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WHO report calls air pollution biggest environmental health risk

A new report from the World Health Organization on Tuesday noted that air pollution kills 7 million people in the world each year.

A man wearing the mask rides a bicycle during severe pollution on February 25, 2014 in Beijing, China.
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Now, WHO is naming air pollution as the biggest environmental health risk; one out of eight deaths are caused by air pollution.

It is known that inflammation in the lungs can be caused by tiny particles in pollution but those particles may also cause inflammation in the heart, leading to heart attacks or other problems.

The new estimates, which are based on modeling, are doubled from previous figures. However, this does not necessarily mean there’s been an increase in deaths from the pollution. There are now better detection methods and more information about the effects of pollution.

Last year, air pollution was designated as a carcinogen, as it has been linked to lung and bladder cancer.

Now scientists are trying to target what parts of air pollution are worse than others. They currently ‘can’t identify if diesel fuel or dust particles from sand do more harm than the other.

The director of an environmental research group, Frank Kelly, noted that though people in countries with notoriously bad air pollution widely use face masks to protect themselves. there is little indication they actually protect against inhaling the dangerous parts of the air.

He noted that humans must drastically change their lifestyles to avoid exposure to air pollution. With face masks, there is the idea that we can go about daily life, living with the air without consequence.