New York (US) | Jagran News Desk: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday (September 22) revised its global air quality guidelines with the aim that the new air quality levels would protect the human population by reducing the levels of some key air pollutants that also contribute to climate change.

The updated guidelines come at a time when there has been a significant increase in the quality and amount of evidence that shows how air pollution affects various aspects of human life.

"Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, alongside climate change," WHO said.

"WHO has adjusted almost all the air quality guidelines' levels downwards, warning that exceeding the new air quality guideline levels is associated with significant risks to health. At the same time, however, adhering to them could save millions of lives," it added.

It should be noted that global air quality guidelines were incepted in 1987, and first updated in 1997. The last update to the AQGs was in 2005.

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.

Furthermore, WHO stressed the fact that long-term exposure to even lower concentrations of ambient and household air pollution can cause diseases including lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, resulting in an estimated 7 million premature deaths each year.

"This puts the burden of disease attributable to air pollution on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking," WHO said.

"People living in low and middle-income countries are hit the hardest due to urbanization and economic development heavily reliant on burning fossil fuels. Reducing exposure to particulate matter(PM) - capable of penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the bloodstream - is a priority," it added.

(With inputs from Reuters) 

Posted By: Sugandha Jha