Monday

29th Nov 2021

WHO makes major cut in 'safe' air-pollution levels

  • Air pollution is the world's fourth-leading cause of death (Photo: Skaja Lee)
Listen to article

In a new study on Wednesday (22 September), the World Health Organization (WHO) found air pollution is even more damaging to human health than previously thought.

It is the first set of guidelines aimed at reducing air pollution the agency has published since 2005.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Air pollution is one of the leading causes of death," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom in a press conference. More than 95 percent of the world's population are exposed to levels of air pollution that exceed even the old limits.

Tiny particles and gasses like sulphur, nitrogen dioxide and ozone from car emissions or power plants are damaging to human health. Reducing exposure is a priority, the WHO said.

The agency estimates around seven million premature deaths every year are due to the effects of air pollution, the world's fourth-leading cause of death, with more than 500,000 of those deaths occurring in Europe.

In the new report, safe limits are almost all adjusted downwards, compared with 16 years ago.

The 194 member states are advised to cut legal levels for tiny particles by half (from ten micrograms per cubic meter per year to five) and nitrogen dioxides from 40 down to ten microgrammes per cubic metre.

In response, the European Respiratory Society (ERS) warns that current legal limits in the EU are still too high.

"Safe levels for fine particulate matter exceed the new WHO limits five times, and safe EU levels for nitrogen dioxide are four times higher," said Zorana Andersen, chief of the ERS.

Although the European Environmental Agency confirmed a slight decrease in toxic NO2-levels between 2009 and 2018, on average, it is still three times higher than is defined safe by the WHO.

"EU governments should be scrambling to act," said Ugo Taddei from the environmental charity ClientEarth in a response. "European legal limits are systematically exceeded, meaning citizens are exposed to toxic pollution."

World leaders urge readiness for next pandemic: 'Time to act'

The World Health Organization and 25 countries have backed a call for an international treaty on pandemics - first announced by the European Council president Charles Michel. "The next pandemic is not a question of 'if', but 'when'," he said.

Stakeholder

Post-Covid is a different world - EU needs to secure a role

The Covid-19 crisis shook up the world profoundly, and we haven't found the politics to cope with it yet. That is the harsh but undeniable conclusion of a new parliamentary report by Renew Europe MEP Hilde Vautmans.

Von der Leyen doubles up on vaccine-donation pledge

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen praised the EU's vaccination roll-out as a success and announced that the EUn will donate 200 million additional doses to low-income countries - doubling its current pledge.

Researchers slam EU safety review of glyphosate

EU authorisation of glyphosate is set to be renewed next year. It has now received an initial positive safety review - which researchers say is based on a faulty industry-led study.

All-time high for Norway's oil and gas production

Norway currently has 90 oil and gas-producing fields, which could rise to more than 130. One way that harms the shift to a greener economy is because offshore wind and the burgeoning hydrogen industry are competing for the same workers.

EU watchdog: no proof of carbon market manipulation

The EU watchdog has found no proof of manipulation of the carbon markets, allaying European Commission fears. However, the European Securities and Markets Authority did note that it had only limited access to essential data.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Consultancies pocketing EU millions prompts MEP grilling
  2. Russian mercenaries using EU-trained soldiers in Africa
  3. EUobserver wins right to keep VIP-jet story online
  4. New Covid-19 variant fears shake EU This WEEK
  5. Researchers slam EU safety review of glyphosate
  6. What EU political ads regulation will - and will not - deliver
  7. Dialogue and action – Nordic cooperation and view on COP26
  8. Belgium goes into three-week 'lockdown light'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us