Friday

3rd Feb 2023

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.

Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'

The European Central Bank raised interest rates by another 0.5 percent to a 14-year high, and expects to hike rates by another half percent in March. But what does that mean for the green transition?

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  2. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  3. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  4. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  5. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU
  6. EU green industry plan could spark 'dangerous subsidy race'
  7. Wolves should be defended, EU ministers urge
  8. EU Commission wants drones for Bulgaria on Turkey border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us