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Many Cities Don’t Know How Dangerous Their Air Pollution Is 0

UNITED NATIONS – China and India are not the only countries with an air pollution problem, 98 percent of cities in developing countries don’t meet World Health Organization (WHO) air quality standards according to research published by the UN body last week.

Yet, although almost all cities that measure air pollution don’t meet the standards, many other cities don’t even collect air quality data.

“We know that there are many cities around the world where air pollution is very bad which are not monitoring air quality,” Maria Neira, the director of the WHO Department of Public Health and Environment told IPS.

The WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database currently includes information from 3000 cities, more than double the amount previously reported. According to the latest results released from the database last week, 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines.

Yet, for a problem which the WHO says causes seven million premature deaths per year, there remain big gaps in data, particularly for cities in Africa.

“Lack of data (is) a real hindrance for understanding air quality (in Africa),” Eloïse Marais, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University who studies air pollution in Africa told IPS.

“(Air pollution) is one of the areas of environmental health where the number of people getting sick and dying is actually increasing rather than decreasing globally,” — Deborah Seligsohn

“The WHO results certainly highlight the dire need for sustained air quality monitoring,” said Marais. Particular attention should be given to African cities experiencing rapid urbanisation such as Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Luanda in Angola, Lagos and Ibadan in Nigeria, Nairobi in Kenya and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, she added.

By contrast to African cities, much more is known about the severity of air pollution in China and India.

Deborah Seligsohn, a researcher specializing in air pollution in China and India at the University of California at San Diego told IPS says that the world’s two most populous countries measure air pollution in a large number of their cities.

Continue reading on IPS News

by Lyndal Rowlands

Photo Credits: Neeta Lal/IPS

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