The warning comes ahead of a new report detailing the amount of deaths caused by poor air quality to be released next month that will show air pollution has worsened since 2014 in hundreds of already blighted urban areas, the WHO says there is now a global “public health emergency” that will have untold financial implications for governments.
The latest data, taken from 2,000 cities, will show further deterioration in many places as populations have grown, leaving large areas under clouds of smog created by a mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes.
Dr Maria Neira, the WHO’s head of public health, said the world is confronting one of the “biggest public health issues” it has faced. Dr Neira said “We have a public health emergency in many countries from pollution. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with horrible future costs to society” adding “Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous,” said Neira.
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