World Environment Day 2019: Air pollution claims 7 million lives each year

Air pollution a silent killer, claims 7 million lives each year

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Air pollution, both outside and inside homes, is a silent and deadly killer responsible for the premature deaths of seven million people each year, including 600,000 children, according to a UN Special Rapporteur on environment and human rights.

Poor air quality is a global public health emergency

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David Boyd, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, said that over six billion people, one-third of them children, are regularly inhaling air so polluted that it puts their life, health and well-being at risk.

How bad is the current situation?

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Every hour, 800 people are dying, many after years of suffering from cancer, respiratory illnesses or heart disease directly caused by breathing bad air.

Outdoor air pollution

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Air pollutants are everywhere, largely caused by burning of fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and heating, as well as from industrial activities, poor waste management and agricultural practice.

Indoor air pollution

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Women and children, who in many less wealthy countries spend a lot of time at home, are disproportionally affected by indoor air pollution caused by cooking, heating or lighting with solid fuels and kerosene.

Steps that countries must take to ensure clean air and maintain a healthy environment

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Boyd identified seven key steps, which include monitoring air quality and impact on human health, assessing sources of air pollution; and making information publicly available, including public health advisories. Programmes in India and Indonesia that have helped millions of poor families switch to cleaner cooking technologies and states that are successfully eliminating the use of coal-fired power plants are a few examples of good practices. Also, many actions to ensure cleaner air can be designed to simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, resulting in a double dividend.

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