Friday, August 5, 2016

Air Pollution - WHO: Breathe Life

Air Pollution
Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases, which can be fatal. 

Air pollution is a major environment-related health threat to children and a risk factor for both acute and chronic respiratory disease. While second-hand tobacco smoke and certain outdoor pollutants are known risk factors for respiratory infections, indoor air pollution from solid fuels is one of the major contributors to the global burden of disease. In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.

Outdoor Air Pollution  
Outdoor air pollution is large and increasing a consequence of the inefficient combustion of fuels for transport, power generation and other human activities like home heating and cooking.

Urban outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths worldwide per year. Children are particularly at risk due to the immaturity of their respiratory organ systems. Those living in middle-income countries disproportionately experience this burden. Exposure to air pollutants is largely beyond the control of individuals and requires action by public authorities at the national, regional and even international levels.

Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor cooking and heating with biomass fuels (agricultural residues, dung, straw, wood) or coal produces high levels of indoor smoke that contains a variety of health-damaging pollutants.

Indoor air pollution is responsible for 2 million deaths annually. Acute lower respiratory infections, in particular pneumonia, continue to be the biggest killer of young children and this toll almost exclusively falls on children in developing countries.  

WHO: Breathe Life – Clean Air, Healthy Future
Launched by the World Health Organization and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition.  Breathe Life is a global campaign to raise awareness of air pollution's impact on our health and our planet, and build a network of citizens, urban and national leaders, and health professionals to leverage change in our communities. 

Video: WHO

BreatheLife is a global campaign led by the WHO, Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Government of Norway, to raise awareness about the health risks of short-lived climate pollutants, which contribute significantly to global warming and air pollution. 
The campaign advocates action in key sectors such as transport, energy and housing, and in homes as well as cities, to reduce sources of climate-harmful air pollutants, such as black carbon (soot), ozone and methane.

Air Pollution
Source: WHO

Black carbon, emitted largely by diesel vehicles and biomass combustion, is a major component of fine particulate matter, the air pollutant responsible most associated with premature death and mortality. Ozone, formed through the interaction of various precursor pollutants from the industrial, waste and agriculture sector, has adverse respiratory effects with impacts ranging from impaired lung function and increased incidence of asthma to premature mortality. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, which through its involvement in the formation of ozone effects health. 

Currently, some 7 million people die from air pollution every year. It has been estimated that a suite of 19 actions to reduce SLCPs could reduce the annual death toll from air pollution by as many as 3.5 million annually, by the year 2030. These same actions would also slow the rate of global warming by 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.  

7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution

Air and climate pollutants have their greatest health impacts among the poor – but the poor are not the only victims of air pollution. Reducing household pollution risks from smoky biomass and coal cookstoves, in particular, can help alleviate the burden of poverty-related diseases. Urban air pollution levels also tend to be higher in many lowand middle-income cities and in poor neighbourhoods of high-income cities. This means reductions in SLCPs can have particularly large health benefits for lower income groups as well as for children, elderly, and women.

Want to know more about Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs)? You could click the link here.

Air pollution levels rising in many of the world’s poorest cities

Air Pollution
Source: WHO

WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database (update 2016)

These are some fact sheets you could download for further information:
WHO-Household air pollution and health
WHO-Air Pollution, Climate and Health

For further information about Household (Indoor) Air Pollution, please check out here.



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