A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that air quality in most cities worldwide fails to meet guidelines for safe levels, putting people at additional risk of respiratory disease and other health problems.
WHO’s Urban Air Quality database covers 1600 cities across 91 countries – 500 more cities than the previous database (2011), revealing that more cities worldwide are monitoring outdoor air quality, reflecting growing recognition of air pollution’s health risks.
About half of the urban population being monitored is exposed to air pollution that is at least 2.5 times higher than the levels WHO recommends – putting those people at additional risk of serious, long-term health problems.
Particulate air pollution levels in Australian cities are generally low compared to many other cities in the world.
Common sources of particles are on-road and off-road vehicles, domestic wood heating, commercial activities and lawn mowers. Dust storms and fire smoke (bushfires and planned burns) can lead to extremely high levels of particles.
Professor Bin Jalaludin, Community Medicine Specialist at the University of New South Wales, said “the health effects of air pollution are evident even at low levels of air pollution. At this stage, we do not believe there is a threshold level for air pollution health effects.
“There is good evidence that exposure to fine particles can lead to hospitalisation and deaths from heart disease and also likely to have an impact on lung diseases. As whole populations are exposed to outdoor air pollution, it is important that we protect our most vulnerable (for example, children, the elderly and those with chronic diseases) from the effects of air pollution by implementing effective mitigation policies.”
In 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that it had classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans.
The WHO report can be viewed here.
ONA Editor, Rachael Babin.