More than 80% of the world’s urban population lives in areas where air quality does not meet standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a new report.
The report, which looked at levels of small but damaging pollutants known as particulate matter, suggests that global urban pollution levels increased by 8% in the five years preceding 2013. That increase in pollution levels hit poor countries particularly hard, according to the report.
Crippling air pollution in a select few cities like Beijing, Mexico City and Delhi has attracted global media attention. But those cities represent just the tip of the iceberg. Ninety-eight in 100 cities in low and middle-income countries do not meet air quality standards. The number declines to 56% in wealthy countries, but cities like London, Paris and Rome still make the list of places that do not meet the standards.
“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death,” says Flavia Bustreo, an official at WHO, in a press release. “When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations—the youngest, oldest and poorest— are the most impacted.”
The health effects of air pollution come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as study after study has shown that the problem contributes to millions of premature deaths each year. Air pollution has been linked with a number of ailments including decreased lung functioning, asthma and cancer.
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SOURCE: TIME, Justin Worland