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WHO toughens its air quality criteria

WHO toughens its air quality criteria
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Ground Report | New Delhi: WHO toughens its air quality criteria; The air pollution that causes seven million deaths annually worldwide, is even more harmful than scientists believed 15 years ago. The World Health Organization (WHO) has just issued new air quality recommendations for the first time in more than a decade, more stringent than before. 

  • For example, in the case of suspended particles with a diameter less than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5), considered the most dangerous pollutant for humans: until now, the WHO recommended less than 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air in one day, whereas now the level drops to less than 15 micrograms.
  • To put it in perspective, the city of Beijing, one of the most polluted in the world, frequently wakes up with levels above 500 micrograms per cubic meter, and on exceptionally bad days of smog, it has exceeded 1,000 micrograms.
  • “We have seen through the years, with the accumulated evidence, that the damage to health exists even at lower levels of exposure than we thought 15 years ago, for this reason, we have lowered them radically ”, said the director of the Department of the Environment, Climate Change and Health of the WHO, the Spanish María Neira.
  • For slightly larger particles, up to 10 microns in diameter (PM 10), the WHO lowers its recommended daily level from 50 micrograms to 45 per cubic meter of air. 
  • The two types of microparticles, PM 2.5 and PM 10, usually come from the burning of fossil fuels and are especially dangerous for health as they can penetrate the lungs, although the former are the most harmful, since given the small size they can reach into the bloodstream, warns the WHO. (WHO toughens its air quality criteria)

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WHO toughens its air quality criteria

  • The WHO has also lowered the recommended level of nitrogen dioxide (from 40 to 10 micrograms per cubic meter, as an annual daily average), and also suggests keeping the concentration of carbon monoxide in a day below 4 micrograms, when in 2005 had not established any scale for this substance. 
  • However, the new guide maintains the ozone concentration recommended in 2005 (100 micrograms maximum in a period of eight hours) and even raises the tolerable amount of sulfur dioxide (from 20 to 40 micrograms in a day), despite being an of the main substances that cause acid rain.
  • In any case, the recommendations seek to reduce the serious effects of all these substances on our health, since 80% of deaths caused mainly by PM 2.5 particles, between five and six million, could be avoided if these standards are met. 
  • “Inhaling polluted air increases the risk of respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in addition to increasing the risk of contracting serious forms of COVID-19, cancer or serious heart problems,” said the director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the press conference.
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Connection with climate change

  • In addition to reviewing the main health problems posed by air pollution, Ghebreyesus has also insisted that improving air quality is also a way to fight climate change , and in that sense stressed that the recommendations “come at an important time”, a few months before world leaders meet again at the annual conference to stop global warming. 
  • According to the WHO, pollution is together with global warming one of the greatest threats to human health, and improving air quality, something that can be achieved by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, can help people climate change mitigation efforts.

In this sense, the head of the WHO expressed his hope that the recommendations, although not mandatory by law, “have great implications for public health and are a practical tool to improve air quality throughout the world.” In addition, although the recommendations are especially aimed at sectors such as the political, economic or academic, citizens can also help reduce pollution, with simple gestures such as greater use of public transport or using cleaner energy in the kitchen or the kitchen. heating.

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Reducing pollution levels

  • The task of reducing pollution will not be easy on a planet where 90% of the population lives in areas with excess pollution in the atmosphere, even taking into account the more “benevolent” scales of 2005. 
  • Given this, the WHO has issued intermediate objectives for reducing pollution levels, with a view that in the medium or long term the countries achieve the optimum set in the guide presented today.
  • In any case, the new air quality measures have significant academic support, with more than 40 scientific societies expressing their support for the new air quality guidelines.
  •  Specifically, the scientific societies grouped in the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) and the European Respiratory Society (ERS), including the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), have urged governments to implement air policies more ambitious clean.

“The new WHO air quality guidelines, which update the previous 2005 guidelines, reflect the broad scientific consensus on the great impact that air pollution has on health, currently the fourth risk factor for disease and mortality in the world. world, only behind hypertension, smoking, and dietary factors ”, explained the president of the ISEE and director of the Urban Planning, Environment, and Health Initiative of the ISGlobal, Mark Nieuwenhuijse.

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