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On September 22nd 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated the Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). This new AQGs provide clear evidence of the damage air pollution inflicts on human health, at even lower concentrations than previously understood. The guidelines recommend new air quality levels to protect the health of populations by reducing levels of key air pollutants, some of which also contribute to climate change.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, 9 out of 10 people live in cities that already exceeded the 2005 WHO Air Quality Guidelines, and data released by WHO in 2018 show that more than 320,000 deaths each year are attributable to exposure to atmospheric pollutants. Efforts are being made to reduce emissions in the region, but more than 90 million people still rely on polluting fuels for cooking and heating.
Around 7 million people die every year from diseases and infections related to indoor and outdoor air pollution worldwide. In 2016, about 320 thousand premature deaths were attributable to ambient air pollution in the region. Both the WHO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have highlighted that ambient air pollution is one of the strategic focal areas to combat root causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide.
In this context, the 2021 WHO air quality guidelines are a set of evidence-based recommendations of limit values for specific air pollutants developed to help countries achieve air quality that protects public health. As part of the capacity-building activities on air quality and health; the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme will host a virtual session to inform key actors on the 2021 WHO air quality guidelines the next October 22 from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm (EDT).
This event is part of a series of webinars on air quality and health for Latin America and the Caribbean.