One in eight deaths are due to air pollution, says WHO
With new estimates, the WHO reports that in 2012 around seven million people died as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.
One in eight of total global deaths are a result of air pollution exposure. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives, for example by preventing non-communicable diseases and reducing disease risks among women and vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.
The new data, based on the latest WHO mortality data from 2012 as well as evidence of health risks from air pollution exposures, reveals a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer. This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. The new estimates are not only based on more knowledge about the diseases caused by air pollution, but also upon better assessment of human exposure to air pollutants through the use of improved measurements and technology.
The assessment includes a breakdown of deaths attributed to specific diseases, underlining that the vast majority of air pollution deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases.
The data also reveal that the risk factors from exposure to air pollution are greater than expected. Many people are exposed to both indoor and outdoor air pollution. Due to this overlap, mortality attributed to the two sources cannot simply be added together, hence the total estimate of around 7 million deaths in 2012.
WHO estimates indoor air pollution was linked to 4.3 million deaths in 2012 in households cooking over coal, wood and biomass stoves. The new estimate is explained by better information about pollution exposures among the estimated 2.9 billion people living in homes using wood, coal or dung as their primary cooking fuel, as well as evidence about air pollution’s role in the development of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and cancers. In the case of outdoor air pollution, WHO estimates there were 3.7 million deaths in 2012 from urban and rural sources worldwide.
HEAL welcomes this new data which is a significant step in advancing a WHO roadmap for preventing diseases related to air pollution. Later this year, the WHO will release indoor air quality guidelines on household fuel combustion, as well as country data on outdoor and indoor air pollution exposures and related mortality, plus an update of air quality.
More information available here
Originally posted on 11 April 2014