Over 95 percent of people in the world breathes unsafe air due to pollution, according to a recent report put out by the Health Effects Institute. Most people live in cities, which then exposes them to unsafe air both inside and outside their house. This is especially a problem in developing nations, and also greatly affects poorer populations.
Researchers compiled the new findings with satellite data to show that the number of people exposed to dangerous air is far beyond levels deemed safe by the World Health Organization. In fact, the exposure has gotten so high that it is now the fourth highest cause of death around the world.
The team behind the research estimated that 6 million deaths last year were the result of air pollution. Though harmful air did not directly kill that many people, it largely increased the risk of stroke, heart attack, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease.
In addition, burning coal or biomass in the home for either cooking or heating exposed 2.6 billion people to indoor pollution in 2016. While this affects everyone, there are large gaps between different areas and demographics. The data shows that, while developed countries have made strides to limit pollution, developing countries are falling further and further behind.
Even so, the team reports there are also reasons to be optimistic. For example, China is cutting back on coal and India is taking measures against indoor pollution. While such shifts may take a while, many governments are under a lot of pressure to change through regulations and new policy.
“There are reasons for optimism, though there is a long way to go,” added O’Keefe, according to Fox News. “China seems to be now moving pretty aggressively, for instance, in cutting coal and on stronger controls. India has really begun to step up on indoor air pollution through the provision of LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] as a cooking fuel, and through electrification.”
This new study builds on the growing body of research that shows the dangers of air pollution and calls for more steps to be taken to curb it.