WHO: ‘fine particles kill 7 million people yearly’
Every year 7 million of people are killed by air pollution, according to an estimation of World’s Health Organization (WHO). The facts were published on Wednesday in a report based on data about air quality in 4.300 cities in 108 countries.
Elderly, heart and lung patients
Who are those 7 million people? The answer is probably not surprising: especially elderly and heart and lung patients. Measurements were mainly executed in cities, where air pollution concentrations are the highest, so most people getting killed are city-dwellers.
People living in the countryside or in the outback, however, also suffer from air pollution, often due to cooking and heating with open fires, making air quality as bad inside as outside their homes. According to WHO 40% of world’s population doesn’t have clean devices for cooking or heating.
Massive killer are particles in the air: all kind of small and harmful dust, mostly created by burning fossil fuels of natural origin. Still, a lot of people stick to their wood-burning stoves, if only for cosiness. Other air pollution is caused by ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
Short and long exposure to particles is related to heart (32% gets heart attacks), lung (20% dies of pneumonia), and blood vessel diseases (about 20% dies of a stroke).
Standards for air pollution are less strict in Europe than the standards of WHO. In the Netherlands maximum year average is 40 microgram PM10 (the bigger particles) per cubic metre, for WHO an average of 20 microgram is the limit.
Quality of the air in Holland has improved, though. In the beginning of the nineties still more than 3.000 people died as a consequence of air pollution, in 2013 about 1.600, according to the national institute for public health and environment (Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu, RIVM).
Air is getting cleaner in large parts of Western Europe and North America, “even in China efforts are made for a better air quality. In other parts of Asia, like in India, on the contrary, pollution is getting worse as a consequence of expanding industrial activities and increasing traffic”, says Guus Velders, scientific researcher air quality and climate change at RIVM.