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Alarm at rise in pollution deaths

Tuesday September 27th, 2011

The number of deaths worldwide known to be caused by air pollution has nearly doubled in the last seven years, officials warned yesterday.

More than two million people a year die from the effects of pollution in the world's crowded cities, according to the World Health Organisation.

In 2004 WHO said the number of deaths was 1.15 million.

Yesterday WHO released wide-ranging analysis of pollution across nearly 1,100 cities in 91 countries.

It says more than a million deaths could be prevented every year if cities followed its guidelines.

According to WHO, the major problem is particles of dust less than ten micrometres in size. These penetrate the lungs and cause cancer, asthma, heart disease and chest infections.

The figures show the lowest rates of air pollution in the wealthy cities of Europe, America and the Western Pacific. The highest rates are found in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Dr Maria Neira, of WHO, said: "If we monitor and manage the environment properly we can significantly reduce the number of people suffering from respiratory and heart disease, and lung cancer.

"Across the world, city air is often thick with exhaust fumes, factory smoke or soot from coal burning power plants. In many countries there are no air quality regulations and, where they do exist, national standards and their enforcement vary markedly."

Dr Michal Krzyzanowski, of the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany, added: "Local actions, national policies and international agreements are all needed to curb pollution and reduce its widespread health effects."

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Cancer | Europe | Respiratory | World Health

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