How the world’s poorer countries breathe worse air, in charts and maps
Air pollution’s toll on human health
A man sifts through trash at a massive garbage site in New Delhi on Sept. 27. (Ajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)
Some 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution.
On Sunday, India ratified its accession to the Paris climate accords on the 147th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. President Obama congratulated India in a tweet, saying that “Gandhiji believed in a world worthy of our children. In joining the Paris Agreement, @narendramodi & the Indian people carry on that legacy,” using a Hindi honorific for the man who championed Indian self-rule and stewardship of its land. The Paris agreement is the international community’s biggest push yet to limit carbon emissions and other forms of pollution.
Unfortunately, if worthiness is measured by being able to live in a world where the air one breathes does not spread disease and blacken one’s lungs, then we are far from it.
A World Health Organization report last week said that 92 percent of people worldwide breathe unhealthy air and that about 3 million deaths a year — mostly from cardiovascular, pulmonary and other noncommunicable diseases — stemmed from high levels of air pollution. The number of people at risk rises to 98 percent in urban areas of low- and middle-income countries.
Nearly 2 million of the deaths brought on early by pollution are in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region, according to the report, compared with 333,000 in Europe and the Americas.