86% of City Residents Are Breathing Unhealthy Air: Report

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

One recent study said most residents of cities breathe unhealthy air. What’s more, studies say it’s hurting children.

The study said a big part of the 2.5 billion people living in cities around the world breathe in air pollution levels higher than the World Health Organization recommends.

The Hill reported on this study recently.

City Researcher: Pollution Adding To Death Statistics

Study author Veronica Southerland said, “a majority of the world’s population still lives in unhealthy levels of PM2.5.”

That pollution, often associated with fossil fuel burning, led to the deaths of 1.8 million people in 2019.

Another study said pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide (NO2) produced from cars and power plants, has added almost two million additional cases of childhood asthma.

The Lancet Planetary Health journal published both studies.

City Dwellers, There Is Good News

The number of childhood asthma numbers caused by NO2 have dropped thanks to efforts to clean roadway and industrial sites. This drop of 4 percent happened between 2000 and 2019.

So maybe litter cleanup along city roads is working in that regard.

“The findings suggest that clean air must be a critical part of strategies aimed at keeping children healthy,” study co-author Susan Anenberg of George Washington University said in a statement

Fossil Fuel Pollution Still A Killer

A third study cites this pollution causes death and damage at levels the Environmental Protection Agency, the European Union, and the World Health Organization find safe.

Southerland’s aforementioned PM 2.5 particles number is easy to explain. That pollution amount is 20 to 30 times smaller than one human hair. It can get into hair and skin membranes that protect the body, going straight into the bloodstream. From there, it can cause lung, vascular, and heart disease.

The study looked at what breathing in low levels of fossil fuel chemicals does to the body. Long-term exposure to these compounds went with higher death rates from lung cancer and respiratory disease.

Robert Hughes, a representative from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the studies show how vital improving city air quality and reducing fossil fuel reliance is for healthy living.

Hughes further added that going from fossil fuels to other alternative power sources is essential. He also said that “we need to ‘stop burning stuff.’”

According to WAQI, the world’s air pollution index, some of the highest pollution levels in the United States are in places like New York and Atlanta. Some rural areas such as Burns, Ore., Mono, Calif., and Plumas, Calif. also have poor quality readings.