More Than 90 Per Cent Of The Global Population Lives In Unsafety Guidelines

More than 90 per cent of the global population lives in a place where the air does not meet World Health Organisation safety guidelines, according to a study from the UN agency that warns of a public health emergency created by rising pollution levels.

The most detailed research on outdoor pollution in individual countries undertaken by the organisation shows an estimated 3m deaths a year can be linked to dirty air from coal-fired power plants, old cars, factories and other sources.

Millions more are affected by smoke inside homes from stoves or fires fuelled with wood or dung, meaning a total of 6.5m deaths were associated with air pollution in 2012, the agency said.

Air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, and affects economies and people’s quality of life.

It is a public health emergency, the study says.

An interactive map made by the agency reveals stark disparities among countries’ levels of particulate matter, one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution.

Tiny particles, no bigger than 2.5 micrometres, can penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system.

WHO guidelines say annual average concentrations should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre.

The limit is met in much of the US, Canada and countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

But many places in Europe, including parts of the UK, France and Germany, exceed it.

More than 90 per cent of the UK population lives in areas that break WHO limits, according to the study’s model, developed with an international team led by the University of Bath.

The higher levels of pollution in Europe could be down to the number of EU countries that encouraged the use of diesel cars compared with North America, said Annette Pruss-Ustun, a co-author of the study.