Ambient (outdoor) Air Quality and Health Key facts:
Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.
The lower the levels of air pollution, the better the cardiovascular and respiratory health of the population will be, both long- and short-term.
The “WHO Air quality guidelines” provide an assessment of health effects of air pollution and thresholds for health-harmful pollution levels.
Ambient (outdoor air pollution) in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012.
Some 88% of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and the greatest number in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.
Policies and investments supporting cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing, power generation, industry and better municipal waste management would reduce key sources of urban outdoor air pollution.
Reducing outdoor emissions from household coal and biomass energy systems, agricultural waste incineration, forest fires and certain agro-forestry activities (e.g. charcoal production) would reduce key rural and peri-urban air pollution sources in developing regions.
Reducing outdoor air pollution also reduces emissions of CO2 and short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon particles and methane, thus contributing to the near- and long-term mitigation of climate change.
In addition to outdoor air pollution, indoor smoke is a serious health risk for some 3 billion people who cook and heat their homes with biomass fuels and coal.