New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, alongside climate change, the World Health Organisation said on Wednesday drawing attention to the rapidly rising global air pollution which has become a serious concern across economies. People living in low and middle-income countries are hit the hardest due to this problem triggered by urbanization and economic development heavily reliant on burning fossil fuels. It is capable of penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the bloodstream. To highlight the danger of this situation on our health, WHO revised its global air quality guidelines, for the first time in 15 years, marking new air quality levels that would protect the human population from air pollution.

“There is nothing more essential for life than air quality... and yet, because of air pollution, the simple act of breathing contributes to 7 million deaths a year. Almost everyone around the world is exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution.” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Here's everything you need to know about WHO's new global air quality guidelines:

What are new WHO guidelines?

Under the new guidelines, WHO halved the recommended limit for the average annual PM2.5 level from 10 micrograms per cubic meter to 5. It also lowered the recommended limit for PM10 from 20 micrograms to 15. This means the fresh guidelines change the advised concentrations of six pollutants which are known to have impacts on health- PM 2.5, PM 10, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

What does it mean for India?

According to WHO data, In 2019, a total of 90 per cent of the global population was breathing air considered unhealthy by the 2005 guidelines. Some countries, including India, still have national standards that are lower than the 2005 recommendations. The new guidelines indicate that almost the entire India is considered a polluted zone.

The University of Chicago's Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report states India is the most polluted country in the world, with more than 480 million people or about 40 per cent of its population living in the Indo-Gangetic plains in the north where pollution levels regularly exceed those found anywhere else in the world by an order of magnitude.

Particularly, the pollution levels in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have increased so much that an average person is now losing an additional 2.5 to 2.9 years of life expectancy.

(With inputs from WHO)

Posted By: Sugandha Jha