According to the health institution, about a quarter of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer can be attributed to air pollution.
These numbers have remained unchanged in the past years, with, globally, outdoor air pollution remaining high and largely unchanged, while indoor air pollution has got worse, as people in many poorer countries continue to cook with solid fuel or kerosene, instead of cleaner fuels such as gas and electricity. Women and children are the most at risk.
WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, director Dr. Maria Neira said, “Three billion people around the world, so almost half, 50% of the world global population, is still cooking and heating and lightening their house with solid fuels, wood, whatever they have available, which is not very clean fuels, and this is having a very negative impact on their health. And this is something that we need to solve. We need to increase access to clean fuels, clean energy for this very important proportion of our population.”
WHO’s global assessment is based on satellite data and modelling overlaid on the database of more than 4,300 cities, an almost 50% increase compared to WHO last report in 2016, and is self-selecting, because it is based on voluntary reporting, with numbers that have been hugely revised since the previous report.
Dr. Neira futher added, “For the time being, because of the demographics, and because of the speed on the implementation, and because probably of the lack of political will in some countries, we are not moving at the speed that we would like to see. Bringing ministers of energy, ministers of environment, ministers of transports, ministers of health and looking at how we scale up and how we talk about interventions that work to reduce air pollution, and therefore generating plenty of health outcomes for people.”
The World Health Organization plans to organize in October the first Conference on air pollution and Health to speed up change at a global level.