Some seven million people die each year from exposure to polluted air, according to new World Health Organization estimates.
Ambient, or outdoor air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period, according to a report issued Wednesday.
Those figures are on a par with the number of deaths recorded in an earlier study published two years ago.
Air pollution levels remain dangerously high in many parts of the world, according to the fresh WHO study. New data showed that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.
More than 90 per cent of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas, according to the report.
“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“It is unacceptable that over 3 billion people – most of them women and children – are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes. If we don’t take urgent action on air pollution, we will never come close to achieving sustainable development,” he said.
The WHO recognizes that air pollution is a critical risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated one-quarter (24 per cent) of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25 per cent from strokes, 43 per cent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29 per cent from lung cancer.