99% Of the Population Breathes Polluted Air

99% Of the Population Breathes Polluted Air

A recent study from Monash University that has been highlighted on Popular Science shows the severity of the air pollution situation globally. The study goes so far as to say, ‘99% of the population breathes in a hazardous amount of particulate matter’.

The study was carried out using data from 2000 to 2019 and focused exclusively on PM2.5 (often called fine particles). While the study was limited in the pollutants tracked, the outlook for PM2.5 concentrations paints a grim picture.

The report goes a step further to say that in 2019, only 0.001 percent of the global population was exposed to ‘safe’ levels of PM2.5 (as deemed by the WHO). Currently, the WHO upper limit for ‘safe’ concentrations is 5 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre. We say ‘safe’ because any level of air pollution can cause health impacts.

If you’ve been staying up to date with the news we share on AirPop, you may be surprised to hear this stat - after all, isn’t air pollution improving in many areas worldwide? Yes, it is. Pollution levels have dropped in North America and Europe but have also increased in other regions such as Australia, New Zealand and Southern Asia. 

It’s also important to remember that while pollution levels are decreasing in many countries, they still tend to exceed the WHO guidelines. More work is needed, and a larger focus on air pollution is essential.

Considering weather patterns is also important, as the WHO guidelines are based on an annual average. However, many regions experience seasonal pollution - especially in Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where dust from deserts can impact neighbouring regions.

While the report highlights a sombre reality, it also shows improvements can be made. Some countries and cities have made strides to decrease air pollution levels and have seen great success. Although further work is needed, we can lower local air pollution levels and, hopefully, global pollution too, with coordinated actions.

Read more on Popular Science.
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