WHO issues new air quality recommendations

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WHO issues new air quality recommendations

  • World Health Organisation (WHO) released a revised Global Air Quality Guidelines announcing more stringent limits for six pollutant categories.
  • The latest WHO guidelines provide clear evidence of the damage air pollution inflicts on human health, at even lower concentrations than previously understood.
  • The guidelines recommend new air quality levels to protect the health of populations, by reducing levels of key air pollutants.

Need for Updated guidelines

  • Since the WHO’s last 2005 global update, there has been a marked increase of evidence that shows how air pollution affects different aspects of health.
  • Taking cognisance of these factors, WHO has adjusted almost all the air quality norms downwards, warning that exceeding the new air quality guideline levels is associated with significant risks to health.
  • Exposure to air pollution is linked to an increased risk for respiratory diseases like pneumonia, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and severe COVID-19.
  • WHO’s new air quality guidelines — Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) — has redefined the threshold of safe air.
  • This is the first revision after the last updation in 2005 — about 15 years ago.

Focus of Guidelines

  • WHO’s new guidelines recommend air quality levels for 6 pollutants, where evidence has advanced the most on health effects from exposure.
  • When action is taken on these so-called classical pollutants – particulate matter PM-2.5 and PM-10, Ozone (O₃), Nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), Sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and Carbon monoxide (CO), it also has an impact on other damaging pollutants.

WHO’s revised guidelines

  • The guidelines prescribe annual PM-2.5 average at 5 ug/m3, bringing it down from 2005 limits set at 10 ug/m3.
  • PM10 annual average is now 15 ug/m3 in comparison to the earlier norm of 20 ug/m3.
  • NO2 levels, which are primarily attributable to vehicular emissions, have been revised to 10 ug/m3, in comparison to 40 ug/m3 in 2005.
  • 40 µg/m³ sulfur dioxide over 24 hours compared with 20 µg/m³ in 2005.
  • 4 mg/m³ carbon monoxide over 24 hours.