Published: Tue, October 30, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

European air quality poor but slowly improving

European air quality poor but slowly improving

This report comes ahead of the WHO's First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva on October 30, which will allow multiple stakeholders, including government officials and scientists, to outline actions to decrease the effects of air pollution on people's health.

In low and middle-income countries around the world, 98 per cent of all children under five years of age are exposed to PM 2.5 levels above WHO air quality guidelines. It also said 9 out of 10 people on the planet breathes in toxic air.

The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC), which represents key medical bodies and includes the BMJ, the British Medical Association, and the Royal College of Nursing, has reportedly asked the government to introduce a new clean air act.

Their babies are also prone to be underweight and small, according to World Health Organization, which also highlights how air pollution can trigger asthma and childhood cancer, while also hampering neuro-development. On Monday, a thick blanket of haze engulfed the city, and an overall air quality index of 348 was recorded, which falls in the very poor category, according to data of the Central Pollution Control Board.

There was clear, consistent evidence of an association between ambient air pollution and otitis media, or ear infections, the study said, as well as some evidence of it causing obesity and insulin resistance in children.

According to the report, children breathe at twice the rate that adults do and thus inhale larger amounts of air pollutants.

"Air pollution is stunting our children's brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected", warned Maria Neira, the head of the WHO's department of public health and environment.

In the NCR region, Ghaziabad recorded severe pollution levels, while Faridabad, Gurgaon, Noida and Greater Noida recorded very poor air quality. For pregnant women, it increases the chances of giving birth to babies who are smaller than what is normal for a given duration of gestation, research quoted in the report found.

"More than 7 million deaths, premature deaths, are occurring every year due to exposure to air pollution".

The European study was an updated overview and analysis of the air quality across 28 European Union countries and 11 non-EU countries from 2000 to 2016, the most recent year for which data was available.

The authorities have tried to reduce crop burning by imposing fines and providing subsidies for alternative machinery, but for many farmers there is still no affordable alternative.

The EEA study also revealed that the highest concentrations of PM2.5 are in northern Italy, Poland, the Balkans and Turkey.

The report compiles evidence on a host of impacts including poor birth outcomes, infant mortality, adverse effects on neurodevelopment, weight issues, respiratory effects and cancers, concluding that air pollution impacts children in 'uniquely damaging ways'.

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