GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization (WHO) is setting a higher bar for policymakers and the public in its first update to its air quality guidelines in 15 years.
According to the U.N. agency, air pollution has a lower impact on human health than previously believed.
The WHO has released revised guidelines. Climate change is a major topic at the U.N. General Assembly.
Better science and monitoring have improved the picture of the health effects of six pollutants on the environment since the last update.
The agency says 90% of the world’s people already live in areas with at least one particularly harmful type of pollutant.
According to the WHO, air pollution is responsible for millions of deaths every year and the loss or health of many years of life.
“The burden of disease attributable to air pollution is now estimated to be on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diets and tobacco smoking,” said the WHO.
The WHO says that the 2015 landmark resolution by the World Health Assembly on air quality and safety recognized air pollution as a risk factor in non-communicable diseases like stroke, ischaemic heart disease and chronic obstructive lung disease, asthma, cancer and other conditions.
“The global nature of the challenge calls for an enhanced global response,” said the WHO.