Almost the entire world population (99%) breathes unhealthy air with people in low and middle-income countries suffering the highest exposures.

New data by the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the health of billions of people is threatened as they are breathing unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.

The findings have prompted WHO to highlight the importance of curbing fossil fuel use and take other tangible steps to reduce air pollution levels.

“Current energy concerns highlight the importance of speeding up the transition to cleaner, healthier energy systems,” WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a statement. 

“High fossil fuel prices, energy security and the urgency of addressing the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change, underscore the pressing need to move faster towards a world that is much less dependent on fossil fuels,” he added. 

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a common urban pollutant and precursor of particulate matter. 

Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution or PM, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets.

It is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, pollen, soot, smoke, soil or dust particles.

Both groups of pollutants originate mainly from human activities related to fossil fuel combustion.

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