CIEH welcomes World Health Organization's new Air Quality Guidelines

24 September 2021, Heidi Douglas-Osborn

CIEH has welcomed the World Health Organization (WHO) as it brings out its new Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) which provide evidence of the damage air pollution inflicts on human health as well as recommendations.

The WHO has cut its recommended limits for air pollution in its latest guidance, half the levels of their last guidance in 2005. The guidance includes a new limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), mainly produced by diesel engines, which is now 75% lower.

The WHO estimates that every year, exposure to air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths and results in the loss of millions more healthy years of life. This can reduce lung growth and function as well as respiratory infections and aggravated asthma in children. Whilst in adults, ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of premature death attributed to outdoor air pollution, there is evidence emerging of other effects such as diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions.

The WHO’s new guidelines recommend air quality levels for 6 pollutants, where evidence has advanced the most on health effects from exposure. By improving air quality, we can help enhance climate change mitigation efforts.

CIEH has been working as part of the Healthy Air Campaign (HAC) coalition of charities and public health organisations to amend the Environmental Bill and commit the UK Government to the WHO’s air quality guidelines. Recently, CIEH has been working with peers on this amendment for the UK Government to commit to reaching WHO levels on air quality by 2030, which was voted through.

Gary McFarlane, CIEH Director for Northern Ireland said:

“These new guidelines are a reminder of how important air quality is to public health, and that the UK Government still has a way to go to improve air pollution.

CIEH will continue to work with its partners in the HAC to help the UK Government improve air quality around the UK and lessen the negative health effects that can be attributed to air pollution.

With the amendment to the Environment Bill, there is movement in the right direction, that will improve public health and help mitigate climate change”

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