Air pollution and health
From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about 6.5 million premature deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections. More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO guideline limits, with low-and middle income countries suffering from the highest exposures, both indoors and outdoors.
WHO's Agenda on Air Pollution and Health
WHO's work on air pollution is guided by a 2015 World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution calling for an enhanced global response to the adverse health effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution. In 2016, Member States approved a draft "road map" focusing on 4 priority areas for action:
1) Expanding the knowledge base about impacts of air pollution on health; 2) Monitoring and reporting on health trends and progress towards the air pollution-related targets of the SDGs; 3) Leveraging the health sector to raise awareness of health benefits from air pollution reduction measures; and 4) Enhancing the health sector’s capacity to work with other sectors and at all levels to help address the adverse health effects of air pollution through training, guidelines and national action plans.
Air pollution - a leading cause of NCD deaths
Most air pollution-related deaths are from non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In terms of global disease burden, air pollution is the cause of over one-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory disease, and one-quarter of deaths from ischaemic heart disease.
3 milliondeaths every year as a result of exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollutionMortality from ambient air pollution - maps
4.3 million deaths every year as a result of household exposure to smoke from dirty cookstoves and fuelsMortality from household air pollution - maps
92%of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limitsInteractive global ambient air pollution map
Ambient air pollution
Household air pollution
Maps & databases
Global Platform on Air Quality and Health
The Global Platform on Air Quality and Health is a WHO-led initiative, in collaboration with nearly 50 other international/regional agencies and research institutions.
Inheriting a sustainable world: Atlas on children’s health and the environment
Ambient air pollution: A global assessment of exposure and burden of disease
Health as the pulse of the new urban agenda
Burning Opportunity: Clean Household Energy for Health, Sustainable Development, and Wellbeing of Women and Children
Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks
- More publications
News & events
The cost of a polluted environment: 1.7 million child deaths a year, says WHO
Health and environment ministers pledge climate actions to reduce 12.6 million environment-related deaths
WHO releases country estimates on air pollution exposure and health impact
Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly update
Air pollution levels rising in many of the world’s poorest cities