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Reconsidering WHO data: Is smog more harmful than we thought?

Reconsidering WHO data: Is smog more harmful than we thought?

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Anna RusakAnna Rusak,28.12.2023 07:00

A recent study by scientists at McGill University in Canada reveals that even low levels of air pollution negatively impact our health. Smog is more deadly than previously thought.

It has been widely known for years that air pollution has detrimental effects on our health. Studies have shown that it can cause lung cancer even in non-smokers and can cause changes in the brains of children.

However, the latest research conducted in Canada, one of the world's least polluted countries regarding PM2.5 particles, raises serious concerns. It has been discovered that even low concentrations of these pollutants can negatively impact our health.

Even low levels of air pollution negatively affect our health

A recent study was conducted by a team of researchers from McGill University, which analysed the air quality in Canada over a 25-year period. The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

The researchers examined Canada's residents' health during this period and found that even small amounts of PM2.5 particles in the air can hurt our health. Even though air pollution is relatively low in Canada, the researchers' conclusions are not very optimistic.

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More deaths due to air pollution

Researchers suggest that the WHO underestimates the number of deaths caused by air pollution worldwide. An additional 1.5 million deaths per year should be added to the WHO's figures of 4.2 million.

"We found that outdoor PM2.5 may be responsible for as many as 1.5 million additional deaths around the globe each year because of effects at very-low concentrations that were not previously appreciated," said Prof Scott Weichenthal, lead author of the paper published in Science Advances, as quoted by PAP.

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It's important to understand that the research into air quality is ongoing, and there is still much to learn. Scientists are working to identify which particles in the air are the most harmful to our health and what, specifically in their composition, is causing adverse impacts. However, there is some good news in the fight against air pollution. Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Union (EU) are taking steps to reduce air pollution and improve air quality.

The WHO recently updated its air pollution standards, lowering the maximum permissible level of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) from 25 micrograms per cubic meter to 15 micrograms per cubic meter. The EU is also planning to implement similar changes to its standards and will allow citizens to take legal action against countries that fail to comply. These changes are significant and will positively impact our health, as noted by Professor Weichenthal.

"One takeaway is that the global health benefits of meeting the new WHO guidelines are likely much larger than previously assumed," says Prof Weichenthal.

Source: PAP

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