More than 90 per cent of the UK’s population breathe highly polluted air on a daily basis, the World Health Organisation has revealed.
Using data from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground-level monitors, the organisation and the University of Bath developed a model that showed air pollution levels for more than 3,000 locations in 103 countries around the world.
The results show that nine out of ten people (92 per cent) on Earth live in places where air pollution is higher than acceptable limits – even when they are outside.
You can explore the interactive map here
The health risks of breathing in polluted air include respiratory and cardiovascular disease, strokes, lung cancer and other astute breathing problems. This, the study says, resulted in 16,335 deaths in the UK in 2012.
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A breakdown of the deaths says 7,300 were from ischaemic heart disease, 5,000 from lung disease and 3,700 from strokes. The rest of the deaths were a combination of other lung and respiratory diseases.
The vast majority of the UK’s 64.1 million population are at risk from air pollution-related diseases. In total, the research highlighted 90 per cent of the country’s outdoors having pollution levels higher than recommended guidelines.
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WHO officials say outdoor pollution should not be higher than 10 micrograms per cubic metre. Unsurprisingly, major UK cities including London, Manchester, and Birmingham suffer from the highest levels of air pollution – with some areas having levels between 16-17 micrograms of pollution per cubic metre. Oxford Street has previously been named as the most polluted street in the UK.
The model created by the researchers focuses on ultra-fine particles in the air, which have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres. These particles include sulphate, nitrates, and black carbon, and due to their size are able to pass into the lungs. The fine particles are created from transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal power plants and more.
Across the world, similarly depressing levels of air pollution were reported by the WHO. “According to the latest urban air quality database, 98 per cent of cities in low- and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines,” it said as the research was published.
The data, from 2012, shows that there were an estimated 6.5 million deaths around the world linked to air pollution.
“Air pollution continues take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations – women, children and the older adults,” Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general at WHO said.