Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How Polluted are the World’s Cities?

Ambient (outdoor) air pollution database, by country and city (Excel data base, World Health Organization, May 7, 2014)

Also discussed here: Ambient (outdoor) air pollution in cities database 2014 (World Health Organization, May 7, 2014)

And here: Air quality deteriorating in many of the world’s cities (Press Release, World Health Organization, May 7, 2014)

And here: Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health (World Health Organization, Fact sheet N°313, Updated March 2014)

And here: Top 20 most polluted cities in the world (Madison Park, CNN, May 8, 2014)

Today we review a report from the World Health Organization that presents the state of air quality in 1600 cities world-wide in an Excel data base that is easy to manipulate. Only 1/8th of the cities surveyed meet WHO guidelines for fine particulate matter (PM). Those that do better (examples Bogota, Colombia and Copenhagen, Denmark) do it by actively promoting cycling and walking. 88% of the 3.7 million premature deaths/ year because of air pollution occur in low and middle income countries and most of these are in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. 7 out of the 10 most polluted cities with the highest levels of particulate matter (PM10) are in Pakistan (Pakistan: Peshwar, Rawalindi and Karachi) or India (Gwalior, Ahvaz, Raipur and Delhi) while all 10 of the least polluted cities are in the USA (mainly in the southwest). Even in regions such as Europe, where WHO guidelines are generally met, lives are shortened by 8.6 months because of exposure to PM

. pm in world cities

PM10: Fine particulate matter of 10 microns or less; Amr: America, Afr: Africa; Emr: Eastern Mediterranean, Sear: South-East Asia, Wpr: Western Pacific; LMI: Low- and middle-income; HI: high-income. PM10 values are regional urban population-weighted.  

Key Quotes:

 “The database contains results of ambient (outdoor) air pollution monitoring from almost 1600 cities in 91 countries. Air quality is represented by annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter …The database covers the period from 2008 to 2013, with the majority of values for the years 2011 and 2012.”

“Only 12% of the people living in cities reporting on air quality reside in cities where this complies with WHO air quality guideline levels. About half of the urban population being monitored is exposed to air pollution that is at least 2.5 times higher than the levels WHO recommends - putting those people at additional risk of serious, long-term health problems.” “Guideline values: PM2.5 10 μg/m3 annual mean, PM10 20 μg/m3 annual mean”

“Too many urban centres today are so enveloped in dirty air that their skylines are invisible…Not surprisingly, this air is dangerous to breathe. So a growing number of cities and communities worldwide are striving to better meet the needs of their residents - in particular children and the elderly."

“even in the European Union, where PM concentrations in many cities do comply with Guideline levels, it is estimated that average life expectancy is 8.6 months lower than it would otherwise be, due to PM exposures from human sources.”

 “No Chinese cities ranked in the top 20 most polluted cities, despite thick, gray smog filling its cities and millions of residents commuting behind surgical masks.”

“Effective policies and strategies are well understood, but they need to be implemented at sufficient scale. Cities such as Copenhagen and Bogotà, for example, have improved air quality by promoting ‘active transport’ and prioritizing dedicated networks of urban public transport, walking and cycling.”

“Half of the top 20 cities in the world with the highest levels of PM2.5 were in India…Other cities with high levels were located in Pakistan and Bangladesh.”

 “Ambient (outdoor air pollution) in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012….The Guidelines indicate that by reducing particulate matter (PM10) pollution from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m), we can cut air pollution-related deaths by around 15%.”
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