Monday, March 27, 2023

Only 0.001% of the world’s population is exposed to safe levels of air quality

The air we breathe is so impregnated with a series of tiny particles that our body, from the lungs to the heart and brain, can gradually weaken our health. These are fine particles in suspension (PM2.5). The World Health Organization (WHO) considers that the daily concentration of these substances should not exceed 5 micrograms per cubic meter. The largest recent study of air quality in the world indicates that only 0.001% of the global population breathes air that is within these safety thresholds. The remaining 99.999% are subject to dangerous levels of contamination.

The research, which was published this Tuesday in the scientific journal “The Lancet Planetary Health”, analyzed three decades of data on air quality around the world. On the one hand, from information collected “street level” in local monitoring stations and, on the other hand, from large-scale data. Analysis of these data yields alarming conclusions about the state of the planet’s climate. First of all, because, as this study indicates, currently only 0.18% of the planet’s surface is exposed to optimal air quality thresholds. In the rest of the world, the concentration of fine particles above safe levels dictates the United Nations office.

The global average for fine particles is 32.8 micrograms per cubic meter. This figure is well over 5 microns as set by the World Health Organization. An analysis of the last two decades suggests that global air quality is at dangerous levels 70% of the days. In some parts of the world, such as the Asian continent, pollution levels have exceeded 90% of the days in the thirty-year record.

the most polluted areas

The study, led by researchers from Monash University (Australia), draws a picture of the uneven development of pollution in the world. In some parts of the world, such as Europe and North America, improvements in air quality have been recorded in the last twenty years. But in other parts of the world the situation is getting worse. Researchers show that the presence of fine particles has risen to disturbing levels in Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America and the Caribbean. The highest concentrations of PM2.5 were recorded in Asia, where it reached the eastern zone, and 37.2 μg/m³ in North Africa, where it reached 50.0 μg/m³.

In Spain, according to data from the Sustainability Observatory, Madrid and Barcelona are the worst cities in the country. In the case of Madrid, some 3.2 million inhabitants live with levels of 29 µg/m3 of pollutants. In Barcelona, ​​1.6 million people living in the city are exposed to 24 µg/m3 of pollution. In other Spanish metropolises, such as Marbella, Granada, Granollers and Murcia, “health-resistant” provinces are mentioned. Especially in the vulnerable areas of these cities.

Health problems

But where are these nasty particles that permeate the air in cities around the world? The answer is ambiguous. Many particles are a direct result of human activities. Specifically, combustion processes. The movement of vehicles, factories and power plants are major emitters of these substances in global cities. So are agricultural fires and forest fires. Windblown dust, soot or pollen can increase the level of airborne particles, although in this case the impact is much less.

Increased pollution causes more lung and heart diseases.

The presence of these tiny particles in the air has been described as an “accelerator of health problems”. Especially for its ability to infiltrate the body and cause damage to different organs. According to the most detailed scientific studies carried out today, fine particles are associated with an increase in heart and lung diseases, such as heart attacks, asthma and bronchitis. In total, it is estimated that air pollution causes about seven million deaths a year in the world.

By the same token, the scientific community argues that improving air quality could prevent thousands of deaths each year. An analysis by the IsGlobal research center, also in “The Lancet Planetary Health”, calculates that only managing to lower PM2.5 particles to a safe threshold could prevent 125,000 deaths per year in Europe. In cities like Madrid, improving air quality could prevent 1,876 deaths per year. Barcelona, ​​circa 2215.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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