Western Pacific, Southeast Asia and the sub-Saharan countries. Two out of three deaths due to air pollution also occur in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia regions. Though developing countries commonly have poor air quality, a lot of already developed areas have shown up on the map as well such as Paris, London, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
WHO recommends finding the sources of pollutants and then sharing the information with policymakers in order to improve air quality around the globe. More research and diligence is required in order to provide human beings with air that isn’t harmful to them.