Nearly Everyone is Exposed To Unhealthy Levels of Tiny Air Pollutants, Study Says
Nearly everyone — 99 percent of the global population — is exposed to unhealthy levels of tiny and harmful air pollutants, known as PM 2.5, according a new study released Monday in Lancet Planet Health. From a report: The findings underline a growing urgency for policymakers, public health officials and researchers to focus on curbing major sources of air pollution, such as emissions from power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles. “Almost no one is safe from air pollution,” Yuming Guo, the lead author of the study and professor at Monash University, said in an email. “The surprising result is that almost all parts of the world have annual average PM 2.5 concentrations higher than air quality guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization.” Nearly 7 million people worldwide died from air pollution in 2019, according to recent estimates. What’s known as PM 2.5, small air particles that measure 2.5 microns or less in width rank as one of the most concerning toxic air pollutants for human health. The tiny pollutants — one-thirtieth the width of a human hair — can travel into our lungs and bloodstream. They can cause ailments including heart disease or lung cancer.
Guo and his colleagues assessed daily and annual PM 2.5 concentrations across the globe from 2000 to 2019 using a computer model, which incorporated traditional air quality observations from ground stations, chemical transport model simulations and meteorological data. Overall, the highest concentrations were located in eastern Asia, southern Asia and northern Africa. In 2019, they found 0.001 percent of the global population is exposed to levels of PM 2.5 pollution that the World Health Organization deems safe. The agency has said annual concentrations higher than 5 micrograms per cubic meter are hazardous. Additionally, the study found that across the globe, 70 percent of days in a year were above recommended PM 2.5 levels.
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