Global Air Pollution, Health and Climate Change

Global Air Pollution, Health and Climate Change

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Description: Three million of these deaths are due to outdoor air pollution. Air pollution is a problem faced in many parts of the world, irrespective of development status: over half of cities in high-income countries fail to meet World Health Organization air quality guidelines, while 98% in low- and middle-income countries fail to do so.1,2 Outdoor air pollution predominantly comes from the burning of fossil fuels ľ for transportation, to heat our homes, and to power our cities. Dust and industrial activities also contribute.

 
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Contents:
Global Air
Pollution,
Health and
Climate
Change
FACT SHEET
2017

The Problem

Air pollution is responsible for over 6.5
million premature deaths per year.
Three million of these deaths are due to outdoor
air pollution. Air pollution is a problem faced in
many parts of the world, irrespective of
development status: over half of cities in highincome countries fail to meet World Health
Organization air quality guidelines, while 98% in
low- and middle-income countries fail to do so.1,2
Outdoor air pollution predominantly comes from
the burning of fossil fuels – for transportation, to
heat our homes, and to power our cities. Dust
and industrial activities also contribute. Exposure
to particulate air pollution (PM10 and PM2.5) is
linked to increased respiratory disease,
cardiovascular disease, and adverse birth
outcomes, and there is growing evidence for
impact on brain development and cognitive
function.3 Outdoor air pollution is classified as a
cause of lung cancer by WHO’s International
Agency on Research for Cancer.4

PM10 and PM2.5 include
pollutants such as sulfate,
nitrates, lead and black
carbon. These small
particles can penetrate
deep into the lungs and
cardiovascular system,
posing serious risk to
health.5

The Problem

The financial burden of air pollution is mounting.
The health costs of outdoor air pollution were
US$1.7 trillion in 2010 for the 35 OECD member
countries, US$1.4 trillion in China, and US$500
billion in India.7 And these same pollution sources
also contribute to climate change, with additional
impacts on health and the economy, through
extreme weather events, infectious disease
spread and more.2
Fortunately, measures to reduce air pollution can
reduce these costs and impacts. Reducing air
pollution improves health outcomes, while also
reducing emissions of major climate pollutants
including CO2, black carbon and methane, with
follow on economic and social benefits. Some
approaches to reducing air pollution and
greenhouse gas emissions yield additional
benefits to health, such as shifts from car travel
to biking and walking that increase people’s daily
physical activity.8

Globally, 25% of PM2.5 comes from
transportation sources, 15% of PM2.5 comes
from energy production and other industrial
activities, 18% from dust and sea salt, and 20%
of PM2.5 comes from home fuel burning, and
sources are similar for PM10.6
Ground-level ozone also contributes to
respiratory disease, including asthma,
cardiovascular disease, and may have an impact
on cognitive development.1

Air Quality Monitoring

Local air quality monitoring in cities
around the globe has nearly doubled
since 2014 to include 3000 cities, but
data remains insufficient. While 92%
of the world’s population lives in
places that exceed WHO air quality
guideline thresholds, many cities
around the world still lack reliable
local air quality monitoring systems,
and the quality and quantity of
monitoring varies significantly in
those cities where it is taking place.1,9

This lack of access to accurate, local
data by decision-makers and local
health agencies hampers policy and
public health responses to urban air
pollution. In some cities, new lowcost portable air quality monitors on
the market are being used for
community-based monitoring, to
raise awareness, and to call for
formal monitoring and for action to
address air pollution.

A cyclist wears an LED light mask, which measures ambient
air pollution and glows red, showing levels over five-times
World Health Organization standards.

The Solution

While air pollution, climate
change, and their impacts on
health are global problems,
solutions lie where people live.
In 2016 the World Health
Organization released a roadmap
for addressing global air pollution,
and called for health sector
leadership from the global to the
local level to to guide response to
this public health challenge. Cities
and countries have begun to
implement solutions. Several
major countries have committed
to phase out coal power,
including Finland, the UK and
Canada. Paris made public
transportation free on several
heavy air pollution days.
Many cities around the world are
working to improve public transit
and infrastructure for biking and
walking, and several, from
Singapore to Milan, have

Action

introduced congestion pricing for
traffic into the city. Beijing will be
capping total cars in the city
while Shanghai has set
restrictions on new car sales.
Unmask cities are pushing for
local city- and country-based
solutions such as congestion
charging to reduce car and truck
traffic in cities; increased support
for active transportation and
cleaner-energy public transit;
blocking construction of new coal
power plants; pushing for a
transition away from the dirtiest
coal for home heating; monitoring
and regulating sources of
industrial and natural dust; and
more.

Everyone deserves to breathe clean air and enjoy
a stable climate. Unmask My City calls for all
cities to meet World Health Organization air
quality guidelines by 2030, to protect our health,
and protect our planet.10,11

www.unmaskmycity.org

#UnmaskMyCity

Unmask My City is global initiative by doctors, nurses, public health practitioners,
and allied healthcare professionals dedicated to improving air quality and
reducing emissions in our cities.
The Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA) and its partners Health Care
Without Harm, the Health and Environment Alliance, the US Climate and Health
Alliance and the UK Health Alliance for Climate Change are connecting with local
health partners and their communities to promote practical solutions and create
tangible city level policy changes that drive a clear, downward global trend in
urban air pollution by 2030.
This will save millions of lives, improve health outcomes for billions of people, and
make a huge contribution to greenhouse gas reductions needed to keep the
world safe from climate change crises.

References:
1 World Health Organization. WHO | WHO releases country estimates on air pollution exposure and health impact [Internet]. WHO. 2016 [cited 2017 Apr 10]. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/air-pollution-estimates/en/
2 World Health Organization. Ambient Air Pollution: A global assessment of exposure and burden of disease [Internet]. Geneva, Switzerland; 2016 [cited 2017 Apr 9]. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/250141/1/9789241511353-eng.pdf?ua=1
3 World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution -- REVIHAAP Project [Internet]. Copenhagen, Denmark; 2013 [cited 2017 Apr 9]. Available from:
http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/193108/REVIHAAP-Final-technical-report-final-version.pdf?ua=1
4 Loomis D, Grosse Y, Lauby-Secretan B, Ghissassi FE, Bouvard V, Benbrahim-Tallaa L, et al. The carcinogenicity of outdoor air pollution. The Lancet Oncology. 2013 Dec 1;14(13):1262–3. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70487-X
5 WHO | Air pollution levels rising in many of the world’s poorest cities [Internet]. WHO. [cited 2017 Apr 10]. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/air-pollution-rising/en/
6 Karagulian F, Belis CA, Dora CFC, Prüss-Ustün AM, Bonjour S, Adair-Rohani H, et al. Contributions to cities’ ambient particulate matter (PM): A systematic review of local source contributions at global level. Atmospheric Environment. 2015 Nov;120:475–83.
7 OECD. The Cost of Air Pollution [Internet]. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; 2014 [cited 2017 Apr 10]. Available from: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/content/book/9789264210448-en
8 Watts N, Adger WN, Agnolucci P, Blackstock J, Byass P, Cai W, et al. Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health. The Lancet. 2015 Nov 7;386(10006):1861–914.
9 WHO | WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database (update 2016) [Internet]. WHO. [cited 2017 Apr 10]. Available from: http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/cities/en/
10 WHO. Air Quality Guidelines Global Update 2005. Particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide [Internet]. Copenhagen, Denmark: World Health Organization Europe; 2006 [cited 2017 Apr 24].
Available from: http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/outdoorair_aqg/en/
11 Watts N, Adger WN, Ayeb-Karlsson S, Bai Y, Byass P, Campbell-Lendrum D, et al. The Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change. The Lancet. 2017 Mar 18;389(10074):1151–64.
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)32124-9/fulltext
*Page 5: ®Daniel Schoenen Fotografie. All other images ® Global Call for Climate Action / Greg McNevin