Air Pollution Kills Seven Million People Annually, Says UN

Channels Television  
Updated June 5, 2019
An activist from the ANV-COP 21 association for Climate talks through a megaphone as protesters stage a “die-in” under a banner reading “Stop to inaction, we can’t take it anymore” (a play on word on the French word for “lung”) as they take part in a protest to denounce the air quality on June 4, 2019 outside the French National Assembly in Paris. PHOTO: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP


Polluted air kills some seven million people each year, causing long term health problems, such as asthma, and reducing children’s cognitive development.

This was disclosed on Wednesday, June 7 by the United Nations in the Secretary Generals 2019 World Environment Day (WED).

Antonio Guterres in the message also disclosed that the theme for this year’s World Environment Day is air pollution and added that an estimated nine out of ten people worldwide are exposed to air pollutants.



“All around the world — from megacities to small villages people are breathing dirty air.

“An estimated nine out of ten people worldwide are exposed to air pollutants that exceed World Health Organization air quality guidelines. This is lowering life expectancy and damaging economies across the planet.

“To improve air quality, we must know our enemy. Deaths and illnesses from air pollution are caused by tiny particles that penetrate our defences every time we fill our lungs.

“These particles come from many sources: the burning of fossil fuels for power and transport; the chemicals and mining industries; the open burning of waste; the burning of forests and fields; and the use of dirty indoor cooking and heating fuels, which are major problems in the developing world.

“This polluted air kills some 7 million people each year, causes long term health problems, such as asthma, and reduces children’s cognitive development. According to the World Bank, air pollution costs societies more than $5 trillion every year.”

Guterres said many air pollutants also cause global warming. According to him, Black carbon is one such example. Produced by diesel engines, burning trash and dirty cookstoves, it is extremely harmful when inhaled. Reducing emissions of such pollutants will not only improve public health, but it could also alleviate global warming by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius over the next few decades.

He said tackling air pollution, therefore, presents a double opportunity, as there are many successful initiatives that both clear the air and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as phasing out coal-fired power plants and promoting the less polluting industry, transport, and domestic fuels. With investments in renewable energy sources outstripping those in fossil fuels every year, the rise of clean energy is helping globally. Cleaner transport is also growing around the world.

It is in such initiatives, designed to improve air quality and fight climate change, that hope lies. I urge everyone attending the Climate Action Summit that I am convening in September to draw motivation from such examples. There is no reason why the international community cannot act. Precedent exists in the Montreal Protocol. Scientists identified a grave threat to public and planetary health, and governments and businesses acted to successfully protect the ozone layer.

Today, we face an equally urgent crisis. It is time to act decisively. My message to governments is clear: tax pollution; end fossil fuel subsidies; and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy, not a grey economy.

On World Environment Day, I ask each of us to act so we can breathe more easily. From pressuring politicians and businesses to changing our own habits, we can reduce pollution and beat climate change.

The WED is an initiative of the UN, launched in an attempt to raise awareness on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution, human overpopulation, and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime and how to effectively combat these problems.