The World Health Organization on Wednesday toughened its guidelines for air quality, saying air pollution is now one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, causing 7 million premature deaths annually.
In its first update on air quality guidelines in 15 years, the WHO said the negative health effects of poor air quality begin at lower levels than previously thought, so it has set a higher standard for policy makers and the public.
The organization released its updated air quality guidance on Wednesday as climate change is the main topic at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The United Nations organization stressed that urgent action is needed to reduce exposure to air pollution, categorizing the burden of disease on an equal footing with smoking and unhealthy eating.
The organization said that it had revised almost all indicative levels of air quality downward, warning that exceeding these new levels entails significant risks to health, while adhering to them could save millions of lives.
According to the organization, 90% of the world’s population already lives in areas with at least one type of harmful pollutants.
Air pollution can now be likened to other global health risks such as an unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking, according to the World Health Organization.
It is estimated that exposure to polluted air causes 7 million premature deaths and affects the health of millions of other people each year, said Dorota Jarosinska, director of the World Health Organization’s Program for Living and Working Environments, and that air pollution is now being defined as “the greatest threat environment for human health.
The guidelines, which are intended to be a reference for policy makers, environmental protection organizations and academics, lower recommended concentrations of six pollutants known to affect health, two types of particulate matter known as PM2.5 and PM10, as well as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and dioxide. Sulfur and carbon monoxide.
The new guidelines aim to protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution and are used by governments as a reference for legally binding standards.
The United Nations health agency released its latest air quality guidance, in 2005, which has had a major impact on pollution reduction policies around the world.