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Air pollution

Fresh Air Inspires My #Loop4Dev

Meg Walker's picture
Also available in: 中文
© Meg Walker
© Meg Walker


There is a lot to like about living in Washington, D.C. I am lucky enough to live in a city with reliable public transport, well-kept parks and friendly neighbors. And perhaps my biggest blessing is that my city enjoys good air quality. Typing “Washington D.C.” into BreatheLife’s website reveals that air pollution in my city is 10 percent below the World Health Organization’s guidelines.

Around the world, not all urbanites can say the same thing. In fact, 92 percent of the world’s population live in places where air quality levels exceed WHO guidelines. And startlingly, air pollution – both household and ambient – caused 6.4 million deaths worldwide in 2015, with most of the burden of disease occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Taking an economic perspective, the World Bank and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimate that air-pollution-related deaths cost about $5.11 trillion in welfare losses worldwide.

Eradicating household air pollution will pay for itself

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture

© Isabelle Schäfer/World Bank

Globally 2.9 million people died from household air pollution in 2015, caused by cooking over foul, smoky fires from solid fuels such as wood, charcoal, coal, animal dung, and agricultural crop residues. Well over 99% of these deaths were in developing countries, making household air pollution one of their leading health risk factors.

Many women across the world spend their days and evenings cooking with these fuels. They know the fumes are sickening, which is why some cook in a separate outhouse or send the children to play while they cook. Sadly, these small actions cannot fully protect the young. As for the women themselves, they suffer incredible morbidity and mortality from household air pollution.

Access to quality information is crucial to tackle Peru’s environmental problems

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture
Also available in: Español

 Franz Mahr / World BamkBy the early 2000s, Peru faced serious environmental problems. Air pollution in urban areas was so severe that it caused thousands of premature deaths every year. In fact, air quality in Lima was worse than in other large Latin American cities, such as Mexico City or Sao Paulo. Other environmental challenges that damaged people’s health included air pollution inside homes caused by the use of wood for cooking; insufficient access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; and exposure to lead, a highly toxic chemical. Together, these environmental problems caused 12 million cases of illnesses annually, dramatically affecting young children, the elderly, and poor people who couldn’t afford medical care. The World Bank estimated that these negative impacts had an economic cost equivalent to 2.8% of Peru’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2003.
 
One of the main reasons the Peruvian government wasn’t able to respond promptly to these serious environmental problems was the country didn’t have governmental organizations with a clear responsibility for environmental protection. Another important reason was the absence of a system of reliable environmental information to support the government’s decision-making process. For example, there was little awareness about the seriousness of air pollution, largely because most cities didn’t have a functional air quality monitoring network. Even in the few cities that did, the information was not widely disseminated. In the absence of such information, it was difficult to identify which environmental problems were most severe, and to develop actions and assign resources to solve them. In addition, lack of information limited the opportunities for the public—including the poor families and other vulnerable groups that suffered the most from pollution —to discuss their environmental concerns and agree on solutions with government officials.

Clean air as a poverty reduction priority

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture
​Many parts of the development community have long embraced the following narrative: When nations are young and poor, they are willing to sacrifice natural resources—dirtying their water and their air—to promote economic growth and meet their population’s basic needs. Then, once these nations achieve a certain level of wealth, they become less concerned with accumulating material goods and more concerned with quality-of-life issues, and only at that point are they willing to spend money—or sacrifice growth—for benefits like clean air.

However, a recent resolution by the World Health Organization's (WHO) governing body shows that this narrative is beginning to change. 

Five reasons to act now to #endpollution

Paula Caballero's picture
Did you know that about 3.7 million people worldwide died in 2012 from diseases related to ambient air pollution? That is nearly the population of the city of Los Angeles expiring every year from preventable causes.

When you combine death-by-smog with deaths related to exposure to dirty indoor air, contaminated land and unsafe water, the grand total of deaths from all pollution sources climbs to almost 9 million deaths each year worldwide. That’s more than 1 in 7 deaths and makes pollution deadlier than malnutrition.
 
Photo via Shutterstock


This fact deserves to be better known, as there are ready solutions. Inaction is not an option.