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The United Nations agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), issued on Wednesday its first update on air quality guidelines in 15 years, lowering the recommended limits of emissions, including those linked to the burning of fossil fuels.
The WHO’s new guidelines, the first update since 2005, recommend air quality levels for six different pollutants, where evidence has advanced the most on health effects from exposure.
When action is taken on the so-called classical pollutants—particulate matter (PM), ozone (O?), nitrogen dioxide (NO?), sulfur dioxide (SO?), and carbon monoxide (CO), it also has an impact on other damaging pollutants, the organization said in a statement.
Particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide are found in emissions from fossil fuels.
“Disparities in air pollution exposure are increasing worldwide, particularly as low- and middle-income countries are experiencing growing levels of air pollution because of large-scale urbanization and economic development that has largely relied on the burning of fossil fuels,” the WHO said.
“Air pollution is a threat to health in all countries, but it hits people in low- and middle-income countries the hardest,” said WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“WHO’s new Air Quality Guidelines are an evidence-based and practical tool for improving the quality of the air on which all life depends. I urge all countries and all those fighting to protect our environment to put them to use to reduce suffering and save lives,” WHO’s chief added.
According to the organization, nearly 80 percent of deaths related to exposure to particulate matter beyond norms could be avoided in the world if the current air pollution levels were reduced to those proposed in the updated guideline.
Like all WHO guidelines, the updated air quality guidelines are non-binding.
Yet, they are “an evidence-informed tool for policy makers to guide legislation and policies, in order to reduce levels of air pollutants and decrease the burden of disease that results from exposure to air pollution worldwide,” the WHO said.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com