Air pollution was responsible for 1 in 9 deaths worldwide in 2019, according to a new report by Health Effects Institute.
The world’s biggest cities have the poorest air quality and with rapid urbanisation, more and more people are breathing dangerously polluted air. A new report, 'Air Quality and Health in Cities', used data from 2010 to 2019 to conclude that most global cities far exceed World Health Organisation's (WHO) air pollution guidelines.
Delhi and Kolkata emerged as the two most polluted cities with the highest fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air whereas Shanghai in China and Moscow in Russia were the top two most polluted cities in terms of exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
The report, released by Health Effects Institutes (HEI) based in the US, provides a comprehensive and detailed analysis of air pollution. It used combined ground-based air quality data and satellite models to produce air quality estimates and global health effects for more than 7,000 cities around the world, with a focus on the two harmful pollutants, PM2.5 and NO2.
As per the report, in 2019, 1.7 million deaths linked to PM2.5 exposure occurred in 7,239 cities, with cities in Asia, Africa, and Eastern and Central Europe seeing the greatest health impacts. Earlier reports of the HEI showed that air pollution is responsible for one in nine deaths, accounting for 6.7 million deaths worldwide in 2019. Air pollution affects the young, the elderly, and those with chronic respiratory and heart diseases the most.
In the latest report, Delhi, Kolkata, Kano (Nigeria), Lima (Peru), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Jakarta (Indonesia), Lagos (Nigeria), Karachi (Pakistan), Beijing (China) and Accra (Ghana) emerged as the top 10 most polluted cities in terms of exposure to PM2.5.
Of the 7,239 cities, India is home to 18 of the 20 cities with the most severe increase in PM2.5 pollution from 2010 to 2019, according to the report. After India, Indonesia saw the most severe increase in PM2.5 pollution, whereas China has witnessed the greatest improvements. The 20 cities with the greatest decrease in PM2.5 pollution are all in China.
The report also suggests a gap between pollution trends in low-and-middle-income countries and high-income countries. As per the report, exposure to PM2.5 pollution tends to be higher in cities located in low and middle-income countries, whereas exposure to NO2 is high across cities in both high-income and low-middle-income countries.
In terms of exposure to NO2, Shanghai, Moscow, Tehran (Iran), St. Petersburg (Russia), Beijing (China), Cairo (Egypt), Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), Minsk (Belarus), Istanbul (Turkey) and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) were named as the top polluted cities.
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The report underlined that as much as 68 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, the report said, “This rapid urbanisation places the world’s top cities at the forefront in the battle to reduce the health effects of air pollution, especially in low and middle-income countries,” said Pallavi Pant, HEI senior scientist, who oversaw the report’s publication.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)