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This May 2018, the World Health Organisation has updated the ambient air quality database, which now covers 4,300 cities in 108 countries. These data are the world’s most comprehensive database on ambient air pollution.

The results are appalling although not new. WHO has evaluated that 97% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet the WHO air quality guidelines. The percentage lowers to 49% when it comes to high-income countries, like European ones. This means 90% of people worldwide are breathing polluted unhealthy air, leading to 7 million premature deaths each year.

Risks of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic and acute respiratory diseases, such as asthma and COPD, increase with air pollution, the most sensitive being children, elderly people, women and patients with airways diseases.

Europe is the world’s region reporting the most data, and it benefits from low ambient air pollution levels compared to other areas. However, life expectancy for Europeans is decreased between 2 and 24 months depending on pollution levels, despite declining concentrations in some parts of Europe.

To mobilize cities and individuals to protect our health and planet from the effects of air pollution, WHO has launched the BreatheLife campaign together with the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). The campaign aims to have people walking, biking and using public transports to pollute less and to take a pledge to reduce air pollution emissions by partici­pating in a marathon a month – the equivalent of 42 kilometres or 26 miles of car use.

Indoor air quality

Air pollution is not just something from urban areas with dense traffic. More than 40% of the world’s popula­tion are vulnerable to indoor air pollution as they still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, responsible for some 4 mil­lion deaths a year. At EFA we have therefore been advocating at the European Union’s level to include our indoor Air Quality Performance Certificate in the upcoming Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

Learn more about the WHO Report and the WHO global ambient air quality database.  

Take action and participate to the BreatheLife challenge!