In 2012, about 7 million people died worldwide as a result of air pollution exposure -- making air pollution the world’s largest single environmental health risk, World Health Organization officials in Geneva say.
Dr. Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general of WHO's Family, Women and Children’s Health, says the new estimates are not only based on more knowledge about the diseases caused by air pollution, but also a better assessment of human exposure to air pollutants using improved technology.
Estimates of people’s exposure to outdoor air pollution in different parts of the world were formulated via new global data mapping using satellite data, ground-level monitoring measurements, and data on pollution emission.
“Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves," Bustreo says in a statement.
Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives, WHO officials say. Included in the assessment is a breakdown of deaths attributed to specific diseases.
Outdoor air pollution-caused deaths include: - 40 percent heart disease. - 40 percent stroke. - 11 percent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. - 6 percent lung cancer. - 3 percent acute lower respiratory infections in children.
Indoor air pollution-caused deaths include:
- 34 percent stroke. - 26 percent heart disease. - 22 percent Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. - 12 percent acute lower respiratory infections in children. - 6 percent lung cancer.
“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and stroke,” says Dr. Maria Neira, director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.
“Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”
[World Health Organization]