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New air pollution database maps world’s most polluted cities

The world’s most comprehensive air pollution database has been updated again, mapping out a picture of a global health crisis that is disparate, changing and in some places just obscure. Compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the statistics on 4,300 cities reveal annual levels of particulate matter, miniscule particles in the air that can lead to health conditions such as asthma, lung cancer or heart disease. The data is collected from multiple, variable sources and in some places is just not available, so with these caveats in mind, this is what we learned: Urban air is unsafe almost everywhere – Smog in Beijing and Delhi often makes the headlines, but this data shows that urban air is unsafe almost everywhere. WHO estimates that nine in ten people worldwide are breathing highly polluted air. In the European Union, eight out of ten cities with data exceed WHO’s recommended guidelines…”

WHO Global Ambient Air Quality Database (update 2018) – More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted. According to the latest air quality database, 97% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100 000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 49%. In the past two years, the database – now covering more than 4000 cities in 108 countries – has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts. As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them…”

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