Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Hold Your Breath

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Hold Your Breath

Article excerpt

Clean air is exceedingly hard to come by these days. In fact, in 2015, only one in 10 people around the world breathed clean air. Globally, we're paying a steep price for this. According to a recent World Health Organization report, an estimated one in nine deaths across the world are linked to indoor and outdoor air pollution. In 2012, that meant that more than 6 million deaths were tied to dirty air.

The WHO report assessed particulate pollution in 103 countries and estimated the associated health impacts. The researchers focused on PM2.5, fine particles that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller in diameter. These include nitrates, sulfate, and black carbon, all of which have been linked to heart and lung problems in adults, and to acute lower respiratory infections in children.

They found Asia, Africa, and the Middle East had the poorest air quality. Health outcomes, however, were worst in WHO's Western Pacific region, which includes China and experienced 1.1 million pollution-linked deaths in 2012, and Southeast Asia, with nearly 800,000 deaths. Globally, 90 percent of pollution-related deaths occurred in middle-income nations, and health outcomes were best in the Americas, Western Pacific, and the Eastern Mediterranean regions. The United States fared pretty well. It had the 12th best pollution rating, and was within the top 25 countries in terms of health.

The health impacts extend to children as well. Another report, this one by UNICEF, estimated that of the millions of deaths linked to air pollution annually, 600,000 are of children.

Here are a few of the best and worst places to live when it comes to air pollution.

[1] Ukraine

Ukraine has the highest per-capita pollution-related mortality rate in the world, with 120 deaths for every 100,000 people. The high rate is likely linked to long-term heavy industry in the region. Nine out of the top 10 highest per-capita death rates were in Eastern European and former Soviet countries, including Bulgaria, Belarus, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. …

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