On September 6th, the World Health Organization was awarded with the annual European Lung Foundation award for improving the lung health of millions of people by providing outdoor air quality guidelines.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, received the award during the annual congress of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) celebrated in Munich. ‘It’s a pleasure and honour for me to accept the 2014 European Lung Foundation award for WHO’s work in improving respiratory health through our outdoor air quality guidelines’, said Ms Jakab.
Breathing pure air is fundamental to a healthy human population, yet air pollution poses a threat to the physical well-being of millions of people around the world. WHO estimates that air pollution was at the root of 7 million premature deaths in 2012, with 3.7 million of these being connected with por outdoor air quality.
According to statements of Ms Jakab, ‘despite progress, 80% of people in the European Union live in cities where levels of air pollution still exceed our recommendations, and citizens in the most polluted cities could add 20 months on average to their life expectancy if the guidelines were followed’.
WHO produced its first set of air quality guidelines in 1987, with subsequent updates in 2000 and 2005. The guidelines are based on expert reviews of the latest scientific research on the health effects of air pollution. The latest guidelines cover the four main pollutants found in outdoor air: particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen and sulphur dioxide.