The U.N. health agency says nearly everybody in the world breathes air that doesn’t meet its standards for air quality.

The World Health Organization now wants the countries to take more prompt action to reduce fossil use, which generates pollutants that cause respiratory and blood-flow problems. 

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It also leads to millions of preventable deaths each year. 

This appeal for corrective measures comes as WHO issued an update to its database on air quality that usually collects information from over 6,000 municipalities—the database particulate matter known as PM2.5 and PM10. 

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In a first, it has included ground measurements of nitrogen dioxide.
It adds that air quality
is poorest in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia regions, followed by Africa.

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“After surviving a pandemic, it is unacceptable to have still 7 million preventable deaths and countless preventable lost years of good health due to air pollution,” said Dr. Maria Neira, head of WHO’s department of environment, climate change, and health. 

She adds, “Yet too many investments are still being sunk into a polluted environment rather than clean, healthy air.” 

Nitrogen dioxide, which originates mainly from human-generated burning of fuel, such as through automobile traffic, is one of the most common issues in urban areas. 

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Exposure can lead to respiratory diseases like asthma, with symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

It could also lead to an increase in the number of hospitalizations and emergency-room admissions, WHO said. 

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The highest concentrations were found in the eastern Mediterranean region.

India and the world collectivity need to act and adapt changes to curb air pollution, including using electric vehicles, shifting away from fossil fuels and embracing a massive scaling-up of green energy, and separating types of waste, she added. 

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WHO added that 99% of the global population breathes air that exceeds its air-quality limits and is similar to particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs, enter the veins and arteries and cause life-threatening diseases.

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