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Billions of People Still Breathe Unhealthy Air

Billions of People Still Breathe Unhealthy Air

For years, the WHO has been one of the biggest advocates of the dangers of air pollution. By its own guidelines, the WHO found that 99% of the entire global population breathes air that exceeds the air quality limits. This means that 99% of the world’s population - including children - breathes air with adverse health effects. 


A few months ago, in early April, the WHO released its updated data surrounding the current state of air pollution. While nearly all of the world’s population is breathing unhealthy air, there was also some good news from the study.

A record number of cities (over 6000) are now monitoring local air quality levels, showing that globally awareness surrounding air pollution is growing. Although monitoring air pollution is only the first step towards acting against it, it’s great to see awareness rising. These 6000 monitors are located across 117 countries.


Further, the WHO has added nitrogen dioxide to its air quality guidelines for the first time. Previously, only PM2.5, PM10, sulfur dioxide, and ozone were included in the WHO air quality database. This is a great addition because nitrogen dioxide is a precursor to particulate matter and ozone. 


The WHO report also found that higher-income cities tend to have lower particulate pollution (PM2.5 and PM10) but similar levels of nitrogen dioxide. The difference in particulate matter is stark - 17% of high-income cities fall below the WHO particulate matter guidelines, but only 1% of low and middle-income cities fall below the same guideline.


In its report, the WHO discussed the importance of bringing more monitoring to low and middle-income cities. As it stands, individuals in these cities are at more risk of suffering from bad air quality, but monitoring is also the lowest in lower-income cities.


If you want to learn more about the current state of air pollution, we recommend reading the full report here. Although air pollution is still impacting billions of people, the increase in awareness is a positive improvement.

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