92 percent of the world’s population lives in places with poor air quality

In a news release published on Sept. 27, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 92% of the global population is breathing air that fails to meet the health agency’s standards for acceptable quality.

To present its latest findings, WHO developed a new model with interactive maps showing where the international danger spots are for air pollution. The model is based on data sourced from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground-station monitors for more than 3,000 rural and urban locations. It represents the most detailed information to date on outdoor air pollution’s health effects.

In the release, WHO also summarizes air pollution’s toll on human health in a number of key statistics:


  • 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution, although WHO adds that indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, for example, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (one in nine of total global deaths) were due to a combination of indoor and outdoor air pollution, WHO states.
  • 94% of air-pollution-related deaths are related to cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
  • Nearly 90% of air-pollution deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, predominantly in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region.


Mapping exposure to PM2.5 and PM10
The interactive maps provide information on population-weighted exposure to PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) for all countries, as well as data from monitoring PM2.5 and PM10 in 3,000 cities and towns.

WHO says the new model is a big step towards even more confident estimates of the huge global burden of deaths from exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution.

“Air pollution continues to take a toll on the most vulnerable – women, children and older adults,” says Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO’s Assistant Director General. “For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last.”

Click here to read WHO’s news release:

Click here to read about Camfil’s new air quality campaign, “Take a Breath”:


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