WHO Air quality Database 2022

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    • The World Health Organisation’s air quality database 2022 has stated that almost the entire global population (99 percent) breathes air that exceeds WHO’s air quality limits. 

    Key Findings

    • Quality monitored but still bad: 
      • More than 6,000 cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality but their residents are still breathing unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, while people in low and middle-income countries suffer the highest exposure.
    • NO2 concentrations: 
      • For the first time data has been taken from on ground measurements of annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
      • NO2 is a common urban pollutant and precursor of particulate matter and ozone. 
    • Particulate matter: 
      • It also includes measurements of particulate matter with diameters equal or smaller than 10 μm (PM10) or 2.5 μm (PM2.5). 
      • Both groups of pollutants originate mainly from human activities related to fossil fuel combustion.
    • Effect on health: 
      • Particulate matter, especially PM 2.5, is capable of penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke) and respiratory impacts. 
      • NO2 is associated with respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing), hospital admissions and visits to emergency rooms. 

    Image Courtesy: Eco Watch 

    Significance

    • Increasing Awareness:
      • As many as 2,000 more cities and human settlements are now recording ground monitoring data for particulate matter, PM10 and/or PM2.5, than in the last update. 
      • This marks an almost sixfold rise in reporting since the database was first made in 2011.
    • Better Evaluation:
      • WHO last year revised its air quality guidelines, making them more stringent in an effort to help countries better evaluate the healthiness of their own air.

    WHO’s New Air Quality Guidelines

    • WHO’s new guidelines recommend air quality levels for six pollutants — 
      • particulate matter (PM), 
      • ozone (O?), 
      • nitrogen dioxide (NO?) 
      • sulfur dioxide (SO?) and 
      • carbon monoxide (CO) — 

    that are not just health hazards but they also give rise to other damaging pollutants.

    • PM10: 
      • The annual average for PM 10 should not exceed 15 micrograms per cubic metre of air, while the 24-hour average should not exceed 45 micrograms per cubic metre. 
      • Compared to this, the earlier limit was 20 micrograms per cubic metre annually and 50 micrograms per cubic metre in a day.
    • PM2.5: 
      • The recommendation for PM 2.5 is that the annual average should not exceed 5 micrograms per cubic metre, or 15 micrograms per cubic metre in a day. 
      • The earlier limit was 10 micrograms per cubic metre annually and 25 micrograms per cubic metre in a day.
    • Ozone: 
      • Ozone levels average should not exceed 100 micrograms per cubic metre over a 24-hour period, 
    • NO2:
      • nitrogen oxide should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic metre, 
    • SO2:
      • sulphur dioxide should remain below 40 micrograms per cubic metre 
    • CO:
      • carbon monoxide levels should not exceed more than 4 micrograms per cubic metre over the same time period.

    Way Ahead

    • Standardisation & Monitoring:
      • Adopt or revise and implement national air quality standards according to the latest WHO Air Quality Guidelines.
      • Monitor air quality and identify sources of air pollution
    • Energy Efficiency:
      • Support the transition to exclusive use of clean household energy for cooking, heating and lighting
      • Invest in energy-efficient housing and power generation.
      • Curbing fossil fuel use and taking other tangible steps to reduce air pollution levels.
    • Sustainable Transportation:
      • Build safe and affordable public transport systems and pedestrian- and cycle-friendly networks
      • Implement stricter vehicle emissions and efficiency standards; and enforce mandatory inspection and maintenance for vehicle
    • Waste Management:
      • Improve industry and municipal waste management
      • Reduce agricultural waste incineration, forest fires and certain agro-forestry activities (e.g. charcoal production)
    • Awareness & Education:
      • Include air pollution in curricula for health professionals and providing tools for the health sector to engage.

    World Health Day, 2022

    • World Health Day, marked on 7 April, will focus global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being. 
    • WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes.
    • Theme for 2022: ‘Our planet, our health’.

    Source: IE