A database covering 1,600 cities in 91 countries, released Wednesday, indicates only 12 percent of people living in those cities breathe air that complies with WHO air pollution guidelines. About half of the urban populations in the cities in question are exposed to air pollution at least 2.5 times higher than the guidelines suggest.
“Too many urban centers today are so enveloped in dirty air that their skylines are invisible,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Children and Women’s Health. She noted the connection between urban air pollution and increased levels of lung cancer and respiratory and heart disease.
She singled out Copenhagen, Denmark, and Bogota, Colombia, as cities that have improved their air quality by promoting “active transport” that encourages walking and cycling.