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19 April 2024

Air pollution a rising threat, says WHO


Three million deaths each year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution, according to estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

There is growing research evidence indicating that air pollution has become the leading environmental cause of death around the globe.

Many of the world’s cities are getting enveloped in foul air that is dangerous to breathe.

The matter is too serious to be ignored by the world community anymore, said Gulf Today.

United Nations human rights experts have now called for strong, urgent action by States to ensure that people around the world can enjoy the human right to live in environments free from contamination.

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, has stated that air pollution is a major threat to human rights worldwide and toxic air pollutants are associated with an increased risk of disease from stroke, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases, including asthma.

Joining Tuncak in the appeal are Dainius Puras, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and John H. Knox, the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

The experts have warned that children and people in vulnerable situations, including women of reproductive age, the elderly, those in poor health and those living in less wealthy communities remain the most vulnerable.

According to the UN Children’s Fund, 300 million children almost one in seven of the world’s total – live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution, a situation paediatricians describe as a "silent pandemic."

Air pollution is considered a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year.

Children are more susceptible than adults to both indoor and outdoor air pollution as their lungs, brains and immune systems are still developing and their respiratory tracks are more permeable.

Children also breathe faster than adults, and take in more air relative to their body weight.

The need for cross-border cooperation to promote the adoption of preventive and control measures in the energy, industrial and transportation sectors should never be underestimated.

As the experts have suggested, improving the regulation of toxic emissions from industrial sources and vehicles, strengthening waste management and recycling practices, and promoting renewable energies are crucial steps to effectively address air quality issues and public health.