World Health Organisation describes new data as ‘health emergency’, with rising concern likely to influence decision over Heathrow expansion
The World Health Organisation has issued a stark new warning about deadly levels of pollution in many of the world’s biggest cities, claiming poor air quality is killing millions and threatening to overwhelm health services across the globe.
Before the release next month of figures 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.
The toxic haze blanketing cities could be clearly seen last week from the international space station. Last week it was also revealed that several streets in London had exceeded their annual limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions just a few days into 2016.
“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,” said Maria Neira, head of public health at the WHO, which is a specialist agency of the United Nations. “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.
Read more: The Guardian