World Leaders Urged to Cut Air Pollution to Save Lives in Poor Countries
World governments have been urged to tackle air pollution in poorer countries by greening cities, reducing traffic and adopting better diets, and told that this will also rein in climate change, which global health specialists estimate will cause at least 250,000 additional deaths a year by 2030.
“It makes complete sense to tackle air pollution and climate change together,” said Maria Neira, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) department of public health. “The solutions are the same. The major risk to health at the moment is air pollution. If we address this, the causes of air pollution will overlap and we will reduce climate change. It’s logical. It’s a win-win situation … The real costs of fossil fuels is seen in your lungs and your cardiovascular systems.”
The WHO has calculated that air pollution is one of the world’s biggest killers. Itleads to the premature deaths of close to 7 million people annually, largely from heart disease and stroke, respiratory diseases and cancers.
Most of the pollution deaths occur in developing countries, both in rural areas, where people burn wood to cook on, and increasingly in traffic-choked Asian and African cities where pollution is reaching catastrophic levels. In Britain, an estimated 50,000 people die prematurely of air pollution a year, mostly in urban areas.
According to the WHO, many of the most harmful air pollutants also damage the climate. Known as short-lived climate pollutants, they include fine particles of black carbon, or soot, emitted from diesels and burning wood, and from ozone. They have major warming effects but remain only briefly in the atmosphere.