99% of the world's population breathes polluted air

99% of the world's population breathes polluted air

99% of the world's population breathes air with pollution levels above the limits set by the World Health Organization on a daily basis. 7.8 billion people constantly inhale a number of toxic substances such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or microparticles "that threaten their health", according to the latest review of WHO data.

The sentence of the death of a girl due to contamination marks a milestone, although it is still far from being applied in Spain

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More than 6,000 cities in 117 countries have submitted their pollution levels to the organization. “The states whose populations are subjected to the greatest exposures are those with low and middle incomes,” the report recalls. Records of NO2 levels “at ground level” have been obtained for the first time, specifies this work. That is, the air that people breathe.

Nitrogen dioxide is "one of the most common pollutants in cities" and "precursor of microparticles (PM) and tropospheric ozone," the report underlines. These compounds "are basically caused by human activities related to the use of oil, coal and gas." For this reason, the WHO takes the opportunity to underline "the importance of cutting the use of fossil fuels".

Given the accumulation of evidence on how these pollutants harm people's health, The WHO last year reviewed the thresholds considered acceptable. He made them stricter.

With these limits in hand, impoverished countries show a worse situation, especially with microparticles, while in rich states "most cities have problems with nitrogen dioxide." This gas comes mainly from urban traffic based on diesel and gasoline engines. It is precisely this toxic substance and its excessive concentration that has Spain before the European Court of Justice for the breaches of Madrid and Barcelona when it comes to respecting the limits of European regulations, which is, moreover, more permissive than the values ​​of the WHO.

“It is unacceptable that, after surviving a pandemic, there are still seven million preventable deaths a year due to pollution,” explains the director of the WHO Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, the Spanish María Neira.

Scientific certainty about the harm caused by pollution "is growing rapidly", warns this document. Even if the concentration is low. NO2 is related to respiratory diseases, "especially asthma" which results in more "medical visits and admissions to the emergency room." The microparticles "are able to penetrate deep into the lungs and reach the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory impacts."

The director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has summed up after the data was released that "the current concern about energy highlights how crucial it is to accelerate the transition to a cleaner and healthier energy system."

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