Air pollution is now the world’s greatest environmental health risk, according to new findings that show poor air quality causes 7 million deaths a year.
It is already common knowledge that poor air quality can trigger and aggravate respiratory diseases like acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But WHO reported that its new data also shows a stronger correlation between air pollution and cancer, as well as air quality and cardiovascular diseases, including strokes and heart disease.
“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” Dr. Maria Neira, director of WHO’s department for public health, said in a statement. “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”
WHO’s new data also revealed that cardiovascular diseases accounted for the vast majority of deaths linked to air pollution: 40 percent of deaths caused by outdoor air pollution were due to heart disease and another 40 percent were from strokes. Of deaths linked to indoor air pollution, strokes made up 34 percent of fatalities, while heart disease represented 26 percent. Lung cancer accounted for 6 percent of both outdoor and indoor air pollution-linked deaths.