The World Health Organization (WHO) says air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, causing seven million premature deaths a year.
It called for urgent action to tackle one of biggest environmental threats to human health, with Southeast Asia being the worst-affected region.
It therefore called for the strengthening of air quality guidelines to reduce exposure to air pollution, ranking its burden of disease “on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking”.
“WHO has adjusted almost all the air quality guideline levels downwards, warning that exceeding the new … levels is associated with significant risks to health,” it said, adding “adhering to them could save millions of lives”.
The new guidelines aim to protect people from the adverse effects of air pollution and are used by governments as a reference for legally binding standards.
The WHO last issued AQGs in 2005, which had a significant impact on pollution abatement policies worldwide.
However, the WHO said in the 16 years since, a much stronger body of evidence had emerged, showing how air pollution affects health at lower concentrations than previously understood.
“The accumulated evidence is sufficient to justify actions to reduce population exposure to key air pollutants, not only in particular countries or regions but on a global scale,” the organisation said.