Air pollution risks growing

4th April 2014

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Related tags

  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Air ,
  • Control ,
  • Prevention & Control ,
  • EU


James Wilson

New figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveal that in 2012 around 7 million people died as a result of air pollution exposure

The finding, which means that poor air quality is responsible for one in eight global deaths, is more than double the previous WHO estimate and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.

“Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe,” commented WHO director Dr Maria Neira.

The new estimates came as the Chinese government unveiled measures to reduce pollution, with premier Li Keqiang describing the smog that regularly descends over cities in China as “nature’s red-light warning against inefficient and blind development”.

He told parliament that efforts would focus first on reducing particulate matter – both PM2.5 and PM10 – and aim to eliminate outdated energy producers and industrial plants, which is the source of much air pollution.

At the same time, authorities in France introduced restrictions on cars entering Paris for several days in March to tackle air pollution. On 14 March, levels of PM10 in the French capital reached 180 microgrammes (µg) per cubic metre, more than double the safe limit of 80µg.

Meanwhile, the EU environment council is set to debate a legislative package to improve air quality presented by the European commission in December 2013. The proposed measures include updating existing legislation and imposing further limits on harmful emissions from industry, traffic and energy plants.

The commission says its plans will, by 2030, help to avoid 58,000 premature deaths, save 123,000 km2 of ecosystems from nitrogen pollution and stop the acidification of around 19,000 km2 of forest ecosystems.

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