A whopping 95% of the world is breathing unhealthy air, with the poorest countries being the most affected, a new report has found.
The annual State of Global Air Report, published on Tuesday by the Health Effects Institute (HEI), said that long-term exposure to air pollution is responsible for around 6.1 million deaths around the planet in 2016 alone, CNN reports.
The report added that exposure to air pollution contributed to heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and chronic lung disease, causing earl mortality in many people. Air pollution is the number four killer among all global health risks, coming right after high blood pressure, diet and smoking.
Bob O’Keefe, vice president of HEI, said,
Air pollution takes a huge personal toll worldwide, making it difficult to breathe for those with respiratory disease, sending the young and old to hospital, missing school and work, and contributing to early death.
He added, “The trends we report show real progress in some parts of the world — but serious challenges remain to eliminate this avoidable affliction.”
China and India were said to be jointly responsible for more than 50% of global deaths caused by air pollution. India is also competing with China for premature deaths due to outdoor air pollution, with 1.1 cases documented in 2016.
China has made some progress in combating the problem, but Pakistan, Bangladesh and India have seen the highest spikes in air pollution levels since 2010.
The report included those exposed to burning solid fuels in their homes, such as for cooking or heating, resulting in indoor air pollution. A total of 2.5 billion people were exposed to air pollution from solid fuels like wood or charcoal in 2016.
This is latest in a series of studies examining the alarming effects of air pollution on global populations. In 2017, the World Health Organization found that around 1.7 million children under the age of five died due to environmental pollutants, while a 2015 study said that one in six deaths was related to some kind of pollution.