Published: Tue, October 30, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

European air quality poor but slowly improving

European air quality poor but slowly improving

Children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at greater risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.

This year's estimated number of premature deaths is an increase on earlier data, which said air pollution caused around 476,000 premature deaths in Europe in 2013. The report is being launched on the eve of the WHO's first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva.

A new study finds that India's capital city New Delhi's average air quality is nearly seven times worse than in London during rush hour. Considering they haven't reached their full adult height, they are more prone to inhaling heavy particulate matter that could hurt their developing lungs more easily.

The air quality index is a scale from 0 to 500 - the higher the value, the worse is the air for public health.

The European Environment Agency on Monday issued its 2018 report on air quality and said emissions from road traffic, agriculture, energy production, industry and households are churning out pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone.

"New and emerging evidence on effects of ambient and household air pollution on birth weight in India make it necessary for us to address air pollution as a risk factor for both Non-Communicable Diseases and maternal and child health", Kalpana Balakrishnan, lead author of the Tamil Nadu study and a WHO specialist advisor for the conference, said.

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Another study from India found a correlation between household air pollution caused by solid fuel burning and the risk of contracting tuberculosis in children below five years.

Environmental group Climate Trends, based here, says most Indian cities, unlike New Delhi, do not have an emergency response plan to tackle air pollution. "In extreme cases, we suggest the parents to shift to a different city where the child can breathe cleaner air". "But there are many straight-forward ways to reduce emissions of risky pollutants", Maria Neira, Director with the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at WHO, said.

In addition, newborns and small children are often at home.

"More than 7 million deaths, premature deaths, are occurring every year due to exposure to air pollution".

Their babies are also prone to be underweight and small, according to World Health Organization, which also highlights how air pollution can trigger asthma and childhood cancer, while also hampering neuro-development.

"WHO is supporting implementation of health-wise policy measures like accelerating the switch to clean cooking and heating fuels and technologies, promoting the use of cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing and urban planning".

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