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WARNING: Over 6 Million Deaths Worldwide Linked to Air Pollution

Sep 28, 2016 05:02 AM EDT

The World health Organization has estimated that 6.5 million around the world have died due to air pollution in 2012, which accounts to 11.6 percent of global deaths during that year.

Additionally, the new WHO air quality model shows that nearly 90 percent of deaths linked to air pollution occurred in low- and middle countries, with notably two out of three occurring in WHO's Sout East Asia and West Pacific regions.

"Air pollution continues take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations - women, children and the older adults," said Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO, in a press release. "For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last."

About 94 percents of the deaths linked to air pollution are due to non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Additionally, air pollution also increases the risk for acute respiratory infections.

Exposure to outdoor air pollution takes about three million lives each year. However, WHO noted that indoor air pollution can be as deadly as outdoor air pollution. Major sources of air pollution include inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants and industrial activities. WHO also reported that human activities are not the only cause of air pollution. Outdoor air pollution could also be caused by dust storms, particularly in regions close to deserts.

"This new model is a big step forward towards even more confident estimates of the huge global burden of more than 6 million deaths - 1 in 9 of total global deaths - from exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution," explained Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, in a statement. "More and more cities are monitoring air pollution now, satellite data is more comprehensive, and we are getting better at refining the related health estimates."

The new air quality model was developed by WHO, in collaboration with the University of Bath, United Kingdom, using data derived from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground station monitors for more than 3000 locations, both rural and urban.

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