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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 5:16 AM | 08-05-2014

High death toll from air pollution

Air pollution killed about 7 million people in 2012, making it the world's single biggest environmental health risk, the WHO, a United Nations agency, said last month.

An effort by the World Health Organization to measure pollution in cities around the world has found New Delhi admits to having the dirtiest air, while Beijing's measurements, like its skies, are far from clear.

The study of 1,600 cities found air pollution had worsened since a smaller survey in 2011, especially in poorer countries, putting city-dwellers at higher risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Thirteen of the dirtiest 20 cities were Indian, with New Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Raipur in the top four spots. The Indian capital had an annual average of 153 micrograms of small particulates, known as PM2.5, per cubic metre.

Beijing, notorious for the smog that has prompted some Anglophone residents to dub it “Greyjing”, was in 77th place with a PM2.5 reading of 56, little over one-third of Delhi's pollution level.

WHO experts said the Chinese data was from 2010, the most recent year made available to them by China. But Beijing's city government began publishing hourly PM2.5 data in January 2012.

WHO experts insisted the survey was not intended to name and shame the dirtiest cities, since the cities involved were volunteering the information to try to help themselves clean up.

Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, said the aim was to “challenge” cities and thought the survey would help them to become more open about their dirty air, which is often caused by burning coal, smokestack industries and heavy traffic.

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