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WHO: 7 million people dying yearly from polluted air

May 2, 2018

Over 90 percent of people on Earth are breathing high levels of pollutants, according to a World Health Organization report. The UN body warned that toxins in the air can lead to strokes, heart attacks and lung cancer.

Indien Neu Delhi Smog und Luftverschmutzung
Image: Reuters/C. McNaughton

Air pollution is to blame for around 7 million deaths around the globe each year, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.

Nine out of ten people globally are breathing in high levels of pollutants, according to new data gathered by the UN health body.

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"Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

Over 90 percent of deaths due to poor air quality occurred in low and middle-income countries located primarily in Asia and Africa, the WHO report found.

Read moreLife behind a mask — China's cities still choking on smog

Household air quality killing millions

The WHO report examined both outdoor and indoor air quality — combining data from over 4,300 towns and cities in 108 countries.

Outdoor (ambient) air pollution was estimated to have caused 4.2 million deaths in 2016. An estimated 3.8 million people were said to have died during the same time period due to household air pollution caused by cooking with pollutant fuels like charcoal.

Read moreIndia: Delhi closes schools as air pollution hits hazardous levels

The UN agency noted that over 40 percent of the global population do not have access to clean cooking fuels or cleaner cooking technology in their homes.

"It is unacceptable that over 3 billion people — most of them women and children — are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes" Ghebreyesus said.

According to the WHO, air pollution is a critical risk factor in causing strokes, lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory infections like pneumonia.

rs/msh  (AFP, dpa)