Environmental experts have said they are not surprised by a study which finds that more than nine out of ten people worldwide live in areas with excessive air pollution.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) urged politicians and leaders to improve policies to confront the problem.
On Monday the WHO reported that 92 percent of the world population was living in places where the air quality did not match the UN agency’s recommendations. People are suffering particularly in Asia, in the eastern Mediterranean region and sub-Saharan countries, it said.
In 2012 an estimated 6.5 million deaths worldwide were associated with outdoor and indoor air pollution – 11.6 percent of all global deaths. The WHO has described the figures as “unacceptable”.Outdoor air pollution is estimated to kill about three million per year.
Nearly 90 percent of all air-pollution related deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, two-thirds of them in southeast Asia and the western Pacific, the WHO said.
In Russia Greenpeace blame several factors – and say the authorities don’t take the problem seriously enough.
“Today, questions related to environmental protection, that may well cause a growth in the death rate, are not a priority in our country. Although it may seem that Russia is a country where such questions should be discussed. Apart from air pollution, there’s also ionisation: today hundreds of thousands if not millions of people live in radioactively polluted territories,” said Vladimir Chuprov, Head of Energy Programme at Greenpeace Russia.
In India, researchers also blame a lack of official action against the poor air quality.
At least, they point out, they are not alone.
“We have this image that the European world has a very good air quality and so we have that image that only the Indian, only the Asian cities, only the Asian countries and also the African continent has this problem of air pollution. But the best thing is this report actually tells that the European world is also facing the similar problem,” said Usman Nasim of the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi.
The WHO says Europe and North America have made major efforts to clean the air although there is still room for improvement.
In New Delhi, the local government plans to implement the second phase of car rationing, where fuel-based private vehicles with odd and even numbers will run on alternate days.
The city has 8.5 million vehicles and some 1,500 new ones are said to take to the roads every day. The increase in the number of cars and motorbikes has led to pollution 10 to 15 times above the standard limits.
The level of the smallest particles in the air is even worse. The WHO found that Delhi had an average of 153 micrograms of the smallest particles per cubic metre in its air: 25 times the international “safe” limit of six micrograms per cubic metre.