According to the World Health Organization, air pollution from outdoor and indoor sources, accounts for more than 7 million premature deaths per year 4329 .  It is the world’s largest environmental (and hence avoidable) disease burden.  3.7 million of those deaths per year are attributed to ambient (outside) air pollution.  A breakdown of those deaths has 40% caused by ischaemic heart disease, 40% by stroke, 11% by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 6% by lung cancer, and 3% by acute lower respiratory infection.

At the recent World Health Assembly in Geneva a Resolution on Air Pollution was passed which 4330 :  

highlights the key role national health authorities need to play in raising awareness about the potential to save lives and reduce health costs, if air pollution is addressed effectively. It also stresses the need for strong cooperation between different sectors and integration of health concerns into all national, regional and local air pollution-related policies. It urges Member States to develop air quality monitoring systems and health registries to improve surveillance for all illnesses related to air pollution; promote clean cooking, heating and lighting technologies and fuels; and strengthen international transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data in the field of air pollution.  The resolution asks the WHO Secretariat to strengthen its technical capacities to support Member States in taking action on air pollution. This includes further building capacity to: implement the "WHO air quality guidelines" and "WHO indoor air quality guidelines; conduct cost-benefit assessment of mitigation measures; and advance research into air pollution’s health effects and effectiveness. At the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, WHO will propose a road map for an enhanced global response by the health sector that reduces the adverse health effects of air pollution.

This is a major step forward in the international recognition of air pollution as a public health issue.

  1. Report of the Secretariat to the 68th World Health Assembly:  “Health and the Environment: Addressing the Health Impact of Air Pollution”, Paper A68/18, 10 April 2015, available at

  2. Media release of Resolutions passed at the 68th World Health Assembly, Geneva, May 2015, available at

Last updated at 10:44AM on November 27, 2015