Intended for healthcare professionals


WHO cuts air pollution limits to save millions of lives

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 23 September 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2349
  1. Luke Taylor
  1. Portsmouth

World Health Organization leaders have announced strict new air pollution targets in the hope of saving millions of lives each year.

The UN agency revised its Global Air Quality Guidelines for the first time since 2005 after five years of systematic review of more than 500 research papers. On the basis of this evidence it concluded that air pollution was harmful to health at lower concentrations and produced a wider range of damage than was previously thought.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general, told a virtual press conference attended by senior officials in Geneva, Copenhagen, and Bonn, “A substantial new body of evidence has accumulated, further demonstrating the degree to which air pollution affects all parts of the body, from the brain to a growing baby in a mother’s womb, at even lower concentrations than previously observed.”

Seven million deaths a year are attributed to air pollution, and hundreds of millions of years of healthy life are lost, WHO said, making it as …

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