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Business News/ News / World/  Toxic skies: This region has world's worst air quality
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Toxic skies: This region has world's worst air quality

More than 99% of the world's population breathe polluted air, as per a recent study.

In the world's most polluted areas, more than 90% of days had PM2.5 concentrations above the 15 microgram threshold. Premium
In the world's most polluted areas, more than 90% of days had PM2.5 concentrations above the 15 microgram threshold.

Less than 1% of the world's population breathe pollution-free air, a recent study published in Lancet Planetary Health suggests. The research found that about 99.82% of the global land area is exposed to dangerous levels of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), which exceeds the safety limit recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

The study used more than 5,000 monitoring stations worldwide, machine learning simulations, meteorological data, and geographical factors to estimate global daily PM2.5 concentrations.

It discovered that on a global level, more than 70% of days in 2019 had daily PM2.5 concentrations exceeding 15 micrograms of gaseous pollutants per cubic metre, the WHO-recommended daily limit. Fine particulate matter, including soot from vehicles, smoke and ash from wildfires, and biomass cook-stove pollution, plus sulphate aerosols from power generation and desert dust, are the primary contributors to air pollution.

Also Read: This Indian city ranks 2nd in 10 most polluted cities list. Hint: Not Delhi

The study found that air quality is particularly worrisome in regions such as south Asia and east Asia, where more than 90% of days had PM2.5 concentrations above the 15 microgram threshold. The highest concentrations of PM2.5 were found in east Asia, followed by south Asia and North Africa, while regions in Oceania and southern America had the lowest annual PM2.5 concentrations.

On the other hand, fine particulate matter posed the lowest threat to residents of Australia and New Zealand, along with other regions in Oceania and southern America, which also had the lowest annual PM2.5 concentrations.

Also Read: Kochi fights toxic fumes as fire at Brahmapuram waste plant refuses to die down

The study notes that short-term exposure to PM2.5, particularly a sudden increase, is a leading contributor to the global burden of diseases and mortality. Although stricter regulations have led to a decrease in annual PM2.5 concentrations and high PM2.5 days in Europe and northern America over the past two decades, most areas in Asia, northern and sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, Latin America, and the Caribbean have experienced an increase in PM2.5 concentrations over 20 years, driven in part by intensified wildfires.

Yuming Guo, the lead researcher and environmental health professor at Monash University, hopes that the study will change the minds of scientists and policymakers for daily PM2.5 exposure. He suggests that improving air quality on a daily basis will help reduce long-term exposure to air pollution.

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Sounak Mukhopadhyay
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Published: 08 Mar 2023, 09:24 AM IST
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