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Air pollution: most national limits are unsafe for human health – new WHO guidelines

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The combined effect of indoor and outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause seven million early deaths each year worldwide. The most harmful pollutants include nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) and fine particulate matter, or PM2.5 – particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres – which can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

Exposure to particulate pollution over years or decades can reduce a person’s life expectancy, mainly due to the increased risk of heart and lung diseases. Even short-term exposure, over hours or days, can increase the risk of hospital admission.

How far would air pollution levels need to fall in order to ensure people aren’t adversely affected? Much further than the limits currently imposed in many countries, including England, according to new Global Air Quality Guidelines released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The new guidelines draw from major advances in air pollution research since the previous update in 2005. After examining more than 500 academic articles, WHO researchers have........

© The Conversation

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