From data released by the World Health organisation of the UN (WHO) in March last year, it seems that about seven million deaths are related to air pollution each year. This number is twice that was thought beforehand. This puts air pollution at the top of a rather serious list, that of the major environmental risks for our health. What is noteworthy too, is that more deaths appear to be caused by air pollution inside the house than outdoors.

New facts

That air pollution and particulate matter can cause respiratory problems has been known for years. However, new research has shown that there is also a causal relationship between air pollution and both cancer as well as cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, new measuring methods have been developed that better establish the actual numbers of people affected by air pollution. This explains the surprising results: double the number of air pollution induced deaths (related to various diseases) plus the news that people run a severe risk inside their home.

The report also explains the connection between air pollution, industrialisation and poverty. People with low and middle incomes in countries in Southeast Asia run the largest risk. In that region alone 3.3 million deaths could be related to air pollution inside the house and 2.6 million to polluted outside air. And this, according to the report, indicates that women and children in Southeast Asia form the largest group that is at danger: they live in houses with low-quality stoves in urbanised areas where the outside air is often polluted as well.



The WHO sounds the alarm: “Air pollution often is a by-product of the lack of sustainable policy in sectors like transport, energy, sanitation and industry. This report demonstrates that a healthier policy will also be economically advantageous in the longer term, because it will lead to a reduction of both the healthcare costs and the effects of climate change,” says doctor Carlos Dora, co-ordinator of the WHO for Public Health. “The WHO and healthcare now should translate this scientific evidence into new policy enforcing improvements and thus sparing lives.”

Following this study, the WHO will release recommendations to improve the air quality in homes and will also release the scientific data per country and for the 1600 major cities. This report is an important step on the roadmap towards the reduction of diseases caused by air pollution. One of the other steps will be a worldwide platform dedicated solely to air pollution with the objective to develop better data and keep the topic at the top of the agenda of policy makers.

Further reading

Read more about this study on the website of the WHO. Here you will find a lot of data from this and other studies. RIVM (the Dutch institute for the environment) also collects date in the Netherlands. Even in our homes, often insulated and closed off from the outside, we can have air pollution. Read more about this and how to avoid this and how plants can work against inside air pollution. See also the adjacent links where you can find more information about cleaning the air indoors with the aid of plants.