More than 95% of the world’s population breathe unsafe air with those in poorest communities at greater risk, a latest study of global air pollution has found.
Cities are home to an increasing majority of the world’s people, exposing billions to unsafe air, particularly in developing countries, but in rural areas the risk of indoor air pollution is often caused by burning solid fuels. One in three people worldwide faces the double whammy of unsafe air both indoors and out.
The report by the Health Effects Institute used new findings such as satellite data and better monitoring to estimate the numbers of people exposed to air polluted above the levels deemed safe by the World Health Organisation. This exposure has made air pollution the fourth highest cause of death globally, after high blood pressure, diet and smoking, and the greatest environmental health risk.
The air quality crisis has gained greater recognition as the impact of air pollution has been better quantified. Total air pollution was responsible for 6.1 million deaths in 2016, with ambient (outdoor) air pollution being the largest contributor, accounting for 4.1 million deaths, according to a large-scale study by the Health Effects Institute.
Air pollution has become the 4th highest cause of death among all health risks, exceeded only by high blood pressure, diet, and smoking.