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WHO Studies Show High Economic Cost of Health Impacts Caused by Air Pollution

In a new study published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), findings show that around 600,000 premature deaths and diseases were caused by air pollution, in 2010, in the WHO European Region.

The study looks at the economic cost of health impacts by air pollution in Europe – a first-of-its-kind. Results indicated an inconceivable economic cost of US$1.6 trillion of the approximate 600,000 diseases and deaths that were caused by air pollution. This is close to one tenth of the European Union’s gross domestic product in 2013.

It also shows that in more than ten countries (out of 53), the economic cost is 20% or above the GDP.

WHO has air quality guidelines that are in regards to the most common air pollutants (particulate matter (particulate pollution), ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide). Its ultimate purpose is to offer directions and regulations to policy-makers on ways to reduce air pollution, and to give an analysis of what happens when the guidelines are not followed.

In the European region, over 90% of its citizens are exposed to outdoor particulate matter that are above WHO’s air quality guidelines. In 2012, an approximate total of 599,200 premature deaths were caused by both indoor and outdoor air pollution from the region. Middle and low-income countries had five times more deaths than high-income countries.

On the same note, a research surveyed in China also showed that the health impact is drastic. The researched was concluded that air pollution causes babies to be born smaller than the average weight. During the summer of 2008, when the Beijing Olympics was held, the pollution level was reduced and babies born then weighed more than those that were born in the summer of 2007 and 2009.

Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Mr Christian Friis Bach said, “Reducing air pollution has become a top political priority. Air quality will be a key theme at the next Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference in Georgia in 2016. Fifty-one countries are today finding joint solutions in the framework of the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. This work must be strengthened to reduce air pollution even further and extended to more countries and to other regions.”

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